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A Delight Driven Education ~ Cultivating Curiosity

I don't skip through the halls of homeschool conventions singing this news (for fear of being smacked, punched, or gunned down — or maybe all three!), but my children do enjoy learning. It gives them pleasure and satisfaction. They delight in their studies. 

So there. I said it. I usually refrain from advertising my love-to-learn kids because I don't think people will believe my crazy claims; I don't want anyone else to feel like I'm having an I'm-better-than-you moment (because I'm not); and I don't want another mom to feel as if she's failed (because she hasn't).

I believe there are a dozen reasons why my boys find learning delightful, but two outweigh the rest. The first is that they are curious. The second is that I encourage them to spend time satisfying their interests. My boys delight in their studies because they are studying their delights. 

Four or five years ago a homeschooling friend and I were chatting about Elijah and his current self-started study of eagles. She smiled and replied, "Following his interests? Oh, you must be delight directed."

I squirmed and squeaked and squealed inside. What? A homeschooling philosophy that matches mine? I've never heard of it!

So I scurried home and googled "delight-directed" and landed a few short articles. I read them and re-read them. I started planning less and allowing my son to lead more. When I saw how much he absorbed while chasing his curiosities, I started planning even less and allowing him to lead even more.

Delight directed homeschooling, for us, has included two main components:

  • child-led ~ The topics studied, the activities completed, the projects created — are determined by the interests of my children. Each day my boys have required chunks of time to research, create, play, read, wonder, write, find, design, listen, discover, draw, discuss, build, and explore. 
  • parent facilitated ~ I see my role as stirrer of curiositysupplier of rich resources, and giver of large doses of inspiration.  I study my students (their questions, talents, interests, and passions) so I know what to provide and when to provide it. 

For the remainder of this week, I'm going to discuss delight directed education. Friday's post will be a Q & A. Please post any questions you have for me in the comments section, and I will try to address them in the final post. 

Don't miss a post in the Cultivating Curiosity Series! Subscribe to Walking by the Way and get updates via email! 

The 10 Days Series is organized by iHomeschool Network, a collaboration of outstanding homeschool bloggers who connect with each other and with family-friendly companies in mutually beneficial projects. Visit us on Facebook,Pinterest, and Twitter. And of course, click the image below to visit all the 10 Days posts from these homeschool moms of the iHomeschool Network. You'll be blessed with tips on how to teach multiple ages, ways to rule your curriculum, intentional parenting, and more!

14 Responses to A Delight Driven Education ~ Cultivating Curiosity

  • Vanessa says:

    I love this! The way you have expressed it so far is just beautiful … I follow blogs to catch gems like this :)

    Can’t wait to hear everything you have time to write about this exciting way of seeing education. Thanks in advance!
    Vanessa recently posted..ANZAC Day books, pages and interactive sitesMy Profile

  • Michelle G. says:

    I was just commenting at our last homeschool support group meeting that feel as though I’ve been killing my kids’ love of learning the last year or two, so your series here is timely for me. (I have a 11 yo boy, 7 yo boy, 2 yo girl.) I started out loving all of the articles I read on dd learning, (been hsing for about 4 years now) but I have failed to implement because i am a person who thrives on structure and much of the time it seemed like this way of schooling was just too open for me and my style of teaching. I would LOVE to find a happy medium – not unschooling – but structured studies (math, lang arts,history, bible, geography) with some unstructured times in there for them to persue their passions.
    The problems with dd learning (as I have tried to implement it) is:
    1)The day gets away from us and then I feel like we need to at least cover the basics (those subjects mentioned above). So my question would be, how do you structure you days/weeks/years to cover the bases, or do you?
    2) I never know what to have on hand or how to “light the fire”, how to direct them. So much of the time, if we have free time it’s spent with Legos or Hot Wheels (not that that is all bad as these toys can be used in very creative ways) and NOT on building lapbooks about a subject their interested in. So my 2 questions would be, if you made a list of your top 10-20 dd resources to have on hand what would they be? (REALLY would love to know this!) and, how do you steer your kids toward these things without it seeming like you’re pushing?
    My last question is, does this approach work into the middle school and high school years? Or is it mainly for younger kids?
    I feel like I sound like a real dummy, these things are probably really obvious to others. I received a pretty lame education K-12 and some of my worst, non-productive years were spent at an “Open Living School” (it was the 70s), and at a very unstructured Montessori school. I got very behind in all subjects, managed to graduate and then spent a good 3 semesters in community college taking remedial classes. I did get a degree but have always felt that my education was lacking. I don’t want this for my kids! But I sure don’t want to kill their love of leaning in the process.
    I thank you so much for taking the time to do this series and I will be reading it faithfully as well as the rest of your blog.
    Much appreciation,

  • Colleen says:

    Michelle, I thought those were great questions!

