Interest-Led Learning Isn’t Just for Kids

by ChristinaPilkington on August 29, 2012 · 4 comments

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*Today my family and I are hiking up the slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. While we’re gone, I still wanted to bring you some ideas and inspiration about interest-led learning.

That’s why I’m so glad I can share this guest post with you today written by my friend Beth Cranford. I was so inspired and energized when I read Beth’s wonderfully encouraging  words. Enjoy!

How do your children perceive you? Do you remember discovering things about your parents that as a younger child you never really understood or considered a reality? I’m not talking about deep, dark secrets; I mean ordinary aspects of their humanness.

Were you surprised when your Mom told you about a time she endured a broken heart? What about when you found out your Dad used to be in a band? Or maybe your heart was forever changed when you saw your mother alone, on her knees in prayer. Are you one of those kids that figured that your conception was the last time your parents… well… you know…

Was it a process? Learning that your parents are real people, with real experiences, feelings, struggles, passions and talents?

As a child I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house, which happened to be the only house on a beautiful lake in rural eastern Maine. My cousins and I spent a lot of time in the water while Gram (what we call our grandmothers in the northeast) was working very hard at maintaining her and my grandfather’s house, running and serving the guests in several sporting camps.  It was unusual for her to do anything “fun.”

I remember one day in particular. It was a beautiful sunny day and the kids were all in the lake, as usual. But on this special day, Gram put on a swim suit (who knew she had a swim suit?) and came in the lake with us. It was probably at least 30 years ago and yet the memory is still vivid. I saw my Grandmother in a new light. I saw another dimension of her humanness. And it was a blessing.

If we really want to connect with our kids and if we want our life to make a difference in theirs, we have to let them see us being real people. We don’t want them to see us as one dimensional beings, put here to be a chauffeur, nurse, and chore dictator.

 Our children need to see us…

  • Crying
  • Laughing
  • Praying (while crying and laughing!)
  • Working
  • Flirting with their dad!
  • Working through disagreements
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Asking for forgiveness
  • Offering forgiveness

And in keeping with the message that Christina is so beautifully sharing on this blog, it is imperative that our children see us learning. But not just learning anything, learning what we want to learn.

When we offer our children the time, space, and freedom to learn what interests them, we give them wings to fly. In contrast, what message would we be sending to our children if our only involvement in learning was to facilitate theirs? I’ll spill the beans: we would be telling them that learning is for children.

And that would be tragic.

We need to be modeling interest-led learning for our children. If we don’t, we teach them by default that learning is not for adults. We’ll spend 18 years teaching our children how to learn, and the importance of learning what interests them, only to leave the impression that when they grow up they will be too busy to learn. Sounds like 18 wasted years to me.

Another memory I carry with me is the season in which my mom decided to take lessons in cake decorating. I was young, but I remember feeling so proud of her and admittedly a little bit more aware of her individuality.

I loved seeing the cakes she brought home (and eating them of course). I thought it was very cool that my mom could decorate cakes. Imagine my surprise and pride when my very own “regular” mom actually made a wedding cake for a friend! She probably has no idea, but that left me with an underlying inspiration to learn fun things. Thanks Mom!

 Letting your children see you following an interest and learning something new will benefit them in many ways:

  • They will see you as a whole person, just like you see them.
  • They will do as you do, not just as you say.
  • They will embrace the joy of learning throughout life, and not relegate it to childhood.
  • They will see through your example that learning can be deeply satisfying.
  • They will see you as someone who is involved in life and will draw inspiration from you.
  • You may discover mutual interests that can help build a closer relationship and carry into adulthood.

Don’t have time to learn something for yourself?

Please allow me to respectfully disagree. I believe that God has designed into each person specific interests and abilities. God does nothing in vain. He gave you interests so that you would use them to serve Him. Don’t bury those interests in the name of being a busy mom.

He also designed you to need rest and rejuvenation. Learning something you are interested in can beautifully provide both. Please don’t teach your children by example that the life of an adult is all work and no play. Likewise, don’t teach by example that rest and rejuvenation often involves checking out mentally in front of the TV.

Not sure where to start?

Maybe it’s been so long since you’ve taken time for your own learning that you’ve forgotten how, or you’ve lost touch with that thing inside of yourself that seeks out interesting things. It’s not too late and you’re not too busy.

If you need ideas, here are a few ways to get your imagination working:

  • Take a look through one of those huge homeschooling catalogs on your book shelf. Browse through the topics, especially the “electives” and “hands-on” sections.
  • Look around at what is offered in your community for learning opportunities.
  • Pay attention to other adults in your social circle. What are they learning, what are they teaching?
  • Try your hand at something your child is learning.
  • Think back to when you had more free time. What did you enjoy then?
  • Think about your husband’s profession or hobbies: Wouldn’t it be nice to learn a little more about either so that you can understand more about his daily life and weekend activities?

And just so you don’t think I’m preaching what I don’t practice, here are some things I’m focusing on right now:

  • Technical skills involved with owning and maintaining a blog.
  • Marketing and networking skills.
  • Personalities, gifts, learning styles, etc.
  • Spiritual warfare and freedom in Christ.
  • A deeper understanding of prayer and Bible study.
  • Being a better wife (not out of guilt, but for the pure joy of a happy marriage).
  • Overcoming depression (OK, I have to admit, this isn’t something I choose to study because it’s so interesting. It’s a necessity. But I will say that since I chose to devote myself to learning about depression, God has shown me some intriguing and amazing things.)

Let me put it this way:  If I’m not learning I’m not whole.

Let your children see the real you, the whole you. Embrace your life and all there is to enjoy. Develop a love for learning in yourself and share your journey with your children.

Beth Cranford believes that every person is uniquely and wonderfully designed by God, prepared from the beginning to do specific and effective work for Him. She believes that in educating our children according to their individual gifts and bents, we honor the God who made them and we set them on a path of becoming exactly who God intended them to be. She is passionate about helping Christian parents design and implement an education that honors and nurtures their children’s individual design, equipping them for a life of freedom and power.

Beth has been married to her best friend for 21 years. Together they raise and educate their two children in middle TN. You can find her at

Photo Credit: bradleypjohnson

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  • JD

    So true. I am 22 and single now but if I ever have children, this is how I want to raise them. As of right now I’m:

    * Writing on several stories/novels. But to publish or whatnot but because I LOVE to write.

    * Learning piano

    * Researching for my story, plus researching family law despite being disgusted by the corrupting (That’s what I get for watching Judging Amy)

    *Learning Hawaiian (Which I am always told is a waste of time because it’s a dead language. I don’t care because I love it).

    • christinapilkington

      You have so many interesting goals and dreams! I’m finally working seriously towards my dream of being a novelist and screenwriter. Hawaiian would be a beautiful language to learn. We’re going there next fall. I can’t wait!

  • Mariana

    Have fun in Colorado! I really enjoyed your post today. I admit I haven’t been able to keep up, but something (God) told me to open up your email. I’m sure glad I did as I’ve lost my way with my children. It’s work, work, work with me and that’s all they see. Today would be the perfect day to catch bugs with my son and play dolls with the girls. Maybe even take them for a walk. :) Thanks again!
    Hope to see you guys at one of the WHAG meetings soon. :)

    • christinapilkington

      I’m so sorry it’s taken long to get back to you! We’ve had a crazy, busy summer. I’m really looking forward to seeing you again soon at the library. We’ll have to catch up again soon. And I’m so glad this post inspired you. I think Beth did an incredible job. She inspires me a lot too!

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