How To Be Successful at Interest-Led Learning In Your Homeschool

Interest-led learning can offer your family all kinds of amazing learning opportunities! This method of homeschooling is one we are big fans of here at The Waldock Way. The interest-led learning method allows us to encourage a love of learning while building strong family connections with one another on our homeschooling journey.

Want to learn more about interest-led learning? Keep reading to discover how you can successfully use the interest-led homeschooling method to follow your child’s lead and discover a world of learning possibilities along the way. Plus, get practical homeschooling tips from some of our favorite interest-led learning examples too.

What is interest-led learning?

Interest-led learning is a method of homeschooling that’s sometimes called delight directed or child-led learning. At The Waldock Way, we are interest-led homeschoolers. We love the flexibility it gives us, the strong connections we are able to build, and the opportunities to foster a love of learning. 

This method of homeschooling focuses strongly on following our daughter Emily’s lead. We go down rabbit holes to discover the answers to her questions and follow her curiosity wherever it leads us. Interest-led learning has led to learning about so many amazing things I would never have thought to explore! 

For example recently she was very interested in cooking and baking and being in the kitchen. I read her a picture book about Julia Child and it sparked an interest. We followed that rabbit trail all the way to a full unit study on her, which is something I never would have done otherwise.

How do you follow your child’s lead in your homeschool? 

How do we follow Emily’s interests in our homeschool? My number one tip for successful interested-led learning is to answer ALL of your child’s questions. That’s usually how we get started discovering interests, planning lessons, and learning new things.

We usually begin following my plan. I have a plan which I try to build around Emily’s interests, but it’s very flexible. I’m never so tied to my plan that we can’t deviate from it. Allowing for this kind of flexibility gives us the opportunity to follow wherever her interests may lead. 

When you follow your child’s interests and natural curiosity, you’ll be amazed at all the cool things you can learn about! Sometimes, you may even end up learning the concepts and lessons you had planned in a way that will be more exciting and memorable for the whole family.

Following my child’s interests is something I do physically, often without her knowledge. I don’t say to Emily “What would you like to learn about?” Frankly, that wouldn’t be very effective. She would probably look at me like a deer in the headlights and say “I don’t know.” 

Instead, I pay attention to her interests, the topics that make her eyes light up, and the things she’s curious about. Then, I explore those interests with her. Sometimes that means finding the answers to her questions on Google, checking out books about topics she’s interested in from the library, or even playing a game she loves. What we do or how we explore the topic really depends on just how interested she is. I have a rule that I match my efforts to her interest level.

What if my child isn’t interested in the important things?

Most of us don’t wake up one day with a burning passion for fractions or grammar. Those aren’t really topics that most kids would choose to learn more about. However, they are important things to learn. At The Waldock Way, we usually follow my plans for math and language arts. 

Then, I build unit studies and plan morning baskets, field trips, and activities based on Emily’s interests. If she did wake up with a burning desire to learn more about fractions or exponents, I’d be thrilled and we would definitely follow that. But, whether she wakes up with a desire for fractions or not I can follow her interest and still get to the important things. For example I incorporate games because they interest her and that way she and I are both happy.

Following an interest-led learning method doesn’t mean I have to follow her interests for everything all the time. It doesn’t mean I have no plan for our lessons. Most of the time we follow my plan, but I allow for the flexibility to explore her interests whenever they pop up.

What if interest-led learning doesn’t work out for me?

I know what you’re thinking, what if it just doesn’t work for us? We are big fans of interest-led learning and I’ve learned some tips and tricks over the years that have helped make this method successful for us. 

How can you be successful at interest-led learning? Keep reading to discover my favorite tips for successfully following your child’s lead while homeschooling.

My Top 5 Tips for successful interest-led learning in your homeschool

There are some tips and strategies I’ve discovered over the years that help us to be successful interest-led learners. Check out my best tips for success:

#1 Be Flexible and Go With the Flow

A willingness to divert from your plans and follow your child’s interests when they arise will lead to all kinds of magical learning experiences they’ll remember for years to come!

#2 Don’t Ask What They Want to Learn

Most of the time, when my husband asks me what I want for dinner, I can’t give him an answer. Thinking about what we want and verbalizing it can be difficult for us as adults and it’s that much harder for kids. 

Instead of putting your kids on the spot, ask yourself questions: 

  • What are they interested in?
  • What are they passionate about?
  • What topics make their eyes light up?
  • What are they always asking questions about?

#3 Your Effort Should Match Their Interest

Have you ever been so excited because your child showed a little interest in something that you created an entire study on it only to discover they had moved on to something else? Me too!

The way I avoid feeling like I am constantly running after her interests is to be realistic with my time and effort. I match the amount of time I invest to her level of interest.

For example let’s say she asks why Pluto is no longer considered a planet. I would not drop everything I am doing to create a study. I would simply answer her question. With a quick Google search or book perhaps. But, if she continues to ask more questions and her interest in the subject of planets and space grows then and only then will I invest more of my time, effort, energy, and money. 

#4 Add Strewing

Another method I use to discover what Emily might be interested in learning more about is strewing. Strewing is all about setting up opportunities for kids to explore and learn about new things through play and hands-on interactions. 

#5 Flexibility Is Key

Interests often change or come and go in our children’s learning, and that’s OK! It’s difficult sometimes to let go when we have worked so hard to help determine our approach to interest-led homeschooling. 

The key to long term success is flexibility. Going with the flow and allow your child’s education to unfold makes for a better homeschooling experience (both for your child and for you!).

Have you tried following your child’s interests when planning your homeschool lessons and learning activities? What has worked for you and what hasn’t? I’d love to read more about your experiences with interest-led learning in the comment section, so don’t forget to share.

One Comment

  1. I think the approach that you are taking is fantastic and must definitely help with motivation. I find independent studies are also an excellent way to learn as those can be interest-led and build in a variety of essential skills like planning (graphic organizers), research, critical thought, writing and presenting. I homeschooled my daughter last year and she completed an independent study on the Rubik’s Cube. She researched everything from the cube’s invention to statistics around percentage of cubers and her times (a nice tie in to math with averages and graphing). It can be modular so that a big task like an independent study is broken into a variety of smaller steps: find a topic, look for a few reliable sources, read and extract the important parts, add that to your web or graphic organizer to start to see logical groupings and paragraph formation. I’m pretty certain in the future she could now replicate this with most other topics. It’s allowed her to be a more independent learner.

    Your approach sounds like a great way for Emily to learn and follow her interests while gaining the tools and strategies needed to research and explore other interests. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights. I enjoy reading your posts.

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