    Delight directed sounds so much better to me than unschooling. Lol. How do you do it though? Math, for example, do you use a regular math program? I am weak in math and can’t imagine putting anything together myself. I wouldn’t even attempt it! I also love the idea of chronological history with Bible being taught alongside. I guess I need to know so much more about the details. Lol

    My oldest is 4 1/2, and I can see the benefits of delight directed learning. He has a wide vocabulary and knowledge of types of measurement from following his interests. It is also really difficult to get him to sit and do anything he isn’t interested in at this point. He has never been into coloring or crafts and I don’t know that he will ever enjoy it. He can Identify an impressive array of reptiles, fish and other animals and he knows a lot about bodies of water. When he has an interest in something he will really dive in and retain a lot of information. This is the part that interests me about delight directed learning… I just need to know how you accomplish getting all the necessary learning he isn’t interested in accomplished too.

    Can’t wait for the rest of this series!

  • Therese says:

    Michelle expressed many of my questions. I do have another one. I’ve tried to do some interest lead learning, and by the time I’ve found resources and gathered things up the spark is gone. How do you do this in a timely manner? I live in a rural area and our libraries are tiny. Often interlibrary loan takes weeks and weeks, and because of budget cuts in California each title loaned has a $3.00 fee. Not a huge amount, but it can add up. Another question – how long do your interest studies last? I’m so excited to read what you share with us. Thanks,Therese

  • Ami says:

    Dear Michelle,

    First, you do not sound like a dummy. When I first jumped in to this, I had no clue what I was doing. I found skeleton ideas all around the web, but I wanted the meat! I ended up having to make my own way and discover what worked with my own family.

    I will answer question #1 on Thursday and #2 on Friday. I’ll answer your third question right now. :)

    My last question is, does this approach work into the middle school and high school years? Or is it mainly for younger kids?

    I’ve had at least four people ask me this question lately! My oldest is only 10 (and technically in 4th grade). I’m not sure what middle and high school will look like for us. If we continue to go with delight directed education, my son will be responsible for working hard for so many hours each day. I haven’t researched how to give credits for certain subjects or how to make a transcript when you use nontraditional means to educate. However, I know it can be done. I have my work cut out for me! 😉 I have at least two years to decide how we will go on. And I guess the short answer to this question is — I don’t know! 😉

    If you stick with me through this week, you’ll see that there is structure (and even discipline and academics) here. The structure I offer my kids, though, is very (VERY) different than what is found in regular schools. :)

  • Ami says:

    Hi Colleen!

    I will tackle this topic on Thursday as I discuss what I do require of my children and how I accomplish/determine “necessary learning.” :)

    P.S. It sounds like you have an amazing little guy on your hands! :)

  • Ami says:

    Hi Therese! :)

    Length of studies is discussed tomorrow.

    I didn’t have a library for the first few years of this, so I will try to answer your resource question on Friday. Thanks for asking! :)

  • Paula says:

    Just for fun, I asked my four boys to give me some topics they would like to study. One refused (he is seven) and the others came back with this:
    14 year old:Probabilities; endangered species; history of superheroes.
    12 year old: magnetism, how to make a profit, how to make a website
    9 year old: 9/11; World War 2, family history

    I think I am going to start with history of superheroes……
    Paula recently posted..Saturday Morning on the Homestead: All Quiet, So Far….My Profile

  • Christa says:

    This is certainly the way we lean too. It’s why we do homeschool share units. My son LOVES them. I tried something else, and by day two, I was dashing around for a book to do that week, because he didn’t enjoy it, and I’m not about to force my kid to do something he doesn’t enjoy. Let’s face it, how much do you remember of school from before high school? I just want my kids to enjoy learning, and we’ll worry about the facts in those last few years before college.

