Joy lists : A Home Education Essential (what they are, why you should have one and how to get started).

What is a joy list?

A place to record everything that brings you joy. Think of it as an inventory of enjoyment, a collection of all that comforts and that cheers. Literally a note to self of all you love, big and small.  Anything that sends you squealing with excitement and dancing with delight can make it on to your joy list.

Why are joy lists so important for home education?

Creating joy lists with your children sets the tone for home education. Acknowledging and respecting from the outset the importance of joy for effective learning. When we enjoy what we’re doing, learning follows effortlessly.

Joy lists provide a practical starting point for your home education journey. A ready-made plan of activities you can do this week. So often in life, we just don’t know where to begin. Problem solved. Start here, just as you mean to go on, following the joy.

Making joy lists is fun. Spending time thinking about what we love feels good and it’s a great opportunity to learn more about ourselves and each other.

Because there will be times when you need a boost. When motivation, enthusiasm and inspiration wander off, dig out that joy list. The perfect ready-made checklist to get the day back on track.

Following our joy is an act of self-care and a powerful example for our children. Not only do we get to make our own list of loveliness to whip out whenever we need it, we’re also modelling for our children how important it is to take care of ourselves. If we want our children to prioritise self-care, then there’s no more effective way than leading by example.

Sharing our joy brings us closer together. Cementing our bonds, building our connections and strengthening our relationships. Swapping stories and memories, and reminding each other of activities and events we have enjoyed, or not, in the past can help to generate new ideas for all of our lists. Our perceptions of how others have experienced events might be way off the mark, so sharing our own impressions and listening to others can help us to better understand each other.

So that we can support our children more effectively. This process helps us to understand, value and encourage our children’s current interests and get inspiration for what else we can introduce into their lives. The insights we gain will help us gather more interesting and useful resources, make helpful suggestions, and offer new opportunities and directions that our children might wish to explore.

To encourage us all to support each other’s joy and work as a team. Creating our joy lists together helps cultivate a positive atmosphere of mutual respect and shared values, making home education more effective and enjoyable for everyone.

To acknowledge our shared responsibility for home education. In most formal settings children are given limited choices and responsibility for their own learning, yet with home education we get to change this. Making joy lists together allows our children to see how much we value their thoughts and feelings, trust their judgements and recognise their competence and wisdom. We get to show our commitment to support and guide them, not to dictate and control them.

Items on a joy list may become longer-term projects or ignite life-long passions. The opportunity for our children to really consider what they love to do can lead in all kinds of directions. They might be inspired to seek out or become an expert, make new friends who share their interest, join a club or group, and perhaps, one day, they might even decide to pursue their passion full-time. The possibilities are endless but can’t be forced. If we become too attached to any particular activity or outcome we risk taking all the fun out of it.

Because we want our children to live a joyful life. To be intentional with their days and recognise the power they have over their own lives. We want them to be self-motivated, active and enthusiastic learners who don’t wait for permission, but are confident, curious and caring for themselves and for others.

To encourage us all to look for joy. To recognise and believe that joy is everywhere – not just on special occasions or big events. To promote resilience and hope in ourselves and in our children. That we can find joy anywhere, in the big and the small, the ordinary and the everyday, and even in the challenges. That we can find the energy and enthusiasm to deal with difficulties and that we can cope in a crisis. That however bad things get, we can find some way to spark joy, or at the very least, have a sense of certainty that joy will return.

Because joy is contagious and we want it to spread. By encouraging our children to actively seek out and embrace joy, we create more opportunities for others to be touched and inspired by joy. Literally making the world a better place for everyone.

How to make your own joy list?

1. Let everyone in the family know that you would like to make joy lists together. Get them thinking about what brings them joy.

2. Set aside a morning or afternoon to dedicate to making your joy lists.

3. Gather together the whole family and if you like, plenty of creative supplies – coloured papers and pens, maybe photographs, magazines you are happy to cut up, stickers and stamps to create beautiful borders, you get the idea. Your lists can be presented as simply, maybe just handwritten or typed, or as creatively as you like.

4. Start making those lists. Share your own examples and suggestions. Ask questions to help each other generate ideas. Try to include things that are easy to set up along with others that might take more planning, a mix of everyday and more special, and things that you can do alone, as well as with others.

If you find it difficult to write a joy list, these ideas might help –

⭐ think of the happiest times in the last day, week or month and what you were doing

⭐ what is the most enjoyable part of your day?

⭐ what do you look forward to?

⭐ imagine your ideal day and what you would like to do

⭐ think about what you love to do on your birthday, at the weekend, on holiday, on special occasions or for a treat

⭐ think about your wish-lists, and your favourite presents, why do you want these and how do they bring you joy

⭐ go round your house and look for inspiration, what books, games, equipment, toys, evidence of hobbies do you see and consider which of these spark joy

⭐ think about each of your senses in turn and what you most love to see, to hear and so on

⭐ think of the active and energetic things you like to do, then what you like to do that is quiet and more relaxing

⭐ consider what you enjoy doing with friends and family and what you choose to do when you have some time alone

⭐ think about your bucket list, your wildest dreams, your hopes and ambitions

⭐ look online, there are so many bucket lists and lists of what you should do before you’re [insert any age here], maybe some of these will give you inspiration for your own list

Put your joy lists where you can easily refer to them. Display them on the fridge or wall if you want, or keep them safe in your home education records, a planning binder or an ideas and inspiration book. Anywhere you will remember to look at them frequently.

Keep looking for the joy. Add to your list as you come up with new ideas, regularly review them and and make new lists when the mood takes you.

Go get following that joy. Have you made joy lists with your children? I would love to hear how they have influenced your learning and life. And if you have any great tips, please share those too. See you in the comments x


  1. I completely agree with the importance of joy lists, especially for home education. Joy lists not only provide a practical starting point for activities, but they also promote self-care, strengthen relationships, and encourage us to support each other’s joy. They help us acknowledge and respect the importance of joy for effective learning, and can lead to long-term projects and lifelong passions. Most importantly, joy is contagious and can spread to make the world a better place for everyone.

    1. Hey Adrian, good to hear you’re a fan of joy lists too! They’re such a great starting point for home education and a beautiful bonding activity for any family, we’d love to know what’s on your list 🙂

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