Why Self Directed Learning?
As children grow and develop, much of what they learn comes from their own inquiry, observations, and experimentation. Skills such as walking, communicating, and eating are natural developments that are part of human growth and development. Knowledge of areas such as language, social skills, and emotional intelligence comes from people's observations of the world around them and their absorption of the knowledge of those around them. In this way, learning is a natural phenomenon that people crave. Curiosity and interest in understanding the world around us are part of being human beings.
Peter Grey, a research professor of psychology at Boston College, writes that “self-education through play and exploration requires enormous amounts of unscheduled time—time to do whatever one wants to do, without pressure, judgment, or intrusion from authority figures. That time is needed to make friends, play with ideas and materials, experience and overcome boredom, learn from one’s own mistakes, and develop passions.” It is this type of self-education that provides students the time and space to develop true senses of self and to develop their full potential. When children are supported to learn what they are interested in, with a framework that works for them, they are able to thrive in ways that would otherwise not be possible.
This notion of self-directed learning is behind the movement of alternative schools throughout the world. These institutions number in the thousands, each with its own nuance and flavor, aiming to allow children to develop their natural talents and to thrive. Dr. Dennis Littky, founder of the Big Picture Learning network states that “we learn best when we care about what we are doing, when we have choices. We learn best when the work has meaning to us, when it matters. We learn best when we are using our hands and our minds. We learn best when the work we are doing is real and relevant.” It is this freedom of direction in learning that makes these models of education so powerful, particularly for children whose talents lie in areas that are not normally given the opportunity to flourish in traditional educational settings.
Appreciation of the great diversity amongst different students lies at the core of self-directed learning. The knowledge that different people possess a great variety of passions, skills, and interests drives us to create an environment where each child can develop his or her own talents and can then truly thrive. Often times it is the most gifted of children who are most desperately in need of a self-directed environment in which to express their unique talents and gifts. Dr. Linda Silverman, director of the Gifted Childhood Center and author "The Upside Down Brain" is well known for her research in different learning styles. She writes that "giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!" We aim at giving each and every child a true sense of trust for themselves and their community in order to bring their inner gift to fruition.
While we recognize that self-directed learning is not for everybody, the Keser Shem Tov program aims to make this option available to all children in our community who can benefit. We aim to give our members a place that is non-coercive and non-judgemental, where adults are there with the sole purpose of mentoring, supporting, and guiding them in their path towards self-actualization. When learning is natural and driven by inner curiosity and a desire to grow, children can reach achievements that they never thought possible.