Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane
A stack of Sport Fishing from 1992?
When my mother-in-law handed over a pile of 23-year-old fishing magazines, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. We don’t fish. Have no interest in fishing. My house is already cluttered.
Did I mention the magazines were from 1992? Not exactly a cutting-edge homeschool curriculum.
But I’ve come to learn that anything can be the next spark for delight-directed learning, and wouldn’t you know: We now have a roaring fire of passionate learning blazing through our boy.
In the early 80s, my mom called this Delight-Directed Learning. While we maintained a basic structure of daily lessons (the 3 R’s) and duties, the rest took shape based on delight.
She believed that all children are born with a voracious appetite to learn. Our job is to feed that blessed hunger, provide a wide range of educational exposure, and teach the discipline and character necessary to enable a child to be a self-taught learner her whole life.
I love this idea, although I think the name Accidental Education might be more apt for me (*smile*) since most of our wildly successful learning takes place when I least expect it.
But the philosophy is the same. As Jamie quoted in her recent (excellent!) post:
“Nat found life getting easier and happier every day, and made such progress in his music lessons that his teacher forgave his slowness in some other things, knowing very well that where the heart is the mind works best.” (Little Men)
Where the heart is the mind works best.
Yes. This is exactly it.
So, how? How can we facilitate this kind of learning? Is it all happenstance? I believe there are a few simple habits to help facilitate this kind of education:
Clearly, children can’t discover their passion if it’s never introduced to them. Exposing kids to a wide-range of ideas, experiences, and environments is important.
However, I’d suggest that we opt for real-life versions instead of only kid-versions.
For example, a trip a children’s museum is great, but a trip to the grocery store (with an attentive Mama!) or a sandy beach or a waste facility (my kids love the dump!) or a homeless shelter or a wildlife refuge can be better for exposing children to real life ideas, experiences, and environments.
Obviously we as parents must be discerning about what is appropriate for small children, but as much as possible, let them taste the wonders of the real world!
Along the same lines, we must be careful about what we expose our kids to — if Disney, Nickelodeon, apps, screens, and twaddle is the diet of their day, that’s what they’ll crave.
Only feed the appetites you want to grow!
Without structure, delight-directed learning is chaos. This isn’t a whimsical, follow-your-heart free-for-all. Undisciplined impetuousness isn’t a character trait we want to cultivate!
Within the general structure of our schedule, while teaching the value of discipline and duty, we then allow this passion-driven education to guide the flexible-hours of each day.
Yesterday I had to laugh when I found myself saying, “If you complain about finishing math you won’t be allowed to bird-watch for the rest of the day.” Ha!
So, speaking of those flexible hours of the day …
While it’s tempting to jam-pack our days with school and “educational enrichment” — I have found my kids actually learn the most during free-time.
Yes, we do math and spelling, grammar and the rest. But we limit our “seatwork” to no more than 2 hours a day, to allow ample time for delight-directed pursuits.
Right now our “thing” is bird-watching. We build bird-feeders, keep a bird-watching notebook, have visited zoos and bird shows, watch National Geographic documentaries, read Audubon field guides, and study our Smithsonian animal encyclopedia.
None of this was initiated by me. Each time we visit our local used book store (a goldmine for unexpected educational resources!) I let the kids each pick out one book. On one trip this summer they chose Audubon field guides. That $14 investment started a wildfire of learning.
I confess: Often I just leave the back door open and enjoy the indoor blissful solitude of housework or writing while my kids do their own educational thing outside for 3, 4, even 5 hours at a time.
Sometimes I’ll put a sandwich on the back porch and they’ll meander over whenever their hunger finally interferes with their adventure. I can watch them (and often hear them) through the windows, they thrive on this uninterrupted discovery time, and I get the much-needed alone-time my soul so often craves.
But, there’s nothing so powerful as joining in. WITH has become my parenting philosophy, and nothing helps encourage and cultivate their passionate love of learning more than joining in with them.
Often I’ll just curl up on the couch with the kids and ask questions about their latest loves, or sit outside and watch birds with them, or help them build a bird-feeder, or pore over an encyclopedia together.
The greatest gift I can give my kids is the gift of me all there, entering in to their passion with them, not necessarily because I love it, but because I love them.
To know they are loved is the greatest truth they’ll ever learn.
How do you encourage delight-directed learning in your home? Thanks for reading.