Monday, November 23, 2015

Delight-Directed Learning and Charlotte Mason

When we started homeschooling, we started preschool with a Charlotte Mason environment.  It was relaxed, enriching and exciting.  As the kids got older, we have dabbled with various aspects of Charlotte Mason, but we've also remained relaxed, and we definitely fall under the umbrella of Delight-Directed Learning.

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What is Delight-Directed Learning?
Delight-directed learning begins with following the needs and interests of the child.  I recognize that my children are individuals who have unique interests and goals, and distinct learning styles.  I've learned that I have to take their learning styles, their curriculum requests, their passions, and their unique gifts and talents into consideration when choosing the direction of our studies.  Well, I don't have to, but it makes for a more personal and pleasant learning experience for everyone involved.

It means if my son wants to spend longer learning about a particular historical figure, we'll check out another biography.  It means when my other son is interested in learning more about insects, I'll get him extra nature study tools and real insects to study.  It doesn't mean we don't do structured or systematic learning, but we do it with their best interests in mind.

Charlotte Mason purists will tell me something along the lines of "Charlotte Mason would have said delight-directed studies should take place after formal studies, during the child's free time."  Sorry Charlotte, but I take offense to this idea because it undermines my child's intelligence.  If children are born persons and are capable of their own thoughts and ideas, and we are not to use adverse strategies (fear, authority, power of suggestion, etc) to force a child to learn . . . then how can I possibly discount the merits of a delight-directed path?

Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments--the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.

I understand the idea of wanting to expose them to a variety of topics and ideas, the buffet so to speak, but children are naturally curious and most will eagerly explore what interests them, continuously following rabbit trails.  The more they go off the beaten path, the more their interests will broaden, thus continuing the cycle of exploration and learning.  They need more than "free time" to do this, though.  They don't need to be told (forced, bribed, etc) to follow a contrived scope and sequence or a list of pre-selected books, but they do need encouragement and facilitation.

How do I Incorporate Charlotte Mason Methods into a Delight-Directed Homeschool?
I see the beauty in several educational philosophies, but as with many other eclectic homeschoolers, I take what works from each one and apply it in a natural way, to do what is best for my family.

In other words: I take what works, and leave the rest at the door.

Although Charlotte Mason and Delight-Directed learning may seem at odds, I still embrace many aspects of the Charlotte Mason philosophy, and have found that applying her methods to delight-directed learning is not only possible, but leads to an enriching experience.

Education is an atmosphere.  That means I look for natural opportunities in our environment to teach.  We learn through everyday life--intelligent conversation with adults, learning life skills, observing the beauty in nature as we walk through the woods.  These instances should not be set aside for artificial lessons and reading selections.  We should take time to embrace these moments for what they are--fleeting opportunities to educate in a loving and nurturing way.

Living Books.  Although educating naturally is important, when my kids have a special interest or request, I look for living books so that we can read well-written, interesting material together and expand our knowledge.

Narrations.  Narrating what they have learned allows them to assimilate the information in a way that makes sense to them.  I ask open-ended questions, and I also model my own narrations so they learn how to present their thoughts in more detail.  This is also when they are likely to ask more questions, opening up new discussion and research opportunities.

Short and varied lessons.  For our structured activities, I want the boys to be fresh and attentive, so rotating activities quickly and efficiently is key.  Even in delight-directed approaches, trying to hyper-focus and study one thing for too long will cause them to grow weary.  Short lessons means more time for play, creativity, exploration, free time and thinking . . . which often leads to more questions and more interests to pursue!

Copywork.  I weave their interests right into their copywork.  I really like All About Spelling, but the dictation sentences can be a little simple and dull.  Sometimes I change up a lesson by turning them into copywork and adding complexity, but I also alter them to reflect their life and personal interests.  It's a touch of fun that often adds a smile to their face.

Nature study is also easy to implement in a delight-directed manner.  When we are outside, I make sure they have plenty of time to explore, examine, wonder, question and observe -- all on their own.  We do engage in formal nature study as well, but I let them take the lead there too.  I may suggest the topic, but I let them choose the actual specimen to study.  I let them choose what goes into their nature journals as well.  I want them to take ownership of the material, and form their own relationship with the natural world.

Fine Arts.  I admit, I have been guilty of neglecting music and art in pursuit of "everything else that needs to get finished first," which is a shame.  So lately I've been harnessing their love of audio books and using the Stories in Music from Maestro Classics to springboard into famous tales, history, composer studies and music appreciation.  Art can lead us to biographies of artists, historical events that affected artistic movements and so much more.  Just watching what excites them gives me so many ideas to help them discover more about the topic, and when I was focusing on "getting it all done" I was neglecting my responsibility to give them more living ideas.

What Does This Mean for Our Homeschool?
Well it means that we're going to switch gears for awhile.  Things were getting a little rocky in the afternoons, and I had several discussions with my boys.  One wants to change things up, and specifically requested more ART, and the other requested more nature study, and they want more projects and hands-on activities.  This is why I felt the need to hash out my thoughts on delight-directed learning.  I need to remind myself sometimes to just let go and let the kids lead.

While I love what we were doing, it's not working during this current stage of our homeschool.  We may, or may not, come back to it.  A love of learning is important to me.  No curriculum, no matter how good, how beloved by the masses, should take precedence over my child's happiness and desire to learn.

"We need not labour to get children to learn their lessons; that, if we would believe it, is a matter which nature takes care of. Let the lessons be of the right sort and children will learn them with delight." (Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, pg 99)

Right now, we're taking a break and enjoying our holiday studies--I'm planning a lot of art, cooking and handicrafts to go along with it!  After the holidays, I'm looking towards a very hands-on, project oriented history program, that I would flesh out myself with living books of my choice.  Each lesson lasts 1-3 days, giving us a day off for co-op and much more time for art and nature study.

My hope is that by taking their requests into consideration, choosing programs that meet their learning styles even more, and focusing on what interests them, they will continue to find delight and joy and take ownership over their learning.

Thoughts from Others about Delight-Directed Learning
Child Led & Delight Directed Learning from Creative Jumble
What I've Learned about Curriculum and Charlotte Mason's Philosophies form The Unplugged Family
31 Days of Delight-Directed Learning from Ben and Me

What homeschooling method do you use?  Do you find that you also piece together elements from different philosophies to do what works for each individual child?

This post is part of the Blogging through the Alphabet series.  D is for Delight-Directed Learning.

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  1. We find ourselves often on rabbit trails and embracing a delight-directed path :)

    1. Rabbit trails are what keep it fresh and interesting!

  2. I also posted about delight directed learning this week! I agree with your post. When something is not working, you should be able to have the freedom to switch gears!

    1. Yes, I love being able to change things up when we need a breath of fresh air.

  3. One of the most wonderful thing about homeschooling is the freedom it affords us to follow the children's interest. I love this post!

    1. Thank you! I love that we have the freedom to do what is right for each child.

  4. We love rabbit trails. Homeschooling is such a blessing.
    Blessings, Dawn

  5. We definitely take pieces from several different educational philosophies into account. Right now, I have a gut feeling that I need to switch things up for at least one of my children, but I just don't know what would be better. Being a homeschool mom is rarely easy, is it?

    1. No it's not easy...I hope you figure out what changes you need to make for your child to make things easier/more pleasant.

  6. I just wrote a post about Charlotte Mason and Delight-Directed learning... I think Charlotte's philosophies flow beautifully with this approach!

    1. Thank you for sharing! I've always enjoyed reading your thoughts on Charlotte Mason and delight-directed learning! :)