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Things kids learn from following their own interests

post #1 of 58
Thread Starter 
Someone in another thread said she'd like to hear a lot more about kids learning from their own interests (as opposed to having to word the discussion within the confines of anyone's "unschooling" definitions). I know I have a lot to offer about how I've seen kids learn things from their interests, but I'm on the run at the moment and will pop back in later. I hope we can get a lot of great examples here. Homeschooling is SO much less daunting than most newcomers to it assume it to be in the beginning. Been there/done that myself - so I remember exactly how it feels to begin noticing amazing learning taking place seemingly out of nowhere! The thing is that it's just perfectly natural to learn things all the time from all sorts of everyday things and interests - but we've all grown up in a culture that has overlooked that because of the school model we've all been through.

Anyway - please jump right in! This sounds like fun. Lillian

Note added later to clarify: The idea is that someone posted in an unschooling thread that she didn't feel as if she exactly "fit" into either talks specifically about "unschooling" by name nor ones about curricula - and she expressed that she'd just like to hear more about how children learn from their own interests. Obviously everyone learns from whatever their interests are - but she's one of many new homeschoolers who are curious and interested in examples of what we mean when we say children will learn lots of important things from their own interests as compared to the notion that they need to have their learning formally planned, packaged, or orchestrated in order to get a good education. It's a fairly new concept to a lot of people, and there are many people out there - some of whom will be reading this thread - who have come to assume that kids don't learn about much of anything unless they're being "taught." So this thread is simply a place to cite examples of all the cool and often unexpected things kids are learning from their own interests as compared to learning from things "taught" to them.
post #2 of 58
Very cool idea!

Dd became interested in knitting last year. She'd seen people on TV doing it, and she had heard about it online a little bit. So she asked me to get her some materials. We found a cool starter kit and some thrift yarn for her a few days later. She just went for it each night before bed. She was having trouble understanding the directions because they seemed to contradict the picture examples so she went online and found a few tutorials that helped her (and me too!) understand casting on better. And as soon as those first few days of "What the heck did I just do?" and "Aww man, I just dropped like 3 stitches I think." were over she knit a purse and a baby hat.

She recently has taken 3 notebooks and turned 1 into a poetry book, another into her animal book, and another in a song lyrics book. She recently wrote two pages about sharks (her fave animal) in her animal notebook. She had a lot of info about them already, but needed to look up pelagic and temperate for definitions.

I have an example that is very timely with Ds right now. Often, in the forum he participates in, he will see little animated cartoons that people have made with a Flash (?) program. He found the program and downloaded it and has been reading and practicing animations for the last couple of days. He's also recently decided to take guitar lessons. His second lesson is this Wed.

I think this will be a neat thread that we can just keep coming back to over and over
post #3 of 58
Like UnschoolMa's dd , my dd wanted to learn knitting. We got her the stuff necessary to start and away she went. I noticed in our library monthly catalog that some of the area's older ladies were offering knitting classes every other week. Free. I brought this to dd's attention and she was VERY excited. We go every other Monday for 1.5 hrs. She loves it.

My ds (13) has been saving money for some games he saw online. It's been interesting to sit and watch him develop ideas for earning money. He's started several businesses (on paper) and figured how much start up $ he'd need , how many people he'd need to run it , how much $ he'd need to bring in to break even , etc..... It's all on paper , nothing has come to fruition...but I love to watch his wheels turn. To the outsider it may seem like I let my kid be lazy and sit on the front porch all day. But inside his mind...wow. Lots of good stuff going on up there.

My youngest dd is an inventor. She creates odd things. She finds the most bizzare things at yard sales and "must" have them. She turned a giant wire spool into a picnic table. She took bungee cords that she bought for $1 (most were missing one hook) and fashioned some sort of doll carrier out of them. (she bungee cords her dolls to her bike LOL) She uses sidewalk chalk to draw up her plans...all up and down our driveway , the sidewalk , the retaining wall , etc.... At one point she even used to side of the house because (I'll quote her) " I need a much bigger canvas for my master plan". ROFLOL She also likes to collect bugs and create "habuh-buh-tats" for them.

