Self-directed learning

My children are only young but we have found a style of learning that works for us, and it’s called ‘self directed learning’. My husband and I went to traditional schools and our parents were traditional in their understanding of learning. And although we both survived and finished our schooling, we have both felt much more engaged in higher levels of university education where the objectives and parameters of projects are looser and have at least some degree of autonomy.

Knowing our children, we decided this was the way to move forward for their education. There is a big difference between school and education. Schooling is a system designed to produce workers. There are lots of good things about schools, but there are many drawbacks, especially for learners who are neurodiverse and will find the environment stressful. It’s fair to say, in our situation, engaging in a traditional school environment will actually cause more harm than good.

But we are now on the fringe; choosing a path that is considered odd and possibly irresponsible. There is a great freedom in choosing something different but it comes with a requirement to be thick-skinned and to be confident in your choices. Not something that is always easy; especially for some more than others.

During this pandemic, in 2020, what our learning looks like is different than what we hope it will look like one day. We are home-bound and that is almost completely fine, but we look forward to travel and engaging in cultural and social activities again.

In a typical day our children have complete freedom in their play; from watching videos of garbage trucks, to playing Minecraft, digging in the sandpit or building Lego. Our boys experience a world of freedom and imagination. For us, this meets their needs and allows them to reach their potential. Some will argue that at some point we all need to grow up and meet the expectations of others; a boss to earn a wage etc. But what will the world look like in 20 years when my kids are ‘grown up’? Right now, we are experiencing a massive change in employment conditions due to the pandemic, and many of us hope things will change thereafter… But even so, the casualisation of the workforce over the past 10-20 years has changed the nature of work for young people. So no matter what happens, preparing our boys to be more self-directed feels like the right choice, for us.

We can’t know the road ahead, so we don’t know where it will lead. But for right now, we are focused on following their lead and engaging them in their interests.

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