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Children are born full of curiosity, eager to participate in the world. They learn as they live, with enthusiasm and joy. Then we send them to school. We stop them from playing and actively exploring their interests, telling them it’s more important to sit still and listen. The result is that for many children, their motivation to learn drops dramatically. The joy of the early years is replaced with apathy and anxiety.

This is not inevitable. We are socialised to believe that schooling is synonymous with education, but it’s only one approach. Self-directed education puts the child back in control of their learning. This enables children, including those diagnosed with special educational needs, to flourish in their own time and on their own terms. It enables us to put wellbeing at the centre of education.

Changing Our Minds brings together research, theory and practice on learning. It includes interviews with influential thinkers in the field of self-directed education and examples from families alongside practical advice. This essential guide will give you an understanding of why self-directed education makes sense, how it works, and what to do to put it into action yourself.

Reviews

If your child doesn't mesh well with school, this is the book you've been waiting for. Naomi expertly guides you through the wide world of learning, motivation, child behaviour, parenting culture, alternative schools and home education. Written in punchy, short and easily digestible sections, Changing Our Minds combines practical guidance, research-backed insights and reassuring stories that address parents' most frequent concerns about self-directed learning. Naomi writes with the precision of a scientist, the breadth of a journalist, the empathy of a mother, and the curiosity of a life-long learner. You will not be disappointed
Blake Boles, author of Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School? and founder of Unschool Adventures
Naomi Fisher seamlessly brings together scientific research, life experience and her own extensive personal and professional observations. She walks us gently through both the psychology and adventure of self-directed education. An essential book for anyone with children who reject the confines of the school system, which will leave you exhilarated about the possibilities before you
Heidi Steel, former teacher turned unschooling parent, mentor and coach for unschooling families, www.liveplaylearn.org
Dr Fisher has produced a readable, accessible and powerful call-to-arms for all those who know there must be another way when it comes to educating our children. Whether you are an educator or a parent, this book highlights not only the damage we are doing to children in the name of educating them, but also how things can be done differently. If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it is that the process of education can change quickly and massively when it has to. This book will serve as further ammunition to those who want that revolution to keep going
Ian Gilbert, founder of Independent Thinking
This book ought finally to put paid to the defence of the existing paradigm of modern schooling. Naomi Fisher draws on her extensive psychological knowledge, as well as her experience as a mother of two children, to show that there is an alternative to the damaging effects of current educational practice. Children can - and do - take charge of their own learning and, with the right adult support, experience real education as opposed to narrow, test-driven schooling. Change is necessary and urgent - schooling is not fit for purpose and there are working exemplars of another way. And as Naomi shows, there is no use in patching up the current approaches - only radical, root-and-branch change will do. All parents need to pay attention to this message.
Dr Ian Cunningham, Founder of Self Managed Learning College, Sussex
If you're feeling uncertain about SDE [self-directed education], this book will dispel any fears. This book is helping to pave the way for a self-directed education for more children. I can't wait to share it with our network of families and educators who are thinking differently about education. It is one of the first books out there to describe self-directed education step-by-step. Naomi is helping to lay the groundwork for an education revolution.
Sally Hall, Freedom to Learn Network Lead, Phoenix Education
Naomi Fisher's book is gold dust. It is written for the growing number of parents who feel that 'school' is doing their children more harm than good. It reassures that in most cases the problem lies not with their child but with the controlling, coercive, competitive, test-driven, anxiety inducing experience of school. Fisher sets out, accessibly but with academic authenticity, the science that explains the inhibiting effect of many school regimes on the natural desire of children to learn. She gives courage to parents who conclude that enough is enough and who decide to withdraw their child - either to create a more self-directing environment at home or in a different kind of school. The book concludes with convincing case studies that show that 'education' and 'schooling' are not synonymous.
Derry Hannam, Retired Deputy Head, Inspector and Consultant in Education for Democracy and Human Rights
