Child-Led Learning When You Are Overwhelmed By Resources

Posted April 27, 2020

What holds your attention?

Photographing Flowers unsplash-logoAllie

Before the weekend becomes a distant memory, I want to know how your children chose to spend their time?

When they had time away from distance-learning, what is it that drew your children in and held their attention?

As adults, if you look at what you choose to do when you don’t have to tick boxes and do have the time available, you’ll probably find your passions. Whether it’s baking, gardening, reading, exercising or networking, I know that we spend our time on the things we love.

For our family, you can see our interests in the way we handle the things we need to get done too. My husband could weed the garden for hours and I’ll take an extra thirty minutes to make dessert. We carve out time for the things we truly enjoy.

The same is true for our children. Last week, on one of the hottest days of the year so far, our eldest daughter sat for a total of five hours and found gems in a block of plaster at our dining room table.

Which resources are worth the effort?

In our home, we see a much higher level of engagement when an activity or project stems from a genuine interest for our girls.

The resources available at present are plentiful. Even more initiatives are being created every day, with individuals and companies stepping up to help children across the country learn during lockdown. I love learning resources, but if I’m honest, it’s all getting a little overwhelming.

On an average weekday before Easter, I could start the morning with a half-hour Joe Wicks live P.E session at nine in the morning, attend a virtual Superhero party at three, join the animals live at Cincinnati Zoo at seven, listen to Patrick Stewart recite Shakespeare sonnets and be presented with 127 little learning projects on any given social media network. That’s before you’ve even considered any worksheets, activities or programs that have been directed at you to educate your children in the absence of school.

Frankly, if you have online access, resources themselves aren’t the issue. Deciding how to spend your time is. It’s okay to only choose the things that really spark an interest for your children.

Listen to your children’s curiosities

Interest-led learning is a home-schooling choice for us, so we do actively make an effort to note down our children’s questions. When I began this blog, I also started recorded some on Twitter. A few of my favourites;

  • How many more ages do I have to do before I’m a grown-up Mama?
  • Is the sun shining from space?
  • I wonder if I can make a butterfly with these?
  • How do flowers bloom?

Knowing what has sparked their curiosity helps us to focus our resources. It also means that when we do put the effort in its worth it, which is what you want when you spend time setting up specific, interest-led activities.

Let’s take that last question; I found this paper and scissors science experiment, which shows you how flowers bloom. It ticked lots of boxes for our daughter. She coloured them all in beautiful patterns, folded the paper, cut them herself, set up a little bowl of water then gathered us all for the spectacle of the “bloom.” She did many more on her own. In total, I think we printed 20 flowers over two weeks; it was a project she came back to over and over again.

We’ve done a lot of activities in our time, but those activities that answer one of our daughter’s natural curiosities are the ones that become the most engaging, long-lasting and fulfilling.

Interest doesn’t always follow a schedule

A break from distance-learning is an opportunity to seek out those interests. Whether it’s an evening, a lunch-time or next weekend, follow their interests when they have free time. Delve through all the books, note down their questions, talk to your children about what they’ve been watching on YouTube, sit and play some of their computer game with them to see what it is that compels them to play so very much. Share your own materials and pull out any rainy day activities you had stashed away (if you haven’t already!)

Following natural interests encourages independent learning. Your children will spend more time doing the things they love. Shaping how they want to spend their time might spark a new interest in what they do have to do to, just as adults approach the chores rooted in their interests with more energy and satisfaction. Hello dessert. Now I’m off to find my husband in the garden.