What is a Delight Directed Homeschool?

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Posts in this series:
What is a Delight Directed Homeschool
The Logistics of a Delight Directed Homeschool
A Day in the Life of a Delight Directed Homeschool
Planning for the Delight Directed Homeschool

As the new year approaches, homeschool families everywhere begin to reevaluate their methods and curriculum and sometimes even their philosophy surrounding homeschooling.

Several years ago, in a desperate moment of needing to find a better way to homeschool, I came across the homeschooling method known as Delight Directed.

This method of homeschooling came to my attention through a book by homeschooling father, Gregg Harris entitled The Christian Homeschool.

While many would argue Delight Directed Homeschooling is just another name for Unschooling, Gregg dispels that myth by explaining that Delight Directed studies still require direction and structure.  There are still requirements to be met and core subjects to be taught.  Delight Directed Homeschooling takes into account each individual child’s learning styles and interests, but it also recognizes that children are foolish and ought not to be “left to themselves.” (Proverbs 29:15)

I want to take a moment to note that Unschooling in its original form was much more radical and dangerous than the form it has taken on in recent years, especially amongst the Christian Unschooling community.  While Unschooling can be be a positive short-term investment in your child’s educational welfare, long-term negligence of a child’s training leads to disaster.  Please be aware there are two kinds of Unschooling out there…one that is almost completely hands-off and one that more closely resembles the Delight Directed Homeschool minus the structure.

Perhaps the best way to explain Delight Directed Homeschooling is to give a brief list of what it is and what it is not.

Delight Directed Homeschooling is…

*focused on understanding each child’s learning styles and aptitudes, as well as any interests they might have that could be incorporated into their studies.

*purposeful in teaching basics and building on those basics.

*useful in giving students a “real life” education that shows them how to take what they learn and apply it to every day life.

*compatible with a Lifestyle of Learning approach.

*compatible with many other homeschooling methods as well.

*a great way to show your child you truly care about the things they are interested in!

Delight Directed Homeschooling is not:

*hyper-focused on making every subject fun for the child.

*a hands-off approach.

*not always the “main course” of the school day.  Often, it is the dessert that gives the child incentive to power through the subjects they don’t like as much.

*as time intensive as you might think because your child will blossom into an independent learning using this approach!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing a bit more about Delight Directed Homeschooling because I am convinced this method will change your homeschool for the better and I want to encourage you to go into the new year with energy and enthusiasm for homeschooling!

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29 Comments on What is a Delight Directed Homeschool?

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29 thoughts on “What is a Delight Directed Homeschool?

  1. Some months back, you mentioned that you’d be starting up with Tapestry of Grace this year. I was wondering how that is going? Does this fit in with Delight Directed Homeschooling? Are you able to make it work in with this type of schooling?
    I so appreciate your posts on schooling and families. Thanks so much for sharing your heart on these subjects! I pray that you and your sweet family have a very blessed Christmas!

    • Yes, TOG works quite well with this way of homeschooling, but you have to recognize your child’s individuality even within the program because there are so many options there, you could easily think you need to do them all when it isn’t beneficial to you or your child to do so. A quick for instance of how this works with TOG – my oldest is really into government-related things and what-if scenarios. He did a writing assignment about the time we were studying the fall of Rome on what it would be like to wake up one morning and you government had collapsed. He loved it! It was just ONE of TOG’s assignment possibilities, but because I know my son’s likes/dislikes, I knew it would be a great fit!

  2. Great post! This is what we do! It is very important where we are to make sure you call it “Delight Directed.” 😉 I love it because there are so many options to teach and learn! We lean more toward unit studies but work out of workbooks too! It’s learning without fighting because he is genuinely curious about the topic! I look forward to reading more!

  3. Thanks for this introduction Amy! This sounds like just what I’ve been looking for. I found the book you linked to by Greg Harris for 0.02 on amazon, how perfect is that? And I am looking forward to the rest of this series, thanks for sharing the results of all of your research :) And I feel like we’re pregnant together, I’m 31 weeks and I have ages 2, 3 and 4 running all around so in your pregnancy posts I feel like you are talking about me sometimes! Have a great day and thanks again for this blog, it means a lot to me :)

  4. Sounds great! I’m looking forward to reading more. My son has informed me that school is too boring, so I’m needing some fresh ideas to spice things up a bit.

