What does Child-led learning look like?

So I show up at your house and your child is burnt-out, traumatised, and out of love with learning. They may be sitting at the table politely waiting for me (but picking the skin on their fingers) or they might be hiding in their blackout tent, refusing to come out, what do I do as a tutor?

First, my job is to build a relationship, and this can take years to really come to fruition. I must build trust before we can do any learning. I talk to the parents and the child, and I figure out some of their likes and dislikes that I can talk to them about. I probably already have some background information from their parents/carers, other professionals, and their EHCP – I tread carefully.

To start with I might come to each lesson and just talk to them. I’ll bring my bag of tricks and see if they would like to have a go at anything I’ve brought with me – I have crafts, history books, novels, and research projects. I can weave a bit of learning into talking about almost everything, and if there’s any interest I probably have a book about it! I can also figure out what your child might need while they are learning and try and pick up on the clues that they are anxious or need some help regulating. I will attempt to get to know them so well that I can begin to see when they might be open to learning and when they are definitely not!

After the relationship building, the lessons may go a bit like this: I may show up with a book on ancient Egypt as we have started to talk about it, but they may tell me about something else they had read or seen that day! So we switch gears: “The Queen’s Jubilee?” I say, well let’s do some research on this queen/queens in literature/politics/republics/fairytales…. you get the idea!

The next day I might show up and we are back onto the Egypt project and building a sarcophagus out of the boxes I had in my car, carving hieroglyphics into it (handwriting practice!) and checking in the Egyptian book to see if we can make sure it’s historically accurate. We might take a break in the sun and I challenge them to run around the tree thirty times, or your child goes to get a hot chocolate and an apple to help regulate their emotions. They may not be up to doing anything but might be convinced to make some paper chains, or learn cats cradle, they may show me something that they have found and we might talk about Scoobydoo and I somehow weave it back to a lesson on narrative perspective! Sometimes we sit and cross-stitch (great for fine motor skills!) or we colour while I read to you.

We make progress, however slow. Some days we read books, other days we are at loggerheads. Education is hard, but we return to the same place and try again even when we’ve had a hard day together because it’s about the relationship and learning together.

Most days, I learn just as much as the students I teach!

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