127: Doing Self-Directed Education

When parents first hear about interest-led learning (also known as self-directed education), they may wonder: why on earth would we do that?  And how would my child learn without anyone teaching them?

Many parents start down this path with only an inkling of where it may end up taking them and I think this is true of our guest, Akilah Richards.  Akilah grew up in a typical Jamaican family where children were not allowed to have an opinion about anything – even their own bodies and feelings.  In her book Raising Free People, she writes that:

“Respect, the way [Jamaican parents] define it, is non-negotiable, and the spectrum of things a child can do to disrespect an adult, especially a parent, is miles wide and deep.  Reverence for adults, not just respect, is expected, normalized, and deeply ingrained.  Somebody else’s mama could slap you for not showing reverence to any adult. 

Physical punishment for the wrong displays of emotion, even silent ones like frowns or subtle ones like deep sighs, were commonplace, expected, celebrated as one of the reasons children “turned out right.”  Not only did you, as a child, dismiss any attitudes or anything adults might perceive as rudeness, your general countenance should reflect a constant respect – no space at all for showing actual emotion, if that emotion was contrary to what was reverent and pleasant for the adults in your life – again, especially your parents.”

While we may not have grown up with parents who were as overtly strict as this, chances are our parents and teachers used more subtle ways of keeping us in line with behavior management charts, grades (and praise for grades) and the withdrawal of approval if we were to express ‘negative’ emotions like frustration or anger.

And of course this is linked to learning because compulsory schooling does not allow space for our children to be respected as individuals.  There may be dedicated, talented teachers within that system that respect our children and who are doing the very best they can to provide support, but they too are working within a system that does not respect them.

So how could we use interest-led learning/self-directed education to support our child’s intrinsic love of learning – as well as our relationship with them?  This is the central idea that we discuss in this episode.  It’s a deep, enriching conversation that cuts to the heart of the relationship we want to have with our children, and I hope you enjoy it.


Get started with interest-led learning!

If you’d like to learn more about the Supporting Your Child’s Learning membership, which can help start you along the interest-led learning/self-directed education path, you can find more information about it here.

Doors are open now through midnight Pacific on December 31st, 2020.


Resources discussed during the conversation:

Maleka Diggs’ Eclectic Learning Network

Developing a Disruptor’s Ear, by Akilah Richards and Maleka Diggs

Toward Radical Social Change (TRUE) community

Akilah’s website, Raising Free People

Akilah’s book, Raising Free People


About the author, Jen

Jen Lumanlan (M.S., M.Ed.) hosts the Your Parenting Mojo podcast (www.YourParentingMojo.com), which examines scientific research related to child development through the lens of respectful parenting.

Her Finding Your Parenting Mojo membership group supports parents in putting the research into action in their real lives, with their real families. Find more info at www.YourParentingMojo.com/Membership

She also launched the most comprehensive course available to help parents decide whether homeschooling could be right for their family. Find out more about it – and take a free seven-question quiz to get a personalized assessment of your own homeschooling readiness at www.YourHomeschoolingMojo.com

And for parents who are committed to public school but recognize the limitations in that system, she has a course to help support children's learning in school at https://jenlumanlan.teachable.com/p/school

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