Embrace Self-Directed Learning

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One of the advantages of homeschooling is that we can embrace self-directed learning before college. Think about it. A child in the public school system is told which classes to take for years with a small window of opportunity to pick several electives. Even within these electives, a child is limited to what the teacher has planned out for the year concerning the topic. In high school, I chose electives that interested me such as keyboarding, child development, and theater. Keyboarding has come in handy for obvious reasons considering this day and age, and child development has helped me as a parent. Theater was just a fleeting passion that dwindled away after college. I wonder if I would be in a different place if I was able to explore these passions in a different way in high school. If I had been homeschooled, for example. Instead of typing random sequences in a dark and dreary room with a boring teacher, I could have practiced typing interesting selections from some of my favorite plays. Maybe even the plays I was performing in to help me memorize my lines. The creative options are endless. Instead of carrying around a fake baby doll that cried in the middle of the night to mimic parenthood, I could have taken off school for a few days to help my aunt when her baby was born, to help heat up bottles in the middle of the night, or help burp the baby while she washed the baby’s clothes. Homeschooling allows for practical education, and it should be embraced. The public schools have certain restrictions because of the size of the classes and the amount of students learning at the same time. Yet with homeschooling, freedom abounds. This leads to the opportunity to embrace self-directed learning. If your child sees a pursuit they want to explore, let them!

Some homeschooling parents are hesitant to allow self-directed learning because they fear it puts the child in charge rather than the parent. It doesn’t have to be this way. The parent ultimately knows what is best for the child and is the teacher, but when it comes to how a student learns the material, homeschooling opens the door for freedom to explore your options. One child might thrive on a notebook and a checkoff list to do their work. If that is the case, that can be a form of self-directed learning. As the parent, you tell them what you would like them to learn, and you give them the guidance, materials, and direction. I do this with my youngest teen. He knows what he needs to work on each day and asks for help only for the subjects that he needs me to teach him. Otherwise, he is self-directed in the sense that he can work where in the house he wants, on the subjects that he wants, as long as it is done around lunch time. He is my motivated learner so it gets done.

Some of my other children need more guidance since they are younger. As much as I want to sit down with a traditional workbook with them, it does not fit their personalities. For my kindergartener, I allow him to direct his learning in the sense that I recognize his interests and wrap as many subjects around that interest as possible. He loves outer space so I will use that theme to teach reading, math, and science. He loves it. Self-directed learning does not mean we ignore every subject other than what our child is interested in. It simply means we give more time to his interests. We allow him to watch movies on that subject, research it, and write reports on it. This will knock out several subjects in one shot and makes homeschooling so much easier! I highly recommend, as the parent, to gently push your child into educational interests if they start to veer off into wanting to research or study video games or movies that could cause more harm than good. Help them find a skill or attribute within the game or movie that they are interested in and help them focus their attention on that. As parents, we want to encourage them, but if we see them heading in a dangerous direction, we are there to help make wise decisions so when they are on their own, they will continue on the right path.

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).