  5. Modern unschooling is not a bad thing. As we interpret it, we closely follow our children to learn their hearts, learning styles, and aptitudes, and we expose them to a broad array of activities and experiences. We bring them the skills they need in a form that works best for them, and we don’t push skills at a very young age that they do not yet need. (i.e. my not quite 5-year-old does not “need” to learn to read RIGHT NOW)

    As they get older they choose their own course of study, in conjunction with us. We bring them the materials, we involve them in activities, we are there to guide them. We do not just leave them to themselves; but we don’t choose boxed curriculum in any form either, at least not at this point in time. We’ll explore those when the kids are older and allow them to choose one if it works for them. This style requires quite a lot from the parents, who need to be constantly offering appropriate activities and experiences to the children, lest they — creative little ones that they are — find inappropriate activities to do to fill their time instead. Still we choose them based on the child’s needs and desires.

    It is really not unlike what you are talking about, although with somewhat less structure. We don’t force subjects on them, even with promised rewards. We look for a lot of authentic, real-world ways of learning many subjects as well. This is especially helpful for children who are very stubborn and independent because it allows them to make purposeful and positive choices for their lives. My oldest delights in being a “helper” and choosing her activities and the more I can involve her in making her own decisions (of course, that I have chosen “sneakily” to benefit her, making her think it is all on her) or make her my helper in projects, the more positive and excited she is. It’s hard to stay a step ahead of her…but it really works for her. As she gets older we’ll share the rationale behind the decisions more and more with her and talk even more about obedience to the Lord and taking responsibility for your actions. She has a rudimentary understanding of these concepts now and delights in them…so we’ll get there. :)

    Just had to share that. :)

    • Hi Kate,

      What you describe here is called “academic unschooling”, this is what we do too. Our children have 100% freedom to decide when, how, what and for how long to study something. We don’t push skills or knowledge at any age, and we also don’t use tests or rewards of any kind.

      Maybe Amy was referring to the sort of “radical unschooling” that embraces this philosophy for all areas of life, meaning that parents do not set standards for occupational choices and do not impose any “rules” on the children. This is explained hyper briefly :)

      I used to think that we were “radical unschoolers” and to some extent we are; we don’t impose bedtimes or mealtimes, we don’t limit screen time, we don’t have chores and do not use punishments under any form. But I have discovered that we don’t “fit the label” on one very important point: we do set standards for acceptable behavior and have requirements on a moral/ethical level. I monitor closely what my children can watch, read and listen to, since I believe that what we filll our minds with have enourmous importance. This “censorship” alone kicks me right out of the radical unschoolers-club, LOL.

      Anyway, all this just to say, that I believe there is absolutely nothing hazardous about unschooling from a purely academical point of view. It does require a paradigm shift and not everyone shares the philosophy behind it (that ultimately there is nothing that *has* to be learned and that one skill or knowledge can be as good as any other).

      • Maria,
        I am not too familiar with unschooling, but when I read your post, I started panicking a bit just thinking about kids with no rules or punishments. I am picturing kids going wild. Could you explain more about what a typical day would look like in your house. I am truly curious. I think maybe I am just not understanding you very well.
        Thank You,

        • Hi Jenny :)

          I am not sure what you might picture as “going wild” – but my kids aren’t behaving like baboons. Well, actually at times they are – but this is addressed and corrected 😉

          It’s hard to describe a typical day, but I suspect you’re more after the whole “learning-proper-behavior” side to it, than the strictly academical aspect?

          The kids do “what they want” but are expected to occupy themselves intelligently and behave properly. They will read, play on the computer, watch a movie, play dress-up or legos – or we’ll head outside for long bike rides or garden work.

          When I’m not busy with housework, I’ll offer an activity – anything; a story, a game, a craft, cookie baking, singing….some might want to do it, others not. Again, if you’re intelligently occupied otherwise, you’re free to not participate.

          Obviously, it happens that someone is NOT intelligently occupied…in those cases, either they find a worthy occupation, or I find one for them. They are NOT allowed to just fool around. A worthy occupation is anything that has a purpose and is not a nuisance to anything or anyone. People and property must be respected.

          Everyone is expected to treat the others with kindness and a serving attitude. Matt 7:12 is frequently referred to in our house, as are many other verses useful for “training in righteousness” :)

          Then before daddy comes home, I call everyone in for a tidy-up session and we straighten up the house. Everyone participates whether a particular mess is “yours” or not. A cheerful attitude is expected and encouraged.

          Bedtime is when you are tired and need to sleep, whether that is 8pm or midnight. About an hour after dinner though we start gearing down for the night, which means no more loud or wiggly activities are accepted. The sleep of others is to be respected absolutely 😉

          Hopefully I have reassured you, that “unschooling” does not mean un-parenting (or shouldn’t at least!)

