Today I’m focusing on a passion of mine — Delight-Directed Learning! I’ve written about this topic a few times here on my blog, in a chapter in the book, Delightful Planning, and even had a guest post about it on another blog last week. You might be wondering what new things I have to say. I wondered the same myself at first. (ETA: I’ve now written an entire eBook on the topic — Delightful Planning)
For those of you who are wondering exactly what I mean by delight-directed and don’t have time to go read those articles linked above, basically it just means using your child’s interests and passions to direct what you teach. It’s not quite unschooling because you may in fact use curriculum to do this. But it is more relaxed than most curricula out there, and not much planning is required.
As I was pondering what direction I would take today, it occurred to me that in the past I’ve written mostly about why we homeschool in this manner, how we came to discover it and why I think it’s an amazing way to homeschool. But, I never really have given many tips on how to incorporate this method into any homeschool, whether you want to try it for a day or a season. So today, I will do just that.
1. Of course, the most obvious way to begin delight-directed teaching is to talk to your kids. Or maybe just pay attention to what they talk about most. If your child talks endlessly about dolphins or Abraham Lincoln or trains or princesses, begin there. There really are very few topics that cannot be parlayed into a educational experience. We often take these topics and create unit studies. If you’re not sure how to do that, you can read more here. A unit study can last for a week, a month, or even a year. You are in control of how long you spend on a topic. This is a great way to homeschool all the time, but if you’re not comfortable doing that, use this method for a nice break now and then, or for a summer study.
2. Another way to add some delight-directed learning is to notice what excites your student about what you’re already teaching. I’ve written before how a study on Mexico in our regular curriculum led to an amazing experience learning about butterflies. Be willing to stop what you’re doing and follow rabbit trails now and then.
3. Along the same lines as number 2 above, notice what has piqued the interest of your student and then plan a field trip based on that interest. Last year, we were studying about the Civil War, but the part that really interested Ben the most were the battles themselves. We are fortunate to live in a state with battle sites, so we sought opportunities to stop and visit them when we had the chance. As it happened, our state historical society also had a Civil War exhibit we could visit. We even planned our summer vacation to include a visit to Fort Sumter. You don’t have to go to such great lengths though. A simple visit to the zoo to visit the polar bears during your study of the arctic tundra will suffice.
4. Create a “fun school” jar with exciting activities you know your kids will enjoy. Let them choose items to add to the jar, too. Then take a break from “school” and let them choose from the jar what they will do that day. Some ideas can include:
- Go on a nature walk with a list of items to look for (leaves, moss, animal tracks, acorns, flowers, etc.).
- Create art.
- Do messy science experiments.
- Collect an insect or other creature in your backyard (butterfly, moth, ants, spider, turtle) and observe it for a couple of days before releasing it. We have a box turtle that lives in our yard. Ben loves to keep him around for a couple of days now and then for observation. He can tell you more about box turtles than most kids, I think.
- Learn about how to use Word or PowerPoint.
- Grab a camera and look for interesting things to photograph. Learn about digital photography while you’re at it.
- Visit a nursing home with a list of questions to interview one of the residents.
- Bake cookies and visit your local fire house. Call ahead and you might even get a tour.
- Plant a garden. Even if you live in an urban area or apartment, you can grow herbs in a container or use root vegetables to make a table top garden.
5. Finally, head to the library andcheck out books on any subject your student wishes to learn about, and then spend a day (or a week) reading all of them. You will be amazed at how much your kids learning from reading about topics of interest to them.
That should get you started. Please don’t be afraid to hop off the lesson plan and give delight-directed learning a chance. You might just love it enough to never go back on the plan. That’s exactly what happened to us!
Do you have other ideas for how to add delight to a homeschool. Please share with us in the comments! I love hearing your ideas!