Self-Directed Learning: It’s Time to Clear Something Up…

There's something we need to clear up about self-directed learning.

Ah, self-directed learning. It’s one of my absolute favorite advantages of relaxed homeschooling. There can be no more effective way for children to learn, in my opinion.

In fact, its efficacy is what has enabled me to embrace a simpler homeschool approach for my children. Out of all the “fool-proof” tricks I’ve tried and well-intentioned advice I’ve received, there is no denying the fact that kids (at least, my kids) learn far more successfully and enthusiastically when they themselves are the ones who are given the reins on their education.

However, over the past few months I have realized that there are some who don’t quite understand what self-directed learning actually is, and I’ve found that the most confusion stems from one faulty idea: that self-directed learning is just another name for independent learning.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

No way!

Self-directed learning and independent learning are two different things.

Confused? Let me explain.

To be sure, self-directed learning is often done independently, but in the world of homeschooling, independent learning is when a child is able to complete their homeschool assignments without a parent’s assistance (or at least, with a minimal amount of assistance).

Self-directed learning, on the other hand, is when a child is given the freedom to pursue their own interests in any way, shape, or form that they choose to.

Do you see the difference?

One of the most common inquiries I actually get about self-directed learning is a parent asking me how to get their kids to do it. What usually lies at the root of this problem is that the parent in question is expecting their child to voluntarily jump on their school work, or at least do things that look “educational.”

My friends, that’s just not how self-directed learning works.

The whole idea of self-directed learning is giving a child autonomy over their learning, and, unsurprisingly, that rarely takes the form of what we’ve been conditioned to think learning looks like.

As a matter of fact, self-directed learning often looks like the antithesis to what most people envision education to look like – and that’s the beauty of it. You see, it’s not about textbooks and worksheets. It’s not about testing and term papers. It’s about passion, individuality, resourcefulness, and confidence…and it can take many forms:

  • playing
  • exploring
  • pondering
  • tinkering
  • observing
  • and just plain living

Don’t ever discount a child’s activities just because they aren’t something that can neatly be checked off on a curriculum box. True learning isn’t often like that, because it takes on the form of real, everyday living, rather than what can be reproduced in a classroom.

If you truly desire to give your kids the opportunity for self-directed learning, the best things you can do are to give them lots of free time, lots of resources, lots of support, and the wings to fly.

The rest needs to be left to them.

Homeschooling and education are my passion. It is my fervent hope to one day devote more time to creating content for you. If you’d like to support this ministry, consider supporting me on Patreon.

Thank you so much. I appreciate each and every one of you!


Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

4 thoughts on “Self-Directed Learning: It’s Time to Clear Something Up…”

  1. I am so excited to read this!! I found this to be true as well. Although my kids are grown, I follow your blog out of sheer happiness to see someone saying the things parents need to hear about educating children. And because one day I may just get to homeschool my grandkids, if I get any. Great job! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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