Interest based learning: It’s what we live and breathe around here. It’s a wild ride sometimes, though, because you never know where you will end up.
For instance, earlier this year I became interested in a possible link between our food intolerances and our diet. I started following the breadcrumbs of information as I came to them, then dove into an intensive real-world project (aka: transitioning my diet from a western/fairly processed version of gluten free Vegetarianism to Autoimmune Paleo). I’ve started searching out mentors and communities of people who can teach me even more about the links between our diet and our guts, brains and lived experiences. I’m well and truly down the rabbit hole now, studying the Human Microbiome in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) offered by Coursera and the University of Colorado Boulder, and reading stuff like this, and this. I’m starting to try to fit this new knowledge together with other things I’ve learned about psychology, and starting to wonder about how the human microbiome, interpersonal neurobiology, autoimmune disease, psychology and empathy all interplay with each other.
Sometimes I wonder at the fact that I am learning so much despite the fact that I am supposed to be the “teacher” in our little homeschool here.
Interest based learning doesn’t always start out looking so academic. Sometimes an interest gets its start in the most humble beginnings – like Downton Abbey. Call it a gateway show, if you will, because before I got into Downton Abbey I’d tried again and again to read the classics like Pride and Prejudice with no success. They just seemed hopelessly dense and dull. But once I’d watched a few seasons of Downton the characters in the classics were able to get their foot in the door of my imagination. Suddenly I could picture a family living in an estate house, and once I had a framework on which to hang these stories I started flying through them, one after another. Anna Karenina, Gone With the Wind, Wuthering Heights, and yes, Pride and Prejudice. Once I got into the classics, Downton lost much of its appeal.
This can happen with our kids too. An interest that seems kind of frivolous or trashy is actually a door that is opening your child up to the possibility of deeper study in the future.
So when my kids want to spend every waking moment designing elaborate felt wardrobes to go with their felt dolls, I try to relax and imagine where that little rabbit hole might go. Maybe nowhere, maybe to a future as a designer. But wherever it goes, that time they spend digging deep into their own interest is time that has been invested in developing their ability to recognize what they are interested in, and their ability to find and follow those little breadcrumbs that lead deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.
It is when we get really deep down that rabbit hole that we start to be able to fly.