In conversations with homeschoolers, also with non-homeschoolers and conventional educators, I often find myself talking about "degrees of interest driven education." I say things like:
All teachers try to discover and harness students natural interests as part of engaging them in the learning process. Of course, they do it to greater or lesser degree. Most teachers of language arts will give students a choice of what they should read or write about. etc etc And then I'll build a hierarchy of levels of student choice culminating in my using the word "Unschooling."
Unschooling has the nice shock value of reviving people's fears of losing control and of anarchy. For those who work in schools, it has a particular sting. But then we get to the question of how much ownership of learning can be passed to the students? Will elementary,middle, and high school students all be able to handle the same level of ownership of their learning? Is the motivation wildly different.
Here's the part that amuse me. I've been talking a great deal about VocabularySpellingCity lately (disclosure, I am commercially motivated to talk about and promote VocabSpellingCity but even if I wasn't, I probably would since it is a deceptively simple but advanced piece of work) and much of these conversations about student interest driven education has to do with abandoning traditional reading curriculum, the basal readers, and replacing them with a combination of more authentic reading and writing and teacher created learning materials. I use VocabularySpellingCity as an example of how easy it is for teacher's to take ownership of responding to students' interests and needs. examples:
Most students run into new vocabulary that they need to learn. With a Premium VocabularySpellingCity membership, parents or teachers can give students the ability to create their own lists that they can then attach to 35+ learning activities or games. The students then are creating their own vocabulary to master, picking their own activities to practice the words with, and setting up their own measures of mastery, all supported by powerful tools for that purpose.
Of course, students are often ready to accept suggestions of words. VocabSpellingCity now has grade level vocabulary and spelling word lists for students to pick.
Kindergarten Word Lists
1st Grade Word Lists
2nd Grade Word Lists
3rd Grade Word Lists
4th Grade Word Lists
5th Grade Word Lists
6th Grade Word Lists
7th Grade Word Lists
8th Grade Word Lists
High School Word Lists
Each of these grade level pages has vocabulay words, multiple meaning words, sound alike words, spelling words, phonics word lists, math vocabulary, and other academic domain knowledge...