This school year I’m teaching three active children. Sweet Pea is now in fifth grade and Sugar Plum is in grade three. Baby Girl is three years old and is eager to start her own version of homeschooling. The girlies are excited about a new season of learning and I want to take advantage of that excitement by helping them become more vested in their education.
One way for me to do this is by shifting a bit of the educational responsibility to each of my daughters at an appropriate time. This year, I’ll be doing so with Sweet Pea. She’s nearly ten and is ready to work on school tasks more independently without direct supervision from me. I want her to become a more independent learner.
What is an independent learner?
An independent learner is someone who takes responsibility for their own learning by thinking about, acting upon, and pursuing educational activities, tasks, and assignments without being completely dependent upon an instructor.
Why am I encouraging my children to become independent learners?
At first glance, some might assume that my desire to foster independent learners is driven by a need to lighten my load. Not so. I recognize the educational benefits of independent learning and understand that such learning will help my daughters achieve educational success. Here are four reasons I want to foster independent learners:
- Independent learners are motivated. Independent learners understand the educational tasks set before them and they are ready work at finding solutions and completing assignments. They know what needs to be done and they do it without having to be reminded multiple times. Such motivation prevents independent learners from having to be totally dependent on others.
- Independent learners are persistent. They don’t throw in the towel as soon as they encounter difficulty. Instead, independent learners work to solve a problem using what they already know and search for solutions before asking for help. Not knowing doesn’t frustrate independent learners, but rather it encourages them to dig deeper and learn more.
- Independent learners retain more information. Independent learners spend time seeking information on their own. When they to learn something based on their own research and study, independent learners tend to remember and recall information better. This is because they’ve personally worked to acquire the information and have made personal connections with the subject matter.
- Independent learners are confident. With each new bit of information acquired and with each new concept mastered, independent learners gain confidence. This makes them eager to learn more and prevents them from becoming fearful of new concepts.
How can I encourage my children to become independent learners?
When homeschool parents work to foster independent learners, this does not mean we adopt a “hands off, do it yourself kid” attitude. Independent learning won’t occur without guidance from patient and loving parents. Parents don’t immediately let go off the educational reigns and leave children to run off into the wild. Instead, parents teach and guide and keeping several goals in mind.
- Teach well and make sure your child understands the material. The basics must be mastered in order for independent learning to be successful.
- Encourage your child to ask questions. This will teach them how to pursue the who, what, where, when, why, and how necessary to learn independently.Don’t forget the open ended questions that require more information.
- Ensure your child has access to the resources she needs to complete tasks, activities, and projects. She’ll need such material to answer the questions I mentioned above.
- Find the balance between helping and doing. To do so, the parent must slowly shift from a starring role into a supportive role. Fight the urge to provide an immediate solution. Instead, guide your child as he seeks to find answers.
If we want our children to find success in later educational endeavors, it’s important for us to help them become independent learners today. Throughout this school year see if you can find opportunities to help your child practice independent learning.
© 2014, Andrea Thorpe. All rights reserved.