Years ago I heard about Greg Harris’s idea of ‘delight directed learning’. You may know that Greg Harris is the father of Josh Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye) and Brett and Alex Harris (Do Hard Things and The Rebelution youth movement). Obviously something worked for his kids, and it just may be related to how they were educated. Many others have since adopted his idea because it makes so much sense.
So, what is ‘delight-directed learning’? As we have practiced it for years, delight-directed learning is watching your children, discovering what their interests are, and encouraging them. It’s buying equipment, allowing time for nature walks, and providing relevant books and craft supplies. It’s finding sports opportunities, relevant outings, and volunteer positions. It`s allowing short term explorations (like the making of the pie, above) and long, involved time commitments.
However, I’ve discovered that delight-directed learning has some common pitfalls for parents. I’ve been guilty of each one of these. However, once you know what they are, it is much easier to avoid them:
- We provide too much encouragement and so many resources that the child feels overwhelmed. There’s a fine line between being encouraging and being pushy, and it’s different for different kids at different times.
- We ignore an interest because we don’t like it or understand its validity (that’s the way I feel about video games and Garfield comics)—and sometimes we are right but sometimes we are wrong. Some interests should, obviously, not be encouraged. Other times we do not understand that a talent can and should be developed. However, if it’s a deep interest, children will recover from our discouragement or re-channel their focus, so it’s not a life or death decision and I tend to err on the side of caution.
- We let our children completely ignore their structured learning and allow them to only follow their own interests.
- We place their interests above other family members’ goals. While this may be necessary occasionally, for the child’s sake it should not happen often.
- We provide so much structured learning that the child has no time to explore his own interests.
- We allow ourselves to be convinced that we’re overdoing the structured learning when the real problem is a child’s time management skills.
- We often forget that after exploring one interest, a child will most likely move on to another one, leaving all our considerable investments (in both time and money) behind. Remembering this helps us to avoid frustration and overspending. See also point 1.
Despite these parental pitfalls, kids thrive when they are allowed to explore and learn skills and ideas that bring smiles to their faces. And parents thrive, too, when they encourage their children wisely.
This is the first post in a series about delight-directed learning. Next week, I plan to discuss some of the challenges of delight-directed learning. In the meantime, enjoy watching your children follow their interests.