          • yes i must admit i got a little twitchy at the thought of MORE kids left to rule the house , thus the world around them, and it seems we have enough of that attitude in this society as is! BUT i so appreciate the responsible and caring approach that seems to ACTUALLY be taking place. it might even be a case of using two different phrases to mean the same thing,ie, “we don’t assign chores” but then later when the dad comes home everyone pitches in whether the mess is theirs or not. most homes would call that “chores” anyway. also “no punishment” but is that more like no consequences or discipine? or is it her children always do things they are asked the first time with no further need for leading, if so please teach the rest of us!lol! “no screen limits” caused me to tsk tsk a little, i must admit, since i am picturing zoned out kids raised on a diet of commercials, headaches, and inability to NOT be entertained. but when she kindly explained more about her limits of WHAT they watch and that everything was for an “intellectual”purpose or pursuit i found myself more understanding of her ideas. anyway, i like reading the different yet kind appoach in all these comments!

          • Maria, your household sounds so much like mine. We follow an academicunschooling philosophy, definitely not a whole life approach. My children learn best when they are interested and have been able to pursue their internet in most ways that work for them. I like to think that they have freedom but with boundaries.
            My biggest problem with the original unschooling philosophy is the idea of autonomy. My children need to know that they are sinners in need of a Savior. They cannot save themselves and must submit themselves to Christ and give Him authority ovDr their lives. Our relationship with our children should be a model of that. We are their parents and we love them and want them to obey us because we know what is best for them. Because of a child’s sin nature they need to be guided and disciplined into the direction of our heavenly Father. If they grow up thinking that they are in complete control over their lives then they will have a hard time seeing that they will need a Savior.

  6. Hi Amy :)

    I don’t understand what you mean by “Unschooling in its original form was much more radical and dangerous than the form it has taken on in recent years”?

    To me, unschooling in its original form means the educational philosophy advocated by people such as John Holt. Have you read his work? It is radical to be sure – but there is absolutely nothing dangerous about it :) It is based on 110% trust in the child and respect for the childs own motivation, but is in no way equivalent to “long-term negligence”.

    I personally think that it is precisely the modern form where some parents seem to have no requirements or limits whatsoever, but from a more general perspective (not just academically speaking) that can be harmful and unhealthy. I have met these parents, online and irl, and for sure this has nothing to do with academic unschooling which is a whole different story and what John Holt was talking about back in the 60s.


    • I have read John Holt and while I do agree with some of his points, I hesitate to fully promote the philosophy he holds because it often means waiting for a child to embrace learning on his own (typically after removing them from the public school system) no matter how long that takes. Parents must facilitate learning, and when a child has been taught to think a certain way about learning (or not to think at all), it takes some concerted effort on the parent’s part to bring them to a place where learning becomes fresh and exciting again.

      And perhaps I am more familiar with the Christian unschooling movement that, from what I’ve seen, takes their responsibility as homeschooling parents seriously. I will reconsider my wording in the article to hopefully clarify. :)

  7. I think-and I could be wrong, so please correct me if I am Amy, but I think what Amy is referring to is the type of unschooling where there is NO accountability from the parents whatsoever. It’s the exact opposite of schooling; where they’re just free to run and play or worse. That was a philosophy which is why especially where I An (ny) you cannot call what I am doing unschooling because it brings that picture to mind for right or wrong. Think of it less as a method and more of a philosophy: whatever the kids do is fine and there’s no accountability or responsibility on the parents part to make sure they have even basic knowledge like reading for example. Does that sound right Amy or am I off the mark here?

  8. Thanks for this Amy… I think you make a good distinction between delight directed and unschooling, which I understood to just be different names for the same thing. :)

    The Lord has been shifting our direction in homeschooling to include more of this approach. We’re not rigid or over-scheduled, just intentional. But, I think we need more space for incorporating each child’s giftings & talents into our days. Still pondering & praying!

    Looking forward to your thoughts on the subject….

  9. My two cents…
    Reading about a (insert label name here) philosophy is not the same as living it. Sometimes a wonderful “education” doesn’t look like “school”. There is nothing hazardous about it, but it does look scary and unfamiliar from the outside.

  10. Ok, you just blew my mind! Everyone I know uses some sort of boxed curriculum. I may have been living under a rock (Or in Vermont which may be the same thing 😉 ) now I am honestly thinking we need to revisit our plan. I am using Abeka with my oldest who is in kindergarten. She dreads school. I thought it was just her personality. Any chore or request is like pulling teeth. She is quick to learn things so when everyone told me Abeka was advanced I thought that was great, but there is a lot of memorization and repetition and she wants to move on. It is also a VERY longs school day. I cant imagine when all of my littles are in school (4 so far). Not to mention it is VERY expensive! I was told by all of my friends it was the best I should pick between Abeka and Bob Jones. Hmmmm going to have to do some research now…

    • Feel free to ask any questions you might have. Your daughter is probably like many other bright children and “busy work” feels like drudgery because they are looking for much more from their school day. Hand her some great books and a few “tools” and watch her grow!

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