The Joy of Self Directed Learning

The Fun of Self Education

Why Self Educate?

Everyone knows that continuing education is an important part of most careers today. However, it is also an important habit for life.  Continuing education does not need to be obligatory courses or seminars, it is simply the practice of lifelong learning.  Teaching children to be self educators is as simple as allowing them the freedom to self direct their study.  This is particularly ideal for homeschooling. It can be the difference between just getting the curriculum finished and falling in love with learning.

 

How Does This Fit into My Homeschool?

Self directed learning is not the same as unschooling, although it can be.  If you speak to any veteran homeschool educator, you will invariably hear that the main goal in homeschooling is to raise children who educate themselves.  While this still requires support and guidance from the parents, it does not entail the parent being in charge of every piece of information learned by the student.

 

This technique not only nurtures continued education but is enjoyable for the student. Do you have a favorite time period of history?  How about an animal that amazes you?  Have you ever wished you could do a particular skill or craft?  All of these and more can be accomplished through self education.  So push away the textbooks, clear some time in the schedule, and let your children explore their learning passions.

 

How Do I Promote Self Directed Learning?

There are many ways this can be accomplished.  The easiest is to schedule time where your children explore their interests in depth.  Doing so can include reading, watching how-to videos, taking field trips, experimenting, doing hands on activities, or listening to podcasts.  This time is an active learning period but is also passive as there are no checklists or assignments required to be completed.  Don’t have time every day? Not a problem.  Find time once a week or even once a month if need be, the down time will refresh their enthusiasm and fuel their imagination.

 

To truly embrace the gift of self directed education, have your child make curriculum decisions with you.  Perhaps allow him to choose his history study.  Together design an elective class. Your child could even choose the theme of her studies for the year.  The possibilities are endless.  One of the great beauties of homeschooling is the flexibility and freedom that comes with this style of education.  No one is bound by a simple course manual, or rigid schedule. Schedules and curriculum plans are important but not the hallmarks of homeschools.

 

If the thought of designing a course is overwhelming or you don’t know where to begin, there are also journals like Thinking Tree books that provide a guided approach to self education. Each journal has a theme and the student follows the guidelines of the journal, choosing his own books to study. These can be used as a supplement or a course in themselves.  There are also several blogs and Facebook pages dedicated to the idea of “Funschooling” which can help you design an entire curriculum around self directed study.

 

What if My Child Doesn’t Have an Interest to Pursue?

So you have provided the time, space, and support for your child to plunge ahead on this self education adventure, but he just doesn’t know what to study.  What to do now?  Is all hope lost? Never! There is always time to learn something new. Here are a few times to encourage your child to want to self educate.

  1. Read a wide array of literature and nonfiction books as read alouds and see which spark an interest.  It may take awhile, but something is bound to peak her curiosity and leave them with questions she wants answered.
  2. Take varied field trips (including virtual ones) to learn more about history, science, and geography. Allow the experience to intrigue your child to learn more.
  3. Have a reading week where you have no lesson plans other than reading as a family and individually.  Do not set any timers or make any required reading lists.  Reading is the first and more important components to self education.
  4. Let your child get bored!  Necessity may be the mother of invention but boredom is the father of ingenuity.  Once true boredom sets in she will need to find a way to counteract it.  This is where interest, ideas, and experimentation take off.

 

What if We Are Not Homeschoolers?

Self directed learning is by far easier in a homeschool but it is not exclusive to the homeschool life. Anyone can and should promote this practice.  Follow the suggestions above and find time, perhaps on a weekend afternoon or over a school break to give your children, and yourself, room to explore and learn. Discovering how to fit such activities into a busy schedule is a skill that will serve everyone well for a lifetime because learning should never end no matter how full our plate becomes.

 

Freedom to dive into a body of knowledge or conquer a manual skill builds self confidence and self reliance. Let your child steer the ship for a little while and see what shores you discover!

 

How do you promote self directed study in your home?

MeetOurTeam

Get to Know – Jennifer

Recently, one of our GLD crew created her introduction video. For those who would prefer to read it, you may continue below!

 

Hi I’m Jennifer Elia! I’m from New Jersey and this is my first Global Learn Day and I’m so excited to be a part of this team! When I was a child I loved to read. I mean, I still do but I would read anything that was put in front of me. In fact, I would read the same cereal box every morning just because it was words and it was there and so I couldn’t resist it!

But, my favorite book was Madeline. You know the big house in Paris all covered with vines. I wanted to be Madeline and I begged my parents to send me to boarding school in Paris so that I could live there and be just like her. That book had such an influence on me that all I wanted to do was learn to speak French! And when I got to Middle School I got that opportunity and I studied it all through high school. I became a French major in college and then I was a French professor for twelve years. Now, I’m a home school mom and so learning and education is a part of my everyday and still so important to me. It is something I really enjoy.

I think back about my education and I have had so many amazing teachers and professors, many of whom I’m still friends with today in person and on Facebook. But the biggest influence to me in terms of learning was my mom because from the time we could sit at the table we were doing lessons every morning for a couple hours. We read books. We did math problems. We did SRA kits, which we thought were the coolest thing. Even though we didn’t realize that this wasn’t what everybody did in the morning, when they were home, on their summer break or in preschool. We cooked. We made diagrams. Um… Diaramas. She would take us to the library twice a week and we would have to check out a certain number of books and read them and then we would write book reports and Venn diagrams and do character studies.

It was just such a part of my childhood and it really taught me the value of learning and how great it is to be able to teach something to someone else and enjoy everything that you are learning. So, even though I wasn’t home schooled as a child I always say that my mom is the one who taught me how to home school because she taught me the joy of learning and teaching and how to bring everything to my children and make it important.

When I finished school I realized that I still wanted to learn, even though I had learned so much I enjoyed it. Growing up my best friends were a dictionary, my Time Life Atlas and then the encyclopedia which I would stay up almost all night reading and then just do cross references with it and there was so much in there. It was just such an incredible resource to have in our home. So I realized that I didn’t want my learning to end. There was still so much out there and learning doesn’t have to end because there is just more than you can ever take in. It’s like a good book that you just don’t want to keep turning the page and learning more and more. Novels come to an end but the best thing is that learning never does because you can always pick something else to learn about and there is always new information. Even if you are studying history there’s more books than you can read. And that is why I am always learning, I always want to learn. My mom always used to joke with me that I would never have brain problems because I am always wanting to learn something new. She was actually impressed with how many things I constantly study even though I have always considered her my mentor as far as learning and teaching.

My current learning obsession though is gardening. I have been reading about it for the last few years and finally built my own 800 sq ft garden last year. And so, I am reading about different kinds of plants, how I can use them, what to plant where, how to help my soil, how to get rid of pests, how to be more organic, be more productive and make the soil healthier for my family and my children. My garden is my hobby but it is also a help for my family.

So, my question for you is… What have you learned today? And, what book really changed your life and want to be a life long learner. I’m so glad that you are here and hope that you come along with us. Thank you and take care.