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 🙂

Mission Statement and a Confession

Once a month I attend a meeting with other homeschooling moms to talk shop and encourage one another.  At our last meeting (last night) we were encouraged to answer a question.

 Why do I homeschool? What is it that I am working toward in my kids’ homeschooling?

To answer the question, I wrote out our school’s mission statement. What is my mission statement? This:

Life Academy exists to promote a life long love for learning, a complete education in the basics, and an atmosphere in which deeper passions may be explored in the ways each child learns best.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? I have to make a confession though. First, our school was named Life Academy several years ago based on how we schooled. Life. We learn much through every day life experiences and natural learning. And Life, the game. We also learn much through all sorts of games and hands on activities.  Of course we have formal lessons in areas that are not so naturally learned, and especially more so as the kids have gotten older, but the formal lessons should still promote a love for learning. And that is what we have lost recently. I came home from that meeting and while thinking about that mission statement realized that I had let a lot of those ideals go and have fallen back into the more is better way of thinking. Perhaps that is why the past several weeks of school have been so strained.

Of course I can’t just leave that alone, so today I called for a day off for the kids and a day of refocusing and planning for myself. I am asking myself questions about each subject area.

Why is math feeling like drudgery? Oh yeah. It’s because we have been doing gobs of problems out of context. I need to add life questions to their lessons to make them relevant. That should help.

Why aren’t they interested in the books I chose for this week? Maybe it’s because they chose other books  on their own at the library. And why is it not okay for my son to read his book on accidental scientific discoveries during school hours. I used to say that if they had quality learning plans for a day I would let that override my plans for the day. Learning is learning, and if they are motivated on their own that’s all the better. When did I get so focused on always doing it my way?

I’m glad we talked about mission statements last night. It’s reminded me of where I want to be.  Life Academy exists to promote a life long love of learning, a complete education in the basics, and an atmosphere in which deeper passions can be explored in the ways in which each child learns best.

Slowing Down

While I talk often of a lifestyle of learning, I maintain a very rushed segment of my day that is reserved for “school stuff”.  I find this time important. It is the time of day when everything is turned off, kids’ games pause, and we come together for organized lessons.

This is all good, except one thing. At the end of this hurried three hours of lessons (4 kids, 4 different levels of instruction, several subject areas a day for this introverted mom), I am so mentally worn out that I feel useless for the next couple hours.  While I am recovering, the kids sit in front of television shows or video games.  And this is not how I want my kids to spend all of their time.

To restate the problem:

Hurried and stressful school hours and too much screen time.

So this week we have begun something new. It’s not drastic at all. It is just this. Slowing down.

We are taking longer in the day to complete the lessons. I’m slowing down to listen to their stories and allowing more general conversation to take place among the group. And when the Type A in me wants to speed back up, I am reminding myself that more together is time is good for relationship building, a very needed thing for us these days.

I’m still preaching to myself, but I am learning that time efficiency, while important in some areas, is not the ultimate goal in our daily living.  I’m really bad about rushing in order to fit more into the day, but I am learning, with much help from my kids, that life is a journey. Each day, each hour has in it lessons to learn and moments to be cherished.

Does it matter if I finish school by lunch time? Yes. Of course it does. I must accomplish more stuff in shorter amounts of time!

No. It doesn’t.  It matters that we spend our days really truly living.  And as a bonus to slowing down our together school time, the kids have had far less screen time. Yeah!!!  And as a second bonus, nobody seems quite as wiped out at the end of our lessons.  Yeah!!!

Slowing down. It’s not easy, but I might find that I like it after all 🙂

Writing

I’m thinking about writing today. How should I teach it? What are we already doing that is working for us and what isn’t? What adjustments can I make? Before I get to that, why write at all?

My favorite middle school book, You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, has some great reminders for ages.

They must read, and write; read, and write. The goal of this process is nothing less than a rich, quality education in all verbal areas.

 

When you read a book, you are in mind-to-mind encounter with its author…  And while you read or after you finish a book, if you have a personal response of some kind, and write, your mind grows even more. You clarify your thoughts. You develop new ways of thinking. This is education, ongoing.

