self directed learning

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10 Science-Based Benefits of Self-Directed Learning

Whether it’s unschooling or simply child-led homeschooling, self-directed learning is an approach to education that is growing in popularity, and for good reason. It brings beneficial outcomes to kids but in a holistic ‘whole-child’ way.

Play, nature, people, books, and the internet all provide extremely powerful learning experiences in the hands of the self-directed learner. And when a child has the freedom to follow their interests, then they often learn to love learning itself.


self directed learning

Here are ten science-based benefits of self-directed learning:

1. Creates a Less Stressful Environment

Would you prefer to be working in a stuffy office or outdoors? For most, working (or learning) in the same environment day after day becomes stifling. Self-directed learning helps students find the perfect balance.

Traditional school causes a lot of stress and anxiety for many students. On top of trying to learn, students are tasked with navigating complex social relationships and adapting to new environments. It’s a lot less stressful for students when they can focus their efforts on studying.

2. Self-Directed Learning Leads to Advanced Critical Thinking Skills

There’s a lot to be said about common core, but one of the biggest arguments against it is that it stifles critical thinking. For many students, regurgitating facts leads to greater success in school than actually digesting the material and thinking critically about it.

Self-directed learning helps students to develop critical thinking skills. For many, this type of learning leads to advanced critical thinking skills when compared to their traditionally schooled peers.

3. Encourages Creativity

There are opportunities to display creativity in a traditional school, but self-directed learners can really allow this skill to blossom. Researchers have consistently found that students who enjoy more free play use more creativity when coming up with solutions to problems.

4. Breeds Entrepreneurs

A self-directed learner is more likely to be interested in pursuing entrepreneurship. Research suggests that about 63 percent of self-directed learners go on to own their own business in the future.

This fact is beneficial not only to the student but to the community at large.

5. Allows Passions to Grow

If you had more free time, then how would you spend it? Almost all of us would say that we’d spend it doing something we enjoy. The same holds true for children.

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Self-directed learning allows children to explore and develop their passions without being limited by the standard curriculum.

6. Puts the Focus on the Family

Traditional schools typically run from 8:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon five days a week. While it might not seem like much, students also need to spend a lot of time at home focusing on homework, preparing for school and studying. If you add in extracurricular activities, then you’ve really got a full day’s worth of work.

This workload often takes a toll on family relationships. Students become much more bonded to their peers than their family at home because they’re spending most of their time at school. Self-directed learning, on the other hand, gives students the ability to put more focus on their family.

7. Increases Focus

Research shows that self-directed learners focus on the task at hand better than their peers. Many experts speculate that depriving children of free play and recess leads to a decreased attention span.

This same fact holds true for adults as well. Recently, Microsoft conducted a trial on its workers in Japan. They cut the workweek to only four days, and they were surprised to see worker productivity rise by over 40 percent.

8. Improves Problem-Solving Skills

Researchers have found that self-directed learning and traditional schools both facilitate the development of problem-solving skills. Experts have noted, though, that unstructured learning can result in even better problem-solving skills. The reason behind this is because students have more freedom to think for themselves and more opportunities to organically experiment.

9. Creates Passionate Learners

We explained above how self-directed learners have a greater ability to seek out and grow their passions. This ability helps create students who are passionate about learning.

All children have a natural curiosity about the world around them. They’re constantly in search of discovering new things. Yet, traditional schools have a way of muting this passion in favor of strict memorization and reciting skills. Self-directed learning helps students embrace this childhood wonder and turn it into a habit of life-long learning.

10. Develops Self-Determination and Motivation

How many traditionally schooled students fail to truly consider what they want to do with their life until they’re in college? How many other students get to college and then find themselves struggling because they’re not motivated anymore without their parents and teachers pushing them so hard?

Self-directed learners develop more self-determination and motivation because they are the ones who set goals, make schedules and plan out their own studying. They are in charge of their own learning. In contrast, teachers usually handle these aspects in traditional schools.

The Leading Science-Based Benefits of Self-Directed Learning

These top ten benefits help explain why a growing number of students are choosing to become self-directed learners.

Despite being a self-directed learner, community should still be a fundamental part of your learning experience. Are you interested in joining a community for more support? If so, then consider checking out our resources guide for free support and information.

The Team at Homeschool Mastery Academy

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