Posted on: Tue, 04/19/2016 - 04:10 By: Rachael

One of the areas of unschooling that many people ask others (and myself) more about is, how do I follow my children’s interests. How do I do that in a natural way so it doesn’t turn into an obvious teachable moment/lesson.   How can strewing be turned into more than just a passing observation?   By being engaged and present with your children and seeing how there is an opportunity and a desire to learn more, it is something that starts to become more natural as you start to relax and enjoy the unschooling journey.  

Very recently, while I was picking up a few things for dinner I purchased (spur of the moment), an anatomy model set from Aldi as it was only about $12.00 (how great is Aldi for resources?!) We already have models of an eye, a heart and a larger skeleton with a skull and brain, so I chose The Ear to complement the resources we already had, and left the others.

box of model of an ear

Once home I offered the box to youngest girl (almost 12 years) as she loves puzzles and I thought she may be keen. Eldest boy (age 8) then became very enthused and desired to try to put it together too… (read between lines – an argument) …… so while sister was distracted he had a go at assembling it – but found it more difficult than he expected as it contained quite a few parts and he had limited knowledge of the role of those pieces. So then he reluctantly handed it back, incomplete, to big sister. 

    2 children, one assembling a model

    Youngest daughter then diligently and determinedly assembled the bits and only had trouble with the ear drum – which was more difficult than expected and she needed help to orientate it correctly.

    ear model

    Youngest boy (age 3) found the whole process fascinating and kept explaining to us his understanding of the pieces and then excitedly grabbed the completed model and ran off to show daddy and big brother The Ear and talk about what he knew about it.

    small child with model

    While this was all happening I stayed in the area to be available to step in a remind them to keep calm and persevere and try again (“sitting on your hands” keeping back and giving them opportunity to fail and try again, is hard to do and does take some conscious effort from me to allow them to learn on their own and to investigate and discover for themselves – the look of accomplishment at the end always shows me how important this aspect is – it did take some time for me to learn to not to step in and assist before it was specifically asked of me) .

    child happy with completed model

    When requested I then sat down to help with the ear drum and it was then the perfect opportunity to discuss what its role was and where it went and why… that then led to discussing the other pieces and their roles too. I have a Bachelor of Science with a Major in anatomy so generally I don’t need to research too much with the body, but I did pull up an image on the nearest iPad to show clearly all the parts of the Ear (especially the stirrup, anvil and hammer) and their names, as the model was missing some aspects. We also talked about the cochlear (and the hairs that convert the sound waves) and how the semicircular canals control our balance (what happens when we spin).

    diagram of ear

    Before the Ear model was even completed eldest girl started to point out the other types of models that were available on the back of the boxes and then once it was completed she started searching for our other anatomy models – so I stopped what I was doing and helped (we searched for half an hour – and then I found them (hidden where I first searched with the other resources in our 4x3 cube shelf).

    model of eye and heart

    She then sat and completed those as well while watching an anime.  It’s probably a year since the models have been investigated – and every time they are played with their understanding of the roles of the muscles, etc and how it all goes together is enhanced or put together in a more concrete way within their brains.

    child assembling mocels

    The kids’ excitement and interest at the new set (and pulling out the old) was a key indicator to me to follow that topic as that they were at a point to learn more – so I chose to head to Aldi again for a couple of things and picked up 2 other sets – the Body and the Skull (as they did have more info than our other sets). 

    3 kids happy with boxes

    They both jumped and grabbed the new sets and assigned each other one based on number of pieces and quickly put together the models, it was about 8.30 at night and their enjoyment and enthusiasm was great.

    child working on model

    The next morning Eldest boy reassembled the body (what big sister had done the night before) and then pulled it apart telling me all the names of the organs that he knew (I only had to correct spleen to diaphragm).

    completed model of skull and torso

    The models sat on the table of a few days being pulled apart and reassembled frequently.  I then turned around and youngest boy had pulled out our incomplete (due to lack of finances a few years ago) Arthur Skelton and asked me to help him put all the bits together and then we talked about where they all were in his own body.

    partially completed skelton

    The next night when we headed to story time youngest boy chose a Magic School Bus book (we have our own a small collection), on The Senses.

    magic school bus book cover The Senses

    Which was so appropriate (eldest boy sighed and let me know he “knew” it all already, but once I mentioned a couple of the ‘fact’ boxes he became very engaged as the book covered so much more than a couple of models) and we could refer to what hands on learning we had been doing for the last few days. And so more in depth learning happened with cementing the concepts and what their roles all were. Last week we had been reading about the circulatory system. 

    page from magic school bus book

    The next day I deliberately dressed youngest boy in a Skelton shirt and his reaction was priceless as he showed me how he knew what all the bones were in his own body.

    child in skeleton shirt

    So from following their lead we did nearly a week on the topic of the human body, extensively covered all the Senses and how the organs work as well as how it all fits together. The kids also then followed it up themselves watching episodes of Magic School Bus on how chickens lay eggs and some other inside the body episodes. In the past they have really enjoyed watching Operation Ouch (and similar programs) and Tiny Bopp Human Body app on iPad (where you can feed the character too much cake and make them sick and make them pass wind too). The skeleton was also played with over a few days, with youngest boy regularly taking a piece and showing me on is body where it is and what job it perfoms.

    skeleton with parts on floor with child

    Before unschooling (but in an effort to make it interesting) if I had gathered all the bits and then put together a lesson plan and then insisted they sit down to learn I would have been met with yawns and boredom as they weren’t at a point where they made the choice to learn about something, being forced to learn does not mean it stays accessible in their memory or is relevant in their life. Watching and being involved so that I can spot for moments to build on is a large part of how our education, with an unschooling style, works.

    If you have any questions please leave a comment.