Monday, November 14, 2011

Following Interests for ANY Age

When people ask about our homeschooling they usually ask us if the school gives us their curriculum. When I tell them that we don't follow the school curriculum from our area they usually look surprised. I do remind them that the curriculum isn't free, we pay taxes and don't get any of that money back for school tax (in Ontario) and I probably wouldn't follow the curriculum if it WERE free and delivered right to my door. I generally get a really strange look by this point. You know the look! The one where suddenly I must have three heads.

They usually ask more questions. "What curriculum do you follow?" "But what do we do for math?" "Do they learn to read?" "What grade would they be in?" "Do they get tested?" "What about socialization?" "Why do you homeschool?" I will answer any questions asked very politely, even if they seem a bit defensive or rude. Usually people just sound surprised and confused. I explain that we follow the interests of the kids and I don't make them do anything they don't want to do. They love to learn, they love our math program, they don't get tested and that the socialization I see my kids experience everyday far exceeds what I remember experiencing in school. Usually by this point my kids are talking the parent's ear off and telling him/her things that they do and know.

I think that the concept of following the child's interests is fairly easy to understand, even for a main-stream or traditional type of person. Most people show signs of seeing some benefits and even give me examples of how their kids or grandkids lost interest in a subject or something wasn't taught in a way that they liked and turned them off of school. I think that if more people knew about child-led learning there would be changes in the system to be more flexible to the needs of every individual child. At least that would be my hope.

I am no perfect homeschool mom. We have bumps in the road, but here is an example of following an interest. Some unschoolers who are more radical than I would just leave kids and let them explore on their own in the world. I think this is great if it works for them. I will introduce subjects in our house and see if there is interest. I just don't force anything. This can be done for any age, but sometimes you don't even really have to introduce anything, or at least not intentionally. A good example of this is Zoe's interest in mermaids. She is only 5 and if you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she will answer quickly because she already knows that she wants to be a mermaid! I would never tell her that she can't. Why should I?! It's a great thing to aspire toward! Why can't she set her sights on being a mermaid? She is only 5 years old. And I know I met someone before who became a mermaid when she grew up! Yup!! I did!! Really!!!! Haven't you ever been to Disney World?!!

This is an interest that can't be passed up in our homeschool. I looked for printables on the internet, she draws mermaids, makes mermaids, watches mermaid movies, and reads mermaid books. The librarian went to work for us, after learning of Zoe's interest and came up with some really great mermaid books and some so-so mermaid books. These three were our favourites.
The Mermaid Secret is a story of two sisters who found out that they had a secret past and their whole view of their world and themselves ended up changing as they went through a strange adventure. The cool thing about this book is that the author is from Alberta and the places mentioned in the book the kids knew well. One of those places was the West Edmonton Mall! So, according to this fictitious story... mermaids have been in the pool there! Both of my kids loved this story.
The middle book is a book all about the history of mermaids and their myths. It's a beautiful book with many fold outs, flaps and much more. We are still getting through this one because it is long and a bit more time consuming than the other two.
The book on the right was a fast read with some of the facts of mermaids that people claim to have experienced. There are sightings, some examination, and a bit of mystery left for the reader to wonder.
Even though this was Zoe's interest, both of my kids loved this subject and even if your life is busy, reading books cover many subjects all on its own. Math, geography, history, myths, reading, language, and much more can be learned just from reading books. Reading can create enthusiasm and ideas in each child to do other things related to what they have read.
I don't know if you noticed this or not, but these three books are not your average 5 year old picture books. They are probably rated for a much older child and are almost novels. I know that even some homeschool families follow age ranges of books very strictly. We don't!!! At all!!! Some of the best books are geared toward older children, but if my kids want to read them, and they don't appear to have any inappropriate subjects in it (eg. sex, drugs, extreme violence) I read them!! The vocabulary is usually more advanced and the stories are more detailed and my children have become accustomed to this. If I never did this they may not have the vocabulary that they have or understand as much as they do. They take in what they know from more rich material and ask questions when they want to know more and leave what they aren't ready for behind until another time.
Well, that's a little more about us and how we homeschool and follow interests.

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