On Finishing

For twelve years now, we have homeschooled. Most of it has been delight directed because I believe with all that I am that God created each of us with certain aptitudes and passions to be used for His glory. My oldest girl is one year away from graduating from this journey and moving onto the next phase. Of course it is not one day this and the next day that. It’s really a gradual process that has been happening for a while now. Several years ago, it was on my heart that I wanted her senior year to be a year of independent study. A year when she could dig deeply into her passions. That dream of mine slowly led me to more and more relaxed schooling with her and essentially allowing much of her junior and senior years to be independent study. It has been scary on one hand, but thrilling on the other.

We have talked regularly about what she wants to do with this next part of her life and then catered to what is necessary for those dreams. She could have spent the past year vegging out on Netflix or the internet, but she hasn’t. She knows she is working for her own goals. They matter to her a lot.

She spends countless hours researching types of fabric, methods for making various types of clothing, creating her own patterns, and making several dresses and costumes. She works jobs that she had to learn how to do in order to make the money she needs for her materials for those projects. She has even been able to make a few party appearances in one of her costumes.

She is taking several dance classes and works at home on her own to improve her skills. She is interning at her studio for some younger student classes and learning much about relating to the kids, keeping a balance between business and fun times, being consistently responsible in a job setting. Life skills.

She watches classical ballets. She draws using online tutorials. She takes photographs of nature all the time. She goes online to learn about color and shape and other art concepts. She reads a couple of large books a week. She writes fiction when she gets good ideas. She keeps a little blog. She watches documentaries about life in different parts of the world. She tinkers with foreign languages on the DuoLingo app. She studies math on Khan Academy in preparation for the ACT. She sings and plays guitar. She listens to lots of music. She looks up anatomy pictures and descriptions to understand her sore muscles and other ailments. She watches movies and analyzes every little part of them. She shops for groceries and babysits her sisters for me. She reads her Bible and thinks about the big questions in life. She helps her friends.

What will next year look like? A lot of the same with more independence. She will start driving herself places and will get a part time job. She has a few subjects of school work to finish. Most are of her own choosing. She doesn’t quite know what she will do with her life. Not many of us do at 17. But she is following her passions, gradually learning to be a young woman with good character and life skills.

There are two ways to measure high school success in this world in which we live. One is with a neatly organized transcript recording all of the courses she has taken, and the other is with a student who loves life, lives fully, and has worked me out of a job. As we approach our final year and the finish line is in sight, this is where I stand. Her transcript is partly normal and partly unique. It is full, but more full with her aptitudes than with extra math and science courses. She has scored well on her practice ACT, and we believe she will do the same on the real one next month. She has learned life skills that will bring her into the next stage of her life. She has passion and drive for good things.

And still, it is really scary. It has been a step of faith from the beginning to step off of the traditional route. This is where my faith has to stand strong. I’ve prayed over our methods and for God’s direction often. This has always been the heart that God has given to me, and I trust that in being obedient to His call, He will bring success. I can see the light. I am so glad I have followed my heart and my girl’s passions. She is so much more than another student. I cannot wait to see what this last year brings and where she goes from there.

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What Exactly Is Delight Directed Learning?

So what exactly is delight directed learning? I’m sure it looks different in each of its applications, but a good definition helps to make sure that we are on target.

In its simplest form, It is learning about that which is interesting to you. Does this mean you (the student) are doing whatever you want to do all day? No. There is still a discipline to it. After all, it is called delight directed learning. There should be forward progress toward a new skill or further knowledge attained from a topic of research most days.

Are there days when just resting is sufficient? Occasionally, Yes. Think about this. As an adult learner, I pour deeply into my topic of interest for several days or weeks. When I surface I am usually mentally exhausted, and a day or two of brain break is in order. Some people call this the weekend. I don’t because our delights don’t often care what day it is. My children and I follow said delights when we find them on a Monday just as equally as a Saturday. When we have had enough and need to come up for air, we take a day or more off. Are these lost or wasted days? No.  Well, okay, sometimes they can be. But for the most part, those days are for two very good things: refreshing the mind and body and digesting the information consumed in order to create new questions, new directions, new challenges, even new delights that will move us forward in the next phase.

