Interest-Driven Curricula and an Open Mind (2011 Curriculum Fair)

Written by contributor Hillary Boucher of Infinitely Learning

Children’s ages: 6, 3, and 10 months
Educational Philosophy Influences: Unschooling, Enki, Eclectic

Our children are quite young and so far interest-driven learning has been all we’ve needed. Philosophically, we are what is described as “unschooling.”

I am not particularly attached to unschooling as a rule-set as much as I am dedicated to individualized, case-by-case, interest-driven learning.

If there is anything I’ve learned in life and parenting it’s to keep an open mind and heart. You never know what might be around corner, how life will unfold or how someone’s needs may change.

I’m open to using any tool that helps facilitate growth and learning and I acknowledge that at some point it could include a specific curriculum.

Our Family/Life Curriculum thus Far

We follow a strong daily and seasonal rhythm within a vibrant community, which lays the foundation of learning and growth. We constantly ask ourselves, “How can we live our best life?” because modeling passionate, life-long learning is one of the best ways to ensure that our kids continue to be enthusiastic learners.

We try to answer questions, dig in deep and authentically learn alongside  them. In our fast paced, information driven culture it seems more important to know “how” to learn and find answers than remembering specific facts.

In addition to our basic life-led learning model the specific tools that we’ve used so far are:

Enki Homeschool

I came across the Enki Foundation Guides when my oldest son was just three and I was very inspired by them. Their mindful approach towards living and learning weaves together nature, multi-culturism, and a rhythmic, family-centered approach that speaks to my heart.

I don’t *use* the curriculum on a day to day basis, but pull from the Kindergarten program when I need inspiration or am looking for supplemental stories and activities.

Pros: family centered, eclectic, multi-cultural, integrated arts, flexible
Cons: expensive, only goes to grade 2, there is a lot of preparation involved if you want to follow it “by the book”

Books/Library

We love books! I try to buy books that will add to our personal library–like this treasury of Greek Myths, and this Child’s World Atlas or any of the fun and educational Usborne books. (The boys love this one.) We use the library to supplement and explore.

Computer

We use this for everything. The kids like to type letters, play games, listen to music and watch video.

If there’s a question we can’t answer we ask the world wide web. I continue to be amazed at the resources available online and have just started to poke around the companion links for our Usborne books.

Nature & Outdoor Education

Photo by Hillary Boucher

My son Sol participates in a homeschool program once a week called Primitive Pursuits that teaches kids outdoor survival skills and reverence for nature. We try to take the kids out into the forest as much as possible. This feels very important to us.

Maps

My husband loves maps. We usually have a few hanging on the wall (they change) and we look at them often, identifying waterways, land and talking about where we live in the world and what that means on a cultural and scientific level. In fact one of my first blog posts ever was about our amazing local BioRegion Map.

Workbooks & Magazines

National Geographic is a family favorite and stimulates lots of conversation. We subscribe to Ladybug Magazine, which we devour when it comes in the mail. I buy various workbooks to tackle basic math and writing, but so far my six-year-old is not interested in them.

I keep them around if his interest ever changes or for his brother and sister who might appreciate them.

Games

We have a box full of games like Bananagrams, Math Dice Jr., cards and so on.

Art Supplies

We keep a shelf of crayons, colored pencils, glue and scissors right near our kitchen table. I encourage the kids to tell stories with their pictures, write down what they tell me and practice basic letter writing. I keep large pencils and beginner writing paper with the alphabet easily visible.

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This is how our learning looks right now and I’ll be interested to see how our journey unfolds over the next five years or so.

How has your educational style or curriculum changed with time?

About Hillary

Hillary feels lucky to be able to work full-time from home and shares the homeschooling responsibilities with her partner. Together, with a little creativity, a full schedule and a lot of love, they facilitate the education of their three adorable, and sometimes very loud, children.

Comments

  1. Tsh says:

    Even though I’d identify myself as more “classical” than “unschooling,” our tools look quite similar to yours! Usborne books, maps, nature, art supplies, a library card… these are pretty much the essentials, aren’t they?

    Our kids are 6, 3, and 11 months (if you can believe it!), so I’m right there with you, life stage-wise.

    • Hillary says:

      I remember you going on maternity leave last year right before I was due, but I didn’t know your oldest two were similar ages too! That’s a riot.

      Well, all I can say is yes to the books, library card and nature and a double yes, to the wild and exciting life stage of three kids under 6. :-)

  2. Anita says:

    I’m old school homeschool. This method is similar to what Gregg Harris shared once along time ago. He called it delight directed homeschooling. :)
    Anita’s latest post: French Toast for Sunday Brunch

  3. Renee says:

    This is a lot like what our homeschooling looked like when our kids were the ages of your children. I haven’t heard of enki before.

  4. Rana says:

    We did a lot of the same as your family and still do. The library plays a major role in our child led learning. My interest is peaked with this Enki. I’m going to check it out.
    Rana’s latest post: May Nature Challenge- Poisonous Plants

  5. Becca says:

    Our homeschool lives off our local library. We can study so many topics without spending a dime. And I love exploring topics my kids are interested – so easy to teach when they want to know.
    Becca’s latest post: To my 12 followers-

  6. Lauren says:

    I so appreciate the wisdom of an open heart and mind and the flexibility to shift and change with the needs and styles of your kids. Thank you for putting this post out there! We too, were interest-directed, unschool-ish when our kids were younger (and still are to some extent). And the tides and personalities and schedules and needs of each of our kids have moved us (sometimes gently, sometimes not-so-much) to many different places along the path of homeshooling approaches — and I have so much respect for each of them, and so much gratitude for being a homeschooling family in a time when the resources and the possibilities seem so endless.

