Self-directed learning: Trust in kids (Part 2)

In this short series of articles, I have summarised three points which I consider as the key elements for self-directed education. I have learnt them over my time at one of the best known examples of free schools in the world – Summerhill School (Suffolk, England), which celebrates 100th anniversary in 2021. This text is addressed to home-schooling parents but also to teachers who seek different ways of teaching. Hopefully, you will be able to contribute to the movement of parents and educators who see children as the central part of learning.


You need to trust your kids. Believe, they will learn whatever they will need or want and it will prepare them for the future.

The rapid development in last decade shows that our future is unpredictable more then ever in the human history. Even sophisticated and powerful army of state officials struggle to predict what jobs we will be able do and how we will earn our money. Yes, there are more or less accurate visions and projections and even practical social experiments which try to implement basic income as an answer to robotization and automation in industries and services. Unfortunately, the speed of world development is not allowing us to see the clear picture.

What should be your actions in this case? Simply, ask your kids and students what they want to learn or just observe what they do. Talk with (rather to) them about all events which you encounter as family or class. Suggest trips and visits, explore the nature around your place, do and make things togather. Although, it is also important give them their own time and personal moments. It might seem to you unproductive and waste of time, but those periods are equally important as busy days. Relax time is especially essential for teenagers and young people, who use lots of energy on their growth and development, and as you might remember, it is not easy job.

This led us to the very frequent topic on social media – social time with peers. My opinion is that kids should engage socially with group of friends as much as they want and can. Firstly, it supports their social development and resilience. If young people stay mostly in home enviroment, predominantly in contact with adults, it will create a safe space, but also reduce the special interaction between youngsters and opportunity to learn from one another, own mistakes and from naturally occurred situations. Independence also push adults to give kids more responsibility in their lives and teach us to create trustful relationship without tight control.

Secondly, the peer networking creates foundation of friends and acquaintances for the future, which might have practical advantage for adulthood, where friends could help. Although, it doesn’t mean to go to a school. People can create connections in the scout movement or sport clubs in a similar or better way then in schools. For example, here on Homeschool Online, we run a social chat space for homeschoolers, where they can connect to everyone, chat, call, or just hang around in the online environment. This space is govern by democratic rules, where members has the power to change what ever they want, which gives them feeling of belongings. This is an essential aspect which should be introduce in schools but it is also valuable to think about it in home education.

It is important to note, that it is difficult task for adults in any role. We all care about kids and we want the best for them, but sometimes less is the best. Give people the space to learn and do not teach them because it will not have effect in some cases anyway. Stay around, be positive and believe in your kids.