Following Kids’ Interests

Following Kids' Interests - Unschooling Mom2Mom Podcast

Following Kids' Interests

Podcast Transcript

When you start to explore unschooling, you hear a lot about kids following interests. And initially, for a lot of people, they think of 1-2 things they’ve seen their kids interested in - Lego, playing make believe, Fortnight or Minecraft. And they can’t wrap their brain around that being “enough.”

Well, it is, and it isn’t. 😉

I want us to talk about what “following interests” really means.  And how it works for unschoolers.

Nice to Meet You!

If we haven’t met yet, I’m Sue Patterson and I run all the things associated with Unschooling Mom2Mom. If you prefer videos, we have those at YouTube, if you like to read PDFs and blogposts, you’ll want to go to Unschooling Mom2Mom.com And of course, we have all sorts of things at Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest too!

My own kids are grown now, all unschooled. All very different paths. Plus we were in the military so we moved around a lot. I had the opportunity to see all sorts of ways that people homeschool. I’ve seen what works, what doesn’t and I’d like to share all of that with you.

If you’re interested in diving deeper than this podcast or various social media options, I have a group coaching program, a course for new unschoolers, private coaching, books & guides- all different ways to help you see that YES! Unschooling can work for you too.

And you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself!

So let’s talk about what people mean when they say, “Follow Their Interests.”

Educational research - along with our own personal experience - shows us that when we are interested in a subject or topic, we pay attention.  If we’re not interested, it’s in one ear and out the other. There’s nothing WRONG with us for not being interested, it’s just a preference… or timing… or distractions - all sorts of reasons. And our kids are like that too. We were the same when we were kids - but most of us were put into a system that kept giving us rewards for competing or scoring well.

And that is not how we move through the Real World, when we’re not in a classroom setting. But that’s what the school system has decided to set up. All kids are exposed to the same things at certain times and in a certain sequence, regardless of their interests. Because they’re (we’ve been?) convinced that others “know what’s best for us.” We shifted from being driven by our own interests - to being driven by pleasing the powers that be.

It’s effective when you’re trying to plow through a lot of material and work kids through a system. But once we’re all home together, we’re not a system.

We don’t have to get 30 kids from Point A to Point B.
Or worry about test scores - or how they affect our ranking or teacher salaries.
We don’t have to use a scope sequence or curriculum decided by publishing companies and legislators.

If we run across a cool spider, we can explore more. 🕷
...Or talk about how different it is from that other spider we saw - or the fly caught in the web.
...We could read or watch Charlotte’s Web. We could talk about state fairs - or go to one.
...You could sing Itsy Bitsy Spider if they’re young, or watch Spiderman or Arachnophobia… or anything else.
...We could go to YouTube and look up various spiders and where they live.
One thing leads to another.

Or sit and watch it weave it’s web.
And look around in the garden or the windowsill we see it in… and think about the weather and the seasonal changes.
And add it all to our collection of life experiences to draw upon some other day.
It may turn into a jumping off place, or it may not.

And actually, that’s the hard part of being an unschooling parent. When we’re new to the concept, we want to see The path. We want to see that the kids are exploring and curious and diving deeper into a particular topic. So when they’re like,

“Nah… not interested in spiders,”

We get worried. Or maybe we don’t care about their lack of interest in spiders… but it’s the 3rd or 4th thing we’ve suggested or mentioned and we’re starting to wonder when they will EVER take an interest in… something.

Usually though, what’s happening is that our kids ARE interested in things - we just want them to be interested in things we offer or topics that we feel are more… idk, academic… or familiar.

And sometimes the problem is us.
MOST of the time it’s us and our thoughts about all of this. How do we react when they’re not interested? What did we do the last time they were a little interested - did we get all excited and try to schoolify it?

I get it - parents struggle with what their role is in all of this.

It’s hard to know when to offer and when to hang back.

Figuring that out is your new job.
Their lack of interest in something is not a failure - but just data.

Was it timing?
Were they in the middle of something else?
Were we taking over - kind of bulldozing because of our enthusiasm?

As we spend more time with them, we learn more about their personalities and how they like to move through the world.

They may have a curiosity - but we need to look at what part of it is intriguing them. They may NOT need you to jump on it and quickly sign them up for a class in it. Take the time to explore it, talk about it, and see it from their perspective.

