Saturday, July 4, 2009

Self Directed Learning

For some reason, many in the field of education seem surprised by the idea that people have the capability to teach themselves, and don't need every detail broken down in easy to digest and well planned lessons followed up by a quiz. Learning for the sake of learning, just because you are interested, or it seems fun, rather than to get a grade, or piece of paper, or because some authority figure says you "should be learning that right now" is a foriegn concept to many. Really though, aren't we all more likely to retain something we were actually interested in than something we were forced to memorize? I know I passed many a test with flying colors because I knew I would get some prize, but if you asked me a month later, I probably forgot half of what was on the test because I only cared about the prize, not the knowledge.

Now that I am an adult, and a homeschooling mother, I am appreciating the opportunity to immerse myself and my children in studies that excite us. My own college classes may add up to a degree at some point, but the main idea is that I am interested and want to learn more about a subject, and that is why I am studying it. When I play with learning dance or music at 38 years old, I am fairly sure I will never be a professional performer, but I am having fun, and that is what life should be all about.

That's also what I want my children's education to be- self driven and joyful. Of course there are a few basics you need to thrive, or even survive in our society, but I don't see why they all have to be learned on a rigid timeline. There is plenty of room for flexibility, and I've seen my own kids absorb countless concepts when they were ready. Their siblings and friends may have learned the same thing at a younger or older age, but in the end, as long as they get it, who cares? It makes me very sad when I hear of other great kids who are labeled and critiqued for not being on the exact arbitrary timeline some expert chose for them. I wish these experts would look at all the neat things these kids can do, rather than focusing on what they can't and making them feel bad about it. Most kids are not stupid, and can excel in something. But no matter how many special programs you set up, you are never going to get everyone to be good at everything because were are all unique individuals. We all need to read and understand math to handle what the world throws at us, but I'm really glad my kids know they can learn the basics at their own pace, and follow their own passions. It is a freedom we all treasure dearly.

It's nice when other experts back up my thoughts and opinions, and along that theme, here's an article from Psychology Today with more on minimally invasive education.