Are delight directed learning topics chosen exclusively by the student? Not always. I see myself as a learning guide. It is my job to encourage my kids to pursue new things, to find their passions and abilities, to draw out of them what is hidden from even themselves at the time, and to challenge themselves at a higher level than they might feel brave enough to try. I am finding though, that the older the kids get, the more self directed they are in pursuing difficult tasks and new knowledge. This is the fruit of delight directed learning.

Is delight directed learning a hands off approach to homeschooling? Not even close. In fact, I think I have my hands in their work more so this way. I spend hours a day talking to kids about the project they are working on, helping them check their math or spelling before completing a project, showing them how to look up information, watching them demonstrate what they have learned or created. I’m learning along side them this way. I’m learning about writing and dancing, sewing and music, mythology and physics. It is a family affair.

Does delight directed learning include learning reading, writing, and math? I can only answer that for my family. I do require language lessons until each child can read and write well. These are most important skills in becoming a self educator. I also require math in seasons for the older children where we plow through several chapters over a period of six weeks, and a few times a week consistently for my youngest.  We also have six week sessions as a family where we focus on an area of history or science. There are lots of ways to coordinate the necessary skills with delight directed learning. This is just how we do ours.  🙂

Late Readers

Do you worry about kids that are late readers?

My fourth child is eight years old and is still not reading. I keep telling myself that I’m not too worried about it. Her sister didn’t read till she was almost eight. I learned with her that it will come. That was after I stressed and grieved and panicked over the delay for a couple off years.

Why wasn’t she reading? My first two kids read by their fifth birthdays, and this third child didn’t even like sitting down to look at or listen to books. I pushed her to try. I used tried and true materials to teach her how to read. I bribed her with prizes. But all she wanted to do was play outside. Every day. All day. Then one summer, at nearly eight, she picked up some phonics readers at the library and began to read the words she knew and asked about the ones that she didn’t know. A few weeks later she picked up her Bible and “read” Genesis 1:1 and some from memory. She must have reread those first few verses 20 times over the next few weeks. Then she checked out a Harry Potter book from the library. Do you know how thick those are?! She loves the movies, so I let her get the book. She could only read a few sentences from her favorite part. I think she read about one and a half pages over the two weeks that we had the book. But she read.

That was about two years ago. Now at ten, she has just finished her first chapter book, Sarah, Plain and Tall (and Skylark). Not only did she read it, she fell in love with the characters. It was the first time she had experienced loving a story that she read. It was a short book, and she still needed help with some of the words, but now she’s looking for more books to read. She has found that joy.

Back to the fourth child. I’ve started to stress a bit over her not reading yet. Sure, her sister didn’t read till nearly eight, but now this girl is past that imaginary deadline, and I’m getting a little nervous. She enjoys being read to a few times a week. That’s a good sign, right? She can read a little when we do simple phonics lessons. She even messily sounds out some words to write down sometimes. So why hasn’t she decided to take on reading?

Just as I’m thinking about this little delay again, she insists she cannot read the words on the cover of the book she’s looking at, but reads the letters. P.E.O.P.L.E. of C.A.N.A.D.A. Was that what I thought I heard? Did she read “of” just that easily without realizing it even herself? And I realize it is happening. She is finally starting to read. There will be success after all.

It’s not going to happen tomorrow. It may take another year or more before she reads well. What will I do in the meantime? I’ll wait. I’ll read to her. I’ll let her experience life in other ways. I’ll talk with her. I’ll wait. I’ll show her videos. I’ll remind her kindly of all of the things I learn and enjoy by reading. I’ll continue to take her to the library for books she enjoys. I’ll wait.

It will happen. And when it does, when she finds that first book that she loves and devours ever so laboriously, it will have been worth the wait.

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 🙂

The Discipline of Delight Directed Learning

Does delight directed learning mean that I get to do whatever I want to do?  Not really. Not to me at least. To me, it means that I take ownership of my work. It means setting  goals and working toward them. It’s about recognizing that there are skills that need to be learned in order to reach my goals.

To my oldest child, it’s about preparing for the ACT (in case she chooses college) by working harder in her math book and critical thinking skills. It’s preparing for her preferred field of English by working through One Year Adventure Novel course (at break neck speed) and reading as many books as she can find. It’s about dancing and theater classes, guitar and violin lessons. She has learned the art taking ownership of her learning. It means something to her, so it is easier to motivate her to work. I discuss with her  the goals she sets, both long and short term, help her refine them, and then make sure she is working toward them.

