My guest contributor today, Rebbecca from How Do I Homeschool, discusses three homeschool methods that promote interest-based learning in the home: the Montessori method, Waldorf method, and Unschooling.
One of the reasons that my husband and I want to homeschool is because of the freedom it gives our children to learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it.
When you don’t have this type of freedom, your education can feel like a boring job where you’re ticking all the boxes, but you don’t really enjoy the tasks you’re working on. For me, school felt like this and I had to deschool myself out of that way of thinking before I truly learned to find fun in my education.
And this fun began when my brothers and I started homeschooling in Grade 3.
In hindsight, my parents used traditional and unschooling methods of education in our homeschool (although I don’t know they even realized they were following these methods). For every new homeschooling parent, I think the traditional homeschooling method has a lot going for it. This is because:
- it’s easy to implement if you’re using a program like the Switched-on-Schoolhouse curriculum (which is actually an online school).
- it’s pretty close to what schools do (most traditional homeschooling curricula is made for schools) and so it’s not such a scary leap for parents who are already taking a terrifying leap into the homeschooling world
However, the traditional method isn’t the most exciting way you can educate your child as it can be:
- quite repetitive – with lots of rote learning
- quite rigid – traditional homeschooling curriculum isn’t designed for teachers to be as flexible as other methods
- too fast – it sometimes makes students move onto another topic before you’ve learned it
- too slow – it sometimes makes students stay on a topic when you’ve already learned it
- quite stressful – if parents insist everything in a curriculum must be done.
For this reason, we should think about supplementing (or replacing) our traditional methods with other homeschooling methods that promote interest-based learning.
How Waldorf, Montessori and Unschooling Approaches Promote Interest-Based Learning
The top three methods that promote interest-based learning in the home are the:
- Montessori method
- Waldorf method and
What is particularly interesting about these homeschooling methods is that these methods were all created as a knee-jerk reaction to how we do modern schooling. They all realized that educators should be working with children’s interests because this is how children learn best! (Of course, many teachers also realize this but don’t have time to implement this in their classrooms!)
As such, the Montessori and Waldorf classrooms allow children more freedom to do the activities that interest them.
Unschooling is, of course, a different system altogether in that it doesn’t really claim to be school, homeschooling, or even a teaching system.
How the Montessori Method Promotes Interest-Based Learning
I have a huge soft spot for the Montessori homeschooling method as this educational approach uses a child’s environment to encourage learning in every way. The three tenets of the Montessori approach are:
- and independence
The Montessori homeschool set up encourages children to do things independently if they can. They encourage order and beauty in the home and learning areas.
For example, students have their own set of miniature mops, brooms, washcloths, buckets, dustpan and brush with which to clean any spills they make.
Within a Montessori homeschool, children also have a limited number of well-thought-out activities they can choose from. In this way, they can choose things that they find curious and reject activities that hold no interest for them.
Because Montessori activities have been so well thought out, children learn a lot, no matter the activity they engage in.
How the Waldorf Method Promotes Interest-Based Learning
Children in Waldorf homeschools use their imagination in creative play. In this way, they’re doing things that interest them instead of thinking planted thoughts like might occur in a traditional classroom.
One of the aims of a Waldorf homeschooling education is to create free, independent, creative and morally responsible individuals who can learn at their own pace.
Something I particularly love about Waldorf education is that children aren’t put in front of technology until they’re older. This is because Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, believed screen-time made children sedentary, hampered their imagination and stifled their ability to learn in early years.
While I don’t agree with everything a strict Waldorf education might bring, I believe we can take the parts of the educational approach we like and incorporate that in our homeschools. For this reason, I encourage you to look more closely at the Waldorf homeschooling approach and see what you can use in your children’s educations.
How the Unschooling Approach Promotes Interest-Based Learning
In a way, the unschooling approach is the educational method that best encourages interest-based learning as this method is all about letting children follow their interests. Parents only stop this process if children will cause harm to something or someone or endanger themselves somehow.
A parent who uses unschooling in their homeschool let their children tell them what they want to do. A parent’s role is to facilitate their children’s education. In this way, unschooling is child-led learning.
The reasoning behind letting children engage in child-led learning is you know they’ll be looking at things that interest them.
However, parents might find it harder to discern whether their child is learning from this educational approach.
For example, they might be interested in video games, but are they learning anything useful from it?
On the other hand, if they’re interested in dismantling a computer and putting it back together, they would probably be learning quite a lot and have a great interest in the topic.
The latter example is unschooling at its best.
In fact, it’s probably just labeling what we let our kids do in their free time anyway.
A Short Note on Radical Unschooling
If you want to do extreme unschooling (called radical unschooling – the pure, undistilled version of unschooling), you will let your children do anything they like that interests them (including eating doughnuts while playing video games at 3am).
However, if you’re like me, you can’t stand this and might just go for a little bit of unschooling instead of the radical version!
Conclusion: Three Homeschooling Methods That Encourage Interest-Based Learning
Letting children engage with homeschooling methods that engage their interests is a great way for them to take in more information than they would if they were studying with traditional educational models all the time. We can foster our children’s love of learning by letting them engage with the best parts of different learning approaches. Some of the best methods that foster interest-based learning are the Montessori, Waldorf and unschooling approaches. Homeschooling parents might find a lot of educational gemstones by looking at the best parts in these homeschooling methods.
Rebbecca Devitt is the author of Why on Earth Homeschool: The Case for Christian Homeschooling. She’s the wife of a husband who is her best friend and makes her laugh and a son who is too cute for words. She’s dabbled in Nursing, Medical Science, Medicine and Law before settling down to her dream job—being a full-time mother! The Devitt family lives in Wollongong and actively participates in their wonderful church, Wollongong Baptist Church. Rebbecca has written for various blogs including Homeschooling with Heart, Why on Earth Homeschool and her own Christian homeschooling blog, How Do I Homeschool. As you can guess, her passion lies in helping people to homeschool well.