The Power of Self-Directed Learning

How I Unshackled My Kids’ Education

Hey there, parents and guardians! Today, I want to shed light on a topic close to my heart: self-directed learning, also known as unschooling. If you’ve been battling with traditional educational systems and are craving something more, you’ll want to read on.

What is Self-Directed Learning?

Let’s start by defining what self-directed learning is. It’s a learning model where the child, rather than the teacher, parent, or curriculum, leads the educational process. This is not about radical unschooling or alternative parenting styles; it’s about empowering your child to lead their own educational journey.

A Journey to Unschooling

I began my homeschooling journey in 2008. Like many, I initially tried to replicate the school environment at home, complete with schedules and curricula. But it soon became clear that this traditional model was the root of the problem my kids were facing, especially for my eldest son.

The Struggle with Traditional Learning

My son, though incredibly bright, just didn’t connect with the regimented, one-size-fits-all education system. The rigidity of the curriculum led to tension and frustration, creating an environment of stress rather than learning.

A Detour and an Epiphany

A career opportunity with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration came up, requiring me to be on-site several days a week. During this period, my children were essentially unschooling themselves under the supervision of their grandfather. Although this initially led to panic, I soon found that my children were thriving as they explored their interests.

The Benefits of Letting Go

When I finally let go of the traditional mindset, wonderful things began to happen. My son, who was particularly disengaged from the standard way of learning, started exploring his interests earnestly. One significant milestone was his venture into a goat business, funded by a $5,000 check from the USDA after impressing them with a well-researched business plan. Not only did this experience teach him practical skills like Excel and PowerPoint, but it also boosted his self-esteem and practical knowledge tremendously.

Breaking Barriers and Building Bonds

For my younger son, who is dyslexic and autistic, the self-directed learning approach was a godsend. He taught himself to read by age 11, relieving him of the immense stress that traditional teaching methods had inflicted upon him.

One of the most rewarding outcomes was the transformation of our family dynamics. Arguments over schoolwork disappeared, replaced by meaningful conversations and shared explorations.

Final Thoughts

If you find yourself caught in the cycle of standardized tests, rigid curricula, and the never-ending tension it can cause, consider self-directed learning. Yes, it requires a mindset shift, but the rewards—happy, inquisitive children who are prepared for real-world challenges—are well worth it.

Have questions? Curious about how to transition to this learning model? I would love to tell you more. Feel free to use our scheduling tool to reach out!

So here’s to breaking free from traditional molds and empowering our kids to reach for the stars! 🌠 Read the full story about my unschooling journey “The Winding Road to Unschooling“.

Do you have any questions or concerns about this educational journey? I’m always here to help. Let’s reconnect with our children by embracing self-directed learning!


Join the discussion about this and other high school education topics in our Facebook Group "Alternatives to High School". The goal of the group is to give parents a place to discuss options to public/private school and standardized curriculum as well as share resources for educating teens.

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