Switch to Interest Based Education - Update 1

For several months we have been transitioning towards a more interest based education philosophy. My older two children have been home educated since 2007. Therefore, when we began with the interest based approach, they had a pretty specific idea of what a school day should entail. In addition, they saw a distinct difference between school days and non-school days. When I first told them they could do whatever they wanted, they interpreted that as being able to choose which math program they could follow. In other words, they were happy to be able to chose between Khan Academy, Life of Fred, Math-U-See or a workbook. While this wasn't exactly what I meant, I am happy to see them interested in math. In truth, I'm not really ready myself to let this portion of their education be left up to them. So, I'm not sure they have a genuine interest in math at this point. I think they feel like they have to do math for school, but that's alright with me, because I agree.

As for their other subjects, they sort-of have the hang of unschooling. What I mean is that they do educational activities they enjoy. Over the past four months they have engaged in a variety of activities from photo editing, learning German via Duo Lingo, reading books, reading with me, practicing their musical instruments, and exploring science via toy-based kits.

In the mean time, I've been busy introducing them to American history and evolution as they have expressed interest in these two subjects. We've constructed an evolution timeline which we populated with information about the various historical eras, read a book on evolution and watched several videos on youtube. In studying American history, we have engaged in similar activities. Since they expressed interest in these areas, I was hoping they would be inspired by a book or video to engage in a project or to learn more about the topics. Unfortunately this hasn't happened. Although they seem to enjoy learning about these subjects, they haven't branched out on their own. I think it's because they are comfortable with their past school experiences. So I'm not sure how to proceed? Maybe I should introduce them to more subjects and do a better job of encouraging them to explore? I'm open for suggestions.

My son writing a computer program using Scratch and following a Youtube tutorial

My youngest, on the other hand, is more on-board with the unschooling than I'm comfortable with. She has little interest in evolution or American history, and often chooses not to participate when we explore the topics. That's just fine with me. As I said above, I'm not ready to leave math up to the kids. In addition, I'm not comfortable leaving reading and writing completely up to them either. My youngest, although super smart, is almost eight years old and doesn't read as well as the other two did when they were six. Because of this, I do my best to encourage her to read, but I do require her to read for about 15 minutes per day. Sometimes I have her read to me, sometimes she reads books I select and sometimes she selects her own books and reads. The household mood is definitely best when she decides to read something on her own. She absolutely hates it when I force her to read to me.

This is the part of unschooling that really tears me up. I want so bad for her to read, yet, I want her to read for her and not for me, and still, I'm not willing to accept the fact that she will read when she's ready. I know that she will be capable of doing so much more on her own if she can read. Reading is the key to knowledge in the society we live in.

So as for unschooling, we are making steps toward the interest based philosophy, but I would not consider myself an unschooler. In a lot of ways, the kids are independent learners. They definitely have more say in what they are studying than in the past. I tend to introduce them to topics and sometimes they explore further, and other times they don't. My overall goal is to make them capable of finding resources and exploring their own interests. In other words, I want them to be independent self-led learners, not independent mom-led learners. We're getting there, but we have a way to go.

A few notes on this blog:
I often write posts and schedule them to publish on future dates. Therefore, when a post from a past unit study posts, it may appear we have taken two steps back in our strides toward unschooling. However, over time, the posts will become more interested based in nature.


  1. We've straddled the fence between unschooling and a more structured form of homeschooling almost since the beginning - it's what works for us. Trust your instincts - it sounds like you're on a good path!

  2. I agree, it sounds like you are finding a good balance. I have always been in awe of your organisation skills, planning fun activities for your kids (that actually build on each other instead of the slightly random way I do them!). I'm sure those skills will continue to help you to create a very enriching learning environment.
    As for reading, when I used to worry about my youngest I just used to immerse myself in as many positive stories as I could about unschooled kids and reading (my son has always resisted being taught to read). Now at 9.5 he is one of those success stories.

    He reads in a very different way from his sister but I my heart sings when I go into his room and he looks up from a huge non-fiction book and says something like, "Hey, listen to this about giant crabs ..." :-)


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