As humans, we don’t like that Not Knowing Feeling. It’s probably evolutionary. When we don’t know what to expect, disasters could befall us. Does your mind go straight to this? Remember, there’s no lion lurking in the bushes waiting to devour you. You don’t have to scramble quickly to safety.  🦁

Are You "A Fixer?"

You don’t have to get in there and Fix It! So many of us have really honed that familiar Fixer role! And that’s all about getting our anxiety under control.

"Let’s fix it so we can all calm down.”

But really, it’s about shoving the distractions aside so you can calm YOURSELF about it all. And as unschoolers, we’re asking ourselves to stop doing that. Slow down. There’s no rush. There’s No Educational Emergencies. (I don’t know who coined that expression first, but I love it!)
You have time to STOP TALKING and LISTEN. They’re interests may not be connected to what we thought initially. We don’t get the opportunity to know that though, if we charging in full steam!

It’s up to us as unschooling parents to stay curious about what’s interesting to them. Not just coming in to fix things and move through the experiences quickly. School conditioned us to do that - check the box and move on to the next thing as soon as possible. It’s interesting how much of that we retained and continue to apply in our adult lives.

Creating a New Parent/Child Dynamic

All of this can be a little difficult sometimes, because we were not supported like this usually. Supporting our kids in this way is new and different. But take a second and think about what life could have been like if someone with more life experience and access had supported YOU as a child with a curiosity. We can’t go back and repair your childhood, but we can remember pieces and parent differently.
YOU are the resource - or the access to the resources they need.

The more time you spend with your kids, the easier it will be to tune in to them. Podcast #49 was about Strewing - a term you may want to learn more about. THis is a way to sprinkle ideas onto their paths. I’ll add the link so you can see how unschoolers use this concept.

What is Strewing? Unschooling Mom2Mom Podcast
Click to Listen/Read along

When the kids are really engaged in something, though, they don’t need you to bulldoze it or to direct it. B-eing available and encouraging is the better approach. Each kid will be different in what they need or want from you. And it’s important to know that it’s going to be a lot of trial and error. But you and your child will figure it out as you go.

The more you understand your child, the more you’ll be able to know when to offer and when to back off. When they need you as a sounding board, and when they need you to help them brainstorm more suggestions.

While they’re busy playing and exploring, that’s the time to learn more about unschooling and deschooling so you can unpack all the ideas that aren’t really true. Ideas that came to you because you grew up in a school system - like there being only One Right Way to Learn, or Everyone has to Know certain things at certain ages, or conformity is required for success.

Learn More about Deschooling Here

This is one of the hardest things to do. Because as soon as we get ok with how things are going, our kids continue to grow and then they’re a new age triggering all kinds of ideas and thoughts we haven’t worked through yet. What we think is ok for an 8 year old, we’re all of the sudden freaking out that they’re doing or not doing something else at 14. It’s an ongoing process. But it’s meeting our kids where they are, and it’s working on ourselves too, right alongside them. THat’s why it helps to go on this Unschooling Adventure with other unschooling parents. We can help each other see if our concerns are valid or if they’re leftover ideas from a schooled life.

I mentioned brainstorming with the kids. I have a tool that helps you move away from activities that are schooly and more toward what are cool things to do in the world. Using this Brainstorming Guide WITH the kids will help you see what they might be interested in. Something they loved 6 months ago may not be interesting anymore. Kids change…

This Guide will Help - Even if You're Not Unschooling (Yet!)

Maybe you need other parents to brainstorm with!

In my Creating Confidence coaching group, we talk about all kinds of ways that are working and help each other see why something may not be working.

This week alone we were talking about:

  • Kids being sedentary
  • Mom guilt
  • Sensory issues

That Brainstorming Guide is included in the Membership Portal - it might be a good time to join us!!

I help parents find the roadmap to successful unschooling. Your family’s map will look a little different from mine. But that’s ok. When you understand the principles really well, you can make the adjustments to individualize it all.

So that’s it from me - I’ll be back again next week.
Let me know what you need help with - and I’d really love to help you dive deeper into how to make unschooling work!

Take care - happy unschooling!

Join us today!