Do you want your children to enjoy learning? Most parents would agree that their ultimate goal in educating their children is to create motivated life-long learners. Research shows us that motivation and excitement for learning are best achieved when learners are offered autonomy, trust, and resources that support their interests. Self-directed learning is at the heart of this educational model. In this podcast, we’ll explore ways to ignite our children’s curiosity and passion for learning through interviews with experts and families who have experienced first-hand the advantages of pursuing self-directed education.
Neurodiversity and Self Directed Learning with Naomi Fisher
Jenna starts the show by describing her family's learning philosophy and home education style. My family has been home educating now for approximately 9 months and we’ve chosen self directed education as our approach to learning. What does that mean exactly? Well, it basically means that our children control what, when and how they learn. We actually refrain from labeling “learning” as we believe as humans we are always learning and there aren’t particular subjects or skills that trump o
Choosing the Right Learning Environment for Your Kids with Naomi Fisher
Show Notes | Part I
Jenna first discovered Naomi Fisher’s work through the Offtrail Learning Podcast hosted by Blake Boles. She then discovered the comprehensive YouTube video produced by The Phoenix Education Trust called The Psychology of Self Directed Learning by Naomi Fisher. Her most recent work, a book she wrote called ‘Changing Our Minds’ was published in February 2021 and is highly recommended by Jenna as a comprehensive guide to self-directed learning. Naomi and Jenna had an interview previously that didn’t get recorded due to technical difficulties, but there were a few takeaways from having had that experience which relate to education. One of them was that as it is in schools sometimes, having a time constraint created pressure and stress on my brain and made it more likely for me to be careless and inattentive. Jenna compares this to timed tests in school. We are all fallible and it’s important for our kids to see us struggling and then our resiliency through times of stress and discomfort. Being vulnerable and experiencing failure are something we traditionally try and avoid, but embracing it as part of the experience and congratulating yourself on overcoming those moments of rejection are really critical to demonstrating mastery in something. Naomi started writing her book without thinking about it ever being published. It was such a niche topic that she wondered if it’d even be read. She decided to write it anyway because she knew the process of writing it would be useful to her anyway - she would learn how to write a book through writing a book. Naomi describes her experience writing the book. She wondered if she needed some sort of course or credentials. Sometimes we think we need specific credentials or permission to start projects, but we really just need to get started. Courses are valuable, yet not essential to getting started. As her son approached school age, she felt strange about sending her son into the school environment and giving up complete control over how he was talked to, what he did, who he spent his time with, after having been so intentional about that during his first years. Knowing her son’s personality and needs, she was worried he wouldn’t comply with the group norms, which would have made school quite difficult for her son. They chose to unschool because their son was opposed to any structured learning. As her kids got older (ages 7 and 10), she noticed how increasingly difficult it was to meet both of their needs simultaneously since they had completely different interests. Jenna’s kids are much the same and they’ve been using Galileo’s online school as a resource to help offer diverse clubs and activities that each of her kids can participate in at their discretion. Our environment greatly impacts what is essential to learn and priority to learn specific skills. For example, if you move to France, French is most important to learn. Two ways of self directed learning: interest-led (watercolour painting) and things you need to learn in your environment (like language). As unschooling parents, it’s important to ask ourselves: How can we expand the environment for your child? Making sure we are giving our children the opportunity to interact in the world and speak with people of varying perspectives, backgrounds and cultures is how unschooling can elevate the educational experience for your family. Some schools, like Montessori and Waldorf, can actually impose more restrictions than we’re aware of and are based on our perceived beliefs about freedom. When you choose a school for its pedagogical beliefs, you’re often choosing a lifestyle for the whole family. When you choose a specific school based on your child’s natural interests, learning style and preferred environment, then it can be a great solution. When control be
Skilled and Unhappy; The Promise of Conventional Schooling
Chris and Jenna share their takeaways from episode 009.
Selling your house and beginning a co-housing project of this scale is commendable and courageous. It takes a lot of effort to take the alternative path and create a life more aligned with your values. If we stick with the school system, we by default assume the values of that system.
Every step toward living a life that’s in line with your values is a step in the right direction. It will eventually lead you to the lifestyle you want.
Getting familiar with your values first helps you to recognize the most impactful changes you can make to get you closer to leading a life of choice.
Deschooling helps you to stay alert and aware and helps inform your decisions going forward. Drift is a common result of not questioning or reflecting.
Jenna would like to find ways to include more diversity in their kids lives through travel and interacting with the community. Obviously, Covid has impacted their ability to do this thus far.
Chris is interested in driving more intention toward authenticity and kindness.
Jenna shares her hope for building up her kids’ emotional intelligence, which will give them the foundation they need to build the skills needed to be successful in their area of expertise, passions, or interests.
When we reach the end of traditional school systems, many of us feel skilled and unhappy.
Working 40 - 50 hour work weeks and getting used to consuming material items to FEEL successful is not the future we envision for ourselves or our kids, but it’s the life we are promised (or sentenced to, whichever way you see it) when we follow the traditional path.