For my youngest child, I give choices. She needs to read. She can choose what she wants to read to me. She needs to write. She can choose between working in her Summer Bridges book or doing a free write. She usually prefers the free write, which is fine with me. For example, today I asked her to read and write, her choice.  She chose to copy from a book that her older brother wrote a year ago. She explained to me that she would be reading and writing a lot, so it should count for two subjects. I agreed, knowing that she was taking ownership of her work and her learning. She was proud of her effort and put far more into the lessons than she would have had I simply given her a list of to do’s. Of course she isn’t always begging to do school work, and I have to step in.

That is were the discipline comes in. It’s not always roses. Kids still want to veg and play, watch TV, play video games, and watch music videos. I don’t have a problem with breaks. As an adult, I binge on information when I am learning something new, and when i am finished, I take a mental break for a few hours or even a day. I try to allow the same for my kids, because I believe that mental break is beneficial for the next wave of learning, but we can’t break any time we want. That allows us to become stagnant in our learning.

The solution in my home has been this: We school formally from 10:00am to noon or so to cover the three R’s and some read alouds together. After a lunch break, we keep the screens turned off for the next few hours in order to give the kids a dedicated time to pursue their delight directed goals. That’s it. I ask questions, show interest, offer new resources, and encourage them toward their goals. I’m not leading lessons (not always), but I am making sure that the time is spent pursuing their work at an appropriate level.

Delight directed isn’t all fun and games. It isn’t life with no schedule or goals. However, it is a natural kind of learning that is very effective as long as we keep ourselves disciplined to keep going.

What kind of structure do you use to keep your delight directed learning moving in a forward direction in your home?

 

What About “Off” Days?

In our family, we are more rigid about scheduled learning from about August to November and again from January to April. That’s eight months of our year. The other four are much more delight directed. Today, being only our third week of structured learning, I had a normal day of school planned. Math, reading, writing, all of that.  I like to stick to routine, but today it just was  not going to happen. One child had a stomach ache, one has been feeling rushed all the time, and the other two are just full of play.  I hated to miss another day of lessons, so I “planned” a delight directed day. I erased our planning chalkboard where the day’s lessons are displayed, divided it into a section for each child, explained to the kids that we were having an “unschooling day” and to record on the chalkboard the educational activities that they chose for the day. They are no strangers to this idea, so the logistics were easy. At the end of the day, I will record what they have done and move my original plans to tomorrow’s space. I know how much of a blessing it is to have the freedom to take days like this. they are refreshing and help us get back on course when we feel better without completely losing today as a learning day. And there is no reason to stress over days like this. Just make the most of them 🙂

Here is what is on their lists so far:

L and E: They painted with water colors (inspired by a painting E saw last night), read jokes, watched two episodes of Wild Kratts, one on  beavers and one on polar bears. E also has a two hour dance class this evening.

A: He researched via internet pictures and videos and the encyclopedia sharks, carp,and square dancing , practiced his dance moves from the class he is taking, watched an older dance recital video for new ideas, watched the Wild Kratts episodes, designed with tangram pieces, and told me about one of the  Tom Swift Jr. books he has recently read.

B: She has not felt well today, but she watched some of the Swan Lake Ballet, read from Lord of the Rings, and will teach an hour and practice two more hours of dancing tonight.

I’d say there is plenty of learning going on during our “off day”.

What Does Delight Directed Learning Look Like? (Part 2)

In my last post I wrote about delight directed learning in high school. Today I want to write about the middle school years. I am especially fond of this age, and, in fact, used to teach fifth grade. I would have to say, however, that my home education does not look much at all like my classroom teaching did. Maybe that’s because I’ve grown and learned new things. Maybe it’s out of necessity as I try to keep up with three different groups of learners in the same day. And maybe still it’s that I’ve learned that I can relax and that the kids do still learn what they need to learn.

Okay, so what does delight directed learning look like for my middle school aged children? It looks somewhat different for each of them, but has the same goal in mind. That goal is for them to love learning and to become independent learners. We spend more organized learning time than in the high school years, but much of their learning is still driven by their own interests.