Here's a creation...she called it "The Ultimate Moose Ride"
http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y12...von/moose2.jpg

and a side view
http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y12...von/moose3.jpg

I didn't get any pictures of the next thing she did with the moose. She used her bungee cords to tie on her Dad's old roller skates to the bottom of the moose . Then she tied that to the back of her bike and went riding up and down the street. Very clever. I pointed out later that she was using math , spacial skills , drawing , planning , langauge , spelling , art , etc....

We do some formal schooling , but most of the time we follow the kids' leads. Today they all decided to see how much junk we had in the garage and they are deciding if a garage sale is worth the time/hassle....or if they'd rather donate it all to charity. In ds' words "if we go thru the time and hassle of setting up a garage sale we *might* make some fun money...but if we donate we get that warm squishy feeling." Then he pretended to be a mastercard commercial...Old sweatshirt $1 , Roller skates $2 ,...warm squishy feeling of giving it to someone who needs it...priceless Then my youngest dd said "Oh wow...that sounded just like the commercial..this box would be a perfect fake tv....." and off she went to create..meanwhile middle dd found a knitted sweater in the garage that had several holes in it. She wants to take it apart to study the stitches to see if she can mimic it.

Too cool.
post #4 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by UnschoolnMa
I have an example that is very timely with Ds right now. Often, in the forum he participates in, he will see little animated cartoons that people have made with a Flash (?) program. He found the program and downloaded it and has been reading and practicing animations for the last couple of days.
Ooh can you post the link to that? Sounds fun!
post #5 of 58
I guess I don't really understand the question. Or maybe everything Rain learns is from her own interests? But she gets interested in many things after being exposed to them, either because they're my interests, or a friend's interests, or on tv, or in a book...

Like, she's signed up for NaNoWriMo; she found the website and lied about her age and planned her novel and is all ready to go. It seems to me like her interest... but I joined NaNoWriMo two years ago (and have a great half-finished novel to show for it) so I know she originally heard about it when I was doing it.

She wrote a short story the night before last, at 2 am. It's kind of sad/weird. It's also in second person, which is unusual, to me anyway. It's very cool. She said it was sort of CSI meets Princess Bride, and she talked about some literary devices she learned about at writing group and used.

Oh, and she's signed up to work with animals at a pet shelter and has a meeting to go to Monday night. This will be the third time she's been a volunteer with shelter animals - we did it together when she was little at the Alameda shelter, and then later at the Woodland shelter before they changed their rules. This is the first time she's done something on her own, though. I dropped her off at the mall while I was tutoring and the shleter has a little storefront adoption center, and when I picked her up she said she'd talked with the people there about volunteering...

Dar
post #6 of 58
At the moment my eldest dd has been watching her birthday dvd's (Legally Blonde). She has been interested in law and lawyers for a while (amongst other things). So she took herself off to the library and is ploughing her way through a couple of law books. This from a girl who only starting reading books a couple of years ago She was explaining to me what she had learned about civil and criminal law. She only just turned 12!!! I am well impressed by her train of thoughts that just take off and find her actively doing things she enjoys
post #7 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dar
I guess I don't really understand the question. Or maybe everything Rain learns is from her own interests? But she gets interested in many things after being exposed to them, either because they're my interests, or a friend's interests, or on tv, or in a book...
Yeah I think most kids (especially unschooled) learn from their interests. Isn't that the basis for it?
post #8 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by rainbowmum
Ooh can you post the link to that? Sounds fun!

Sure thing! http://www.macromedia.com Once you are there you have to sign up (free) and then you can download a free 30 day trial of Flash 8. (Ds just mentioned that if you have more than one email account you could probably get more than one 30 day free trial by signing up more than once )


Here is a website that has all the basics for learning to use Flash. http://newgrounds.com/flash/index.html
post #9 of 58
So, just give examples of things our kids have learned on their own, or initiated on their own?

My son asked a lot of questions about the Solar System after seeing a Blue's Clues episode. I mean, he asked constant questions all day long, most of which I didn't know the answer to. I felt a bit overwhelmed at first, because I clearly knew zip about space and he really wanted to know. So I got some books and dh found a cool interactive NASA website. Now, we all know lots about space, because ds1 basically demanded the information and soaked it up like a sponge. We helped provide the resources, because he can't drive and doesn't know how to read, but it was completely led by him. I never even thought space stuff was interesting, before he got into it.