Living intentionally, in Jenna’s opinion, is where you’ll gain meaning in your life.
With home education, you gain back some control over how your values play out in your day to day life.
As humans, we enjoy being creative but it’s difficult for children who are passionate about artistic pursuits to devote their time and energy to it because of school hours. What if they had the time to dedicate their entire day to these endeavors? How would that affect the way they contribute to that field?
Trying to fit in creative “hobbies” alongside school hours means you’re giving partial attention to both school and the “hobby”. What if they were able to devote all their time to the thing they’re most skilled at and interested in?
Our own son felt the pressure and anxiety from secondary school, but he couldn’t articulate it, nor was he consciously aware that school was the source of his stress.
Mentioned in Today's Show Teen Ballerina’s Daily Routine
Sir Ken Robinson TedEx Talk
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Intentional Co-housing Community with Unschooling in Mind
Nickee’s boys are 61/2 and 4 and have always unschooled. Her husband brought the idea of homeschooling into their family. Nickee had a gut feeling her son would not fit into the school system model. It wasn’t too difficult for her to question the dominant system, as she had been doing that in other areas of her life outside of unschooling, particularly with her work in psychology. She says she fell naturally into attachment parenting and gentle parenting because it made sense to the theory she had been practicing with adult clients. Nickee explains how her son was able to find his authentic self through attending a self-directed, consent-based learning center. She feels like deschooling is something she’ll always be working on, although her mother’s open-minded nature was helpful in her ability to embrace alternative mindsets. Deschooling is probably the most important piece of unschooling. She didn’t want her children to have to unravel years of dominant thinking from various systems they’ve been exposed to. Sophie Christophy does a course on deschooling yourself, in which Nickee was able to find ways to better listen to her body’s response to things - she uses the example of trying to control and plan the day, and then noticing her physical reaction to her boys wanting to do something different. Deschooling, in Nickee’s words, is taking yourself out of the schooling system and the dominant system in order to successfully unschool and parent your children. It’s bringing awareness to the constant influx of messaging from the media, advertising, consumerism etc. and instead listening to yourself and your intuition. Jenna shares how reflection, understanding her feelings, and reconnecting with her interests was part of her own deschooling process. Earthrise is a project Nickee is working on together with her husband. It’s a co-housing, sustainable intentional living community. Her vision is to create a small community of families living and unschooling together. She was thinking about how to create more connection, collaboration, resilience and self-sufficiency for her and her family. Jenna explains how exploring her values was also part of her experience in coming to unschooling, similar to Nickee wanting to live her core values through the Earthrise project. Nickee describes Earthrise as having 3 pillars: environment, connection, and unschooling. Unschooling fits into this community because the ethos of the group are inherently self-directed and democratic. They want to grow food and give back to the community. They’d also like to offer something for homeschoolers, possibly workshops or experiences for families. Service to others is an important piece of the overarching vision of Earthrise. The Cabin, set up by Sophie Christophy and Sarah Stollery, is a self-directed learning environment. The guiding principles are consensual learning and everyone’s voice matters. Nickee stresses how much it helps to have like-minded people to connect with when trying to live out your values. On a smaller scale, Jenna suggests finding ways to create safe and intentional living “bubbles” for your family as a way of creating community. In the future, Earthrise will evolve and adapt to the needs of the community. Nickee is currently exploring how fear plays into our lives. She mentioned Hakomi Therapy as a resource. She learns best when the learning applies to her lived experience. She has found Reading Eggs helpful in inspiring her son’s reading progression and The Cabin has been instrumental in their learning journey as well. She also mentioned that enjoys listening to the podcast, A New and Ancient Story by Charles Eisenstein and has his book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible in the queue.
Helpful Resources Mentioned in Today's Show Hakomi Ther
How Does Self Directed Learning Differ from Conventional Schools?