Our scheduled learning time happens a few times a week usually and varies in content. It gives me an opportunity to expose them to things I think they need to know. This time rarely lasts more than two hours on any given day. Sometimes we read from Story of the World while the kids play with play dough or string beads or cut up paper. As long as their hands are busy, they can sit and stay tuned in. When we are finished reading for about thirty minutes to an hour, I have them draw and shortly write about four different topics that they remember hearing from the story.  Of course I may find other books to read to them like Magic School Bus or Magic Tree house or Sarah, Plain and Tall or… You get the idea. But the routine is the same. I read while they fidget, then they draw and tell about it.

After our reading time, they each have some individual lessons like copywork and math. They really don’t like this time, so I keep it short. Short, efficient lessons get the job done. My goal is to develop a love of learning in them.

Now for the fun, delight directed stuff!  I have set up our house, and continue to adjust it in order to have the best learning environment. I will share some of the things I see as important.

Books:  There should be good books available at all times. We visit our library at least every two weeks and each child checks out a minimum of 5 books. I also scavenge the children and older children’s sections for read aloud books. We have learned an incredible amount of history, science, poetry, literature, and even math from these books. As soon as we get home from the library I display several of the books across a cedar chest in the living room. When a child is bored, I will often suggest that they see if there are any books left on the chest that they have not read. Some of my kids are late readers. My first two read by the time they were 5, but the next two where about eight by the time they got to reading on their own. That’s just how they worked. Until they are ready, and even later than that, I read to them often.

Science:  There should be science experiment tools readily available to children that will use them responsibly. I keep two boxes full of microscopes, slides, scales, dyes, models, etc in a bottom cabinet. Once in a while I take something out to get them started, but most of the time they go to it pretty regularly and take out more than they need. This of course means that a second child will see it out and start using it as well. My job is to answer questions and ask more to get them to further investigate.

Art Supplies:  There should be a variety of art supplies easily available for when they wish to use them. We have paints, crayons, markers, different kinds of paper, beads, sequins, cans, boxes, how to books and more. It’s  messy, but worth it.

Good Work Display Area:  There should be a place for children to display their good work. I tied up two strings along a wall and put clothes pins on it. Paper art and writing samples go on this string. We also hang on it our reading lists for the 100 Books Club we are working on. My daughter occasionally has art shows for her canvas paintings and the like. We all vote and the winning piece of art hangs in our hallway until next time. My son’s art comes in the form of Lego or knex creations that live on the mantle for a while.

Building Supplies:  There should also be building supplies like legos, knex, dominoes, jenga blocks, etc. My son has especially learned a great deal from knex. He has learned about gears, motors, and all sorts of physics concepts through making roller coasters, robots, cars, and all the stuff boys love.

Computers:  Computers should be available for learning games and looking up information. We love games like JumpStart, Reader Rabbit, Math Missions, and Number Heroes. The internet is a tricky thing for kids. We as parents have to watch carefully what they do with it, but when used correctly it can be a great tool. When they are younger and ask a question, I stop what I am doing and look it up for them. Pretty soon though, they are asking to look up answers to their own questions. I highly recommend filters and monitoring when using the internet, but don’t forget the usefulness of it either.

Musical Instruments: Musical instruments should be available to those children that will treat them responsibly. Dad is a musician in our family, so this one is easy for us. So far, no child except my high schooler plays an instrument, but they do enjoy listening to music and hearing Dad tell the background stories to the composers and their pieces.  We don’t know what God will gift them with, so we set up the opportunity and wait to see if they respond. I say more about this in my high school post (Part 1).

Cooking Opportunities:  There should be plenty of opportunities to cook. Of course this means a lot of supervision, but there is much to be learned in the kitchen from measuring to chemical reactions to health to list making for shopping trips to following directions to responsibility to….

Games:  There should be plenty of board games available and opportunities to play them with a parent. Our favorite learning games are Monopoly, Life, Manhattan, Magic Labyrinth, Ticket to Ride, Chess, Checkers, Trivial Pursuit Junior, Cranium, The Cat in the Hat, and Scrabble. I also love to use puzzles. The kids learn to count money, make careful decisions, new facts, visual memory, reading, getting along, taking turns, and being good sports (this is big).

