Something that people often ask Laura and I, as home educating parents, is how we decide what to teach our children. During lockdown we created huge activity packs themed around Minecraft, Harry Potter, rainbows, Lego Challenges and a lucky-dip style activity jar, and starting supporting parents by offering them here for other children to use.
How we choose what our kids learn is a really interesting question and one that I think is certainly worth considering for anyone who has a child. How do we decide what to show and model and teach our children?
When our children are babies and toddlers, most parents choose to educate them in a way that will help them adapt and respond to the world in the most positive way possible. We help them to learn skills that will be useful in life such as dressing themselves, washing their hands and carrying things safely. We talk to them about manners and etiquette and kindness and other positive character qualities.
All of the things that we choose to show our children are picked because they in some way benefit our child and/or the wider society that our child is part of.
As home educators, these principles are what we continue to focus on as we facilitate our children’s education. What we facilitate our children learning is based on what will help them as well as what is positive for society, and of course whether your children attend school or not, you will have the same goals for your child.
We believe, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest, that children learn best when they are happy, relaxed and supported. One of the best ways to help children gain the skills and confidence that they need, is to support their own passions and interests.
Our children spend a lot of time focused on things that they love- one example of this is the game Minecraft, where players build creations out of blocks. The game is full of fascinating information and rich educational content- children can learn the names and properties of different rocks and minerals, find out about natural disasters and explore many other areas of science. Every element in the game is labelled and there is a typed search and written chat facility so the platform is excellent for supporting and developing literacy skills.
Children also learn the value of delayed gratification (should they build a small house now or wait until they have mined more materials to build a bigger one later?), teamwork (they protect each other from zombie attacks and rebuild damaged property), budgeting (do they spend their pocket money or save for an extra addition to the game?) and time management (can they build a shelter by night-time to protect themselves from monsters?)
Children playing Minecraft also learn that it is beneficial to pursue a goal despite challenges and frustrations, and that persistence pays off. They get inspiration for new kinds of art, from the pixelated style of the game and the unique creatures that inhabit the lands. They learn about geography; how different landscapes affect their ability to support life, and how humans can adapt to different environments. There also also opportunities for children to learn coding, as they find different technical ways to create and control their world.
Our children love Minecraft and as an extension of the skills that they have developed while playing the game on digital devices, we decided to create activities that were themed around Minecraft and that required all different kinds of skills. In the Minecraft Activity Pack there are geology based science experiments; maths mosaics where sums are coloured in to reveal a Minecraft character, and extended literacy activities where children need to create a storyboard and video for their own Minecraft adventure.
We decided to share what we have created with other families, and our Minecraft Activity Pack as well as other themed activity packs (Rainbow, Harry Potter & Lego) are available in our shop.
Another example of an interest based learning experience that we have set up for our children is themed around the Harry Potter books. Using the Harry Potter Activity Pack our kids have made real magic potions using chemistry principles, ‘flown’ to find out about famous landmarks on Google Earth on imaginary broomsticks and honed their mathematical skills converting Knuts to Sickles and Galleons.
Activities that are focused on a particular theme and that span a wide range of subjects are known as ‘cross-curricular’. This means that children are learning a variety of essential and supplemental skills across a range of subjects such as maths, English, science and art. This is a brilliant way of engaging children in areas of learning that they may resist through typical schoolwork.
Parents may find interest based learning appropriate for children who resist schoolwork, struggle to concentrate or who are simply not interested in the work that is set for them. If your child finds their work too easy or difficult, interest based learning allows for nuances and adaptions to fit the individual’s capacity. It is also fun, hands-on, often involves movement and is a way of showing your child that their interests matter as much as their grades.
Interest based learning is also a brilliant way to keep children happy and active during school holidays. Because the tasks don’t look or feel like school work, children are likely to want to engage in them even when they don’t need to be working. Interest based learning helps children explore their passions and new concepts while developing useful skills and knowledge, and can be used in conjunction with strewing to create a supportive, no-pressure environment for children.
If you think that your child would enjoy activities focused around Harry Potter, Minecraft, rainbows or Lego, pick up one of our activity packs from our brand new educational resources shop.