Monday, August 19, 2013


How Do I Teach a Child-led Curriculum: Why Child-led?

This week I am posting a 5-day series on a subject that is close to my heart: How Do I Teach a Child-led Curriculum?

Today, I am talking about why child-led education is important.  Here is the rest of the schedule:

Monday: Why Child-led Education

Since this is a preschool blog, I will be discussing the entire subject with a focus on young children, but the principles can also be applied to older children (who can often have even more input in planning their schedules).

What is Child-led Education?

There is actually a range of parents and teachers who consider their educational style child-led: they vary from families and schools where the parents/teachers let children direct all aspects of their education to parents/teachers who teach material chosen on the basis of their children's interests.  As you can tell from this week's schedule, I advocate for a child-led system where the children choose what to study and contribute to the planning as much as possible while the parents (or teachers) use these interests to create a balanced curriculum.  This sounds very work-intensive for parents, but on Thursday I will show you how this can be done in under three hours a week (most weeks, I can actually plan my lessons in about an hour).

Why is Child-led Education Important?

Children learn best when they are interested and invested in the subject at hand.  When my children became real-life-animal-rescuers by saving the life of a frog, they wanted to learn everything about frogs!  It was the perfect opportunity to spend a couple weeks learning about frogs, ponds, and amphibians.

This was extremely obvious to me as a public school teacher.  When we covered topics the kids were interested in or had first hand experience with, they learned new material better and faster.  This is true of adults too--when was the last time you sat down to learn something you weren't interested in?

Children come innately wanting to know things.  They take in experiences like little scientists, recording data, analyzing it, and acting on their new world view.  Studies show that even very young children act on predictions they make with alarming speed and statistical reliability!  Take advantage of their eager minds and teach them what they want to know!

What if my child just wants to play all day?

In many cases, that is just fine!  Studies actually show that playing builds neural connections inside your child's brain that will also be used for other activities, when the time comes.  And, of course, play has loads of other social, emotional, and physical benefits too!

My experience has been that around three or four years old, most children cannot actually just play happily all day.  They get stressed out, annoyed, upset, or start to argue with other children.  Scheduling some slightly more structured time or time when you personally play with them prevents this misbehavior and gives your child a sense of control of the day.  I will discuss this more on Wednesday.

This will be an exciting week and I really hope you will join with me to discuss child-led education, as well as any other teaching styles you want to talk about!  I will, of course, still be hosting Teach Me Tuesday so be sure to stop by and check out the wonderful educational posts linked up then! 

How do you feel about child-led education?  Did you know that there are child-led private schools where the students actually choose everything they do (and don't!) do?

How Do I Teach … 5 Day Blog Series is brought to you by the following blogs:
Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ Homeschool Gameschool ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ No Doubt Learning ~ Mrs. Redd’s Classroom Blog ~ Proverbial Homemaker ~ My Joy Filled Life ~ Preschool Powol Packets ~ Adventures in Mommydom ~ Vicki Arnold ~ Only Passionate Curiosity ~ Living Life and Learning ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ 3 Dinosaurs

Disclaimer:  These posts are based on my personal and professional experiences.  What works well for our family may or may not be best for yours!

I may share at any of these parties!


Lisa M. (aka. Lisa @ Farm Fresh) said...

Hmmm. I will be interested to see where you go with this subject as I'm not 100% a fan of child led learning as an all the time event...however, I DO believe that there are times you run with it when they are chasing a subject that they are interested in so I totally know there are times when it's the best way to go.

As for schools...we have a Montessori school about 35 minutes away but they are about the only school that really encourages child led learning.

Carla at Preschool Powol Packets said...

Thanks for commenting Lisa! I think parents and teachers play a big role in making sure that children's interests lead them through a well-rounded education, but I think the children's interests are key! I hope you find something useful this week!

Ashley said...

I am very interested in child led learning, but I always worry about meeting the educational needs of my kids. It will be interesting to see how you do it!

Anonymous said...

Ahh yes, I remember teaching in the classroom and either the kids were interested and learning came quick, or there were kids that weren't and I had to quickly figure out a way to connect. Looking forward to your series!

Unknown said...

I work in a setting where we 'follow the child'. We observe the children and plan the next day's learning according to their interest and we call it continuous provision. Every child has a set of unique learning goals and we go about helping them achieve within the context of their interests and explorations. I look forward to hearing more about how you carry out your child-led curriculum. It is all very exciting!!!

Carla at Preschool Powol Packets said...

I know what you mean Ashley! If you have a few educational goals in mind you can easily work them into play and other activities your kids are interested in! I go into a lot more detail about this on Thursday's post:

No Doubt, That connection is *so* important--it totally makes the difference in whether or not they learn!

Shanthi, That sounds fabulous! What a great experience for the kids and teachers! Thanks for sharing!!

KerryHCM said...

Really interested in this topic. I work in a play center overseas and try to plan for children's interests. I worry though that with 15 children, not all of them will find the same activities or topics interesting. How can you plan for everyone?

Onyinye Onwubiko said...

I love the idea of child led education, is something I can connect to with my children.Hoping to learn more from your series.