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How to support child-driven learning at home



Authentic learning engages a child's curiosity

How to support child-driven learning at home


Think of how excited you feel when you learn something you really wanted to know and found out by following your curiosity. Kids learn best the same way. A curriculum makes sure important topics get covered, but why not encourage your kids to also pursue projects that are based on their own interests?

PBS.org offers these five steps towards “authentic learning,” experiential projects that engage children, allowing parents to either step back and offer a minimal amount of focused support, or participate in a family effort.

Start with what interests your child. Observe the moments when your kid's eyes light up and questions bubble to the surface. Whether it's an animal or plant, a book or film, an activity they love to do, take note of what piques their curiosity.

Find resources. Consider how you and your child might learn more about the topic: a book, a website, a video, an organization, a community member who's an expert. Link up with other kids who have a similar interest.

Ask questions. Rather than giving instructions, pose questions that will lead your child to think independently and solve problems. For example: “What kind of tool might help you out here?” “What else do you need to know?” “What do you think would happen if…” and “How can you find out?”

Connect with other disciplines. Bring in the science of how things work. If research requires inquiries, encourage your child to write a letter to someone they know about what they are working on. Drawing and labeling may become part of the project as well. Math can be used to understand the impact of what's being studied. For example, if your child loves pets, let them figure out what it costs to have the pet in your family. Perhaps someone in the family has videography skills and can help make a video to record the project. If you find a practical use for education, your child is more likely to embrace other disciplines.

Go farther. Your child's research might lead to new, related projects. Also look for ways to extend the discoveries beyond your household. Who else might be interested in what your child has learned? You can help by making connections with neighbors, teachers, organizations.

This is only the beginning of making learning exciting.



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