Changing Our Minds, by Dr Naomi Fisher, is an invitation to all of us to deschool ourselves and think anew about what is best for children. Touching on a range of topics from schooling to parenting to diversity, this clearly argued and compellingly written book is a must read for anyone who wants to conceptualise how schools can better meet children's needs.
Dr Rebecca English (PhD), Senior Lecturer in Education, Queensland University of Technology
As the parent of a child that didn't fit a one-size-fits-all system, and the founder of an organisation set up to effect change, I am well aware of the level of anxiety which can be triggered by traditional schooling. However, this book has clearly demonstrated the extent to which the system conflicts with basic human behaviour and the way we learn. It's also shone a light on the fear and conditioning which keeps alternative education (with a small 'a') niche, and I sincerely hope that it fuels the current groundswell for change. It's a wonderfully accessible and persuasive read, with personal experience of Dr Fisher's own family interwoven with academic research and anecdotal evidence. It does many things: builds a compelling argument for alternative education and explores the coercive nature of the current mainstream system and the way in which it's integrally and historically linked to social norms, developed over decades; reminds us that we should be questioning, not simply accepting, the education status quo; and prepares parents for 'deschooling' in order to provide the right environment for self-directed learning. It opens our eyes to the way in which the education system fights basic human nature and the psychology of learning, all too often manifesting in a level of anxiety which actively prevents attendance. That in itself should be signal enough that change is desperately needed.
Fran Morgan, founder of Square Peg
Changing Our Minds is densely packed with studies and information from across cognitive psychology, biology and sociology yet woven together in a warm and conversational way. Much like self-directed learning, it is somehow effortless yet deeply enriching and full of 'aha' moments. As well as a grounding in theory, the book provides a roadmap to help self-directed learning become a reality for families. Changing Our Minds blows apart the myths and assumptions underpinning not just compulsory schooling but also wider societal attitudes to topics such as mental health, children's rights and ideas about what constitutes a fulfilling life.
Rose Arnold, founder of Suitable Education
Dr Naomi Fisher's book Changing Our Minds eloquently and persuasively makes the case for the importance of choice, autonomy and self-direction in education. Her conclusions are thoroughly grounded in research, and synthesize the latest advances in the fields of education, evolutionary psychology and human motivation. In the process, Dr Fisher asks us to reconsider our fundamental assumptions and views about how learning takes place, advocating for a more student-centred and strengths-based approach to education. The time to reimagine education is now, and this book makes an important and valuable contribution to this conversation.
Gina Riley, educational psychologist and clinical professor in adolescent special education, City University of New York
Why settle for diminishing the human spirit and minimal competencies when our wonderful, unique children and young people can take control of their own lives and learning. Naomi's book shows us how SDE can cultivate the kinds of human beings we'd all like to be and perhaps a brighter vision for society at large.
Peter Humphreys. Former: Headteacher, educational adviser, consultant, researcher, Visiting Lecturer in Teacher Education, Co-founder and Chair Centre for Personalised Education
We tend to parent and teach the way we were raised and taught, which is why changing our minds about how children learn and grow is so hard to do. Naomi Fisher's book, Changing Our Minds, shows us why and how we can use other ways of living, learning and sharing knowledge with children besides the usual method: Sit down. Shut up. Do as I say. Using her personal experiences as a clinical psychologist and a mother, Fisher presents us with educational and parenting pathways that empower learning for everyone.
Patrick Farenga, co-author of Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling, www.johnholtgws.com
In this eminently readable book, Dr Fisher takes a wide-ranging approach to exploring and explaining self-directed education, from the philosophical to the practical, the pedagogical to the psychological. With its easy-going approach, everyday language and homely examples it will surprise many a reader how deeply we are asked to question the current orthodoxies of education and confront the accepted canons of modern childhood. Dr Fisher argues cogently yet quietly that education is not a standalone issue based on some esoteric science of learning and teaching but rather an expression of our relationships, identity, place in the world and, ultimately, humanity. From this platform Dr Fisher advances the meaning of self-directed education as a fulfilment not just of the individual but also of society and an answer to the question of who we want to be.
Dr Harriet Parrison, Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at Liverpool Hope University