It's the same with bones. He asks a lot of deep questions and basically pulls us along. When we go to the chiropractor's, he asks her questions too and examines her models. There should be more people who talk to children as though they are people (like she does).

He can read mechanical blueprints (for toys) better than I can. He was interested in it and he just pored over the diagrams.

He "does math" and I'm not sure how he figured it out. He likes it. I think that if I sat him down to teach math, he would reject it, however.

Is this what you're looking for?
post #10 of 58
The other day at Girl Scouts, my kids made Things That Fly, which was fun and interesting to them. After they got home, they decided to continue making airplanes, and some how got the idea to make an airport for the paper airplanes. The used construction paper, tape, scissors, glue etc. to building runways, hangers, terminals, baggage handling equipment, jet ways, a control tower, and a charter service. It is amazing in its detail. I have no idea where they got the idea.

I've been reading to them about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and they've found all sorts of parallels between Arthur and Harry Potter. Both lost their parents young and were placed by a wizard with someone who didn't treat them well, both had an invisability cloak, both have to go on a quest, etc.

I found that my kids' learning is often like this -- they take some little spark from a book or activity they are in (they are only activities of their own choice) and then take in a direction that I never could have guessed at.

Both of my kids are in riding lessons right now. In the past I've worried a bit about my older DD because she is a little chubby and not interested in anything physical. She is starting to learn to jump and her teacher told her that she would be better at it if she had stronger tummy muscles and encouraged her to start doing crunches. She is now doing crunches nearly everyday. It amazes me what she will do when she has her own reason for it.
post #11 of 58
Here is one example of interest-led learning from our family:

Last Christmas I thought I would get DD some "traditionally boy" toys so that she could have a well-rounded toy collection (and also for little boys that come over).
I got her a set of race cars, a toolbench, a bucket of dinosaurs, and some other things. Little did I know that she would become so enthralled with the Dinosaurs that it would take over our life for months! At first, she just loved to play with them. but as the months progressed, it grew into a life-size obsession with everything Dinosaur. She had to know all about them - the names, what they ate, why they aren't here, where they lived, how the bones became fossils, how long ago they died out, what the biggest ones were, what the smallest ones were, their bone structure, what kind of hips they had and how it related to their diet, etc etc.... She had me buy encyclopedias and read them to her every night. Sometimes we would go through entire encyclopedias in a weekend because she couldn't stop reading them. BTW, this also led her to desire to read even more so than she already had. She is now reading very well. This also led to learning about other animals that were around during that period, including those that are still around today (like turtles) and those that aren't (trilobites). She's a total dino freak. We saw a duck at the river the recently and it had a large crest on it's forehead, and RayeAnne exclaimed "Look Mom, it looks like a Parasaurolophus!" Boy was I beaming

So you can see how a simple interest can snowball into an amazing learning event (all this in less than a year)!
post #12 of 58
Thread Starter 
I guess I should have slowed down and worded the question a little more specifically, because it doesn't seem to be clear to a few. I'll also go back and add a note to the introductory post of the thread. The idea is that someone posted in an unschooling thread that she didn't feel as if she exactly "fit" into either talks specifically about "unschooling" by name nor ones about curricula - and she expressed that she'd just like to hear more about how children learn from their own interests. Obviously everyone learns from whatever their interests are - but she's one of many new homeschoolers who are curious and interested in examples of what we mean when we say children will learn lots of important things from their own interests as compared to the notion that they need to have their learning formally planned, packaged, or orchestrated in order to get a good education. It's a fairly new concept to a lot of people, and there are many people out there - some of whom will be reading this thread - who have come to assume that kids don't learn about much of anything unless they're being "taught." So this is a place to cite examples of all the cool and often unexpected things kids are learning from their own interests - not from things imposed onto them. And people here are contributing exactly the kinds of things we had in mind - this is great! Lillian
post #13 of 58
My Dd (4) wanted to know if stomach bugs crawl or fly. So, we checked out a book about viruses and bacteria; she's very interested in that.

