Delight Directed Learning and Charlotte Mason

Deep down I have always leaned toward delight directed learning.  I have tried lots of types of curriculum over the ten years that I have been homeschooling from traditional workbooks to unit studies to literature based to to Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason to all out unschooling. It took a few years to figure out where we fit along this spectrum of styles, but we settled down into a mostly delight directed Charlotte Mason style about six years ago. It is my opinion that when we are naturally already doing something, there is no need to recreate it to call it a school subject. I believe that Charlotte Mason was a very natural educator. That is what draws me to her methods.

I’m part of a group of moms that use Charlotte Mason methods, and as we have been reviewing some of the techniques, I have been asking myself how what I do, because it is very delight directed, fits with this style of learning.  Are Charlotte Mason and Delight Directed learning compatible?

Today I’d like to start with some of Charlotte Mason’s ideas and compare them to the delight directed learning that we use. You can read a summary of her ideas at this link if you need them for comparison.

Living Books: We get books from the library at least every two weeks. Each of us chooses the books we want to read that week. They are living books, books that are passionate about the topic, as Ms. Mason advocates. I guide the kids to find books that appeal to their passions and also books that will stretch them to learn more. For example, one of my girls is crazy about birds. I help her find bird books and tree books because trees tend to be part of bird habitats. My oldest girl loves fiction, so I encourage her to explore different time periods and events that go along with the books. When there is something I want them to read, I pick books on that topic read to them. We read at bedtime and during our school time.

Narration: Narration is a natural outflowing in our home. When we really experience a book, an activity, an interesting discovery, we enjoy telling about it. Most of the time this is done informally. Sometimes we write them out in letters to family and friends. Occasionally I assign a formal written narration for the older kids, but their best work always happens when they have a real audience and a real reason to write (or tell).

Short Lessons: We keep lessons short, but when they show interest in a subject they can spend as long as they are interested. For example, When we do free writing, which they typically enjoy, I set a ten minute timer. They must write for at least ten minutes. But if they have found a happy place in their story telling, they may write a while longer.  When we do math lessons, I assign a page. They are free to choose to stop there or continue. They usually stop, but not always.

History: Ms. Mason says that History is the study of people’s lives. While we use a chronological history text some, we spend far more time reading books and watching shows about people and interesting events. There are some great historical stories in children’s chapter and picture books for the younger kids. Every time we visit the library I scavenge through the children’s books to find interesting historical accounts.  My oldest likes to dig into the times, the clothing, the culture, the lifestyle of the characters and authors of the books she reads. It’s definitely delight directed, it’s absolutely learning, and it fits with Ms. Mason’s ideas of the study of History.

Copywork: I use handwriting books in the early years, but once they know how to write, I allow them to choose what to copy. They like to choose favorite stories and poems to copy. Especially since some of the kids have dyslexic tendencies, I try to make writing a positive time if possible.

Nature Study: This is a very natural part of our learning. The younger kids would rather be outside than inside. They are often finding bugs, worms, grasses, flowers, trees, moss, birds, and more to explore. I don’t schedule nature studies. They just happen. And when they request my attention to come see what they found, I watch with them, suggest new questions, and take a mental note of what new book topics they may want to explore at next week’s library visit. My kids have discovered things that I’ve never noticed before. We don’t keep formal notebooks, but they will often draw something related or build something using the lesson they learned from observing that piece of nature.

Grammar: I do not teach formal grammar until about fifth grade, and at that point, I teach all of the basics (punctuation, parts of speech, etc) over six to eight weeks in a focused session. This works really well for giving names to what they have already learned from copywork and free writing. I also remind them of little things like using capitals and periods as they write.

Math: We are using Math U See as a curriculum. This subject is not super delight directed, but there are still plenty of child led activities that I use to teach like cooking and project making. It does follow Ms. Mason’s theory of hands on learning.

Bible: Sometimes I read scripture to them if there is a book or section I would like to teach more throroughly. It’s good to really dig in with them. Sometimes I allow them to read what they would like to read and then tell me about it. They enjoy both, so I alternate. I love to see them read passionately when they get to choose.

Poetry, Art, and Music Study: We approach these casually, but they still appear often in our experiences. I may find a great book of art or poetry to look through and read. Dad is a musician, so we are exposed to all forms of music and stories behind the music and musicians. And of course some of the kids have begun to play instruments.
Recitation: We don’t do this formally, but the kids do have memory verses from their Sunday School classes, and the older two participate in theater opportunities through the youth group.

Handicrafts: Kids are naturally crafty. The girls like to knit scarves and hats on their Knifty Knitters, make bracelets and other art projects. My boy likes to build with Knex and Legos. These are good for hand-eye coordination, creativity, solving new problems, even calming them down.  Handicrafts are more than fun projects. They are also life skills like cooking, cleaning, and car and yard maintenance. Typically their delights drive my kids to work on these hands on skills.

Does my delight directed way fit in with Ms. Mason’s ways? I think they do. I just take a casual, natural approach. I also think they fit my family beautifully. Now I just need to keep that in mind when I start to panic 🙂

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