Ed,

Your approach is exactly what I always did when I taught beginning classes. It would be insane to learn all the technical stuff first--it would take all the joy out of it. If someone is serious they will eventually want to learn the technical stuff in order to better communnicate their vision. And eventually, if one is to amount to anything as a photographer, you must have the technical stuff you need for your vision down cold. There are no exceptions. It has to be automatic, second nature, so that it doesn't require any thought at all.