Then she wanted to understand how we breathe, what blood does, and where nerves are and what they do. We've been reading about that.

Then I checked out a whole bunch of books from the same book series and she's learning about body functions, weather, energy, the animal world.

Aside from that, she's very into drawing and cutting. She draws berries and cuts them out and puts them in her refrigerator (actually, it's a doll house). She draws ghosts and cuts them out.

She spends a lot of time drawing pictures and then asking how to write a person's name to give it to them. She also signs it with her name. She wants to understand how stamps work and the mail system.

She told me that 3 is half of 6, the number of our trees planted last winter that died/lived.
post #14 of 58
Thanks for clarifying, Lillian. And I found the thread with her quote in it after I posted.

With my oldest, he just becomes interested in things we read about or that he sees on shows. Sometimes, it's a passing interest and sometimes it's a burning interest. He'll draw about something a lot and ask lots of questions. Those are the things that I know to follow up on. I usually provide books and I try to answer his questions. I look for related places to go to. He's really good about letting us know when it's too much, just right, or not enough.

He was completely obsessed with bones for over a year. He's drawn so many bone pictures and, as mentioned, our chiropractor has been very generous with him. But for some reason, seeing pictures of skeletons would sometimes upset him. I took him to the science center once for the express purpose of seeing the human body section. When we got there, he was freaked out about the skeletons and he wanted to go. I would have liked for him to stay, because we went all the way out there and it was right in line with his interests, but we just left. Leaving was the right thing to do and there were no strings attached to it and no guilt-trips. So that was him letting me know it was too much.

We've been reading the Magic Treehouse books and that has prompted a lot of interesting discussions. We weren't able to read the mummy one, because the idea of a moving mummy upset him. I think we read the first two and last chapters. But it initiated an interesting discussion of what's inside the Pyramids and what hieroglyphics are. We tried conveying a thought with pictures and then tried to decode each other's thought. But while it occasionally has come up, it's nothing incredibly exciting to him. So, to me, that's an example of just right. I would not, personally, go get Egyptian books and resources for him right now, because he doesn't seem that interested in it. It was interesting in the moment and then that was it. I guess it's like having a discussion with someone about something on the news. You find it interesting in the moment and then you're done; you don't want to read oodles of related stuff after the moment's past.

And then, like, with the space obsession, he wouldn't let that one go. As soon as we'd answer a question, he'd have another one. He'd always seem to come up with thought-provoking questions when I was trying to drive across a busy intersection. So that was an example of not enough. We needed to help him pursue that, because he had a great appetite for it and he was trying to get more of it.

The topics he's liked have not been easily classified into subjects much of the time. Like the space thing went all over the place: reading, art, science, math, philosophy...

And then, as I've said, he comes up with stuff like adding in his head and we don't know where he got that from. If I said, "What does 2+2 equal?", a formula that many young children are taught to memorize and regurgitate, he wouldn't know what I was talking about. But if he wants to hear song 9 on the CD and he sees that it's on 7, he knows that he has two songs to get through first (he said that today in the car). When I see stuff on Noggin like Bruno the monkey (who they love) counting 5 bananas, it just seems so disconnected and contrived. It seems to make an assumption that kids need to be fed these facts, because that's the only way to learn them. It's an animated monkey counting 5 banana drawings. We silently and inadvertently use that concept just with playing with Legos or eating animal crackers. I've really been impressed with the idea of organic learning. Kids are amazing.

I remember someone here (Sasha-girl maybe?) telling me that once the kids do their first big independent "project" so to speak, that it all makes sense and a lot of the fears go away. I found that to be true. We are loving child-initiated learning here.

HTH!
post #15 of 58
Ok, I have a few more thoughts, again, from someone with very young kids, but here goes.

There are a few variables that I think are important with child-led learning. One variable is the manner in which children's questions are treated. We all get tired of the constant questions, but I think it's important to listen to them and to be receptive to their questioning. Some people I know IRL kind of brush off the questions or even say, "You'll learn that in school.". But I think you have to encourage the child to keep questioning simply by being receptive. I say, "I don't know." a lot, but then I try to find the answer or find someone who knows. If you usually seem annoyed or uninterested in the child's questioning, then they're going to learn to stop doing it (and that's not good).

