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One of my favorite aspects of homeschooling is being able to combine our son’s interests and passions into his homeschool curriculum. Interest-led learning gives us the opportunity to observe and talk with our son about the things he’d like to learn.
Our son’s curiosity guides many of our curriculum choices. Curiosity sparks interest. We customize his daily learning experience so it’s not just a chore to get through but a way he can develop life-long passions and talents. We want to light a fire so he has a desire to learn.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed in homeschooling. It’s also easy to feel static and stagnant. To keep us moving forward and keep things interesting, I’ve found regular check-ins are helpful. We homeschool year-round.
Checking in three times a year works best for us. To align with our local school district reporting, our official school year begins in September, so that’s the first check-in. I also add a check-in for mid-December with possible curriculum changes after the new year. And again in mid-May for June adjustments.
Our check-ins include evaluating our current homeschool curriculum, determining what works and what doesn’t, and often switching things up. Checking in three times in a calendar year also help with focusing on my son’s new interests and hobbies, plus his growth and maturity. What worked last year may not work as he’s aged a year.
With the new year fast approaching, we’re finalizing our January lesson plans. Over the past eighteen months, we’ve focused on things he’s passionate about or thinks he may be passionate about. We do this by letting him choose a subject each month to focus on.
Each month, I also choose something I think he may be interested in. This give us two new things to explore each month. Today, he may not want to be a rocket scientist, but how does he know unless he learns more about aerospace?
Some of the interests have stuck. He loves piano, Japanese (the language and learning about the culture), and skiing. He also really enjoys art (both on paper and computer) and martial arts. These items are something we continue to expand on.
While finding his passions is important, I also want him to learn how to learn—how to be curious, and to want to discover more about any subject.
Interest led-learning (ILL), sometimes called rabbit trailing or passion-oriented learning, is essentially allowing your child’s curiosity to dictate the homeschool curriculum.
Children are naturally curious. Paying attention to your child’s curiosity can make a huge difference not only in the excitement of your homeschool but can also lead them to find passions to carry them into adulthood and develop rewarding careers.
My friend Renee Harris and her husband, Jonathon, of Parent Their Passion, have fine-tuned interest-led learning to help their children hone valuable, and profitable, skillsets.
Over the past couple of years, my son’s interests have really started to peak. We’ve been letting him explore his interests via specialty classes (online or in-person) to try a variety of things. In the past few months, we’ve taken a Way of the Sword class, Damascus jewelry making class, joined a Wild + Free group, knapped stone tools, and participated in an experimental archeology project.
While we’re still going to follow new interests as they come up, we’re also looking to begin to fine-tune some current interests and see where he can take them.
While many families focus only on their child’s interest to cover all subjects, others combine interest-led learning with traditional academics or bookwork. Currently, we use a mixture of textbooks for core subjects along with allowing opportunities to pursue interests.
Textbooks and worksheets are helpful for our core subjects. A few years ago, we did online educating, and that was fine. Until one day it wasn’t. We needed a drastic switch.
That came in switching to physical books for our core subjects. I’ve been blessed with a friend passing on gently used books and finding a local “used” store with an amazing selection of homeschool materials. Although I have links for our curriculum, this is for reference only. I encourage you to buy used when possible. Note: Keeping a variety of physical books on hand is also part of our preparedness efforts. Even if the internet is out, we can still have school!
Our focus with the textbook is mastery. While we do the spelling tests, English and math testing aren’t a focus. Instead, we’re working toward mastering the information, not learning how to take tests.
We do still use online options for specialty classes. Outschool was recommended by a friend. Living rurally, we’ve discovered that online piano classes work really well for us, as do other onetime or limited-run classes. The live interactive classes are a great way for our son to explore his passions.
We also use Kahn Academy (a free resource) for recorded videos, along with YouTube and other videos. Oh, and plenty of books—either from the library, purchased paperbacks, eBooks, you name it! We like books.
When putting things together for our official start of the school year in September, I realized one of our biggest challenges was organization. Not so much where to store our stuff (though that is a concern) but how to get the work done each day.
The year before, I used my google calendar to schedule blocks of time for each subject. While that wasn’t terrible, keeping track of which chapter we were on and which lesson was next was a weakness.
Somewhere in my reading on educating at home, I stumbled across an article on using a simple spiral notebook for lesson plans. This has been a total game-changer for us!
I have two notebooks, one used to document the general plan and ensure we’re meeting our educational goals and a second for my son’s schedule.
For the schedule notebook, each week (either on Sunday or early Monday morning), I write out what each day of the week will entail. This is written in longhand and in cursive. During a regular school week, Monday to Thursday each get their own page.
Every other Friday, we have homeschool co-op. I’ll also schedule errands or special classes or events on Friday. Because of this, Friday is usually added as a brief note at the bottom of Thursday. It’s a rare week we have a regular homeschool Friday.
Winter Homeschool Curriculum
Because we’re working toward mastery of information, we don’t focus on grade levels. This means, if you ask my son what grade he is in, you’ll likely get a confused look!
Here is what our winter homeschool curriculum looks like this year:
- Saxon Math 8/7 (daily class)
- Bible Study (daily—we usually use either this 3-Minute Devotional for Guys or read the Proverb of the day)
- Following The Plan, English 5 (daily class)
- Spelling by Sound and Structure (we’re almost finished with Grade 5 and will move on to Grade 6 by mid-February; daily class)
- A Time To Plant: Road and Staff’s Fifth Reader (daily class)
- Grade 5 History/Geography “Homelands of North America” (three times per week class)
- Grade 5 Science “God’s Wonderful World” (we’re almost finished with Grade 5 and will move on to Grade 6 by mid-February; twice per week class)
- Yongmudo (twice weekly, whole family evening class, part of PE)
- Healthy Moving (twice weekly, part of PE)
- Pentime 5 Cursive (weekly class)
- Free Market Rules Economics (weekly class)
- Piano (weekly online class via Outschool)
- Japanese (weekly online class via Outschool)
- Art (weekly online class via Outschool)
- Freestyle Ski Club (Saturday from early January until mid-March, part of PE)
- NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month short story to be completed, he works on this a few times a week)
- Foundations in Personal Finance (Interest-Led Learning (ILL) from last trimester, to be finished in January)
- Primitive Knife Making & Primitive Weapons (ILL from last trimester, to be finished in January)
- Exoplanet Exploration (You know that Rocket Scientist crack I made before? This is his choice for ILL in February)
- Sourdough A to Z eCourse (my ILL choice for February)
- 3D Modeling (his ILL for March)
- First Aid & CPR (my ILL for March)
- Middle Ages and Medieval Times (his choice for April ILL. A way to learn more about swords and blades, which he loves)
- Intro to Mechanics (April ILL suggested by my husband, possibly using this as part of the curriculum)
- Famous Composers (his choice for May ILL)
- Nature Journaling as a Way of Life (May into summer ILL chosen by me)
When typed out as above, our curriculum looks like a lot! Some days it feels like a lot (you ever have one of those days?), but most days it goes quickly. Even though he’s given 40 minutes for math, he might finish it in fifteen. Then he’ll move on to the next subject. Not including our PE times, he spends about four hours a day on school.
While I like to think this is our finalized winter homeschool curriculum, it’s far from written in stone. One of the ILLs could take longer than we expect or it may go quicker. Famous Composers, currently scheduled for May, might happen in June or possibly April.
One of the great things about homeschooling is that we can not only help him find his interests and passions but these can also be pursued at his pace.
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