    I don’t see childhood as preparation for adulthood, I see it as it’s own period in life. My life now is not lived “in preparation” for old age, so I think it’s ludicrous to think that my 5 year old needs to be preparing for when he’s 25. That is just not how life works. When he’s 20 he can worry about the next 5 years. Life will happen in the meantime and he will be prepared. I want him to enjoy life in the moment. I think a lot of traditional schooling is about preparing for a future that may or may not ever come. I don’t think it’s a healthy attitude for an adult to have, muchless a child. We try to live in the present, always. Always learning, but not for some future goal, but because learning is pleasurable.

    We do a lot of reading chapter books, and then doing an activity based on that book if we can. If the characters go to camp, we watch camp songs on youtube. If the characters experience quicksand, we mix up some quicksand. And since it’s outside of official “school time” (well, supposedly, I still write it down!), it’s all about cultivating curiosity! I have a few questions:

    1. Do you have to submit a yearly plan to your school district? We live in NY so we have a lot of paperwork to follow. We have to submit an instruction plan for the year which tells what we will cover, and then we have to report that we covered at least 80% of it. Right now, this won’t be a problem. My kids LOVE FIAR/HSS units, and it is fully my intent to do just that for elementary school. Probably beyond FIAR for middle school, so I suspect I’ll just report on that stuff and consider all the other stuff extra. It’s beautiful when you can just do things conversationally and consider them “covered”! Still, if you have to do this, I would love to hear how you do. Or if not, I’d love to hear some suggestions if you have them!

    2. How does this affect your schedule for the year? I know unschoolers don’t take “breaks” because they’re just living life and learning. I see delight-directed homeschooling to be a little like that, but I still plan on taking a summer. It’s not that they won’t be learning, I just won’t be recording it, and I’ll have less structured “school time” during the day (I’m planning on keeping up with phonics, and doing some spanish, since my kids are really interested in that but I have dropped the ball this school year with it!).

    3. I would love to hear about the specifics of what you do. Are you still very structured, even though you are delight-directed? Do you have curriculum for language arts, etc. or do those things just fit in with your life? As I’m heading down this path, I find myself becoming less structured, so I’m interested to see how it works for you!

    Thanks for such a great series!

  • Ami says:

    Sounds fabulous, Paula! Your boys have some great ideas!

  • Michelle G. says:

    Colleen, it sounds like you have a sweet, bright boy on your hands : )

    Therese, That sounds a lot like us up until last year when we moved from a rural area. Sometimes I felt like I was waiting for the Pony Express to bring us our requested books!

    Ami, thanks SO much for this series and for answering questions so graciously. I WILL be following your blog as I just need to hear all you have to say here a bit more often that I do now.

    Christa, you gave me something to think about today! You presented a fresh and interesting perspective – I will have to chew on that! : )

  • Janna says:

    Thank you for your blog! This is my third year homeschooling. I’ve always been on the less-is-more, but just recently been really very interested in what you call the delight-driven. I’ve been trying it more. So my question for Friday would be this:
    During your large chunk of time that you give to the child to learn do you have any parameters on what they can or cannot spend their time doing? My young children are super into cars and plastic animals and playing these large, open-ended worlds with drama and so on. Do I allow that during the free chunk of time or do I direct them towards something more “productive”. What if the girls only want to play Barbies?

    PS. I have a one year old named Simon (the only Simon in our community) and to see your five year old named Simon is a very odd thing for me. :)

  • I love this!
    We’re not solely delight directed but I do love to take time out to study things the kids have questions or interests in. I do think it’s important for our kids to learn to follow through on their questions and interests, research them, find answers, practice them – don’t you?
    I’m going to enjoy reading through your series!
    Amber @ Classic Housewife recently posted..Can I Have 5 Minutes of Your Time Please?My Profile

  • I’ve been looking more into delight-directed learning. Thanks for this information! I’ve been trying to demand less of my children’s time in the last few weeks and simply pay attention to what they choose to do. I’ve noticed things like building a tree swing, crocheting, asking for me to read to them, etc. I’m loving what I’m seeing. Learning what you are interested in just makes sense! That’s what I like to do, why wouldn’t my children?!

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