 

If you think you understand something or think you have an opinion about an issue, try writing it in essay form for someone else to read. You will discover a lot about your thinking that you didn’t know was there, including, possibly, gaps in knowledge that you have to look up as your write. Nothing sharpens and clarifies thinking like writing does.

Plenty of food for thought there! Happy chewing… and writing.

2013 Tentative High School Plans

High School plans are in the works. Living in Louisiana means that we don’t have a great deal of requirements, but that doesn’t mean that we are going to take lots of short cuts. I have three years left to teach what I think is important to my oldest daughter before she will be considered a young adult. Yikes!

Last year we unschooled most of ninth grade. We had decent success as far as academic growth, but I would like to see more in the areas of self discipline and knowing how to get undesirable jobs finished. I don’t consider our unschooling year to be a waste by any means, but at least for the first part of this year, I feel like she needs some more specific goals.

With that in mind, I am thinking that I am going to require these things:

  • Participate in Bible devotions with the family
  • Read through Apologia Physical Science book (and the lab experiments) and complete the end of chapter tests. One credit.
  • Read Story of the World  Volume 2 for an overview of the Middle Ages. Narrate in writing interesting points from each chapter. Also watch movies, and read stories that are set or were written in that time. This should be easy. It’s her favorite time period! One  credit.
  • Complete a Geometry course. We will try Teaching Textbooks first because I already have it. I may have to look at Math U See again for this. One credit.
  • Participate in another year of Dance classes. This is approximately 135 hours of classes and performance time. I will count it for one Fine arts or PE credit.
  • I do not plan to teach formal English as she is already doing the reading and writing on her own quite well. I do want to have her write some sample works of letter writing and various forms of essays. This along with the written narrations in history and her own fiction writing should be adequate for another English credit.

I may have her complete the following if time permits:

  •  Complete 180 Foreign Language lessons using Duolingo, a free website similar to Rosetta Stone. One Credit.
  • Attain a typing speed of 45 words per minute using Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. She may already have done this. Either way, she can earn one credit for doing so.

2013 Middle School Tentative Plans

Middle school. For me it was where I began to like school. It was my seventh grade Science teacher, Ms. Wilson, that I remember first inspiring me. Before this time, I struggled to make C’s. I don’t know what happened in seventh grade. Maybe it was that great teacher. Maybe it was just age. But I became a learner. I learned how to memorize lots of information for a test, how to get all of the work done, and how not to lose the work that I had done. And I learned that I liked being successful in school. It was a big turn around for me.

Because of that time, middle school is my favorite age to work with in school.  Of course my kids don’t learn like I learned. They are much more natural, hands on, curious learners. I also don’t have the same goals for them as I had for myself. I want them to be life long lovers of real learning. To meet this goal, I need to find the balance between what they need to know and what they are passionate about learning. This year my “middle schoolers” will be in seventh and fifth grades by age, but are likely not exactly there. That’s one of the joys of homeschooling. It is perfectly fine if they are ahead in some areas and behind in others. In fact, I don’t actually use grade level assignments unless we are participating in a program that requires it. Then we go by age.

How do I know that they are learning what they need to know?  Two ways.  First, every couple years we use a standardized test or graded assessment to see where they are. Second, I keep in mind what I need them to be able to do by about grades one, five, nine, and upon graduation. It is just a broad idea list, but so far it has worked well and saves my sanity.

So here is the tentative plan for my middle school kids this year. Like I’ve said before, things change once we get started and find out what is working or not, but this will be our starting place.

