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Love of Learning Phase: Age 8-12

Updated: May 5

Applying the phases of learning in your homeschool can improve children's education because it honors the natural cycles of children's development. In the Leadership Education philosophy (also known as TJEd), the three phases of learning in childhood and the early teen years are:

  • Core Phase, which focuses on character development and typically lasts from age 0 to 8 (or 9 in boys),

  • Love of Learning Phase, which focuses on giving the child the opportunity to fall in love with learning and typically lasts from age 8 to 12 (or 13 in boys), and 

  • Scholar Phase, which focuses on the child studying a wide range of topics with increasing ability and commitment, and typically lasts from age 12 to 16 (or 17 in boys).

In this post, let's discuss Love of Learning Phase in more detail.

Transitioning into Love of Learning Phase

According to Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, when the foundation of Core Phase has been achieved, students will naturally progress into the Love of Learning Phase at around age 8 (or a little later for boys) [1]. Because Core Phase is the foundation for all subsequent phases, the Core Phase should still be nurtured even while the student is in Love of Learning Phase. As described in For the Love of Learning (by Amy Edwards), "it will not harm your children to spend a little extra time in Core Phase rather than rush into Love of Learning too early" [2]. The transition into Love of Learning phase will happen on its own when the child has a solid Core Phase foundation and has reached their own developmental age for Love of Learning. 

Signs that a child is transitioning into Love of Learning Phase may include:

  • the child choosing to spend less of their free time in imaginative play, and more of their time reading and working on projects,

  • the child having "many interests, all of which seem to run very hot but often burn out quickly" [2], and

  • the child having learned well the lessons of Core Phase (including good character, readily achieving household responsibilities, and strong family relationships) so that Core Phase issues occur infrequently.

Love of Learning Phase "Curriculum"

The "names of the phases [of learning] do not describe what is happening during the phase, especially not in the beginning of each phase. The name describes what the end result will be. Children in Core Phase will have a solid foundation in core values by the end of Core Phase. Children in Love of Learning Phase will love to learn by the end of the phase" [2].

In the Love of Learning Phase, the "curriculum" is essentially giving the student the opportunity to "freely fall in love with the joys of learning and to experience first-hand how wonderful learning can be." [1] This can be accomplished through:

  • giving students the freedom and support necessary to explore and pursue their interests in as much depth as desired,

  • helping the students develop the habit of studying on a regular basis, wherein the focus and schedule of the study time is determined by the students themselves, 

  • leaving enough unstructured time for the student to be in the "space of discomfort/boredom that impels a young person to exert himself to accomplish something worthwhile" [1], and

  • parents conscientiously working to create an environment that inspires learning.

Academics in Love of Learning Phase

There is more focus on academics in Love of Learning Phase than in Core Phase, but the Love of Learning Phase still does not include forcing the child to accomplish academic tasks. The academic pursuits in Love of Learning Phase are based largely on the child's own interests, and the parents' task is to inspire the child to want to learn rather than trying to force learning upon the child.  This is an important distinction, because forcing a child to do academics is more likely to cultivate a hate of learning instead of a love of learning.

Parents can purposefully inspire the child to love learning by making their own educations a priority (and thereby setting a good example that the kids will naturally follow), making sure there are plenty of interesting academic resources available, and creating an environment where there is plenty of time for exploration and learning to happen (through limiting such things as media, electronics, and structured classes/activities for the children).

Examples of Love of Learning Phase Activities

To give you a better idea of what Love of Learning Phase looks like in practice, below are some examples of Love of Learning Phase activities.

  • Focusing on character development as a fundamental aspect of education

  • Nurturing family relationships such that the child has strong, positive relationships with their parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.

  • Working together as a family to maintain the home and yard

  • Doing service for others as a family

Unpressured exploration of academic pursuits:

  • Helping children learn to set goals and reasonable expectations:

    • Helping children create a homeschool compass every 3-6 months wherein the children set their sights on their overall areas of interest over the coming months

    • Meeting with children regularly to help them in setting their own goals for the coming weeks, and to help them learn accountability in meeting their goals

    • Being supportive and positive in teaching these skills to children so that they feel confident in their abilities

Enabling the children to reach mastery in household responsibilities:

  • Teaching basic life skills to children, such as the following:

    • cleaning

    • laundry

    • gardening

    • budgeting

    • grocery shopping

    • cooking

    • yard and home maintenance

Creating a home environment that inspires learning:

  • Parents leading out by focusing on their own educations; when the children often see the parents reading, writing, and discussing their own passionate interests, the children will naturally imitate that example

  • Limiting electronic distractions in the home (such as computers, TV, movies, and video games) so that there is plenty of time for the children to pursue their own projects and interests

  • Parents purposefully limiting the number of outside-the-home activities and classes so that there is plenty of time available for interest-led learning

  • Having tools available that aid in the exploration of math, science, history, geography, handicrafts, and workshop skills; examples of such tools include wall maps, microscopes, measuring tools, woodworking tools, etc.

My Experience with Love of Learning Phase in Our Homeschool

When my daughter Alina was transitioning into Love of Learning Phase, I observed that in her free time she was playing less and instead focused more on self-directed craft projects, drawing, and poring over books about her favorite subjects (horses, folktales, and Native Americans). Over the first year that she was in Love of Learning phase, the time she chose to spend playing continued to diminish, much to her little brother's chagrin, and meanwhile her interests continued to expand into many different areas. She was often seen toting around large science encyclopedias or our (totally amazing) Ultimate Visual Dictionary. Because I have a history of pushing too hard, too fast with her education, even though I could tell that my daughter was moving into Love of Learning Phase, I spent months just continuing to focus on nurturing her Core Phase. Then I started purposefully digging deeper into Love of Learning activities with her.

For example, she has a long-term goal of having a blog some day. We talked about how she would need to learn spelling and typing in order to achieve that goal. For quite a long while, she had been choosing to practice handwriting regularly by tracing over letters that I either handwrote or printed off the computer, but she rarely wanted to write without having something to trace (probably because that was one of the subjects that I pushed too hard on early in our homeschooling). Because she wanted to start working towards her goal of blogging, she decided to work on spelling and writing-without-tracing on a regular basis.

(Initially, she was setting goals to practice spelling and writing-without-tracing, but she kept bumping into a lack of motivation to actually put in the time.  By knowing her energy type, my daughter and I were able to brainstorm ways to help her keep up her motivation to achieve her own goals, and that worked very well.)

Besides helping my daughter with working on her long-term goals, her journey into Love of Learning Phase necessitated that I carve out more time when her brother could be otherwise-occupied so that she'd have some time to pursue her own interests independently as well as with my assistance. Additionally, along with her increasing maturity, Alina was given more responsibility in having authority over when she did her chicken chores, taking over more aspects of managing her chicken egg business, and allowed to self-govern other aspects of her day-to-day life. Her Love of Learning Phase unfolded naturally until she was older and ready to move into Scholar Phase.

References and Resources for Learning More About Love of Learning Phase

Want to learn more about Love of Learning Phase? Check out these resources:



Have you heard of Love of Learning Phase previously? What are your favorite methods for inspiring your children to love learning?

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