Another variable is how we interact with the child. This is just my humble opinion. And I have introverts for children, so take what you want from this. But I think kids need free time and space of their own. I think that boredom can be a bit of a good thing and that we should not hurry to entertain them all the time. When I venture out into mainstream land, in Gymboree, most of the other parents seem very invested in their child's "work". When they are painting, the parent hovers, corrects, makes suggestions, asks too many questions and even takes over their project. I think that it's good to step back, get out of their space and let them have the space to explore on their own. Some parents seem like they're anxiously waiting to jump in and kind of micro-manage what's going on. I think that over-involvement can possibly reduce self-motivation and interest.

Just my two cents.
post #16 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeftField
And then, as I've said, he comes up with stuff like adding in his head and we don't know where he got that from. If I said, "What does 2+2 equal?", a formula that many young children are taught to memorize and regurgitate, he wouldn't know what I was talking about. But if he wants to hear song 9 on the CD and he sees that it's on 7, he knows that he has two songs to get through first (he said that today in the car).
Rain at 4 and 5 loved it when I'd give her arithmetic problems to solve mentally. I think she picked up the format from the older kids who lived across the hall from us when she was 3 and 4 and loved to play "school" with her, and sometimes when we were waiting in line or walking somewhere or whatever, she'd want to just solve some arithmetic problems. She liked "pluses" and timeses" best, and would add numbers in the hundreds just for fun, mentally.

She did more functional arithmetic, too, but I always thought the other was funny.

Dar
post #17 of 58
Its often something of a game with our family when there is some addition or mulitplication problem posed for whatever reason, to see who can get the answer first. We write it out, calculator it, or wing it in our heads in this big scramble lol. We aren't always right, but it sure is fun to try.
post #18 of 58
Best thread I've seen so far. Left Field, I really liked what you said here.

••If you usually seem annoyed or uninterested in the child's questioning, then they're going to learn to stop doing it (and that's not good).••

So true. So easy to do when were not conscience and "in the moment" with our kids. Then, when we take the time to listen, we are surprised how articulate or interesting our child sounds to us. Like we are hearing them for the first time. They are so fantastic so much of the time, I really feel guilty when have those times where I'm not appreciating their beautiful questions or ponderings.
post #19 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dar
Rain at 4 and 5 loved it when I'd give her arithmetic problems to solve mentally. I think she picked up the format from the older kids who lived across the hall from us when she was 3 and 4 and loved to play "school" with her, and sometimes when we were waiting in line or walking somewhere or whatever, she'd want to just solve some arithmetic problems. She liked "pluses" and timeses" best, and would add numbers in the hundreds just for fun, mentally.

She did more functional arithmetic, too, but I always thought the other was funny.

Dar
Ds1 likes those too, but in the form of word problems, e.g. 'If 7 trains came into the roundhouse and 4 left...'. Then, he makes up some for me to solve. But if I asked him about "7 minus 4", he wouldn't know that format yet. I think I have as much fun as he does.
post #20 of 58
Well, my best example is that Bridget learned to read by following her own interest (well, that and her brain was just ready and it clicked).

She's also learning to spell and write by following her own interests She loves to write stories. Years ago she just dictated them to me but now she types them herself. Stories, poems, notes, lists, letters, emails, hate mail, love mail, signs - she just loves to express herself in writing. If she asks me how to spell something I tell her but otherwise we don't correct her spelling (or handwriting). Over time (especially the last few months) the spelling is getting better and better. It's very exciting to watch

She's into Egypt right now so she keeps reading about that. I admit I'm not really into it myself so I don't know a lot of what she's doing : (I'll help her if she asks of course, but it's really more her thing).

She's also really into the human body and how it works. We have some books, she also looks up things on yahooligans and google a lot, and she asks a lot of questions. She just came up to me a few minutes ago to tell me what it's called when you press against your eyelids and see lights (I, uh, can't remember what she said - pho something or other?). She read that in some book her Grandma gave her today.
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