Ask Dr. Blank: How can I promote self-directed learning in the home?

In discussions of self-directed learning, a wide range of positive terms typically comes to the fore—terms such as “encourage,” “challenge” “question” and “stimulate.” By contrast, there is a concept that is rarely used—it is the concept of “boredom.” The reason for its exclusion seems obvious. Boredom seems to be the direct opposite of self-directed learning. Nevertheless, its presence can play a major role in encouraging that form of learning. The writer Corey Doctorow in a book titled Little Brother captured the idea when he wrote, “Never underestimate the determination of a kid who is time-rich and cash-poor.

Unfortunately, in today’s high tech world, “time-rich” is a rare commodity.  One of the greatest gifts a parent can provide to a child is a schedule where modern devices are restricted for a few hours each day.  The lack of stimulation leads to all kinds of activities such as reading books, using paints, constructing toys and playing sports.  At the same time, parents and other adults should be present and available to guide the activity if and when the child requests that guidance.  The combination of an interested child and a committed adult is phenomenally powerful.

In a study in the 1980s, the University of British Columbia examined a town that did not receive television service because of isolating geography. The researchers compared kids in that town with children in two other towns that did view television. The children in the town without television did significantly better in creativity tests. The director of the study concluded that “one of the reasons the kids in the town without TV scored higher was because they’d been bored more often and had had to figure out more things to do.”

Basically, we have much of the knowledge needed to encourage self-directed learning.  The problem is that our lifestyles do not meld easily with that knowledge.  Hopefully, as we recognize the importance of self-directed learning for the child and the society, increasing numbers of families will have the time and commitment needed to put the information into practice.

Your child can become a self-directed learner with Reading Kingdom.  Sign up today for a free 30 day trial.

Marion Blank

Marion Blank

Dr. Marion Blank is a world-renowned psychologist and expert on the development of literacy and language in children as well as the creator of the “Six Skill Integrated Method” for teaching children to read. Prior to creating the Reading Kingdom online literacy program, she created and directed the Light on Literacy Program at Columbia University. She has authored dozens of peer-reviewed articles and books and developed numerous award winning teaching and assessment programs. Dr. Blank is also a recipient of the Upton Sinclair Award which honors individuals who have made a significant contribution to education.
Marion Blank