What Delight-Directed Learning looks like in our home{school}.

When I first learned about the “Delight-Directed” approach, I was confused.

I was wondering things like:  Isn’t ‘Delight Directed’ just another fancy way to describe much of what Charlotte Mason talks about? (Sort of, yes.)  Or is it more like Unschooling?  Is it just following every whim of the child?  Is there any sort of ‘curriculum’ or plan?  If I’m Delight-Directed can I even have a plan?  If not… How would I be sure to provide my child with a full, rich, ‘smorgasbord’ of learning”  I mean, if I’m simply following the criss-cross journey of my child’s ever-changing personal interests – how would that ever work?  

I LOVED the idea of being ‘Delight-Directed’ and nurturing my child’s natural interests and passions but I had no idea what this would look like on a daily basis.   For the longest time, I thought it meant that if my son loved Lego, every SINGLE project he did would have to be something Lego-ish…  or if my daughter was into horses, we would study horses and write about horses and read about horses and draw horses and so on.  This could be okay for a couple weeks, but then what?  It didn’t make sense to me in the bigger picture.

Over the past couple years our family has naturally grown to be quite Delight-Directed in the way we live and homeschool.  I’ve learned that the whole idea of this Delight-Directed Learning is truly not complicated at all.  It is actually one of the most organic, easy ways to live and learn.

And you know what?

I find many homeschoolers are already embracing Delight-Directed Learning, in at least some ways, before we ever hear the term.

Can I share an example from this week of how being Delight-Directed affects our homeschool?

I had a living book I’d found at the library called, The Buffalo Are Back scheduled in our Morning Basket. I actually thought it would be a Nature Study read.  As with so many of our picture book read-alouds, I figured we would read it, enjoy it, move on.

Well, it ended up being a FANTASTIC living book about the American Prairies and how settlement affected the ecosystem.  (Honestly, if you can get your hands on this book, grab it!).

The kids were fascinated by the book as was I.  All of a sudden so much of what we read in the Little House series made more sense (like the infestation of locusts that ate all the wheat).  Light bulbs were going on all over the place!  Right away we started looking at photos of the prairie grasses, Buffalo herds, and videos of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserves.

I happened to have a book about Prairie animals, so we read that.  Then I printed out a map of the Biomes of North America, and we worked on that yesterday and completed it today.

So, what was going to be a simple 10 minute read-aloud, turned into probably about 3 hours of discussion and mapping.  But it was delightful, fun, and beneficial for all of us.

I LOVE seeing those connections made when children remember things they have previously read and learned and tie it into what they are currently learning!  So rich!  How could I pass up that opportunity!?

Sure, I dropped some other stuff we were planning to do, as I often do to accommodate Delight-Directed experiences when they come up.   But I never, ever regret it… and that’s why I schedule (mostly) in pencil.  *wink*

I’ve learned that flexibility is a huge factor to joy in the homeschool.  Delight-Directed Learning gives our family the freedom to go on journeys far better than anything I could have scheduled or planned.  It’s as if the paths find us instead of the other way around… but I have to let go of my own plans and schedule before the journeys can begin.  And that was a learning curve, for sure.

Another example of how delight has directed our homeschool happened this fall.  We were in the process of reading about early settlement in America.  We were fascinated by the stories of Jamestown, Pocahontas, the various Native tribes… but we started wondering about our own Country, Canada!

What was happening up here while Powhatan was alive near Jamestown?

I felt led to do a mind map with the kids on a huge piece of paper.  This is basically just us brainstorming as many questions as we could think of about early CANADIAN settlement.  It sparked tons of interest.

So, while we continued with American history for the next few days, I checked out tons of living books about early Canada from the library and started thinking about how we could approach it.  We found an amazing book about Champlain  and began to read it along with New France together.  (I already owned the New France title, which is often the way!)

That weekend, we had the opportunity to visit a nearby Longhouse Native Village (this place is seriously SO cool!).  So, we made a day of our visit and explored everything about how the Native Americans in our region lived 500 years ago.  What a feast for the senses on a gorgeous Autumn day!

