Child-led learning can have many different definitions depending on who you ask. There is often much debate in homeschool circles about child-led learning and unschooling, and how they relate to each other.
Is it unschooling?
It makes the most sense to say that child-led learning is a form of unschooling since many unschoolers follow a child-led model, but not all child-led homeschoolers are unschoolers.
Whew, it can get confusing fast!
Child-led learning allows the child to follow their interests; therefore learning will naturally take place as the child and parent open the doors of discovery together. This does not have to exclude lessons, involvement or direction from parents. Some parents choose the child-led approach 100 percent of the time providing very little structure, while others provide a more structured, organized environment and have core subjects that must be completed.
Benefits of child-led learning
Many child-led advocates such as John Holt, believed that “children who were provided with a rich and stimulating learning environment would learn what they are ready to learn, when they are ready to learn it.” Holt believed that traditional education dulled a child’s interest in the world around him, encouraging him to learn simply to pass tests. Once testing is over, they assert, children forget much of what they learned because they were not interested in the first place.
I personally can attest to this point of view; I have seen firsthand how the lessons that stick are usually the ones our children are most interested in. Following the child-led approach is very simple, one small spark of interest from the child can ignite a plethora of learning opportunities.
Using unit studies
A fun way to incorporate child-led learning is through unit studies. A unit study is a series of lessons that incorporates subjects such as geography, math, science and language arts. For instance, a unit study on guinea pigs might include geography lessons on the Andes, a science lesson on folk medicine and a history lesson on the indigenous South Americans that used the guinea pigs for food and medicine.
One of the greatest benefits of child-led learning is that the whole family can learn about a subject together. If you use the child-led approach, it’s beneficial to suggest resources or activities for your child to explore a topic further. As the parent, you will want to develop and nurture your child’s curiosity. There is nothing as wonderful as the look upon a child’s face when they are learning about something they are passionate about. Help your child light the sparks and enjoy the road of discovery and never-ending questions!