By James C. Rakestraw, PE, CFM
What is self-directed education and how does it relate to the study of creation?
The purpose of this series of articles is to explore how self-directed education may be applied to a study of creation. Self-directed study is a form of education that has been significant in the past but has been eclipsed by public education. As a result, self-directed education is virtually unrecognized today. Self-directed education is now being used by some home-school groups and is beginning to be recognized by the larger community.
Wikipedia defines self-directed education as follows:
Autodidacticism (also autodidactism) or self-education (also self-learning and self-teaching) is education without the guidance of masters (such as teachers and professors) or institutions (such as schools). Generally, an autodidact is an individual who chooses the subject he or she will study, his or her studying material, and the studying rhythm and time. An autodidact may or may not have formal education, and his or her study may be either a complement or an alternative to it. Many notable contributions have been made by autodidacts. (Copies from Wikipedia on 12/3/17. Bold typeface and hyperlinks have been removed.)
For our purposes, we will modify the Wikipedia definition of self-directed study as follows:
Self-directed study is education without the guidance of masters (such as teachers and professors) or institutions (such as schools). The student chooses the subject he or she will study, his or her studying material, and the studying rhythm and time. A student may or may not have formal education, and his or her study may be either a complement or an alternative to it.
Informal Self-Directed Study
Almost everyone has engaged in some form of self-directed study in their life time. Self-directed study often centers on a person’s interests or profession. Self-directed study often begins with a childhood interest. Self-directed study is often associated with a work or trade skill. A person who is engaged in informal self-directed study often doesn’t realize they are doing self-directed study – they are just having fun learning.
Formalized Self-Directed Study
Formalized self-directed study may be centered on particular methods and may be administrated by home school cooperatives. Formalized self-directed study is often highly structured and requires considerable discipline.
The Fruit of Self-Directed Study
A first fruit of self-directed study is a joy of learning. This is often followed by a development of reading, research, writing, and speaking skills. For example, children who do not enjoy reading or have reading disabilities begin to enjoy reading on their own when they are motivated by a desire to learn.
My Informal Self-Directed Study Experience
I consider my informal self-directed study experience to have started at age eight when my parents bought me a small stamp album and a couple packets of stamps. By enjoying the stamps of different countries, I began to learn of their geography, history, government, language, and monetary system.
Another childhood self-directed education experience began when we moved to the Copper Country of Michigan when I was 13. I became interested in the local copper mining enterprises and their history. I read every book about them that I could find. I went from being a very poor reader to being a good reader. As my reading skills improved, my reading interests become increasingly diverse.
My dad, a history professor, modeled self-directed study. He specialized in writing about the history of the U.S. Forest Service, and conducted his research in many locations including visiting the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Dad grew up on a farm in Washington State and worked for the U.S. Forest Service during the great depression. Dad compared researching forest history to being paid to go fishing – research, writing, and professional activities were his joy!
My Informal Adult Self-Directed Study Experience
I consider my formal self-directed study experience to have started after I came to accept the literal view of creation. I had previously believed in theistic evolution. I came to accept the literal view of creation after a Sunday school class about the Genesis Flood and then reading the book the Genesis Flood.
Proverbs 18:17 states “The first to argue his case seems just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him.” The problem with considering only one view is that other views are not evaluated in depth. Shortly after I read the Genesis Flood, a pastor suggested that I read about other view of creation. He suggested books by Dr. Hugh Ross who supports the Day-Age view of creation. He also suggested reading a report prepared by the Southern California Presbytery of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) on the Framework view of creation (OPC Framework Report). The Framework view of creation is a “disconcordant” view of creation and it allows theistic evolution.
I spent a lot of time in the books Creation and Time and The Genesis Question by Dr. Ross. I also spent a lot of time in the OPC Framework Report. I was shocked by the hostility of proponents of other views of creation to supporters of church’s traditional view of creation.
I also began reading the Presbyterian Church in America’s Report of the Creation Study Committee (PCA Report). The PCA Report provided a reliable timeline of the creation discussion and a good summary of the different views of creation present within the PCA. I started visiting the websites of organizations that did not support the literal view of creation. These websites included Old Earth Ministries and Reasons to Believe, the website of Hugh Ross. As a result of all this research, my view support for the literal view of creation was strengthened.
My Formal Adult Self-Directed Study Experience
I was introduced to formalized self-directed study methods by Elder Larry Plating of New Life in Christ Church (PCA) of Fredericksburg, VA. Elder Plating was the head of the Covenant School, a home school cooperative that is a ministry of New Life. I attended a class for parents on self-directed study methods. Our study book was The Noah Plan, Self-Directed Study in the Principal Approach (The Noah Plan),(2004) published by the Foundation for Christian Education, Chesapeake, VA. The organization’s website is www.face.net.
The focus on the Noah Plan was on the primary grades and included an emphasis on hand writing and establishing notebooks. There was an emphasis of the Colonial American self-directed education experience and a providential view of world history. The principal approach referees to finding root principles that are rooted in Scripture.
Perhaps the most directly applicable portion of the instruction, for me, was section on the “Basic Steps of Learning”, which are termed the “Four R’s.” These “Four R’s” are: Research, Reason, Relate, and Record.
The Noah Plan gave me some much needed direction for studying creation in an organized way. The Noah Plan provided a basis for moving forward and formalizing my support of the literal view of creation. I continue to follow the “Four R’s” as I prepare materials for the Reformed Creation website.
To be continued…..