As its name implies, child-led learning is a type of education that a child leads. This is typically accomplished in a homeschool environment, though it is possible to put it to use in a more traditional setting as well. With this style of learning, a child is allowed to determine what to learn and when to learn it. He or she may even be allowed to choose his or her materials for learning, such as books, education supplements, human resources, or the natural world at large.
Though child-led learning is categorized as homeschooling, it fits better under the heading of unschooling. Unschooling seeks to get away from the traditional methods of teaching and learning, allowing children to learn from everyday things. This style hones in on the child’s interests and preferences in selecting subjects to learn and methods for learning. In such learning environments, children are not forced or coerced into learning. Instead, parents work to follow the lead of their children, providing support, resources, and instruction, in keeping with their children’s wishes.
The premise is that children learn best and rise to their full potential when they are allowed to lead the way and explore subjects when they feel ready. Proponents often state that traditional education may actually dull a child’s interest in the world around him, encouraging him to learn simply to pass tests. Once testing is over, they assert, children forget much of what they learned because they were not interested in the first place.
Opponents question whether or not children will learn the things they need to know when left to their own devices. They assert that children in child-led learning environments may miss out on certain things simply because they are not interested in them. Furthermore, opponents often argue that children in such environments don’t learn how to interact with peers and function in a structured environment.
It is important to note that most families who practice this learning style do work hard to create educationally rich environments for their children. Some parents choose to provide little structure, while others work to provide organization while maintaining the child-led environment. They typically provide an abundance of books and resources for learning, and many select games that are both fun and educational, making sure that their children always have something educational at hand. Homeschooling families often restrict the use of television or avoid it altogether, believing their children will explore more if they are not absorbed in television viewing.