  • Participate in Bible devotions with the family.
  • I plan to get back to a slightly more structured Charlotte Mason approach this year. We will be studying the Middle Ages using Story of the World and supplemental books from the library. We will also be working on our map skills as we identify the areas that we encounter in our studies and in our books.
  • My older boy will be reading Apologia’s General Science.  He loves science, but the book’s reading level is a bit high for him, so I imagine that I will be reading some of it to him. We may take two years to read it.
  • My younger girl will continue with her science kits, microscope, outdoor nature discoveries, and great library books about such things. I may help her start a nature study sketch book if she is interested.  We will all definitely keep watching Bill Nye, Magic School Bus, Nova, and other science programs.
  • Everybody in the family will do daily reading. I have been trying to get them to record their books, but I am seeing that it is taking the fun out of reading itself, so I may scrap that idea and just let them read. I also plan to read aloud to them some novels. I have not chosen them yet.
  • I want to give cursive handwriting a try again this year. My daughter has taught herself for the most part, but she is very artsy and I believe when enjoy learning to make her words more beautiful. There is talk of buying a quill pen and ink to make this fun.  My son has writing issues, and we have not had good success in the area of writing in the past, but I am hoping that another year of maturity and fine motor skill development will have helped. I have seen big progress in his printing this year. We will also continue to encourage plenty of typing practice through e-mails, chatting online with family members, and composing stories. I have not yet decided whether I will purchase a good cursive handwriting copywork book or use another option.
  • Copywork of some kind is a must. We use it to learn proper punctuation, spelling, and sentence and paragraph formation. Again, because of writing issues, this will be minimal, but a little writing done well will get the job done.
  • And then there is Math. I am still completely undecided about math this year. I know we need to make big changes. We were using Saxon, which I love, but the kids are very overwhelmed and frustrated with math. The further and deeper we get, the more they hate it. I am considering Math U See, but I need more time to make that decision. For now, they are doing review work in their summer workbooks.
  • I want to add in more formally a study of composers, artists, and poetry. I plan to read to them from Short Lessons in Art History, Meet the great Composers (with a CD), and have some poetry parties with crafts included.

Faculty Meetings

As a homeschooler, do you ever feel like you are a loner?  I did for a long time. Recently however, I found a group of like minded local homeschoolers that I am really enjoying getting to know.

Before I found this group and for the past few years I have been developing a relationship with Gretchen, one of my good teacher friends. We have regular chats, mostly over Facebook, that are of great benefit to each of us in life and in schooling.  I cannot say enough how much the support system has meant to me. We take turns sharing our concerns, asking for ideas as to how to accomplish a task, and then offering help when we can.  We have jokingly called our chats “faculty meetings”. That makes what we do sound so important, right? (Good, because it is!)

I asked Gretchen to share some of the benefits of our chats that she has found. I thought her response was just about perfect, so I will let her speak for the both of us.

I think our Facebook chat faculty meetings are important for several reasons:

1.  Collaboration-  It is valuable to get someone to help find solutions to your academic needs.  If I mention that I want to start teaching Greek and Latin root words for vocabulary development, then Debbie starts searching and sends me the links she finds.  If she mentions wanting to find some hands on math activities, then I start searching and send her what I find.  We find together much, much more than we would ever find alone.

2.  Organization- I’m a little A.D.D.  I want to do it all, and talking over my plans and ideas with Debbie helps me to eliminate the unnecessary and focus on what will really help my students learn.  We regularly reassess what we think we know.  We read about the latest and greatest, and are able to compare what we already have at hand and make an informed decision.

3.  Friendship/Grown-Up time– Homeschooling can be isolating.  Having someone to chat with regularly is a blessing.  We don’t always talk about school stuff.  Our chats are notoriously a hodge-podge of topics and issues. It’s great!

 4.  Shared Experience– Even though we are both certified teachers, our experiences are radically different.  Debbie taught in a private school classroom before staying home to teach her own children.  I taught for 15 years in a public high school (a Title 1 school) before quitting my job to open a private homeschool.  My own children are in school because I just don’t think God is directing me to stay home and teach them just yet, and I teach between 6 and 8 students.  Our schools are very different, but our goals are the same:  effectively teaching our students.  Our different experiences combine to give us a multitude of options to almost every situation we encounter.  Between the two of us, we have basically tried it all, and know what our options are!
5.  Honesty-  Sometimes one of us will have a crazy idea.  It’s the job of the other one to say, “Ummmmm, Are you sure you want to do that?  What about…..?  Maybe you should try this instead……”  Ultimately, it’s still our decision to make, but having someone play devil’s advocate REALLY makes you check yourself.  It makes me ask myself the hard questions……”Am I doing this only because it’s easier?  What’s the real goal here?  What would be the most effective way to teach this skill?”  We have both saved ourselves some stress by asking the hard questions!

