What is Interest-Based Learning & Why Use It in Teaching Children

Interest-based learning is an instructional approach that allows students to explore their personal interests as a means of acquiring knowledge and skills. This approach has been shown to be more motivating for students, and it can lead to deeper and longer-lasting learning experiences. Interest-based learning also helps students develop important lifelong skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. And this is why incorporating interest in education matters so much.

Rebbecca Devitt

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. If you want to do my course on how to homeschool, click here.

Contents of this article:
  • What is Interest-Based Learning?
  • Benefits of IBL
  • Interest-Based Learning in Early Childhood and High School
  • The IBL Learning Theory
  • So, Why Does Interest in Education Matter?
  • Interest-Based Learning Curriculum
  • Play-Based Learning vs IBL

Let’s dive in and get started!

The way interest-based education works in a homeschool.What is Interest-Based Learning?

Interest-based learning uses a child’s interests as the basis for making decisions about what you’re going to teach and for how long.

This means teachers will constantly be reacting to what the students find interesting, and hence the child’s education will be much more tailored and absorbing for them.

When you’re thinking about IBL, you need to be asking, ‘What are the children’s interests?’

This is, of course, much more easily accomplished in a homeschooling education as there is a lower student-to-teacher ratio. Homeschooling also allows students to move at their own pace and slow down, so they make sure they’re not missing something.

If they’re learning the material quickly, they can move on to new material, so they’re not spending too long on work they already know. This means there will be far less frustration for gifted students or progress faster on ordinary material.

Benefits of Interest-Based Learning

Some benefits of interest-based learning are:

  • teachers can combine a child’s interest in a topic with a standard subject, thereby making learning more enjoyable for the student
  • the child is less bored with a topic
  • because a child is less bored, they retain more information
  • children struggle less with schoolwork motivation
  • if they desire, students can spend longer on the project instead of moving onto another subject
  • they can focus more on things they don’t know and less on something they’ve already learned (such as busywork)
  • interest-based learning will engender children with a lifelong love of learning

Planning activities based on children’s preferences offers many benefits for learning and promoting a sustainable educational model.

Possible Disadvantages of Interest-Based Learning

It’s may be good to be aware of some possible disadvantages of this type of learning.

Some say that a disadvantage is that depending on the student’s interests, some topics may be overlooked or ignored entirely because they do not align with their chosen area of focus.

This can lead to an imbalance in knowledge since students may be unable to cover all core material needed for academic success.

Furthermore, interest-based learning requires patience from both teachers and learners; it takes time for children to explore their interests before they move on to more advanced concepts or skills.

Therefore, educators must be willing and able to allow this exploration period for the method to succeed in their classroom setting.

Interest-Based Learning in Early Childhood and High School

Implementing interest-based learning certainly takes more effort on the part of the educator. So it is more easily carried out in educational settings with low student-to-teacher ratios, such as early childhood centers (see Montessori and Waldorf methods) and homeschools.

Using this method early is helpful as children will learn to be more invested in their education and interested in topics (a common reason parents also choose to homeschool first). Parents and teachers will develop their students’ love of learning.
Unfortunately, most traditional educational models don’t value interest-based education. They favor shoveling information into children that makes students good for testing but not great at retaining information.
Interest-based learning in high school is increasingly ignored as teenagers study with a focus on the end-of-school-year exams. Most wade through an uninteresting mire of textbooks before finishing their secondary education and moving onto more stimulating material they enjoy.
But, it doesn’t have to be like this; many homeschools who employ the Charlotte Mason method of education have a great mix between getting work done (that needs to be done) and studying material that interests students. I encourage people to follow the link above to learn more about this method.

Lifelong Learning, Interest-based learning & HomeschoolersFinding Out What Interests Your Child

  • spending undistracted ‘floor-time’ with them observing their activities (no phones or anything else to distract you)
  • getting down on their level and letting them direct the play for a portion of the day (unschoolers, Waldorf, and Montessori educationalists are keen on this concept)
  • helping your child with the activities they want to do and
  • asking them what they find the most interesting.

Make sure you’ve got time to do this and be patient with them. You don’t want to rush them. Instead, you want to let them do things at their own pace. (This can also be great bonding time!)

By doing this every day, you can easily find the areas where your child has the most interest in learning.

What Happens When Interests Aren’t Discovered?

I read the following recently, and it made me reflect on what might happen if we don’t care about finding out our children’s interests:

Listening to and validating what the child is interested in pays enormous dividends throughout the child’s life.  If the child is made aware that their interests are important, the child can more clearly identify genuine likes and dislikes, leading more readily to choices of career, spouse, and so on

It is a sad occurrence, but not infrequent, to have patients at 30 or 40 or 50 years old say they do not know what they want to do or what they are interested in.  They did not have the opportunity early in life to learn that what really counted was what they were interested in. [Paul C Holinger (MD) from Psychology Today]

Not only will finding our children’s interests make learning more fun for children, but it will help them make more significant decisions further down the track.

An Example of Interest-Based Learning

An example of interest-based learning can be seen in the case of a high school student who expresses interest in the music industry. To explore this further, the teacher could design a unit around music production that includes trips to local recording studios, research projects into music business models and careers, and hands-on experiences such as producing their own track.

Another Example…

Another example of interest-based learning is project-based learning, where a student or small group of students choose a topic or problem to research and develop a solution for it.

This approach allows the learner to dive deep into their chosen subject matter by conducting research, interviewing experts, developing prototypes and presenting their findings in an organized manner.

It also gives them ownership over their project and encourages collaboration with peers from all backgrounds as they work together towards one common goal.

