Implementing Child-Led Learning in your Homeschool
The night before I had set out a dinosaur small world. My oldest has been fascinated by dinosaurs since visiting the science museum.
As soon as she came down in the morning, she noticed the invitation and started playing. I had a hard time getting her away from it to eat breakfast. In fact, she insisted she eat while playing that morning.
More From Hopscotch: 5 Things to keep in your morning time basket
I’m not going to interrupt her play or rob her of a learning experience just to eat breakfast, so I let her.
After I eat, I sit down to watch her play. I noticed she was making the dinosaurs jump from the trees. I took this as a great teachable moment.
I asked “Do you think dinosaurs were able to jump from trees?”
“How big do you think dinosaurs were?”
“I don’t know” was her response.
BINGO! Time for some learning!
I asked her if she would like to find out.
I knew the question of how big dinosaurs were would happen at some point during our unit study, so the activity was already prepared. I pulled it out and we headed outside.
More from hopscotch: How to make your own easy unit study
I asked her to roll out the toilet paper to as big as she thought the dinosaurs were.
We used large blocks to measure.
Then I rolled out the toilet paper to the actual size of a T-Rex.
“Whoa! That’s big!” she replied as she started to use the blocks to measure the real size.
We ended up running out of blocks and just used a measuring tape to figure it out.
Later that day, her little brother was playing with the small world. He had dinosaurs in the trees like she did. Sister responded…
“Silly Brother! Dinosaurs are too big to be in trees.”
And that’s the beauty of child-led learning.
What is Child-Led Learning?
In short, child-led learning is simply what it says…letting your child lead their learning with both academics and interests.
Child led learning gives your child time to gain readiness for academic concepts. This means you do not force your child to learn any academic concept without observing signs of readiness first. And you don’t teach a topic without first observing an interest.
More from hopscotch: Easy Set-Up, Easy Clean-Up Science Experiments
You may set goals and have a flexible plan for learning, but you do not force your children to do activities that meet these goals. You simply provide a rich environment that encourages the learning of the goals then wait until they are ready.
Your role in child-led learning is to be a supporter, resource provider, question asker, and modeler. You do all these things based on your child’s interests.
The parent’s job is to constantly note interests, hone in on the specifics your child wants to learn about that interest, then setting up the environment and activities that help your child learn about the interest.
If you’re feeling unsure about child-led learning for your toddler or preschooler, grab this free getting started guide where I show you the exact steps to setting up your environment and planning your first week of homeschool preschool.
More from hopscotch: 4 Things You Need To Know When You Start Homeschooling
Benefits of Child-Led Learning
When your child is in charge of their learning and you fully embrace their unique ideas, you never know where the learning journey will take you.
But knowing where the learning is headed isn’t that important. What is important is that your child is always learning when you provide a rich child-led environment. Usually when you follow their ideas, the learning experiences they come up with are ten times better than an adult could ever think of.
Learning is un-pressured with a child-led approach.
There’s no frustration because the child gets to choose when and if they want to do an activity. The more you practice child-led learning, the easier it is to come up with activities that you know your child will engage with. When your child is ready to learn a skill, they will be eager to do the activities and will learn it quickly.
More from hopscotch: how to schedule your homeschool day
Child-led learning is real life. You use your environment as your teaching assistant. You place materials, activities, and books in your learning space to generate interests in the skills and topics you want your child to learn. Then you sit back and patiently wait until they are ready. When your child sees you use math and literacy skills everyday in a natural way, you are providing a reason for their learning.
Every child has their own unique learning timeline. The experiences you provide them is what determines that timeline. Then when your child is interested in something, they will ask lots of questions and want to find all the possible answers to their questions. Which leads to learning on multiple levels.
You give them lots of time to explore, investigate, and experiment in their own way. You allow them to figure things out for themselves which leads to a deeper understanding of the topic.
Child-led learning also fosters a STRONG love of learning because they have the freedom to choose what and how they learn best. There is no sense of pressure or frustration to learn because it’s real life.
Child-led learning is all about you controlling the environment. Then letting the environment control the learning.
Typical Day in Our Child-Led Homeschool Preschool
Our days are VERY relaxed and slow. When I plan out our daily routine, I start by observing my children then create a loose routine around their natural rhythm.
We also follow a Montessori 3-hour work period, but we do it a tad different. Our work period is not all about work or activity trays. I also encourage them to play, and our learning games are all play-based. All of our activities come from Learning Through Experiences: A Child-Led Curriculum.
More from hopscotch: Allison’s homeschool schedule, routine and curriculum
Here’s what our typical day looks like:
6:30 Wake up and get ready for the day
7:00 Cook breakfast together
7:30 Eat breakfast together as we read a chapter book
8:00 Clean up & begin work period
-First hour: Kids play with whatever they want while I get chores done. Sometimes my oldest will want to help me do chores. I encourage her to help, but it’s ultimately up to her.
-Second hour: This is the false fatigue hour and the hardest part of our day. I let them be bored and try to push through this hour without offering any suggestions. I will lay a snack out on the table at this time for them if they choose to eat.
-Third hour: If you push through false fatigue, your child will find deep concentrated play on the other side. Once they hit this, I let them begin with whatever they want to work on/play with. Once I see a break in concentration, I’ll invite them to do a learning game. This is the time I model new activities and skills. I tend to go back and forth between the two kids during this hour.
11:00 This time is approximate. I play it by ear and wait for concentration to break before asking them to clean up. Then we head outside.
11:45 Inside, wash hands, morning meeting (calendar, weather, songs, story)
12:45 Stories and Yoga
1:00 Littlest Naps/ Peace Time with my Oldest (character development books & activities)
1:30 Oldest Naps
3:00 Tea Time (snack with poetry)
3:30 Outside and/or structured activity (usually a sensory bin or science experiment)
4:30 Begin dinner. My oldest will sometimes help me with dinner.
6:00 Family Time
7:15 Begin bedtime
We follow this schedule most days. Tuesdays we participate in our local Homeschool Community Center classes and playgroup. We also have gymnastics Tuesday evening.
Fridays is our library and park day, so our work period is cut short that day. This means we usually don’t get to the third hour, so I just let them choose activities and don’t introduce anything new that day.
To learn more about how we structure our day and exactly how my littles learn check out my Ultimate Guide to Creating an Engaging Homeschool Preschool in Less Time.
About the Author:
Amanda is the owner of Sicily’s Heart & Home where she helps beautiful mama’s homeschool their littles using a child-led approach without spending a lot of time planning & prepping. She is a former elementary and preschool teacher with over 11 years experience. Amanda has 2 littles of her own, Sicily & Kade, who follow this exact child-led approach that she advocates. Amanda is the creator of Learning Through Experiences: A Child-Led Curriculum which currently has a full toddler and preschool curriculum with plans to expand up to sixth grade. In her spare time, she likes to read, garden, and relax in a bubble bath. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Or better yet, go join her Learning Their Way Facebook Group.
Click pin to save for later!