what do they want to learn

What if your children say they like the idea of interest led learning but don't know what they want to learn?

That's a pretty common question for folks who've learned to see learning in schoolish terms – something that happens deliberately and is often divided up into subjects. But learning - natural learning - doesn't really work that way. Most of the time people don't so much choose to learn as choose to do, and learning happens as a side effect. So a good way to start to shift your thinking is to step back from the question “what do you want to learn” and instead ask “what do you want to do?”

Another way that school – the whole educational mindset, really – warps your perspective on learning is that it sets you up to see learning as something that takes an effort, that's often tedious and difficult. Natural learning is often effortless. Play involves a lot of learning – and not just obvious things like dramatic play. Playing games, goofing around, relaxing, even things like watching tv are full of learning. It just tends to get ignored or trivialized because that's not what “learning” is supposed to look like. It's not supposed to be... fun. And yet natural learning very often is fun.

Even when natural learning is tedious and difficult it looks very different than school. It looks like someone who's really focused or driven. Like a kid totally enraptured with a show and wanting to binge watch the whole series. Or play all the way through a video game, even though they're getting frustrated and crying when the boss battles are too hard. Or reading a series of books that's a bit over their head, struggling with it, but persevering. Or staying up late to finish drawing allllll the characters in a favorite series. That's kind of drive and focus that parents tend to try and push kids away from, but ironically it's kids demonstrating exactly the kinds of qualities we say we want to nourish. Whoops.

So, what do your kids want to do? Start there, wherever it is. Even if it doesn't seem to have anything to do with learning. Hang out together. Have fun. Enjoy each other's company. Learning, it turns out, is the easy part. ;)

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