Much of our learning time is planned by me, but I also think it’s really important to plan for times that your kids get to be in charge of what and how they will learn. When I make time to let kids decide what they will learn, I never regret my kids’ choices. I usually set aside a whole day at a time. We start the day with a trip to the library in the morning. They get to browse and choose something that excites them, and then also choose for themselves how they will present it – a written paper, a project, a presentation, an art project, a diorama, or something else of their choosing. Animal posters have nothing to do with our curriculum this year, but that’s what all my kids wanted to do this go-around, so that’s what they did.
I took them all to the library where they spent several hours perusing, browsing, reading, and lounging around stacks full of books they had chosen from the non-fiction section. Elizabeth finally settled on African elephants and Tyler chose meerkats as his topic.
We brought home the books they chose and got online in search of more information, pictures, and videos of the animals they chose. Each kid typed up their favorite pieces of information and also printed out some pictures of their animals.
Still surrounded by their books, as well as a healthy amount of art supplies, they began building posters with all the cool stuff they had discovered.
Once they were finished and they had filled every inch of their posters, they set them aside until dinnertime. Over dinner, they each got a few minutes to present all they had learned. They showed off their books, read their neatest facts, told about each animal’s diet and habitat, and also shared what motivated them to choose their topic.
I loved this project. Truthfully, I don’t care how much my kids know about elephants or meerkats. But throughout the course of our day we practiced:
- selecting a topic
- finding things at the library
- taking notes
- using the internet wisely
- art and design
- speaking clearly and presenting
- thinking critically
- finding places on a map
All in all, a good day’s work. When we let kids decide what they will learn we put the power of knowledge in their hands. They are motivated by themselves instead of just being given another assignment.