pedagogy of play


A Self-Directed Learning Community

This section of the website is currently under construction. You are welcome to look around and click on links, but please know I am working on cleaning it up. Don’t slip.

all about sde



Education that derives from the self-chosen activities and life experiences of the person being educated.


Let’s start with the term education. In everyday language people tend to equate education with schooling, which leads one to think of education as something that is done to students by teachers. Teachers educate and students become educated. Teachers give an education and students receive this gift. But any real discussion of education requires us to think of it as something much broader than schooling.

Education can be defined broadly in a number of ways. A useful definition for our purposes is this: Education is the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to live a satisfying and meaningful life. This includes the kinds of things that people everywhere more or less need to learn, such as how to walk upright, how to speak their native language, how to get along with others, how to regulate their emotions, how to make plans and follow through on them, and how to think critically and make good decisions.

It also includes some culture-specific skills, such as, in our culture, how to read, how to calculate with numbers, how to use computers, maybe how to drive a car—the things that most people feel they need to know in order to live the kind of life they want to live in the culture in which they are growing up.

But much of education, for any individual, entails sets of skills and knowledge that may differ sharply from person to person, even within a given culture. As each person’s concept of “a satisfying and meaningful life” is unique, each person’s education is unique. Society benefits from such diversity.

Given this definition of education, self-directed education is education that derives from the self-chosen activities and life experiences of the person becoming educated, whether or not those activities were chosen deliberately for the purpose of education.

Self-directed education can include organized classes or lessons, if freely chosen by the learner; but most self-directed education does not occur that way. Most self-directed education comes from everyday life, as people pursue their own interests and learn along the way. The motivating forces include curiosity, playfulness, and sociability—which promote all sorts of endeavors from which people learn. Self-directed education necessarily leads different individuals along different paths, though the paths may often overlap, as each person’s interests and goals in life are in some ways unique and in some ways shared by others.

Self-directed education can be contrasted to imposed schooling, which is forced upon individuals, regardless of their desire for it, and is motivated by systems of rewards and punishments, as occurs in conventional schools. Imposed schooling is generally aimed at enhancing conformity rather than uniqueness, and it operates by suppressing, rather than nurturing, the natural drives of curiosity, playfulness, and sociability.

Finally, then, Self-Directed Education (capitalized) refers to the educational route of school-aged children whose families have chosen not to enroll them in imposed schooling, but, instead, allow the children to take charge of all of their education. More specifically, these are families that have enrolled their children in schools that support young people’s pursuits of their own interests and do not impose a curriculum or who homeschool their children by the method commonly called unschooling, where the children pursue their own interests rather than an imposed curriculum. This final distinction is between “SDE” as an alternative to conventional schooling, and “sde” that may happen outside of school, even for people in conventional schooling. 



SDE aligned podcasts



SDE aligned books

All are available in audiobook form:

  • “Free to Learn”: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life” by Peter Gray
  • “Dumbing Us Down”: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, by John Taylor Gatto
  • “How Children Learn” by John Holt
  • “Raising Free People” by Akilah S. Richards
  • “Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?” by Blake Boles
  • “Unschooling: Exploring Learning Beyond the Classroom” by Gina Riley


SDE Aligned articles and blogposts



Curated collection of videos that support self-directed education.

Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson | TED

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

The Failure Of Success | GEORGE LAND | TED

In his talk “The Failure Of Success”, Dr. George Land gives us a brief history of human innovation and talks about the importance of creativity.

New experiments in self-teaching | Sugata Mitra | TED

Indian education scientist Sugata Mitra. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gavennnnn]kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.

Bring on the learning revolution! | Sir Ken Robinson | TED

In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.

Learning Through Unschooling | Callie Vandewiele | TEDxCambridgeUniversity

In this engaging talk, Callie shares with the TEDxCambridgeUniversity audience her experience of ‘unschooling’. Different to ‘home-schooling’, Callie reflects upon how this new educational method and philosophy impacted upon her development. She argues that children need to be put back at the centre of their education.

Why Math Instruction Is Unnecessary | John Bennett | TEDxManhattanBeach

John is a teacher of math and a homeschooling parent who offers a radical-sounding proposal: that we cease to require math instruction in middle and high school.