Delight Directed Learning for Mom

How does a parent inspire a child to love learning? How do we make education greater than just a process of filling in worksheets and knowing how to take tests?

The answer is simple: delight.

“But Karen,” I imagine you saying. “You’re a classical homeschooler. You don’t believe in unschooling or child directed education.”

And you are correct. I don’t.

delight directed learning for momDelight in what I’m learning

This is what I want my children to see modeled in my life: a passionate curiosity and an eager desire to get wisdom (not just knowledge, but deeper understanding).

I heard an interview on NPR the other day about a musician who released a new album many years after his previous work. He went into the studio and recorded some tracks for his new album in one take.

I don’t know much about recording music but I know that’s rare.

The interviewer asked something like this: If you did that on two tracks of the album and those songs are each less than five minutes long, why did it take you so long to release this album?

And the musician answered: Because I was living my life in order to be able to do that.

He had to be out actually living life in order to compose those songs so quickly.

Now, I’m not recommending that man or his music, necessarily, but I do think there’s an interesting lesson here. It’s kind of like that instruction they always give on airplanes: secure your own oxygen first.

delight in readingHomeschool mom: your own delight in learning and living must be fed before you can pass it on to your children.

If you dread “School Hours”, so will your children.

If you groan when you take out a textbook (or whatever education tool you’ve chosen), so will they.

If you procrastinate on a task, guess what your children will do?

Children seem to hold the idea that their parents have downloaded all the information they need into their brains when they hit adulthood. (Maybe they think this happens in a hospital delivery room?)

All adults know that it doesn’t quite happen like that.

There is so much to know and so much to learn.

Your children need to hear you say, “I’d like to learn how to [fill in the blank], so I’m going to get a book at the library about that.” Or, “I’m signing up for a class at the Y because I’ve always wanted to [fill in the blank].” Or, “I’m looking for someone to teach me how to [play the piano, knit, decorate cakes, etc.] because I’ve always wanted to learn.”

Do your children see you reading for fun? Do they see you asking questions and analyzing answers? Do you talk as a family about what you’re each learning?

Don’t assume that your children know why you do something.

I’ll use our homeschool convention as an example. When I explained to my kids why the convention was important to me I described it like this: “It gives me a chance to see what materials are available, I get to find out better ways of doing some things, it suggests more books I want to read, and I get to spend time with other parents who are doing the same things we’re doing.”

You can explain this in everyday life as well. When you pull out a cookbook to learn a new recipe, do you explain to your watching child what you’re doing? When you watch some YouTube videos about exercise or blogging or whatever, do you explain to your child you’re trying to learn something new?

delight in hobbiesChildren need to know that learning is something that happens ALL THE TIME, not just during “school hours”.

And mom, just because you don’t have time to take a college course or sign up for an intensive study doesn’t mean you’re not learning. Seize your minutes! Make some goals and then work on those goals a bit at a time.

Here’s a secret: there is time in the day to do what you want to do, if you don’t waste time doing things that you don’t really want to do but find yourself doing anyway. (Checking your facebook? Watching Netflix for uncounted hours? I don’t know what your time wasters are but I bet you do.)

If there’s something that you love to do (a hobby, an interest outside your family), your children probably need to see you doing that thing. And if there’s a subject you’re interested in (a particular era of History, a sport, a branch of Science, etc.), your children need to see you learning and enjoying that subject.

Let’s help our children understand that knowledge and skill come from effort and practice, not innate talent or an arbitrary age.

We have to demonstrate delight in learning in two ways:

1.) In what we’re learning ourselves

2.) In what we’re asking them to learn.

If your child asks, “But WHY do we have to do this?” and you don’t have a better reason than, “Because everyone else says we have to,” then you are in trouble. KNOW YOUR WHY. (Yes, even for Math. I’m preaching to myself here.)

delight in musicDelight in what my children are learning

I want my children to know that we have chosen to homeschool because I delight in them and in what they’re learning.

What interests them interests me (even Minecraft – sigh. Or ballet. Or whatever.) What they’re curious about, I want to be curious about. I want to help them explore this amazing world we inhabit. I want to help History, ancient and modern, come alive for them. I want them to see the amazing connections all around us (for example, how Latin is all around us in our vocabulary and Science and at the zoo, etc.).

I’m not saying that only homeschool parents delight in their children and I hope my non-homeschooling friends understand that. I’m just saying that I want my children to know that one reason our family has chosen this method is that their dad and I enjoy the time we spend with them. We choose to spend 24/7, 365 with them because we LIKE them and the learning process.

Obviously, that’s not the only reason we homeschool, but it is one reason.

Delight in learning isn’t about “fun”

I think one error of “Delight Directed Learning” is thinking that delight = fun. Delight is not synonymous with fun. Sometimes we delight in doing something because it is worthy. Sometimes we have to delight in the perseverance it takes to master a difficult subject.

I see a lot of homeschool parents worry about how to get their children to like something that is perceived as boring, but good for them. Let’s use classical music as an example. Do you know the best way to help your child like classical music? It isn’t by buying a curriculum (although, if you’re looking for one, this is a great option: Zeezok.) The easiest way to teach a child to love classical music is to share a piece of classical music that you ALREADY love yourself.

There must be at least one piece written in the past few hundred years that makes your heart beat a little faster or brings a lump to your throat. Even something that makes you smile because you remember it on a Bugs Bunny cartoon could count. Sharing what you already love is easier than making yourself do something unfamiliar.

Do I think you need more than that? Yes, of course. But this is where you can experience the joy of learning together. Check out some CDs from the library and listen to them with your kids. After you listen to the entire CD choose a favorite piece and listen to it throughout the week, at least once a day. Talk about why you like it. BOOM. Classical Music Appreciation 101.

Do you see how these concepts are related? You, by broadening your world, interests, knowledge, and skills, will be better equipped to broaden theirs. It works together. In this way Mom taking time to read or take a class isn’t taking time from her children. She’s preparing herself to have more to give them, not less.

Homeschooling gives our children time to explore the world and themselves. Even with the scope and sequence that I’ve chosen for my kids, they still have plenty of time to follow their own interests (or even, more basic, to find out what those interests might be).

So, yes, we still call ourselves Classical Homeschoolers.

But Mom reading books or taking classes herself is not a waste of time.

Because delight is essential.

delight directed learning for mom pin

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Stock images courtesy Death to Stock, Pixabay


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  1. This is a GREAT perspective to have. Kids need to see the grown-ups not only learning, but delighting in what they are learning. Invoking a passion for learning and showing that it’s not just during “school hours” like you said, but that it comes in a variety of ways and is important. Parents need to show their kids the priority of learning because consistent learning is important.