A friend or small group of friends is so very important in this journey. I am learning this more every day. Homeschooling with support is tough. Homeschooling without support is much harder. I am very thankful for the friends that God has brought into my life recently.

You can see my friend Gretchen at her Summit Learning Center Facebook page where she documents some of her private homeschooling experiences.

Summer/Fall 2013 Plans –Elementary

This is my preliminary plan for my 8 year old. It may change, but we have to start somewhere, right?

  • I plan to reinstate Bible reading time with the kids. This is something that we have gotten away from, but what could be more important? I need to make this a priority for all of us again. I haven’t chosen one yet, but I think we will do a One-year Bible reading plan together.
  • I purchased a Summer Bridges workbook for her that I plan to have her work through with help. This should give us a base for language and math skills. I like the idea of the short number of lessons. This fits in with my idea of focused learning.
  • I plan to pick up some phonics readers to work on her reading skills. She is still struggling in this area. While I believe that often the best solution to academic problems is to wait for some maturity, I also believe that giving her opportunities to be successful in reading simple materials should help her to become a better reader. We may also go back to How to Teach Your Child in 100 Easy Lessons if she is still interested.
  • I plan to use my Math U See blocks, a 100 chart, a number line made of beads to make math more concrete.
  • I plan to set up a mail box and write letters to her and have her write back to me.
  • She will listen in as I read from Story of the World and other great books that I am reading with the older kids.

We will start back this week with about thirty minutes to an hour a day unless we already have plans. Our days will vary. Most days from now till August will include review work in language and math and some reading aloud with the family. Once August arrives, we will move into full schedules.

The Preschool Years

I hear about parents of preschoolers that are ready to start homeschooling, and while I don’t think rigid learning is necessary at the sweet age of three years old, I do believe there are some important things to do with preschoolers to give them a head start.

My oldest daughter was an only child for three and a half years, so we had a lot of time together to play and learn.  My next three children joined our family over the course of the next three and a half years, and obviously I was swamped in feeding, changing, and rocking babies. There was a lot less intentional play to learn and a lot more effort in surviving each day. These were great days of living with the blessings of new babies, and I would never give that up. But they were very different and more difficult than the first few years that I had with my first daughter.

Here is what my first daughter’s preschool years looked like. We played board games that taught colors and counting. We did puzzles together. We visited the library for story time and for choosing books to bring home. We read a lot of picture books. We went skating together down the street and stopped (every three steps) to look at a neat flower or rock. We watched PBS together. We drew pictures and “wrote letters” to grandparents. We went to VBS  and church.

I didn’t have the same opportunity with the others, but you know what? They turned out fine too 🙂  They didn’t have the same head start. They didn’t read quite as quickly. But they did get it. They amaze me every day with the stuff that they know that I didn’t have time to teach.

I say all this to say that if you do indeed have the opportunity, by all means, engage your preschooler in playful learning. Let him or her decide the direction. Make your home or his play area an atmosphere that causes him to want to explore and learn. Be available to him when he has questions or wants to play Go Fish over and over or for bedtime stories. These are some great ways to give your preschooler a great head start.

And if you don’t have the opportunity, know that your child will be fine with the limited bit that you can provide. Just give them a loving atmosphere, and be patient. I’ve been there. It still works. Actually, my kids that started later are actually picking things up faster than the early starters! So take a deep breath, do what you can do, and know that God will bless those efforts. You will see the fruit in due time.

Happy Learning!

What Does Delight Directed Learning Look Like (Part 3)

Let me preface this post by saying that it was the hardest of the three parts to write. I’m enjoying the fruits of the high school years. I am most passionate about the middle school years. I love the baby years. But the elementary years (somewhere between age five to eight or nine) are scary to me. I have seen 3 children go through this stage and the fourth is in the middle of it now . Each child in this stage develops at a different pace.  By middle school they even out to a great extent, but until then there can be great differences. Of my children, the first and second read by age five and the third and fourth by the age of eight.  The first and third were early walkers and writers, and the second and fourth were late walkers and writers. My approach was about the same, but they were made and responded differently.

