I don’t know about your kids but my kids go through phases with their Legos. It seems like it’s all or nothing. Occasionally we will pull all the Legos out as an open invitation to come and build. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. What I’ve found is that if I or my hubby sits down and starts building the kids will inevitably come and join us.
A few years back during one of these open invitations Iz built this epic vehicle with her Legos. She called it A.L.a.S (Air Land and Sea). A.L.a.S. was a state of the art vehicle created for the research and development in the field of marine biology.
After construction was complete on Lego A.L.a.S. I suggested that Iz jot down A.L.a.S.’ specs, write down what her purpose was and the things she’s set out to accomplish. We pulled out the graph paper and Iz traced A.L.a.S’ foot print. We proceeded to calculate her area, perimeter, and volume. Iz wrote a couple of paragraphs about A.L.a.S. which led to some lite research about marine biology and how marine life is studied. Suddenly Lego time with the family turned into a writing, science, research, and math project.
When we first started really leaning into following our kid’s interests and freeing up our homeschooling experience I was unsure of what the process would look like. When I would hear people talk about “child led learning” to be completely honest it sounded a little "woo woo" and I just needed a clearer picture of how that could actually work. I wanted to see what that looked like and I wanted someone to give me some concrete examples of how I could “follow our kids' lead”.
What I’ve learned over the last several years is that it is possible to take something like a simple Lego build and turn it into an opportunity to expand learning. I’d like to say that there’s no difference in a kid writing a paragraph that was assigned to them as a language arts exercise and writing a couple paragraphs about their Lego build. But there is a huge difference. In this instance, the Lego build had personal meaning to our child instead of it being a preassigned topic they don't care about or find interesting. Obviously it isn’t always Legos. Sometimes it’s a book we’ve read, sometimes it’s a national park we’ve visited, sometimes it's a youtube video or even *gasp* a video game but it’s almost always something that is of personal interest. I have found that when something is being learned if it holds personal value to the kids then it will stick with them more than if it's something that holds no personal value to them.
The good news is that making space for our kids to discover their interests, making it a priority to learn about their interests, and then using their interests to help them expand their learning is relatively easy. The biggest shift that has had to take place for me is in my way of thinking. I’ve had to free up my thinking and I’ve had to allow myself to see the value in honoring our kids' interests. I’ve had to get creative on how we expand learning opportunities and value the process just as much if not more than the end result.
One last thought I’d like to leave you with today… For our family this is our way of life. This is how we choose to raise and educate our children. We look for learning opportunities in every facet of our life. This year as many families are faced with some big educational choices I believe that making space for your kid’s interests is something that can be accomplished no matter how you choose to educate your children. If your child is struggling with reading find books that are centered around things that they enjoy, if they’re struggling with a math concept pull out some treats or money and make it relatable to something that holds meaning to them, if your child doesn’t enjoy the physical act of writing get outside with the sidewalk chalk and make it fun. It’s ok to think outside of the box, it’s ok to do things differently than how you were taught. And it’s more than ok, it’s crucial that learning is meaningful and fun for our kids.