One of the greatest advantages of homeschooling is the freedom to follow my daughters’ natural interests and encourage their eagerness to learn. As homeschoolers, we aren’t tied to desks and one-size-fits-all curriculum. However, we happen to live in a highly-regulated state for homeschooling, so we still need to stay on track with the requirements. That doesn’t stop us from pursuing delight-directed learning whenever possible, though. Here are a few simple steps to organize your ideas and make sure that you allow time for following those interests:
1. Create a delight-directed database ~
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t write something down when I think of it I tend to forget it later. I just have too many things to keep track of and I can’t always take action on an idea when it first occurs to me. Whether it’s pen and paper or a fancy planner app on your tablet, in order to make something a priority you have to take a moment to record it. At the beginning of the school year, I sit down with my oldest daughter and brainstorm all the interests she’d like to study. We then record them in our “database,” which for us is a three-ring binder. We keep a running list as new ideas occur to her. We take the binder with us to the library so we can look for books on the next topic we’re planning to cover. We also use the list as incentive and motivation to finish our required lessons. She knows that when she finishes the mandatory work, she can choose from her list of “fun” topics. We’ve studied horses, dolphins, penguins, roller coasters, and more this way.
2. Build a Pinterest board (or two or 100) ~
Pinterest allows you to have a visual reminder system organized into categories in any way you like. So many great homeschool families share their ideas through blogging and pin those ideas. Use them as inspiration. You can also pin any site for reference to return to later. For instance, I’ve created boards on Misty of Chincoteague, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, oceans, lighthouses, and all the major subjects we cover from general to specific. It’s a great way to store ideas until we’re ready to use them.
3. Consider unit studies ~
I know that some homeschool moms are afraid of gaps in their child’s education if they pursue delight-directed learning rather than a set curriculum. Unit studies can be a good compromise in this case. Your child can choose a topic of interest and then cover the major subjects of history, math, science, writing, reading, and arts around that topic. This way all the essential study areas are covered, but in a high-interest, delight-directed way. Examples of unit studies include The Prairie Primer (Little House on the Prairie series), Where the Brook and River Meet (Anne of Green Gables), Further Up and Further In (Narnia Chronicles), and any number of topics available from Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett, Currclick, and other sources online. With the convenience of finding information online, it’s not too difficult to plan and write your own unit studies.
4. Take a field trip ~
Like I said, learning is not confined to a desk or a schoolroom. Field trips are an excellent way to break up the monotony and add an extra dimension to regular studies. Tours of working candy factories, Revolutionary or Civil War battlegrounds, historic landmarks, aquariums, zoos, and even city hall can encourage or spark new interests for your children.
5. Try different learning techniques ~
Although we take a literature-rich approach to our studies, there are times we like to use different kinds of learning materials. Music, nature studies, DVDs, art projects, hands-on experiments, and documentaries on Netflix can all offer resources for following interests besides just reading about them.
A big part of homeschooling is creating a lifelong love of learning, which means having the freedom to explore interests. Don’t be afraid to see where the delight-directed path might take you.