Linking up with Kelly on this last Friday of June. Where did the month go?
What Is Education?
When you hear the word education, what comes to mind? Is it school? Do you think a degree equals education? While schooling and earning qualifications are a part of education, they are not everything. Education is a process and experience, not just a checklist to complete.
Education really begins long before any schooling does. It is experienced first in the home through family interactions, listening to stories, and experiencing the world around you.
You may wonder when education ends, in truth, it never should. Continual education is the hallmark of a prosperous mind and life. 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 Self Directed 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 in My Home?
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 is an active learning period, but it is also passive, because there are no checklist 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 component to self education.
- 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 could you promote self directed learning in your home?