What comes to your mind when you hear that phrase--Delight Directed Learning? Most people assumed that Delight Directed Learning is studying what the kids want to study, or letting them follow rabbit trails of interest (and following them there!). Which is true, to some extent, though I prefer to tweak it just a bit.
DELIGHT (n.) // a high degree of gratification or pleasure; extreme satisfaction.
The first and primary thing to keep in mind when incorporating Delight Directed Learning into your child's curriculum is that in order for a subject or topic to give your child delight, it must meet THEIR idea of delight--what would give THEM satisfaction or pleasure. Just because you love the nitty-gritty details of WWI or the ins and outs of molecular biology does not mean your child will. Now, that's not to say they shouldn't study WWI or biology--they probably should!--but it is to say that it may not bring them the same degree of delight as it brings you. Granted, your enthusiasm can help (more on that later this week), but you may find that you're still nagging, cajoling, or just plain demanding them to stay focused and "learn." Whether or not true learning will actually take place under those conditions is debatable.
Please don't hear what I'm not saying! I'm not saying we should just throw out the curriculum or plans and follow the every whim of our kids. (Though some have done that and found great freedom and joy in that approach.) But what I am saying is you might need to at least INCLUDE something into your days/weeks that sparks your child's curiosity and fuels their desire to learn.
Clearly, based on this morning's experience, I've been failing with my own son.
This morning I took a deep breath and then set aside all I was doing to look him in the eye and listen--really listen. I asked him what it is about school he hates. I asked him how he thought we could change that. I asked him what he'd LIKE to learn about.
He couldn't answer all of my questions. He still doesn't even know what all the possibilities are. But we did come to some agreements. He still has to study certain subjects (I'm a stickler for requiring all the usual academic subjects), but I'm incorporating some of the topics he's curious about--never mind it's not a part of this year's curriculum. I know, I know...you thought I was beyond that. Well, my personality just won't let me give it up; even after 20 years I prefer to follow a set curriculum. But this year I'm going to wing it when it comes to some things.
My point is, if learning seems a little flat this year, or if your kids complain it's boring, take some time and ASK them what they'd like to learn about or what they'd like to do.You may not be able (in the case of those attending traditional school, even virtually) or willing (in the case of homeschoolers) to change their curriculum. But you might be able to incorporate SOME of what they love. Maybe it happens in the evenings or on the weekends. Maybe it involves signing them up for a class or activity or subscribing to a magazine. Maybe it means letting them spend all their waking hours pursuing something that to you seems ridiculous or a waste of time.
You could leave it at this, just letting them get out of this experience what they will, or you could choose to find academic connections. As Julie Bogart says in her book The Brave Learner, "Everything can be taught through anything." And, yes, this will take some time and research on your part. It might even mean you've got to listen to or participate in something that YOU find incredibly boring. (Believe me! I've heard ad nauseam about video games I could care less about and Rick Riordin books I would probably never read myself.) But this could be the difference between a mind that is turned off and one that is engaged and actually learning!
The point is to ASK your kids what would bring them delight and then tap into that natural interest.
Ask your kids this week what they'd like to learn/study and post in here in the comments below. (See mine...'gulp')
This careful planning and budgeting carried over into our homeschooling. While others had budgets of $1000 or more per year, I managed for years to homeschool all four of our children on $500 or less annually. Each year I would make one big purchase curriculum-wise for our oldest to use. As time went on, that number dropped as I re-used curriculum. Now I spend very little on our homeschooling, purchasing mainly consumables. And since I only have one left at home with me, we now have a little left over for fun extras, which is nice. But even when we didn’t, we still enjoyed a rich homeschooling experience. How? By taking advantage of every freebie I could get my hands on!
Nowadays there are SO MANY free resources for homeschoolers (or for parents who want to augment their child’s schooling) thanks to the internet. Here I’ve compiled a list of some of the best FREE resources out there for educational learning and fun. Most I’ve used personally, though there are a few which were recommended by friends and some which came on the scene after my own kids had phased out of that age bracket. So, without further ado, here’s the list:
FactHound.com—this one is a great starting place! Plug in any book’s ISBN and Fact Hound will filter through the options on the Internet and find you kid-safe sites on that topic.
