Our Experience With Child-Led Learning

In my short homeschool parent tenure, I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries from friends and family about what we do. My personal favorite: Someone asked me shortly after we began our homeschooling journey, “What qualifications do you have? Do you have a teaching degree?”

After I bit my tongue really hard to prevent even more snark from slipping out, I said something like, “Um, no . . . but I think I can handle kindergarten academics.”

I know folks are asking out of love and concern. Usually people want to know things like what kind of plan or curriculum I use, how much time I spend on each subject, and how do I not go crazy staying home and teaching all day. (Because, of course, all homeschool students are at their desks every day from 8:00 to 2:00 with nary a break for eating or going to the bathroom.)

But mostly they are genuinely curious: How do you “teach” kindergarten at home? When I tell them what we really do— child-led learning— I never know what kind of reaction I will get.

We let Agent E take the lead in most of her daily activities. If folks press about what she actually does I tell them we use a homemade curriculum, which while slightly misleading, is more or less accurate. Our style is kind of unschool-ish, although I don’t really use that term to describe us. I don’t know how our “style” of home education will change as she and her two younger siblings grow. But for now, we are very laid back, cooperative, life learners.

Actually, I’m not even sure what part of our day I would consider “school”: When she’s on the couch reading a book? When she’s playing math bingo? When she wants me to look up alligators on the computer with her? When she’s sitting at the kitchen table doing a word search? When we’re outside playing with mud?

It all kind of blurs into daily life here. If I count all of those things, however, we are pretty much “doing” school most of the day.

I guide her learning, in that I will offer different things for her to do.  For example, this week I printed coloring pages, word searches, and puzzles about the UK in preparation for our visit to London in a few weeks. However, she decides when and which ones to work on.

It’s the same with reading.  At the library this time of year I may steer her toward a few books on say, Easter or spring, but let her pick which ones come home with us. I might also throw some measuring cups in the bathtub for her to play with if we’ve been cooking together or talking about fractions. I will  purposely ask her what time it is more often because she is just learning and I want to see if she remembers and what her thought process is.

So what am I teaching my five-year-old? I’m teaching her to be proactive with her learning. I’m teaching her to self-pace her activities to a level that works for her. I’m teaching her to enjoy new things. I’m teaching her that her input into her own education matters.

And whether we continue down this path or ultimately choose something more structured, I think she’s going to be just fine.

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