Delight-directed Learning

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Summer Series At So You Call Yourself A Homeschooler
WELCOME to my summer blog series:
Homeschool Methods & Approaches
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the months of June and July, you will hear from several different homeschool bloggers about the methods and approaches they use to teach their child(ren). It is my hope that you gain insight, encouragement, and confidence by reading what these tremendously faithful women have to share.

I am honored and excited to introduce to you:

Marcy Crabtree who blogs over at Ben and Me. Read, comment, share, and connect as Marcy shares about Delight Directed Homeschooling.

Delight is such a lovely word, isn’t it? According to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, delight is described as, “a high degree of pleasure, or satisfaction of mind; joy.”

What else could we ask for from our educational approach than for our students to have a satisfaction of mind and joy? And when it comes to education, a high degree of pleasure isn’t a bad thing either.

When we first began homeschooling, like many of you, I pictured my son sitting in a desk, working feverishly (and happily) to complete assignments. What he learned would be determined by the content of whichever curriculum I finally settled on purchasing. Said curriculum would have a daily plan for me to follow. Ben and I would be at home, together, and I would fill his brain with all the knowledge available to us! I spent several hundred dollars (more than once) trying to find that perfect curriculum for us. But nothing really seemed to work for us. There wasn’t much delight in learning. Instead, there was much boredom, drudgery, whining and frustration. Not exactly the picture I had in my mind of what homeschooling should look like. I had fallen off my lesson plan early on and more than once. I was a failure as a homeschool mom. Ben was in second grade.

so you call yourself a homeschooler

You might be wondering why I so easily fell off the lesson plan. I blame the “rabbit trails”. Rabbit trails are the little things that pique interest that cause you to veer off course. We could be studying about Mexico, the text would mention the migration of the Monarch butterfly, and off Ben would go into the land of butterflies.  You see, it was not enough to learn about Monarchs, he needed to know more.  He wanted to know about other types of butterflies, and “can we grow butterflies, Mom,” and “don’t they have butterflies at the zoo we could go see?” Our detour into the world of butterflies might take us off course a few days. Or a few weeks. That wouldn’t be so bad if that only happened occasionally.  But I found myself either veering off course continually, or saying something silly like, “I’m sorry honey, we can’t learn more about butterflies, we have to start learning about China now…how about pandas, wouldn’t you love to learn about pandas?!?!” We spent more time on the rabbit trails, then we did on the scheduled curriculum.

Then one day it hit me –when given the chance to study what interested him, a spark ignited in my son and he began deriving pleasure, satisfaction, and dare I say it — joy — in learning. When given the opportunity to follow those rabbit trails, a spark lit inside him. That spark was flamed by the freedom to enjoy learning about the things that delighted him and soon we had a roaring fire!

delight directed homeschool

“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”

—W. B. Yeats

I had been spending too much time trying to fill Ben’s bucket. It was time to just light fires. I wondered what it would be like if we started homeschooling by “the rabbit trail method”. That was about 2 years ago, and since that time, most of our homeschooling has centered around this delight-directed approach.

You won’t find any pre-planned curriculum in our homeschool. No tight schedules laid out months in advance either. You will find a list of topics my son wrote down at the beginning of the school year, and added to throughout the year. Topics that pique his curiosity enough that he wishes to learn more. It is this list that helps me “plan” what’s next in our homeschool year. Of course, we veer off those topics all the time, too. But that’s ok. There is no lesson plan to fall off of. If Ben asks to study about horses, and within the first week we are off following the “Ancient Egypt” rabbit trail, that’s perfectly ok. And yes, that did happen.

I’ve been asked before how this approach differs from unschooling. For us, it differs in that I do offer a measure of structure — while the subject matter is generally my son’s request, I do assign him tasks to complete. Whether it’s books to read, topics to research, or a lapbook or notebook to complete, at the end of his study, Ben has completed several assignments. We use a regular math curriculum as well. I believe math to be one of those subjects that must be learned incrementally. While we work in “living math” to our day as much as possible, I have not left this topic to Ben’s delight. He does not delight in math, in any form! But he must learn it anyway.

