Delight-directed, Project-based Homeschooling

If you’re like me, you want to find the best way – the right way – to homeschool. You want to find the way that is enjoyable, sustainable, fulfilling and effective.


You want to do what’s best for your children to train, equip, and prepare them for whatever their future holds.


Well, I don’t know if I could declare this approach the “right” way, but I have found delight-directed, project-based homeschooling to be very effective in accomplishing my goals for an enjoyable, sustainable homeschool model.


Delight-directed means you find out what your child likes and is interested in and you make that the topic for study. That topic can vary throughout the year. Or if your child is fascinated with a subject such as horses, space, gardening, or cooking, he may study that topic for as long as he remains fascinated. You then find ways to facilitate his studies.


When my first child was about 6 years old, he was fascinated with cowboys. I decided to do a unit about cowboys with him. He had seen a Sheriff star at a shop we went to, and he wanted it. So I told him we would go back and buy it after we learned more about cowboys. So I went to the library and picked out several books about cowboys. Most were picture books, but they also contained a lot of information. I had my son pick out 3 for me to read to him. He drew pictures based on what I read. We watched a documentary about cowboys. He talked to my dad about cowboys (he is an expert since he watches old Western movies and reads Westerns all the time). After finishing these tasks we went back to the shop and bought the Sheriff star for him. He was so happy to have it, and he felt like he had accomplished something great by earning it. And he knew more about cowboys than he did before and liked them even more!


My other son is an outdoorsman. He became obsessed with fishing. He wanted fishing tackle boxes and lures and fishing equipment for his birthday. So, what do you think I did? I told him we would get these things for him if he learned more about types of fish. So I went to the library and checked out about 20 books about fishing and fish. He pored over those books for weeks. He started teaching his younger brother and sister about the different types of fish. They became experts, too! For his birthday, he got a fully stocked tackle box. He told us the types of lures that he needed for the kind of fish he would be able to find in the nearest lake, so we knew what to stock his tackle box with. Then we took him fishing!


One of my favorite delight-directed activities is Poetry Teatime. We enjoy baking something nice and reading fun poems to each other while we eat our yummy treat and sip tea or whatever beverage we prefer. If we didn’t do this, most of us would not get any exposure to poetry.


Delight-directed learning happens when we ask our children what they are interested in and what they want to learn more about. One day I asked my oldest son what he wanted to study, and he said “my Bible”. I was rather surprised, but happy with his choice. I asked him to write about what he was learning from the Bible and to discuss with me his ideas. And I asked him to do some math and study some kind of science, and he agreed. He was about 15 years old. So throughout most of that year, he filled a notebook with his notes and thoughts about what he learned from his reading of the Bible. I found some Algebra resources for him, and he worked through them. He studied science concepts that piqued his curiosity. I got him some living books about science including one about the science of Star Trek. He really enjoyed that year and learned a lot about many topics that he still pursues to this day. He is 28 now!


In recent years, more resources have been developed as tools for those who use a more delight-directed approach. One of my favorite resources is the homeschool journals by Thinking Tree Books. They are written by Sarah Janisse Brown and her team. My daughter uses one called a Do-It-Yourself Homeschool Journal: Delight-Directed Learning Handbook. It is a convenient way to organize her drawings and writing and notes about different subjects she wants to learn about. It gives her a place to list the books she is reading to get more information. It has activities sprinkled throughout for logic, drawing, and coloring. I let her work through this on her own. She has skipped around in it and done some interesting work.


One of our biggest projects has been watching and helping Monarch caterpillars change to butterflies. We have brought milkweed plants into the house when we find caterpillars on them. Then we keep an eye on them as they eat and eat and grow and grow. We have measured them at times. We have collected more leaves and sometimes plants for them. We have fetched them when they crawled or fell off of the plant. We help them to find a leaf when they are searching on a leafless stem. Then we try to catch them making a chrysalis. We can spot the signs that they are about ready to start the process. We love seeing them form the chrysalis and then emerge from it a week or so later. We let them dry and harden, then we name them and take them outside, bless them, and set them free. Many of my children have drawn pictures of caterpillars and butterflies and the life cycle. I don’t usually have to ask them to do it. They just do it on their own.

Caterpillar Chronicles Continued

There are so many ways to follow their interests and gifts. I would like to list a few of them here:


Library books

Online tutorials


Nature Study

Montessori – sensory bins, small worlds

Dolls, stuffed animals

Unit studies


Dress up


Sports – athletics

Hands-on activities – Blocks, shape pattern blocks, Legos

Art – Origami, pastels, paint, colored pencil

Science experiments



And we have done many projects over the years that have greatly contributed to the knowledge and skills of my children.


Some of these are:


The Very Hungry Caterpillar Lapbook

Are You As Hungry As A Caterpillar?


Lemonade stand – math, business, baking, marketing, money – making change, expenses and profit

Used manipulatives like M & M’s for counting in Math

Wright Brothers Play

Planted Garden seeds

Baking – measuring, planning celebrations

Cooking – measuring – Thanksgiving –  plan menus, shopping list, etc.

Decorating for Christmas – Bake cookies, decorate them; a special project the girls did was making a little playset for a plush squirrel named Oshee with a pinecone as a Christmas tree and a star on it. They taped little stocking ornaments onto the front of our couch and used a little mint box for Oshee’s bed. They made a little book called Oshee’s Diary and put a picture of an acorn on it. The whole thing was beside our real Christmas tree. They had great fun putting it together.


My daughter had a plush penguin named Felix with whom she made up and acted out many scenarios and made paper furniture and fish out of clay and built a fishing pole for him.He had a friend named Abominable who was a snow monster.

Step Into the World of Fiona and Felix the Penguin

Imagination games with stuffed animals. The possibilities for this kind of play are endless!

Writing, then making a movie – my daughters wrote the names of the cast and characters, script, chart, symbols, and dimensions they made up all revolving around the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Pets – guinea pigs, mouse, turtles, fish, skunk (!), tadpoles – these are real pets we have had!

Hummingbird and other bird feeders

Unit studies





Art for Decorating

Decorate clothing and bags



This is really just the tip of the iceberg, and these are based on the interests of my children. It is up to you to find out what your kids like and then facilitate their learning endeavors. It is lots of fun!


When we make learning an adventure, our kids are much more likely to be on board with homeschooling and they retain the knowledge so much better. They feel like they own it! They are more engaged when they get to have a say in what they are studying and learning about.


So hop on board the delight-directed homeschool train! You will be glad you did. And your kids may still like you and may continue learning for the rest of their lives because they love it!


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