In the gift shop, I spotted two living books about the topic:  Life in a Longhouse Village and Native Homes, I felt really strongly that I should buy them, so I did.  (Can I just say this is probably the first time EVER that I’ve bought books in a museum gift shop!!! ha!)  Well, we implemented the Life in a Longhouse Village book into the entire next week of homeschool.  The kids LOVED that book and we learned so much more about the Longhouse Villages.  It really came alive, especially since we had just seen one!

We then started reading Indian Captive by Lois Lenski to go along with our study of Native Americans in Northern USA/Southern Ontario.  We also already owned this book, I just pulled it off the shelf!   That book became a favorite read-aloud as well!

So, you see, one morning of wondering and me seeing a spark of interest in the children led to us completely altering about 3-4 weeks of our homeschool learning.  We completely paused the history we were covering to focus on New France and early Canadian settlement.  And it was SO rich because the children were delighted (see, there’s that Delight-Directed thing!) to learn more.

  1. 1.
    please (someone) greatly.
    “an experience guaranteed to delight both young and old”
    synonyms: please greatly, charmenchantcaptivateentrancethrill
  1. 1.
    great pleasure.
    “she took great delight in telling your story”
    synonyms: pleasurehappinessjoyglee, gladness; 

I mean… how could any of us not want our homeschool to be filled with delight?

Experiences that please, charm, enchant, captivate… days filled with pleasure, happiness, joy, glee, gladness… 

Um, yes please.

Sounds a whole lot like that abundant life Christ Jesus talks about, doesn’t it?

John 10:10
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

I don’t want anything (or anyone) stealing the joy from our home… killing my child’s desire to know the Lord, to grow and to learn.  

No, I desire for them to have life and life more abundantly.

I have found a recipe that helps me joyfully implement Delight-Directed Learning into our homeschool:

1. Pray about and create a well-thought-out plan (full of the ‘feast of ideas’ that Charlotte Mason talks about).  You can click here to see our plan for 2016.

2. Implement this plan with passion and excitement (for us this is mainly reading wonderful living books) but with an open heart and flexible spirit!

3. Pray, watch, wait, and see – where is the spark?  What lights up the conversation?  What living book completely captivates your family and begs for you to learn more?  Where is the Holy Spirit leading you?

4.  If you feel led to go in a particular direction (this could be for a few minutes, an hour, or a few months!), then pray about it and follow that leading!

5. Be amazed and ‘delighted’ as you experience the joy and freedom of Delight-Directed Learning together.

I have never been disappointed yet by following this ‘recipe’.  In fact, I have been awed over and over by how many times we have been led in a new direction to find we already had the right books, ideas, activities, and even experiences coming our way or in our hands before we even knew it! (This is where we get to see God’s hands in our everyday lives, thank you Jesus!~)


Being Delight-Directed doesn’t mean you have no plan.

Or that your homeschool is random and all over the place.

Delight-Directed for us has meant quite the opposite, actually.  

I have found that as I’ve combined a Charlotte Mason-style learning plan with the freedom of following our natural interests as we walk through that plan – our homeschool flows with this unexpectedly exciting and yet natural rhythm.  
There is very little resistance.  It’s like rowing with the current instead of against it.
And you know what?  I’ve learned that the Lord is FAITHFUL.  He is faithful in everything – the big things and the little things and He can and will be a part of your journey if you invite Him in.
I have felt His presence and guidance so strongly as we’ve embraced this much more organic and often Spirit-led approach.  Because Delight-Directed is very similar to Spirit-led if you are walking in the Spirit.  I pray and hope that our hearts, as we grow in Christ, would long for the things He places in them.  After all, He gives us (and our children!) the desires of our hearts!
I think a HUGE key to embracing the Delight-Directed approach is letting go of the fears that you aren’t doing enough or that you aren’t doing the ‘right’ stuff.  No one can tell you what is enough or what is ‘right’ for your family… so let it go.