KahnAcademy.com—this is one of the most comprehensive learning sites out there, covering PreK-college level classes in math, science, language arts, history & civics, economics, computer programming, college test prep, and such life skills as personal finance and career exploration. Most classes include videos and interactive quizzes. Younger levels also have practice games.
AllinOneHomeschool.com—also known as Easy Peasy, this site is an online, Christian-based, comprehensive (all major school subjects, including art, music, PE, logic, and Spanish) homeschooling curriculum for PreK-HS. And, yep, it’s all free! Choose a theme for the year, and all your kids will study the same topics, making discussion and collaboration possible.
Starfall.com—PreK-3, this site is full of learning games and activities in math, language arts, music, and seasonal themes.
Splashlearn.com—math games for K-5.
CoolMath4Kids.com—elementary math lessons, quizzes, and games (The downside to this one is the lessons are solely in written form (no animation or sound).
CoolMath.com—same company as above, but this site is for middle and high school math. (No games, but they do link you to higher level games at CoolMathGames.com).
MakeMeGenius.com—this site is science focused with tons of videos on every science topic imaginable for grades 1-7.
BBC.co.uk/history/forkids—BBC History for Kids. This site is now archived, so the content is static, but it is still a great resource for Ancient history, British history, the World Wars, and famous historical individuals.
Mission-US.org—interactive missions (around an hour long) that delve into some of the more difficult topics of US history (slavery, immigration, Japanese internment camps, etc.). Designed for middle schoolers (though high schoolers will probably enjoy them as well), students interact with a cast of characters to understand the various perspectives existing at the time.
Kids.NationalGeographic.com—games and videos on all kinds of topics from science to history to culture (as we would expect from National Geographic). A great resource for fun investigation.
TheHappyScientist.com—the website’s design isn’t as graphically pleasing, but this site has curated a ton of science videos and experiments for at home learning.
NASA.gov/kidsclub/index.html—all things NASA for kids, how cool! Videos, games, downloads, photos and mission reports, plus STEM activities to do at home.
Almanac.com/kids—Old Farmer’s Almanac meets the 21st century! This is such a cool site for fun “extra” learning. Stories and activities on all sorts of random topics. Plus all the usual daily facts one would find in the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
LearningLab.si.edu—the Smithsonian’s learning website. You could get lost in the virtual leaning lab! Search millions of images, audio recordings, videos, and texts collected across the various Smithsonian museums. History, art, science, culture—it’s all here! Designed for educators, the content is a little more accessible for older students, but it’s an amazing resource for the homeschooling parent. You can even create your own “collections” on any topic you can imagine!
Additional free resources I’ve used over the years have included:
Public library—collections, classes, and presentations (usually always free).
Parks & Rec department—our Parks department offers classes, guided hikes, and star-gazing events throughout the area’s natural areas (some are free, some have a nominal fee).
Art galleries—cultivate art appreciation by making these a regular destination.
Local symphony and theater groups—many of these organizations have an educational program for students. Often this entails viewing a dress rehearsal for free, sometimes with a talk with the conductor/director afterwards.
YouTube—Hands down my favorite learning resource!! With a quick search, you can find a video on literally ANYTHING. Documentaries, animations, music videos…the world is at your fingertips!
Creating a rich learning experience for your children doesn’t have to break the bank. All it takes is a little imagination and some online or in-the-community sleuthing!
Photo courtesy of Thomas Park on Unsplash.
(Yesterday we talked about setting goals for your children. Today we're going to cover the actual planning process to ensure those goals are met and learning is occurring. This post will apply more to those parents who are homeschooling, but even if your child is in a traditional classroom or is learning virtually, you can still supplement their learning by incorporating educational activities--trips to the zoo, a museum, a farm/dairy, or an art gallery count. So do visits to national/state parks or historic sites. Reading great books together, playing strategy game, and learning new skills like cooking, sewing, or woodworking are "educational" and supplement a classroom education too. You can plan these kinds of activities into your weeks and months and over time, you will have created a rich learning experience for your children!