Classes Outside of the Home:  This can take many forms. For us, in this stage of life, it is dancing. It is an opportunity for the kids to feel some pressure and learn how to cope with it, learn physical awareness and skill, and act with grace whether things are going well or not. This is what my house has to offer. No one day uses all of these resources. Each day is it’s own, and depending on the outside activities and energy level of each of us, I may guide them in teacher led activities or let them run with their own. My general rule of thumb at this age is this: I have work planned. If they come to me with a plan of their own, and I can see the value in it, I will let them run with it instead. One example: For about 3 weeks my son was so involved in learning about gears, motors, and robots that I knew nothing outside of that mattered. I could have made him sit down and “learn” with me first, but instead I let him pursue his passion and watched him learn great things. When he finished, I was free to either guide him into a new idea or go back to our standard work.

Many good days are spent playing make believe as well. They might have a newspaper for which they write stories. They might have a Harry Potter fan club and read the books together. They might have a trading store or a a game tournament. They might spend hours watching science videos and then trying out the experiments.  There are really so many ways to learn!

What Does Delight Directed Learning Look Like? (Part 1)

I’ve asked this question many a times. What does this idea look like in action? I have also been asked this question a time or two.   I certainly don’t consider myself to be a master, but I do feel like what we have done has been pretty effective. We don’t use standard curriculum, and no two days look alike, so I’m going to make an attempt to explain the big picture here over a series of posts.

I would say that we have 3 levels of education going on right now: high school (15 years old), middle school (10 and 12 year olds), and elementary (8 years old).  I’ll start with high school.

By the time a child has reached high school, some individual bend is definitely showing. For my daughter, literature, music, theater, and dance are her passions. Sometimes it is hard for her to get moving on an idea, so she spends days at a time taking in good books, music, Youtube videos, and the like. My job, as I see it, is to encourage her to find inspiration and then to help her gather resources to be able to pursue it.  I will share a few examples of delight directed learning that have taken place recently and some ways we work with the not so delightful stuff.

One day a few months ago, she told me she wanted to learn to play violin. She showed me a video of Lindsey Stirling, a violinist and dancer. I always wanted a violin in the house 😉  We bought her one. She loved it for about a week. Then she didn’t. Was it a waste? No, I don’t think so. She or one of the  3 other children might want to play someday and it will be here waiting for them. She had a guitar in her room for probably two or three years before she decided to learn, and now she loves it. One of my goals is to make things available to the kids. They should always have around the house good books, musical instruments (Dad is a musician), art supplies, animals to care for, a place to display their art or writing samples or list of books read or whatever, science experiment supplies like microscopes, slides, scales, dyes, etc.

A few nights ago, she wrote a one page intro to a fantasy story featuring a grown Alice of Wonderland and her daughter. It was a good piece, so her dad and I encouraged her to try her hand at developing it into a novella. Look for it in a bit, because I believe she will finish it. She has been reading books about writing good stories and about the 1880’s, the time in which her story will take place. She has set word count per day goals and has planned most of the story line. She is a talented writer. She may have inherited that from her dad. All I’ve done is help her develop a love for books.

This is not the first time she’s gone crazy over a set of literature. She is a huge fan of Jane Austen and all things Victorian era. She’s learned a great deal of social history from movies and novels set in this time period. Prior to that fascination, she was obsessed with the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period. King Arthur and Shakespeare were some of her favorites. We use these books and a lot of  movies for history, and then she joins the middle school history (Story of the World) reading times. Is it enough? I believe it is enough for exposure, and then I have to trust that she will dig into times and events that are important to her reading, writing, dancing, etcetera.

Math is something that she was always quick to learn, but not something she was passionate about by any means.  She uses math in everyday situations with great efficiency, and has proven that she knows how to look up how to figure something out if she needs it. However, higher maths (beyond Algebra 1) will be the one area we have to push learning. I don’t believe that higher maths are necessary if they don’t apply to one’s field of study, but I do believe that since there is a chance she will go to college, she needs enough math to do well on the ACT, the one critical measuring stick she will have to do well on in order to go to college. Algebra 1 was easy and fun for her. Geometry? Not so much. But I talked to her today about trying a new book I found called Girls Get Curves. This book takes teenage girl issues and relates them to geometry. Fun, huh?  First, we will wait a month or so until she finishes her writing project. She is driven and I am not going to get in the way of that.