Interest-Based Learning Activities

I recently read an interest-based learning example that inspired me. In it, a teacher noticed a student was struggling with biology. Simultaneously, she saw the student loved doing crafts.

So, she made this girl make a craft model of a human cell. The child thrived as she made the cell and labeled all its parts. After the lesson, the student, who didn’t usually enjoy biology, was well versed in this particular homeschool lesson.

In essence, an interest-based learning activity will be any project that a child is interested in.

(For this reason, it can be unwise to give you a list of activities to do with children because that’s the whole point – it’s the children who decide – not the parents or teachers.)

Choosing an Interest-Based Learning Activity

Choose activities by asking yourself these questions about your children:

  • what holds my child’s attention and makes them laugh or smile?
  • what is their favorite activity they choose most often?
  • which activity keeps them most absorbed?
The best activities will happen when you have plenty of time to sit down with your child and work through a project at their own pace. As they get older, they will do this themselves.

Interest-Based Learning Theory

The theory behind this type of learning is fascinating. Brocks Academy had this to say about it:

Research has shown that students will develop a higher level of mastery of a subject if they are interested and engaged. Students’ affective states contribute to their achievement. To be successful, students must find instruction motivating and meaningful (Caine & Caine, 1991; Schiefele & Csikszentmihalyi, 1995; Tomlinson, 1998).

The interest-based motivation theory confirms the obvious. Children (and adults) learn better when interested in the material presented or sought out.

If your child is interested in their studies, they tend to retain so much more of what they've learned. That's why the interest-based-learning model is superior to many others. Learn how to employ it in your homeschool here. #interestbasedlearning #interestbasedlearningmodel #homeschooling #learningmethods

Why Does Interest in Education Matter?

A student’s lack of interest in learning often stems from having no interest in the concepts or material presented. Sometimes the way the curriculum is presented also turns students off education.

Interest in education matters because it helps students to quickly motivate themselves to learn. In many cases, very little motivation is needed as children are itching to discover what fascinates them.

Furthermore, the benefits of creating self-motivated learners will positively impact their college education, future employment, marriage, and family life.

So, in the end, interest in your education means you’ll achieve a higher education level which will hopefully mean you have more opportunities in the future.

Interest-Based Learning Curriculum Options

Some curriculum programs allow children to follow their interests more than others.

For instance, unaccredited programs allow students to do this more than accredited programs. This is because certified programs are inflexible, and to get accreditation, students must do all the work set out for them.

Also, homeschool curriculum programs that have many electives offer more scope for the imagination and allow children more of a chance to be able to pursue the study that interests them.

Schoolhouse Teachers is a Perfect Program

Schoolhouse Teachers offer an enormous amount of material for children to chew on and digest. They can choose from almost ten languages to learn, including Latin. They can do coding. They can study logic, philosophy, and rhetoric…all of the commonly offered subjects and more!

And you get all of this on top of your traditional open-and-go boxes.

You can check out Schoolhouse Teachers here.

Other Curriculum Options?

Any curriculum that offers lots of electives will be a great program to use. Don’t forget platforms like the Khan Academy, a free homeschool curriculum. Children can search these platforms for topics that fascinate them.

Play-Based Learning vs Interest-Based Learning

Play-based learning is an educational approach that allows students to explore and learn through play. It encourages children to use their imagination, be creative, develop problem-solving skills, and engage with each other while having fun. It helps them understand the world around them naturally without feeling pressured by academic standards or expectations.

By contrast, interest-based learning focuses on engaging students with topics they’re interested in to spark curiosity and motivation in the classroom. This type of instruction allows learners to pursue topics they’re passionate about while gaining knowledge and developing skills specific to those interests.


Don’t forget you can get a free delight-directed learning guide at Heart and Soul Homeschooling to help you start interest-based homeschooling.

Want to Learn How to Homeschool?

There are two great ways t learn more about homeschooling: one is free, and one is a $67 fundamentals course.

The $67 Course

Looking to take your homeschooling to the next level? Join Rebecca Devitt’s online Homeschool Parenting Program and learn the strategies and techniques needed to make homeschooling a success! Learn more about the HPP here and signup here.

The Free Youtube Channel

Also, make sure you join the How to Homeschool Youtube channel, which will give you a fun and exciting look into the homeschool world and help homeschool your children. Check out the channel here, and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE.

If you’re not sure where to start, start with the following playlists:

You’ll love it and find it helpful and entertaining! Discover the channel here.


In conclusion, interest-based learning is an effective way to engage students and help them learn. It allows them to explore their interests and discover new ones, which can lead to a more successful and enjoyable educational experience. So if you’re looking for a way to help your child learn and be more engaged in their work, try interest-based learning because an interest in education is vital for academic enjoyment and a fun learning experience.

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Rebecca Devitt

Most adults don't particularly want to relive their schooling experience on a daily basis. They would gladly move on to a new life devoid of homework and teachers. Very, very few adults will passionately blog about their schooling some 15 years after graduating. This makes Rebecca Devitt somewhat unique. As it happens, she was homeschooled. And she loved it. Still does. And she wishes every kid could get a taste of homeschooling at its very best. Her website How Do I Homeschool, is a springboard for parents to see what a life of homeschooling could be for both them & their children. When she's not blogging Rebecca is still homeschooling her-adult-self by learning Latin, growing weird vegetables and most importantly looking after her two children Luke & Penny. She has a husband Tristan and is a participant at Wollongong Baptist Church. She's also written a book about why parents should homeschool called 'Why on Earth Homeschool'.

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