Deciding what kinds of learning activities to include or what kind of curriculum to use will depend on those goals you settled on. If you missed the first part, I encourage you to go back and read it (scroll down to view) and create those goal lists! Once you have thought through your goals for each child—where you’d like to be at the end of this school year as well as the end of your parenting journey—and have written these down, it is time to create a learning plan.
Consider our recipe analogy in part 1 of this Planning for Learning Success duo. Some people love to follow a detailed recipe while others like to experiment a little, trying a dash of this and pinch of that. In the same way, some academic planning styles are very traditional and detailed while others are loose and free form. But regardless of your preference, it is important to have some kind of plan in mind to accomplish your child’s academic progress. There are five broad planning styles. Let’s examine each here.
Curriculum Teacher’s Manual
Some curricula are all-inclusive (cover most or all academic subjects). Many of these include a teacher’s manual that details what needs to be covered in each subject each day. These are comprehensive enough that you don’t really need another planner. Everything you need is already all in one place. Some examples of these include: Heart of Dakota, My Father’s World, Book Shark, and Timberdoodle.
Pros: I don’t have to do anything! Just open and go.
Cons: I may want my kids to study something not listed in the teacher’s manual, or we may get behind in just one subject and have to keep flipping between days.
This is set up for academic planning (think a teacher’s planner) with the days of the week along the top, a spot for 6-8 academic subjects along the left side, and blanks (or lined squares) for jotting what you want to cover in each of those subjects on which days. This is the planning method I’ve used most because it is familiar, seems thorough, and it helps me think through what I’m going to cover each week (and if I need to purchase or collect any supplies). Plus, I personally love the sense of accomplishment I get from checking things off! The downside is I have to enter all the information for each week. I’ve gotten faster at this and more adept at planning ahead, so whereas I used to plan one week at a time, I can now plan the whole month in one sitting. Still, I have to take the time to do the entry work. Examples of this type of planner include: The Well Planned Day, The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, or academic planners by Barnes & Noble, Erin Condren, Purple Trail, and Plum Paper (some of these are customizable which is nice). You can also find PDF and online planners as well as academic planning apps by doing a Google search for academic planner and/or homeschool planner).
Pros: You choose the subjects. Helps you think through the week before teaching it. Check list. Each child can have his/her own planner to keep kids straight.
Cons: You have to write or type all the assignments out. If you change your mind or get behind, you have to cross out and rewrite/retype the whole week/month.
In this method, you know you have certain subjects you want to cover regularly, but rather than scheduling them for a certain day, you create a rotating schedule that you follow regardless of the day of the week. For example, maybe you want to cover math and reading every day, but you want to (on average) cover science and history three times a week, grammar twice a week, and typing or art once a week. You create a schedule that looks like this:
When I did this method, I typed my schedule up and printed it out, then slipped the pages into page protectors. We then used wet erase markers to check things off as we completed them (and I could also add little notes or specific page numbers, etc.). When we were done with the loop, I just wiped them clean and we started over.
Pros: You don’t “get behind” if you miss a day or two of school.
Cons: There is no place for recording specific information for each subject. (So you still have to write it down somewhere—either on the side as I did, in a planner, or on a master list you print out.)
This approach capitalizes on the benefits of learning at home. It’s so much easier to teach all ages together than have everyone studying something different in each of the 5-8 subjects. When you think about it, does it matter which grade you learn about the Civil War or the solar system as long as you learn it? (Obviously, some topics will be repeated more than once, giving opportunity for more in-depth learning at the higher level.) A morning basket allows the parent to group everyone together for an hour or two to study the subjects that are not skill dependent, leaving the afternoon for independent learning on subjects such as math, spelling, etc. Alternately, some people use a morning basket for just a half hour or so, allowing for together time over some subjects that might not otherwise be covered: Bible memory, poetry, music, art appreciation, vocabulary expansion, etc.
The contents of your morning basket may be shaped by a curriculum or may be delight directed. The sky’s the limit here! (I saw one morning basket that was Marvel movie themed. They read a biography of Stan Lee, learned about stunt doubles and special effects, played a trivia game covering the movies and actors, wrote their own screen play, and created their very own movie short!) Typical morning baskets include:
Pros: Family time. Parent isn’t stretched so thin trying to get every subject taught to every child. Fun!
