The beauty of homeschooling is that you can choose what feels right to you. School offers structure and routine. However, to some families, school is a significant disruption to their flow. In choosing to homeschool, you can find your family’s natural rhythm and find educational opportunities to meet your child’s needs. For many families, unschooling, or Self-Directed Education, is a great fit. To explore what this looks like, there are four areas to think about initially.
Voice and Choice
A fundamental aspect of Self-Directed Education is that education is not something we do to children. They are capable of engaging in the decision making surrounding topics that impact their lives. How do they spend their days? What do they want to learn? What kind of experiences do they want/need? Even if their choices are limited by circumstance, engaging them in discussions about why those limits are there and what options they have, can be a powerful tool to empower them.
Time to Play and Engage
Many adults acknowledge that play is a necessary part of growth and learning for younger children. Unfortunately, this view changes to play as a break from learning for older children and adults. Playing and freely exploring curiosities is the easiest and most engaging way for human beings to learn. It is also a fantastic tool in recognizing what your child is interested in and how their mind solves problems as a parent. Understanding these things is incredibly helpful in Self-Directed Education as we are helping our children gain access to the knowledge they want.
Once children are engaged with something meaningful, giving them time becomes crucial. If they want to spend hours building or painting, find the space to allow this. Strict, quickly changing schedules mean they are never going to be able to take a deeper dive into subjects that interest them.
Access to Resources
Figuring out what your children are interested in is step one. Finding the classes, books, and activities that allow them to explore those topics is the next step. Access to the right resources and experiences allows children to grow and learn all those things that school would teach them, but in a format that is easy for them to grasp. Think of all those times when teachers said they were teaching you things you would use “one day.” For Self-Directed kiddos, that day is now and how they are gaining these valuable skills and knowledge, not just something they may explore years from now.
Access to the Community
School is not the only place for children to learn about citizenship, friendship, and responsibility to others. The idea of community is up for interpretation and has so many layers to it. We consider community: our family, our local community, our national community, and our world community. Actively engaging at each level provides learning opportunities. More importantly, it offers connections to people and our world.
Model Self-Directed Learning
Many parents discuss the challenges of motivating children in self-directed education. One of the most powerful tools that parents have is to allow children to see them engaging in their own meaningful learning experiences. It isn’t that the children are unschoolers or Self-directed learners. You are aiming to be an unschooling family. Discuss the new skills and classes that you are taking, engage with your community, and let your children see how you tackle new situations. Create a family culture where you all seek knowledge and adventure.
Trust that you can help them access the skills and knowledge they need to thrive. Allow their education to be led by meaningful connections and a strong curiosity. Ultimately, becoming Self-Directed Learners means placing the learning opportunities and the world in the hands of children now instead of living their lives in a classroom to prepare for later.
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