In my recent back-to-homeschool posts, I've been discussing the phases of learning and how applying them can improve children's education. In the Leadership Education philosophy (also known as TJEd), the three phases of learning in childhood and the early teen years are:
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, I will discuss the 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) . 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" . 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" , 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" .
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."  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" , 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), by making sure there are plenty of interesting academic resources available, and by 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 help readers get a better idea of what the Love of Learning Phase looks like in practice, below are some examples of Love of Learning Phase activities.
Continuing to nurture the Core Phase:
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:
Following the children's own interests in as much depth as they desire
Giving children exposure to high-quality literature through read-alouds, allowing children to listen to audio books of classic literature, and having children's classics available for the children to read on their own
Exposing children to music and art through listening to beautiful music, attending live musical performances, and visiting art museums
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:
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 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 last year or so that she has been in Love of Learning phase, the time she chooses to spend playing has continued to diminish, much to her little brother's chagrin, and meanwhile her interests have continued to expand into many different areas. She is 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. Over the last few months, I have been 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've talked about how she will need to learn spelling and typing in order to achieve that goal. For quite a long while, she has been choosing to practice handwriting regularly by tracing over letters that I either handwrite or print off the computer, but she has 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 wants to start working towards her goal of blogging, she has 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 and listening to Carol Tuttle's series on motivating each type of child, my daughter and I have been able to brainstorm ways to help her keep up her motivation to achieve her own goals, and that has been working very well.)