Cons: Not as structured and sequential, so might create learning “gaps.”
This is the loosest form of planning. It has been around for a long time but is currently gaining more interest thanks to Julie Bogart of The Brave Writer. She calls it “planning from behind.” In essence this is going to your planner or notebook after the fact and writing down what you did, read, or studied. Whenever you do something that could count as learning (which is practically everything!), go back and record it—with learning objectives if required or desired. This recording could happen at the end of each day (I recommend this because everything will still be fresh in your memory) or the end of the week, but the point is to write it down! Otherwise you don’t have a record of the learning your children have been doing, and most states require that you keep some kind of records if you are homeschooling. Of course, you can use this method if you are not homeschooling but are just choosing to augment your child’s learning. Personally, I think it’s a fabulous way to keep a record of any “unofficial” learning that is happening. You’ll be amazed when you look back to see how much you’ve actually accomplished.
One thing I do recommend, however, is having a clear goal list in mind (see the first part of this blog duo). Without any goals, learning can be haphazard. (Which might be fine if you’re just supplementing traditional school but is probably not so great if this is your main mode of homeschooling.)
Pros: More organic. Not tied to a curriculum. Anything and everything can count as learning.
Cons: Parent has to remember to record the learning that occurred. May result in learning “gaps.”
AND FINALLY…It might be obvious, but it is possible (and perhaps even preferable) to use more than one of these methods simultaneously. You might do Morning Basket time together as a family and use Subject Looping for independent study. You might use the Teacher’s Manual to keep track of core learning and Post Record learning that occurs outside of what the curriculum prescribes. In any case, experiment a little—find what works for you! If something isn’t working, try another approach. And remember, just because you used one method of planning this year doesn’t mean your stuck with it forever. You will probably use a variety of methods over the years, depending on the ages of your kids, the curriculum you’re using, and other life factors (like COVID virtual learning!). What matters is that you’ve got a plan that minimizes your stress level and ensures quality learning for your kids!
Planning for learning can be tricky, but it’s so important. Without a plan (at least a loose one), your academic goals will surely flouder. Think of a plan like a recipe…
A good recipe can:
Educational planning is a lot like that recipe.
Plans are important, but before you can effectively plan for academic learning (or anything else for that matter) you’ve got to have some goals in mind. If plans are like a recipe, then goals are like your shopping list. You can’t make that recipe if you haven’t got the ingredients, so before you get out the pans and actually get to work, you may need to go shopping!
Goals are all about keeping the end in sight.
Since my children were tiny I’ve set goals for their learning and development (yep, I’m one of those weird people who likes to plan ahead and make lists). I’ve got master lists of goals I made years ago and which have hardly changed over the years, and I’ve got much shorter-term goal lists that I reassess regularly. These goals come in handy for making all kinds of decisions: choosing homeschooling curriculum, making choices about extra-curricular activities, setting expectations for chores, and even guiding intentional conversations. In short, they help me think about the end result.
My long-term goal list consists of those skills and ideas I want my children to have acquired by the time they graduate and leave home. On this list I’ve included:
On the other hand, I also have shorter-term goal lists. For example, each school year I create a list of goals I want to focus on for the coming nine months. (I do the same for the summer months, though these goals are usually not so academic focused.) When setting my school year goals, I try to think about each child’s strengths and weaknesses. Maybe I want to really develop a strength and encourage more pursuit in that area. Or maybe I want to shore up a weak area. In any case, this list helps me decide what classes to include for homeschooling, as well as what character qualities to focus on, what chores to require, etc.
In part 2 of this duo, we'll examine different styles of planning, when to use which style, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. But for now I would encourage you to spend a little time thinking through both your long-term and short-term goals for each child. Then write them down!
As Benjamin Franklin once said: By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail. Take the time to prepare and your planning will be that much more productive and successful!
Aimee Fuhrman is a full-time homeschooling mother of four (some of whom are now grown) who moonlights as an author. She loves Jesus, encouraging others, books, knitting, and coming up with delicious allergy-friendly recipes. She lives at the foothills of the Colorado Rockies with her husband of 25 years and their brood.