It’s unfamiliar and still pretty far outside the norm…
While homeschooling itself has transitioned from a fringe movement to a rapidly growing, viable option for educating children, self-directed homeschooling is still pretty far outside the norm, even amongst homeschoolers themselves.
This is a constant theme running through this blog, but I’ll say it again: the “norm” isn’t working well anymore for most of our children. It isn’t preparing them well for adult life, for an invigorating career that matters, for the skills they’ll need in order to function in a world where things are changing at lightning speed. If the “norm” isn’t working, that means we must have the courage to discard it and step outside of its boundaries for new, better ways of doing things.
It’s a big departure from what we’re used to.
Most of us began homeschooling our children with preconceived notions about what a “good” education is and what learning “should” look like from our own days in a brick-and-mortar school, firmly entrenched in our minds. Self-directed homeschooling doesn’t look anything like what most of us have grown up associating a “good” education with.
Just because we’re “used to” something, doesn’t mean that it’s the best way of doing things. Doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient or the most comprehensive. It just means that we’ve been doing it that way for as long as we can remember. Society advances and technology progresses and evolves because innovators are constantly pushing the boundaries of what we’re currently “used to”. If self-directed homeschooling is to work, we must open our minds to the possibilities that exist outside of our comfort zones and have the courage to venture forth.
There aren’t any guides or lesson plans to follow.
No one’s going to do this for you. No one has ever traveled down the exact paths that you’ll go down with your children. This is uncharted terrain.
In order to be a successful self-directed homeschooler, you must be able to ask the right questions and synthesize information. Since you won’t have a prefabricated lesson plan, you wait for an obstacle – there’s something in the way of what you want to do, be, have, or know…and the lesson plan for a self-directed homeschooler involves creativity and ingenuity in the quest to get around those obstacles. You keep asking questions, keep finding resources, keep studying…until what you don’t know or can’t do is no longer an obstacle.
It requires you to do something most of us don’t do well – trust children.
At the crux of self-directed homeschooling is an unwavering faith in the ability of children to learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it. Most of us, however, have been conditioned to believe that children will not choose to pursue worthwhile endeavors if they’re left to their own devices.
This is probably the single biggest hang-up that most people will have about self-directed learning. Most people are operating from a position of fear: fear that their kids will never choose on their own to do anything unpleasant or difficult or worthwhile; fear that their kids will be “behind”; fear that their children won’t get into the right college; fear of how other people will perceive their kids. Fear is suffocating. You can’t make good decisions operating from a position of fear, so you must face those fears. Chase them down to their worst possible outcomes and decide whether or not you can accept them. Realize that rarely will you end up with a worst case scenario. Then go in the opposite direction. Follow them to their best case scenarios. Most likely, you’ll end up somewhere in-between.
You’ve got to take a leap of faith.
Ultimately, self-directed homeschooling isn’t something you dabble in. The underlying principles either resonate with you or they don’t. If they do, you’ve just got to take it on faith that your kids will be better than okay and everything will work out just fine.
There is no magic pill to swallow here. No potion or lotion. It’s all you. Weigh the risks and the rewards. Don’t make decisions in fear.
Sometimes it will look like no learning is happening.
Learning when you have a self-directed homeschooler typically isn’t going to look like a child sitting quietly at a desk, diligently studying a textbook. Sometimes it might, but you can’t expect that it will. There probably won’t be daily assignments or tests to measure progress. Sometimes, your kids will binge watch TV. Maybe they’ll spend hours with a book, or watching Minecraft videos on YouTube, or building models, or drawing, or…the list of stuff that won’t look like what most of us think of when we think of what learning looks like goes on and on.
It’s important here to remember that learning takes all sorts of forms and can come from a variety of sources. One is not inherently better than another. Additionally, real learning will often come in fits and starts, with breaks in-between to rest, ruminate, and integrate information. The best advice I can offer for this is to relax. It doesn’t all have to happen right now.
You’ll probably get a lot of criticism and judgment from people who don’t understand.
Expect it. It’s gonna happen. No matter what you do, people will always have an opinion. When you’re bucking the system, you make other people uncomfortable. When you’re doing something courageous or innovative, it’s threatening to those who are happy with the status quo.
Brace yourself for those awkward sideways glances, some hostility, criticism that is disguised as questions, warnings of doom and gloom to come…and then thank them for their concern and go on about your way.