Embracing the freedom of following our delights has been one of the greatest and most beautiful adventures I could have ever imagined.  I’m not ‘teaching’ my children.  Not really.  We are just on a wonderful journey together – learning, growing, and waiting to see where God takes us next!

For us, Delight-Directed Learning looks like…

  • The afternoon we stopped the car on the side of the road because the kids happened to see Milkweed plants (which we’d read about in our morning nature study book).  We all got out and spent a good 30 minutes observing and playing with those beautiful fluffy seeds and shimmering pods.  This led to a week-long Nature Study unit on Milkweed, which transformed my kitchen into a sea of white fluff balls…
  • The kids spending hours perfecting Lego Stop Motion videos and my eldest building models of French Castles out of Lego Architecture.
  • Hatching chicks for ‘fun’ and then ending up with pet hens and seeing miracles happen and growing children who know more about chickens then I ever thought I would in a life time. *sigh*
  • Simon reading every.single.book. in the I AM CANADA series over the Summer and us having the chance to visit the HMCS Haida to explore a real war ship together (he loved the title, Sink and Destroy about WWII).
  • Spending countless hours wading in the nearby stream -because- well, we can.
  • Hours and hours and HOURS outside building Roxaboxens out of rocks and Playmobil people after ‘rowing’ Roxaboxen.
  • Audrey painting all morning on the back deck in Spring sunshine because, well, “Nature is so beautiful, Mama…”
  • Taking 3 weeks to study “Poppleberry Plants” (also known as Jewelweed) after a good friend showed us how they ‘pop’.
  • Going on all kinds of bunny trails and completely changing our plans as we read every kind of living book…
  • Building castles all over the kitchen after reading, The Duchess Bakes a Cake.
  • Using a Nature Study program that touches on birds in Winter and spending 3 months captivated by Winter Birds on our back deck and in our neighbourhood.
  • Having endless buckets and bins of toads, tadpoles, and various other creatures outside (and INSIDE) the house…
  • Forgetting about the schedule and throwing Autumn leaves around instead.  (And nurturing relationships as a priority over academics…)

Blessings to you as you delight in the world around you!


  • Unknown

    This was awesome, thank you 🙂 I had a question though… my kids are only 3 and 4. How do you know if a book is a living book? I'm worried all my kids want to read about are robots, lady bug girl etc… I have a really hard time getting them interested in any of the books I've found at the library from the Before FIAR list.

  • Brittney

    Thank you for this! It's so true that we shouldn't be "teaching" but we should be present in the journey! You often say what I feel, but so much more eloquently.

  • Sarah @ In Pleasant Places

    Hi Cassandra, I absolutely love your blog and your heart for your family. My heart is the same for our own family and I long to create an environment and purpose like your own. I was wondering, now that you are much further along, how did you start doing preschool with your children? How did you teach letters, numbers etc? I feel overwhelmed by the vast responsibility!

  • Cassandra

    Hi Sarah, Thank you!!! 🙂 To be honest, I didn't do a lot of the typical pre-school stuff like letter recognition and math concepts… I just found the kids weren't interested in a lot of it. When my eldest was a preschooler, I had also a 3 and 1 year old. Most days were just survival mode at that point. We did do a TON of reading though, spent tons of time outdoors (in the woods and at the river) and followed the Five in a Row Book-centered 'Curriculum'. You can see posts from when the kids were younger if you scroll through the "homeschool plans" link to the right under Homeschool Life. 🙂 Honestly, enjoy your littles. 🙂 Read, play, walk in nature, relax. If they are surrounded by love, books, and a life-giving environment, they will flourish. (hugs) Depending on your kids' ages, you could potentially try Before Five in a Row? It is a lovely preschool, living book program.

    • Unknown

      Just the encouragement I need! I have a four-year-old, a 2 1/2-year-old, and a one-year-old. There is so much out there that sometimes I have this huge pressing weight on me…like I'm going to fail my kids. We spend so much time outside and lots of time reading. Some days I feel as though we just survived! Some days I wonder, are my kids bored doing the same stuff with each other every day? But they seem so happy and I want to cherish how child like they are right now! This was a huge encouragement and I so appreciate it.

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