Jenna shares a voicemail from the community. Sue calls in to share how her son “reverse engineered” his driving course to make it more efficient and relevant to him. You can call in and leave your own message by going to www.roguelearner.com/podcast and click, “share message.” We’d love to add your stories to the show! Jenna’s husband will join the show today. If all goes well, it may become the new biweekly format. Jenna invited him on so she could: extract and discuss the key takeaways from each of the guest interviews on the show add a dad’s perspective to the conversation Demonstrate how parents can respectfully disagree yet still find a common ground Chris starts by sharing his first takeaway from episode 007, which is that in a school setting, we’re often limited to perspectives, ideas and views from people who live and think much the same as we do. With Galileo and homeschooling, you’re able to engage with learners from diverse backgrounds. Jenna talks about how the curriculum is set by the government and every government decides for their country/culture how and what should be taught. Chris shares that unlike at schools, facilitators at Galileo don’t always need to be experts in their field, rather they need to have a passion for the topic and that is sufficient for teaching and learning from one another. Curiosity is squelched by the curriculum because it’s set and inflexible. Students who want to learn more about a given topic aren’t able. And the reverse is true, students who perceive the topic as unimportant and irrelevant to their lives are still forced to sit through those classes. In Kristen’s interview last week, she shared how her intense schedule at her IBE school was too stressful. Chris found it troubling that overscheduling and burnout are now affecting students as early as middle school. He wonders about the harm it is causing mentally and asks how early do we want kids to feel stressed? Jenna and Chris talk about how asking kids what they want to be when they grow up is so common, but it’s a daunting question to answer for a child. Children have trouble answering this because they aren’t ready to make adult plans - their adult lives are so far removed from their current world. They are still in the process of developing skills and finding out about themselves. Schools are slow to evolve. It costs money and takes time for them to acquire modern tools for students to use. Cheating culture in schools is prolific and it comes from competition and a culture of comparison in schools, particularly in high school and middle school. Competition favors the winner and the losers can become demotivated. How does that affect how we treat others when we’re competing for the top? Because the subject and topics learned in school are so contextually removed from the real world, we miss the point of learning something other than to achieve a grade, status, or certification. Jenna feels jaded that she never was exposed to alternative education and wishes she had learned about all the models of education in her elementary education studies. It’s no surprise though, because it would actually question the education system. School teaches that rules are more important than independent thought. Having other mentors/facilitators from Galileo has been really important during our transition to self directed learning because our kids are still learning to trust that we are not pushing them in any specific direction. It will likely take time for our kids to understand that our new lifestyle actually means that we are not directing them or their learning. Mindshift change is important to unschooling. When we change our mindset from “My day is planned and it will go according to plan.” to, “Although I have a plan for the day, unpredictability will occur and I’m wi
Self-directed Learning from an Educator's Perspective
Kristen grew up in Tampa, Fl and attended public schools her whole education. For elementary school she attended an IB school. As a gifted student, she was given many fun opportunities such as: Battle of the Books and Mathletes. In Middle, she felt a huge shift in pressure. She had 4 hours of homework, so she switched to a local public school. It was not very challenging though, and felt really uninspired to attend. In high school, she moved to Texas. She attended the 5th largest high school in the nation. It wasn’t a positive experience. She noticed a huge cheating culture, especially in the AP classes. Her opinion of education changed and led her to an interest in self-directed learning. In her experience, elementary school was more project-based, which left a lot of autonomy for the students. Middle School focuses more on punishment and the relationships with your teachers are shallow due to the constraints of scheduling and organizational needs with so many students. She wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to major in at the college level. She came upon self-directed learning on her own online and became really interested in it. She found a democratic school near her and asked to observe. Shortly after, she began interning at the school while attending college. She earned her degree in Child Learning and Development. Alternative education was not even mentioned in her program, except Waldorf and Montessori. As part of a presentation in school, Kristen showed the TED ED talk by Logan LePlante and it sparked a lot of discussions. In democratic schools, students meet regularly to vote on rules, how to allocate funds, etc. Mentors at the school support the students by reminding them of the time, to eat, help organize events and field trips, and be available to support them however they need. Some of these schools offer classes or clubs which students can opt into. At the democratic school where Kristen interned, she offered a maker’s space and some classes in psychology and tech. The school eventually developed into an Agile Learning Center and moved to a new location, so Kristen collaborated with others to develop a Liberated Learner’s Center for ages 4-18. At the center, there were classes, games, and workshops offered to students - all opt in. During Covid, Kristen transitioned to Galileo. Democratic schools are schools where students vote on how to run the school. They vary in style - Sudbury and Summerhill are two examples of this model. Agile Learning Centers are schools where the goal is more about intention. It’s run sociocratically. Students use tools to visually keep track of their goals. Students are offered pop-up classes and workshops based on their interests. Liberated Learning Centers are based on the North Star approach where each student is offered a mentor and classes are offered to students based on their interests. They are given a lot of guidance and support during the student/career/continuing education transition. According to Kristen, mentoring (as opposed to teaching) is great for three reasons; the learners want to be there and are excited to attend your class and you have the opportunity to build a deeper relationship since you share a passion with the learner, and lastly you get to teach something you love. You aren’t seen as an authority figure, so communication is open and trusting. The learners get to decide what they learn related to the topic. Galileo is a global online school for self directed learners. They offer clubs where students get to decide when and if they participate. Students have the freedom to try the clubs, but aren't obligated to attend. The clubs provide challenges and skill-building based on what the students want to know. The clubs meet weekly. If they need help between club sessions, students can contact the facilitators per message.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I highly recommend this podcast for anyone who is interested in starting or even continuing homeschooling and unschooling. This podcast will make you think about learning, life and your children’s well being.
Great Topics That Get You Thinking About Education!
Jenna covers some amazing ideas to get you thinking about the traditional educational system, and how there may be better options out there to help kids learn differently! It’s great to learn about different options and hear various perspectives to consider for our future kiddos.
Where hVe you been all my life!
Listening to Jenna describe her feelings and experiences about the educational system through both the teaching and parent lens, I simply felt validated and more confident for my desire to dive deeper on this educational journey for our 3 kids. I am beyond thrilled she is bringing this content to life and ready to binge and be a rogue learner fan!