The Uncharted Journey
🌟Embark on a journey into the heart of learning where the path isn't paved with textbooks and exams, but with curiosity and freedom! 🚀 In this eye-opening episode, we unravel the essence of self-directed learning-a philosophy where children are not just students, but explorers of their own destinies.
Welcome to the inaugural episode of ‘Alts2HS Spotlight.’ I’m Coach Terry, and I’m thrilled to have you join us on this journey into the world of self-directed learning. Today, we’ll set the stage for a series that promises to be as transformative as it is insightful.
But before we delve deeper into the subject matter, I thought it would be fitting to give you a teaser of my own personal story when it came to Unschooling.
My Personal Story
Growing up, like many of you, I was schooled traditionally. Our school days were structured with set subjects, strict schedules, and an expectation to fit into the system. But looking back, I have to admit that most of my most profound learning experiences happened outside of school – during my personal reading, on family trips, or while pursuing my hobbies and mostly after I barely graduated and left home for college.
Fast forward to when I became a parent. When my child started his schooling journey, I found myself questioning the very system I grew up in. Why do we compartmentalize learning into subjects? Why does learning happen at the same pace for all, when each child is unique? The questions were many, and the answers seemed elusive. That’s when I came across the concept of unschooling. How we ended up there is a much longer story I’ll tell in another episode.
Unschooling: A New Paradigm
Meanwhile, I have to say that at first, the idea was both intriguing and frightening. Unschooling represented everything that traditional schooling wasn’t. It was fluid, child-led, interest-based, and didn’t confine learning to textbooks or classrooms. But with this freedom came fears – how would my children fare in a world that values traditional education metrics? Would they miss out on anything crucial?
By the time I took the plunge, albeit hesitantly, I had two non-nuero typical children who would not fit in to the system and I was determined to provide an environment that would help them both on their very different and unique learning paths. The transition wasn’t easy. There were days filled with self-doubt, worries, and confusion. But there were also days of joy, discovery, and a sense of liberation that traditional schooling rarely offered.
Self-Directed Learning: The True Essence
Before we venture further, let’s clarify what I’m actually talking about. Unschooling—or, as I prefer, self-directed learning—comes in various forms. There are ‘almost’ unschoolers who give their children the freedom to follow their interests, yet set requirements for subjects like math and English. At the other end of the spectrum, there are radical unschoolers who take a hands-off approach, sometimes extending to ‘unparenting’—completely leaving their children to their own devices. This radical approach has, unfortunately, cast a shadow over the term ‘unschooling’ for many. Due to our cultural programming, the idea of trusting a child to learn what is ‘appropriate’ and ‘necessary’ without direct oversight seems outlandish. To offer a more academic perspective and hopefully sidestep some of these preconceived biases, I prefer the term ‘self-directed education (SDE).’
So, what exactly is self-directed learning, and how or why does it work?
SDE is about engaging with children through play—participating with them and allowing them the freedom to play independently. It’s about encouraging them to express their imagination, supporting their endeavors, reading with them, and providing the scaffolding they need to explore their interests. Above all, it revolves around trusting and respecting them as unique individuals.
SDE recognizes that learning isn’t confined to when we deliberately set out to teach. It occurs in an environment where curiosity is the compass, where children are active partners in their education, and where the adult’s role is to guide, support, and facilitate—never to impose. There are no rigid ‘requirements’ in self-directed learning.
And it works because this is how we’re naturally wired to learn—it’s how we’ve been learning for thousands of years. It works because it’s a holistic process that connects mind and body, as well as the many areas of knowledge that we’ve only recently divided into ‘subjects.’ It’s ironic that a ‘well-rounded’ education today often means studying these disconnected subjects, rather than understanding them in context. Consider this: there is scarcely an interest one could pursue that doesn’t inherently involve critical thinking, reading, writing, and arithmetic.
The Richness of Experiences
Today, as I watch my children, and many others I’ve gotten to know over time, thrive, pursuing their interests and learning at their own pace and in context, I know I’ve made the right choice. Their journey of unschooling has been a learning experience for me too, pushing me to unlearn and relearn many preconceived notions about education.
Conclusion: Our journey doesn’t stop here. With this podcast series, I hope to share our experiences, insights, and challenges, talk to others who have trodden the same path, and create a community where we can learn from each other.
So, whether you’re a parent, an educator, or a student, if you’ve ever questioned the one-size-fits-all approach to education, this podcast is for you. Together, let’s explore the path less trodden, and uncover the wonders of self-directed learning.
Thank you for joining me in our first episode. Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the world of self-directed learning in our upcoming episodes!