Self-Directed Learning: the Art of Independent Homeschooling

Self-directed learning: a new term evolving from the unschool movement.

I’ve spent my early homeschool years lapping up all things John Holt and John Taylor Gatto. I even radically unschooled for six solid months until the three youngest kids were bored and wanted something more.



We gradually transitioned to a self-directed learning.

For a long time, I referred to us as classical unschoolers. Now I see that we have a rather traditional looking day, so unschoolers would understandably balk. But we do it in a very child-directed way, but there isn’t a top-down academic focus, so classical homeschoolers would raise eyebrows too.

So what are we?

Hard to say.

The more we move toward a self-directed approach, the more I see the kids capturing their days and their activities, with independent gusto.

How we expect them to do their work.

If they can learn to work on their own at times now, they begin to take ownership of their activities and begin to cultivate that independence. It isn’t a privilege that many schooled kids have: to nuruture independence. But I’d say it’s necessary that they gradually learn independence, as soon as they can handle one thing, then it’s on to the next thing, because it’s something that will help them in adulthood.

They’re not going to have me summarizing their hundred pages of textbook reading in their first year English Lit class or brush their teeth before their first interview. And I’m not going to their first job to flip burgers or steam milk.


The process to get them to independence is a daily occurrence. If they can do something on their own, they should.


That might begin with following a daily chore list where the child sees her name on the fridge and knows to empty the garbage (or have a big sister tell him what his chore is if he’s not yet reading). It’ll eventually means that the child knows she’s got to have breakfast, do her grooming, and complete her chores before the official start to the day.

If they’re given tasks they can handle, they become confident that they can do those things independently. Gradually, based on the child’s abilities, their independence grows over time. All the while, they’re not being compared to someone else, they’re simply expected to do the best that they can do, every time.


You can take a mini-retreat here: the Homeschool Mama Retreat.


Get more encouragement in the book: Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer

Homeschool Mama Self-Care: nurturing the nurturer