“I don’t see what the difference is in a home setting whether the child reads at six or at eight. They still learn to read.”

Okay, that was my confident speech that I give myself often. Here’s the truth. I stress myself all the time about the little ones.

“Am I laying down the foundation that they need? Am I failing them? Am I too relaxed? Why aren’t they getting it yet? Why are they behind the other kids their ages?”

I’ve used a relaxed approach with all four kids. My 15 year old amazes me. My 12 year old has turned the corner and is becoming independent in his learning. My 10 year old finally picked up chapter books this year. I have one child left to watch through this time. It is still scary, but not as scary as it was the first couple of times through.  They do appear to be behind for the first few years, but they catch up and excel later.  I have to trust the process.

So what do I teach and what materials do I use?

Reading: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons— I love this book. By the 13th lesson the child can read a three word story with an illustration, and they are so proud of themselves. It is simple but works. We never get through the whole book before they drop it for real books. That is the ultimate goal anyway. I want to help them fall in love with books.

Writing:  Assuming my child already knows how to form each letter on paper, these are ways I have found helpful in practicing writing naturally.

Have them copy from books, poems, songs that they love. They can write letters to siblings and friends. Set up mailboxes for them to play games that include writing. Have them take orders for dinner and write them down. There are so many ways to employ writing skills in everyday life.

I write for them sometimes too. I let them dictate a story to me and I write it out. They love reading their story in writing, and it makes them want to do more.

Math: I usually buy a workbook for them around age seven I buy the cheap $10 books because I know we will only do bits and pieces of it. I try to find hands on options when I can. I have a paper clock that I use to teach time. I teach measuring in the kitchen while baking cupcakes or when measuring how tall they have grown. I teach adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing, even fractions with candy. I use the workbooks to keep an eye on where they should be, but it is definitely no big deal if we don’t use it if it is not what works. Sometimes what works are computer games and tablet apps. Our favorites are Jump Start, Reader Rabbit, and Math Missions.

Other:  They are also learning Bible from church and from talking about it as it comes up at home, science and social studies as we experience them in a natural setting, through good books, and through television programs like Wild Kratts and Liberty Kids.

I followed my own convictions in teaching them for a while before I found a name that defined what I was already doing. Charlotte Mason advocates a gentle approach to learning, and it really does work.

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?

Life Lessons

Life has been full lately, and we have really accomplished a lot this year, so I am allowing some alternative schooling to happen.
A neat thing happened a few days ago.  My 8 year old son was reading Calvin and Hobbes to me and stopped to ask me how many digits were in 1,000.  I told him 4, and then he asked what you call a number with 5 digits (ten thousand).  He thought about it a minute, made the mental connection, and the continued reading to me… “Hobbes, we’re flying at 10,000 feet!”  Now how is that for natural learning??
I am still making sure that plenty of reading, thinking, logic, basic math are done.  I am choosing their projects as well.  Monday, I had the kids write thank you letters to the family that we spent the weekend with.  For some of my kids this was a quick, thoughtless activity, but for 2 of them they really put effort in.  My son, who doesn’t write well, looked at his after finishing and said, “Wow!  Look how much I wrote… All by myself!” He was so proud of himself.  Yesterday we worked at tilling and preparing a 10 ft by 6 ft garden and today we planted veggies.  It took 2 hours of work, cooperation, and talking about each of the plants.  That was my plan.  Then they carried it further by reading the cereal box  that had a food pyramid at lunch time. They made up clues for others to guess the food they were describing.  My 12 yr old sketched the garden, labeled how long each would take to grow, and made little waterproof signs to put next to each veggie. After lunch we had free time and then after dinner we read for an hour.  Tomorrow I don’t have any big projects planned. I think we may play board games and math games and wii in stations.
It is not my plan to stay with this schedule much longer. I think I will go back to some normalcy and CMason after Easter, but we all desperately needed this break.