Some of you are wondering about gaps. Let me assure you right now — gaps are an educational myth. We all have gaps. There is no way to teach your child everything there is to learn or for us to learn everything there is to know ourselves. But if your child develops a love of learning, because it delights him to learn, and you give him the tools for learning, there is no worry about gaps. He will have what he needs to learn anything required of him and everything he desires to learn.

Children are naturally curious. They want to know about things. They want to experiment, explore, engage. God has gifted each of them with talents, passions, and interests for the purpose of serving Him and bringing him glory. When we allow these passions to direct our homeschooling, amazing things happen. To Him be the glory.


Marcy Crabtree spent nearly 15 years as an Ob nurse, sometimes juggling homeschooling with the job she calls her first ministry. Grateful that her main ministry today is at home, she has been married to Tom for 14 years, and is the proud momma to 11-year-old Ben. Her homeschool style is delight-directed, using mostly unit studies, and greatly influenced by Charlotte Mason’s love of living books. You can find Marcy blogging her reviews and homeschool journey at Ben and Me.


Dear Friends,

If you enjoy reading my blog, would you please take 30 seconds of your time to vote for me? I’ve been nominated for the Top 25 Homeschooling Blogs on Circle of Moms. Click the icon below and it will take you to the voting page and just click “vote”! You can do this once every 24 hours thru June 27. Thank you for all your support. I truly am blessed by each and every one of you!

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    1. You are welcome! The honor is all mine 🙂 I LOVED reading about your sons adventures – truly a wonderful approach to homeschooling. Thank you again for your fabulous contribution!

  1. I also believe this type of education helped my children to become life long learners even if higher education was not in their future. I enjoyed reading your about your school.

  2. Hi Marcy,

    I love this post. I treat homeschool much the same way. But I have a question for you. How do you teach grammar and spelling and plain old writing? I’m sure you incorporate it into those assignments you mentioned, but kids need to learn to write more than book reports on specific subjects. I’m talking about things such as fiction, non-fiction, narrative non-fiction, poetry, journalism, knowing your audience, not to mention proper vocabulary, grammar and spelling. I’m asking because my daughter is not very interested in writing at all. She’s in 2nd grade and even if it’s a topic that she really loves, she drags her heels to write.
    Would love some ideas!!

    1. Allessandra — in 2nd grade, I followed Ruth Beechick’s suggestions for language arts in her 3-book book series, 3 Rs. At that age, children are still mastering handwriting and reading, so that’s where I focused my attention. Beginning to learn simple parts of speech and write sentences is all they need at that age. We also incorporated the books, Words are Categorical a lot!

      I didn’t begin what I consider “formal” grammar and writing until this past year, in 5th grade. We primarily use IEW, which allows us to integrate writing into our unit study method. I don’t teach spelling at all, because Ben is a natural speller, but it can easily be incorporated into unit studies, along with vocabulary, using Charlotte Mason’s approach. Read more about Charlotte Mason at

  3. So well said, Marcy! I totally agree! This is basically our approach, too. Math is the exception in our case as well. It’s just not a “delightful” topic for us! ;0)

    Carlie ~ Love this series you’re doing. It’s really neat reading about all the different learning styles. Congrats on the end of your husband’s deployment! So glad he is home safe. Tell him we said thank you for serving our country!

  4. Marcy, I think I am headed in the direction of delight-directed learning. I love how you spelled it out for us here! We are adding more and more notebooking under your influence too.

    Allessandra, you might try Write Shop Primary, you can kinda change the assignments to fit your current interests. It’s also a really simple, gentle introduction to writing. We love it!

    Carlie, First time on your blog and it is beautiful. You misspelled Marcy’s name the second time mentioned in the box at the top of this post. Thought you might want to know. Now I am off to check out some of your posts ;).

  5. This is great! We were delight-directed for about a year until we slipped into full unschooling. Whatever you are comfortable with- and what works for you family is what I say! Thanks for that beautiful look into your homeschool!

    1. I often say we are a hair away from unschooling! I love unschoolers. If not for my husband’s nervousness, we’d probably be unschoolers, too!

  6. Pingback: Homeschooling with a Newborn - Spell Out Loud

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