When my son was a little guy and we began homeschooling, I pored over homeschool magazines, surfed the Internet for hours, joined forums and Yahoo groups, and asked every homeschool mom I encountered a million questions about curriculum, homeschool methodology, and schedules.

If I was going to homeschool my bright, active, curious little boy, I was going to do it up right. So, by the time he was in the second grade, I had spent literally thousands of dollars. And we were miserable. My son was bored.

I found myself with a seven-year-old who was constantly fighting me about doing school, and I was selling as much curriculum as I purchased. I felt like a complete failure as I watched curiosity quickly disappear.

Then one day, while learning about Mexico, I saw that once familiar spark return when we began studying about the monarch butterfly.

Where else do butterflies live, Momma?

What other kinds are there?

Can we catch some?

Are they at the zoo?

Can we grow some?

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” (Dorothy Parker)

My initial inclination was to grab a couple of books from the library and then move on to China. China was on the lesson plan. We had already fallen off our lesson when this same curiosity sprang up about beavers. There wasn’t time for butterflies now!

But something spoke to me, telling me to stop for a moment. I had not seen my son this excited about learning in quite some time. I decided to put the lesson plan aside and spend some time learning more about butterflies.

We read books.

We ordered caterpillars.

We visited the butterfly area of our zoo.

We made a gorgeous Blue Morpho out of construction paper, tissue paper, and glitter.

We took our butterfly net outdoors, caught butterflies and moths, and observed their differences.

We had fun!

And more important than the fun, my little boy loved homeschooling again. He was excited to learn. His curious sparkle was back. And he was never bored. Not one time.

We have not looked back from this delight-directed approach. My son is now in high school, so I do play a big part in his learning. However, I do less teaching and more facilitating. I am sure to provide him with the tools and materials he needs to learn about the things that interest him. I also make sure that he meets the necessary requirements for college, but he has a tremendous amount of input for how that is implemented. (He does use traditional curriculum for math and English.)

I am perfectly comfortable now with allowing my son’s interests to dictate our days—some days not even knowing what will come next—for one reason: his love for learning has been ignited by this method.

I don’t worry about gaps (all curriculum has gaps). As far as concerns about him learning all he needs to, a love for learning is the goal here, and with that, he will always have the ability and desire to learn what he needs.

If delight-directed learning is a method that interests you, the good news is you can begin whenever and however you wish. There really are no rules. There’s also no prescribed formula. You can start at the beginning (of the week, or month, or school year). Or you can just start in the middle of whatever you’re currently doing.

Brainstorm some ideas with your children, listen for clues about what excites them, or simply follow some rabbit trails with your current curriculum. Have fun, get messy, and enjoy watching their wonderful curiosity blossom into a love for learning.

Copyright 2017, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.

Interested in learning more about delight-directed learning? Check out The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life by Julie Bogart.

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Marcy Crabtree spent nearly 15 years as a labor and delivery nurse, sometimes juggling homeschooling with the job she calls her first ministry. She has been married to Tom for seventeen years, and is the proud momma to thirteen-year-old, Ben. As a part of the TOS team, Marcy helps lead the Schoolhouse Review Crew as its Marketing Manager.