The Most Important Subject In School: Learning About Yourself

This is part three of a series called “A Journey of Self-Directed Education” written from a student’s perspective. Each post will discuss a different aspect of Self-Directed Education and how it can improve a child’s life. Click here to see the full series!

What if there was a school where students made their own personal curriculum? What would that look like and how would they learn? In conventional school a path is already carved out and created for the student. There is a certain schedule for specific subjects everyone must follow and complete, and if they don’t they fail. This limits what a child can learn and does not leave room for them to create or have a say in the educational journey they are on. Self-Directed Education on the other hand was designed with the intention to put children on a path of personal self-discovery. With the freedom to experiment and test different things out, students can spend quality time working on their own projects, activities, workshops etc., and can fine-tune their educational experiences according to their specific needs, passions, and desires. 

At a school like this, kids are given the opportunity to present themselves in a way that is genuine and most authentic to them. I have been a student at The Open School for two years and personally love being the chair of school meeting and multiple committees. I feel I learn the most when I am involved in the background work that goes into running The Open School and planning events. However, no one told me I needed to do that. Completely on my own I discovered the strong passion I have for showing up as an inclusive and fair-minded leader for my community. I knew this desire was always inherent, but I personally needed to be in an environment where my inner leader was encouraged to come up and out. The same goes for my blogs. This isn’t an assignment, overtime I just realized I love this form of writing. As someone who spent the majority of her childhood being limited by conventional school, to now being in a space where I can be my true self, I feel inspired to express my thoughts and ideas in this particular way. 

There are tons of kids at The Open School who learn so much about themselves by simply having the freedom to follow their personal inspiration and motivations. We have students who are learning their love for creative writing, 2D animation, audio storytelling, baking/cooking and lots more! Everyday kids can put their time and energy into the things they value and are most excited by.  

With this freedom, kids also have the room to make mistakes and change their mind. Being able to change your mind and make new decisions for yourself not only helps a child figure out what works best for them, it exposes them to the natural trial and error process. In addition to that, making a mistake is valued here because it shows where a student can grow and eventually apply their new knowledge to their next endeavor. Oftentimes you see in traditional school children are afraid to make mistakes because there is a belief they will get in trouble for it. So at a self-directed school instead of viewing making a mistake as scary, we want kids to know it’s encouraged because it’s one of the best ways to figure out your areas of improvement.

Just like how every adult is unique, every child is too. This means they should not be limited or confined by the specific standards conventional school holds. Just because someone’s education may look different from others does not mean they are not a smart, capable or successful human being. A student who loves painting and fashion, and chooses to spend their time exploring that passion, is not less than a student who loves learning math and writing. In conventional schools, creativity and certain interests are not as valued and recognized because they do not fit the standard curriculum. Just because you do not fit in the box traditional school tries to put you in, does not mean there is something wrong with you or you won’t be successful in life. In fact, education is not a one size fits all situation and the process of learning things is not linear. 

An important aspect of self-discovery and something that self-directed schools value is the way a child learns. Everyone absorbs and comprehends information in a different way, and one way is not less important than the other. In a space with the freedom to discover how you learn, can make the process of understanding new things easier and more fun! 

The Open School offers this opportunity for students to explore their personality, likes and dislikes, their learning style, strengths and weaknesses and what kind of person they want to be. It also provides the experience for students to feel secure and confident in their own capabilities, so when they go out into the world they have a solid foundation of who they are and what they want. Education is not just learning about our world, but about how we want to present ourselves to the world. 

“Self-knowledge is the only basis of true knowledge.” – John Taylor Gatto

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