How Homeschooling Allows for Independent, Self-Directed Learning

Although some homeschoolers do recreate public school at home, most embrace the freedoms that come with educating our own kids. One of those freedoms is being able to customize our children’s education in a way encourages self-directed, independent learning

We want our kids to be able and willing to continue their learning experiences far beyond high school. In fact, our goal is to raise life-long learners. Allowing them to pursue topics of interest during their homeschool days puts them on this path to an ongoing culture of learning through adulthood. Here's how to nurture independent, self-directed learning in your homeschool. 

The Constraints of Public School

Unfortunately, in a public school setting, children usually do not have the freedom to dive into topics and projects that spark their interest. Schools dictate to the children what they will learn, how the material is presented, and how the children are assessed. School days are highly structured with little time to deviate from the lesson plans. 

It’s very difficult for school teachers to facilitate individual projects for all of their students, especially younger children who need more guidance for these self-directed projects. Evaluating these projects, to turn them into grades for a report card, provides another layer of difficulty for schools.

Because of the restrictive atmosphere of public schools, science fair projects and independent reading time are usually the only areas in which children have some choice. Those two slivers of an education are not enough to raise independent learners. 

Homework and after-school activities often fill families’ evenings and weekends, leaving little time for self-directed studies. Parents find themselves too exhausted after a long work day, helping with homework, getting kids to after-school activities, and doing evening chores to help kids pursue an academic interest beyond the required school work.

Public school kids who grow into self-directed, independent learners often have great support at home or a rare teacher. They are independent learners in spite of the public school system, not because of it. 

The Freedom of Homeschool

With homeschooling, we can devote time to pursue topics that are most important to our kids. Many times, we can incorporate their ideas into our own lesson plans without getting too far off track. 

How Homeschooling Allows for Independent, Self-Directed LearningOther times, it makes more sense to press pause on our lesson plans and allow them the time to dive further into a topic or pursue an interest outside of our regular school topics. We can step back from our usual routine and help guide them in this discovery process as needed.

Planning for Independent Projects

When I plan for our upcoming school year, I ask my kids if there is anything in particular that they want to learn about. We’ll brainstorm how I can help them explore these topics. We narrow down their list and incorporate these projects into our homeschool routine

Many times younger kids will run out of steam before the end of a project. Their interests can quickly turn from one topic to another, and we may pursue that new interest instead. Sometimes I encourage my kids to see a project to completion. Other times, however, it’s clear that it’s time to put aside the unfinished project and move onto something else. 

Following Where Inspiration Leads

Sometimes projects happen when inspiration hits—without advance planning! When you fill your homeschool journey with engaging books instead of textbooks, your kids will grab onto a topic and want to run with it. Stand back and let them go! This is where the magic of independent learning happens in our homeschools. 

When inspiration hits, I’m ready with our library cards, Google, YouTube, art supplies, and science tools. I brainstorm ideas for field trips and other opportunities for hands-on experiences. This is when I often hit pause on our lesson plans for the day, or even for the week and follow their lead. 

These crazy projects that are inspired by a book or by asking "What if..." are what make our homeschool experiences far richer than a public school can offer. Following these tangents is how we raise kids who are self-motivated, independent learners. 

As homeschoolers, we have the freedom to encourage our kids to chase down ideas and dive deeper into topics whenever inspiration hits them. Allowing our kids to follow their inspirations during their formal school years will encourage them to continue doing so long into adulthood. 

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About the Author

Terri KercabTerri Kurcab is a homeschool mom who lives in Nevada with her husband and their two daughters. Nature has provided the cornerstone of their homeschool journey which began in 2013. National and State park visits, mountain hikes, and outdoor-based learning adventures are what Terri and the girls can be found doing most often. When homeschool is not in session, you can find Terri in the garden or spending time with a good book and a cup of tea. Her blog, Homeschool Gardens, is where she shares her family's homeschool and life journey.


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