  7. Sarah G says:

    I had never heard of Usborne books before. I just checked out the website- very cool! I love this curriculum series. I feel like I learn about some new and interesting resource with each post.

    My son is 10 months old and we just started going to the library together. They keep their board books low to the ground and in no particular order. He loves it and so do I!
    Sarah G’s latest post: My Husband- My Hero

  8. My twins are five and we use travel as a main part of our learning experiences. We do both long, extended travel and travel close to home. We try to get out at least three to four times a week going to museums, festivals, businesses, out in nature, looking at art and listening to music, exploring something new around our home. Then, whenever something peeks their interest, we delve furthur into the topic by reading books, watching DVDs, doing activity books, playing games, creating things and having lots of conversations.

  9. Jennie says:

    I’m not homeschooling yet (pretty sure you need kids for that, hmm), but I have to say that this is what I hope it looks like. I think curriculum is great as a starting off point, but I hope our kids develop their own thirst for learning things on their own. Thank you for the example!
    Jennie’s latest post: Enjoying the Season You Are In

  10. patricia says:

    Hillary, you asked: “How has your educational style or curriculum changed with time?”

    Interestingly, our style didn’t change much over time. I discovered pretty early on that interest-driven learning worked for my kids–and somewhat to my surprise, that didn’t change as they got older. We continued to use a quirky selection of materials, much like those you’ve described, all the way until my oldest decided to go to high school as a junior. (He just finished his first year of college.) Sure, we had more formal materials like math texts around as options, but my kids never liked using one set of materials for any one subject for more than a few weeks at a time.

    The only text any of my kids ever followed exclusively was the Interactive Mathematics Program from Key Curriculum Press when my son reached high school age. It’s a really interesting problem-solving based program, and he liked it. (But it was a little tricky to follow in a homeschool setting. I had to help a lot.)

    We’ve always had a habit of working together at a certain time on most days, but my kids decide what they want to do in that time. I provide guidance and encourage some balance, but they steer the ship. I don’t quite think of it as unschooling, but it’s not far off. I wrote about our style in more depth here:
    http://patriciazaballos.com/how-we-homeschool/

    I’ve always thought that kids would enjoy school more if all schools were modeled more like preschools: lots of fun options, and lots of personal choice! With homeschooling we were able to make that happen.
    patricia’s latest post: the ultimate guide- ultimately

    • Hillary says:

      I really enjoyed reading your linked up post Patricia. That sounds like something we would do–regular time around the table to learn and create together.

      Thanks for sharing.

  11. Debbie says:

    Even though my two boys (3 and 5 years old) are getting older, my style over the last year seems to have become less and less stuctured. I guess moving more to child-led, interest-let etc.

    But it’s early days, and I really enjoy having all the ideas and encouragement of Simple Homeschool. Thanks!

  12. mb says:

    i love seeing your entries here, hillary, and i think our philosophies are very similar. we identify as unschoolers as well (age 4 so yep we’re early on too), but yes i agree, not as a “rule set”. i especially love what you offer about modeling interest-driven learning. i think the best way to figure out your homeschool style is to figure out how you, the parent, learns, and go from there. when i want to learn something, i don’t get myself curriculum, but i definitely have a tall stack of library books, lots and lots of internet research following knowledge down every rabbit hole, ideally people i can talk to and learn from in real life hands on ways, and a lot of confidence that when i need to know something, i will find out, because i know how to look it up. having been through public school and university, i realize that what i am learning now, in this organic way, is sticking with me in a much more lasting way than everything i learned (and often promptly forgot) sitting behind a desk in a classroom. i think the most important thing i took away from my own years of institutional learning WAS how to look things up and THAT i actually internalize the learning when it’s something i care about. i think there is a pretty amazing disconnect between thinking about how kids learn and realizing hey adults learn too, and kids often learn how to learn from us! so if we’re not actively engaged in pursuing our own learning journey….. then what? and if we are, then bringing them along on the journey might be all that is needed. mamas of four year olds can speculate at least. ;)
    mb’s latest post: grey water goddess

  13. We share much of your style. I have 6 children (9 to 6 months) and they are AMAZINGLY diverse! The biggest chord that struck me in your post was keeping an open heart. While my oldest loves more of a non-curriculum (or just leave me alone and let me read – textbook or otherwise – and I will learn on my own), my daughter LOVES workbooky stuff…the very stuff I was trying to get away from! But if it is a workbook page, she will want to do it.

    We also do a lot on the computer. What an amazing tool. I have put together a Free Homeschool Resource page at my blog (http://amypayson.wordpress.com/free-homeschool-resources/) that bookmarks some amazingly wonderful computer sites for kids. Originally put together so my bookmarks bar could be down to a reasonable level again! LOL Go check it out!
    Amy @ simply necessary’s latest post: Guilty-Pleasure Picture Books

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