The tricky thing about delight directed learning for the parents is that we have to be involved and aware and at the same time trust that it is happening. I will be honest and tell you that I have doubted many a times the relaxed way that we have schooled, but it was what our hearts drove us to do. I always remember the conversation my husband and I had when we decided to bring our 6 year old daughter home midway through kindergarten. We wanted to educate her by bringing her to the zoo, getting her hands on big maps, doing art projects, building solar systems, playing games, reading great books. There have been small chunks of time when I have lost my confidence and reverted back to textbook driven education, but we’ve never enjoyed nor stayed there.  When my daughter finished what would be her 9th grade year, we had her take a practice ACT test to see what she needed to work on and where she was doing well. She would have scored a 29 in English, a 31 in reading comprehension, a 25 in science reasoning, and a 9 in math. Math needs work, but it looks to me like the rest of the subjects are going just fine by letting her go with what delights her.  The rest of her day can be spent hanging out with the family, cooking, decorating her room, playing her guitar, practicing hairstyles and makeup. It’s natural, and it’s pleasant. It works for us.

Delight Directed High School

Curiousity is easy to find in younger children. All too often though in older students it seems to have disappeared. This has been the case for my 14 year old daughter. Since about 6th grade she has been asking me to just give her some assignments so that she could get them finished. That was the extent of her schooling during that time. Just finish. Sure, she took in some information during that time, but she also became less and less satisfied with the idea of learning. Sadly, this is happening to kids in schools everywhere. Kids are physically there, but meaningful learning and retention is limited by a lack of interest in topics.

I want better for my kids. I want them to love to learn. I don’t want school to be a bad word in their minds. This is why I believe in letting them lead in choosing the topic of study.

I have had a major problem with this concept this year though. My oldest was starting highschool (We started a few classes during her 8th grade year).  I have struggled desperately over doing high school like the public schools. Not that we have done anything like the public schools yet, but I felt like as we approached the years when transcripts were really required, I would have to suck it up and ‘play their game’ so to speak if college was in her future.

There are some areas that I think I will still have to do just that. But I have seen the light in some other areas as to how we can still be delight directed.

This week I am focusing on the Geography class. We started out with a textbook format, but after only 2 weeks she was bored to death with it. Face it. Textbooks are less than interesting when they only present small chunks of information. Now I am all for exposure of a wide variety of material, but if we can make the learning more meaningful, then why not?

So the plan is this. She is going to work through each continent over the summer. We went to the library yesterday and I helped her choose and check out books on 5 European countries: France, Russia, Italy, Spain, and Germany.  (This is just the start).  The books came from the older children’s section. They have lots of pictures and still lots of information.They are not overwhelming… or dull. They cover all of the important details as far as landmarks, government, flags, people, foods, clothes, language, culture, holidays, and more. This summer she will focus on several of these books from our great library, but she will add to it continually for the next few years. She will add to each country accordingly as she encounters it in the setting of a novel she reads or a movie she sees. She can also add things like art and music that she finds. By the end of high school, I believe she will have a proper education in this way.

Last week we began working on her English I course.  She is an avid reader, so that part was easy. I had her write down the books she could remember reading this year.  Hunger Games, Harry Potter series, The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time, Seeking the Heavens, and Pride and Prejudice. I still have to do some work to put together this entire course, but can you see how the subjects are beginning to intertwine? Some of these books (along with the short stories, poetry, dramas, and nonfiction readings) have real life settings, and from them she has, or will have, a better understanding of life in that place.

How does this relate to delight directed learning? I am not choosing her books or her topics. Guiding her? Definitely. Letting her follow her interest? Yep. And it is working. For a kid that just wanted her assignments so that she could hurry up and finish. A few months back, she picked up and read a book called Prada and Prejudice. It is a play on Pride and Prejudice, which I mentioned to her, and she proceeded to get that one and read it too. It was not enough. She had to watch the movie and then read all about the author, Jane Austin. Being the fashion guru that she is, she researched the clothing of Jane Austin’s time period. All of this was on her own. Not a school assignment at all.

Do other kids do this? You bet they do. If we give them the time, space, and fuel to do it. I am looking forward to finding all of the classes that I can to teach, no, to to gently guide her through, because it works. It is how passions are developed and how preschoolers and adults learn. Why change that in the middle?