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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Self Learners in the Homeschool

As the idea of self learning began to take hold in the homeschool community, I was asked to share some practical tips on how to move your children into a self learning lifestyle.

Let me begin by saying I feel the biggest problem we find in government and private schools is that the students are taught to be dependent upon someone else for their education. They are not given autonomy over their work. Students don’t feel responsible for their education because someone else spoon feeds them and checks to make sure the entire bite was swallowed. If it's not, they are given a grade—and labeled. If it is, again, they are given a grade and labeled. Education is no longer about knowledge and learning, but rather about who is best at opening wide and swallowing.

The reason
 homeschoolers are being courted by top schools and are excelling in college is because most, through the sovereign hand of necessity, have become autodidacts: self learners. Mom hands them the book and teacher's manual and tells them to go learn. They study, do the work, then check to see if it was correct. They have no reason to cheat, for no one is looking at and judging their answers on a daily basis. Chapter tests are often the only work mom oversees, and the child is ever mindful that the proof will be in the SAT pudding served up in 11th grade. With this autonomy, students are empowered and given charge of their lives, their education, and their future. They feel good when they do well—and not just because someone else thinks they did a good job, for no one really knows but themselves. They become self motivated learners, motivated by their personal and private sense of achievement.

Homeschoolers do not need a teacher to stand over them and teach the material, telling them what will and will not be on the test (so that they can pick and choose what to store in their short term memory). They do not have an authority figure over them, making sure they have done their homework, bringing swift punishment when it's not done.

Homeschoolers in high school do their work because they want to learn; they are self motivated because they know there is no other way. They see the future and know what it takes to get where they want to go. These bright kids are not as focused on peers, relationships, and popularity. Their world does not revolve around today's interpersonal issues, but rather on reaching the goals they have set for themselves.

Now all of this does not happen overnight. A student doesn't go from a spoon fed learner, with mom checking over every problem and standing over him all day, to an independent self motivated scholar. It happens gradually over a period of years, as mom moves from teacher to coach to facilitator to mentor.