Self-Education 101

Self-education is the most organic form of learning. We were born wired for self-education and come into the world naturally self-educating.

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives a formal education.” Albert Einstein

Our society is structured around institutional learning and if you’re like me, you grew up in an artificial learning environment being told what to learn when and constantly graded and measured. In this structure, due to volume, you have to adhere to strict rules and regulations disregarding your particular needs and/or situation. This means sitting for hours on the agenda of others, and trained to move to the next subject when the bell rings. For some, especially creative children, this is torture and where learning and the love for learning ends.

“Actually, all education is self-education. A teacher is only a guide, to point out the way, and no school, no matter how excellent, can give you education…What you receive is like the outlines in a child’s coloring book. You must fill in the colors yourself.” –Louis L’Amour

Whether a child attends a public school or is homeschooled, it’s imperative that he learn how to self-educate, be a free thinker and creative. Every person is his own educator because he can only learn what he chooses to learn or accepts. Teachers can teach and yes we can attend classes and lectures to learn however, the only students who truly learn are those who take on their own learning and teach themselves from that which they have been presented or have chosen as valuable.

When you homeschool, self-education supports the whole family. Parents no longer have to stand in front of children teaching in a classroom setting. Now the focus is on the relationships not the rules. The whole family becomes engaged in a love for learning that creates success for each member individually and the family as a whole.

Self-education can start at any age –as a young child or when you’re aged and in late adulthood. It’s good for children learning basics such as reading, writing and mathematics (of course initial lessons in reading and writing will have to occur with assistance), a young person developing a career, for personal development or out of pure interest.

When you self-educate, you are in good company. Many historical figures, Greats from the past and the most highly successful from today were self-educators.

Benjamin Franklin, early American patriot and inventor gave up formal education when he was ten-years old. He was an avid reader and writer; publishing several books, inventing numerous products we still use today, and was a partner in writing the Declaration of Independence.

Abigail Adams, like many women, received no formal education. Instead, she self-educated by reading from her father’s extensive library. She became the second First Lady of the United States and an early advocate for women’s rights.

Other self-educator’s include: Ansel Adams, Louisa May Alcott, Woody Allen, Wally Amos, Hans Christian Anderson, Maya Angelou, Jane Austen, Alexander Graham Bell, William Blake, Ray Bradbury, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Andrew Carnegie, Samuel Clemens, Walter Cronkite, Michael Dell, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, David Geffen, Jane Goodall, Washington Irving, Steve Jobs, Louis L’Amour, Estee Lauder, Abraham Lincoln, Jack London, Florence Nightingale, Eleanor Roosevelt, Carl Sandburg, Steven Spielberg, Nikola Tesla, Harry Truman, Ted Turner, George Westinghouse, Walt Whitman, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frank Lloyd Wright and Wilbur Wright. This is in no way a complete list; there are too many to list here. But it is a good enough sampling for you to see the people who made a real difference and left a legacy were all self-educated.

Self-education helps you understand your world which allows you to make better judgments and increases your ability to move through life successfully always knowing how to find what you need and learning what you must know. This allows you to have a customized plan and move at your own pace. It’s not teacher intensive nor are you limited to the degree of knowledge of a teacher but rather are open to the flow of inspiration from many sources and experiences. Don’t worry, this does not mean you are completely on your own. With self-education and the flow of everyday living you will include not only take time for self-study but also discussion with others, hands on experiences and when needed class time or seminars. Self-education means you are not limited to one mode of learning, which allows you to learn in the most organic and natural way.

For children learning their basics and academics, they can self-educate with the guidance of a mentor which is best if it is the parents during the early years. Once a child gets to the age of 14 years or older it is recommended that his influence of mentors expand into the community of well trusted members.

Parents should include in their own studies personal development in parenting, mentoring, professional topics, and academic and/or hobby pursuits. I have definitely learned more in the years I’ve homeschooled my children than all the years I attended school. When we graduate school, it doesn’t mean the learning is ending. The only way we can grow and be ALIVE is through self-education, self-improvement, understanding and service to others. This is individually as well as a whole community and world. We need to forget about recessions and depressions and get up and educate ourselves to love more, live more and learn more.


Parents Inspired to Action:

  • Make a list of what you are truly interested in learning. What do you feel like you need to learn more about to be a better person? To be a better parent? To be better professionally? To be able to serve others? Once you’ve made this list, choose one thing to focus on. 

Children Inspired to Action:  

  •  Have your children read biographies and autobiographies of some of the people mentioned above. For younger children have them choose from the Childhood of Famous American’s Series.


What do you find most challenging about self-education? How has self-education improved your life? Please join our inspired families share by leaving a comment below.

About Donna Vail (63 Posts)

Donna Vail is an education-parenting specialist, coach, mompreneur, homeschooling mother of six children, author and founder of An Inspired Education. She helps families create a lifestyle of true freedom by balancing education, work and life through self-education, entrepreneurship and inspiration. She is a highly sought after consultant for her successful guidance and resources that enable parents to let go of traditional parenting and education models, creating a lifestyle of learning where the whole family flourishes. Donna consults families around the world who all repeatedly express their restored confidence in homeschooling, parenting and personal development. In 1995 when homeschooling was little known to the masses, Donna traded in her daily commute to the office, to work from home and homeschool her children. For the last 17 years, she has successfully homeschooled her children and now through her writing, speaking, workshops, special programs and private consults coaches parents around the world to success in their homeschools. Her passion for education excellence has her constantly researching and developing new ways to support and nurture children. She lives an Inspired Education with her husband and children in Plano, Texas. Connect with Donna and access her wealth of resources at her website: An Inspired Education.

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