Our ultimate goal as educators of our children is to create independent learners. We all want to raise children who love learning: people who are able to take ownership over their own learning, so that learning matters to them. We want to teach our children to take the lead on not only what they’d like to learn, but how they’d like to learn it. Here are some tips for creating independent learners.
We all remember seeing the joy in our young child’s face when they learned to do something all by themselves. This joy and sense of accomplishment doesn’t go away after the toddler years. Children continue to take pride in their accomplishments all throughout their lives. Remember the last time you felt proud of something you did all on your own, even as an adult?
We can nurture this sense of accomplishment by giving our children their own responsibilities. Make these duties a big deal! Let your children know that you trust them enough to be able to take care of this task all by themselves. It can be something as simple as putting books back on a shelf every day after reading time for the little ones, to scheduling their own classes in the middle and high school years. What matters is, it’s their job, and theirs alone.
After your child finishes this task, or responsibility that they have been given, be sure to inspect their work, and provide feedback on how they did. Feedback should always include praise first, and constructive criticism if necessary. After you provide feedback, it’s important to ask your child how they think they did on their job that day. This self-reflection will become a very important skill as they grow.
Just as you started in the early years by asking your little ones how they thought they did on their small “jobs,” continue to nurture and encourage this self-reflection throughout your child’s school years. Have your child ask themselves questions such as:
Did I meet my goal?
If so, what can I attribute that to?
If not, what can I change so that next time I am able to meet my goal?
Was this goal reasonable?
Do I need to change my goals for any reason?
As soon as your children are old enough to begin to discuss their own individual interests, allow them to make their own decisions about what they’d like to learn about. A good way to begin to do this in the early years is to ask, “I see that you really love to learn about _______, and you know so much about that already. How do you think we could find out more about this subject?”
Allow your child to think about this question, and come up with their own answer. They may suggest a local museum, local library, documentaries, etc. Once your child suggests an idea, follow through with it. This type of child-led learning is the beginning of creating independent learners: kids who know that learning begins with them, and ultimately, is their responsibility.
Once your children approach high school, it’s important for them to see the “road map” ahead. Sit down with your child and discuss the requirements for graduation from your homeschool. Ask for their input about how they’d like to traverse this territory, and how they’d like to reach the goal.
Setting Goals & Modeling
Help your children set goals, and start this during the early years. Modeling this goal-setting is key. If you share your goals with your children, and if they see you celebrate and feel good about reaching your goals, they will be more likely to become goal-setters themselves. These goals of yours can be as simple as getting the kitchen cleaned before lunchtime, to as big as running your first 5K. It really doesn’t matter, as long as your children see you work toward that goal, and take pride in accomplishing it. Don’t forget to model self-reflection.
Have your older students write their goals down. There is something really powerful about writing down goals. And, as always, self-reflect on these afterward.
Once your children approach high school, it’s important for them to see the “road map” ahead. Sit down with your child and discuss the requirements for graduation from your homeschool. Ask for their input about how they’d like to traverse this territory, and how they’d like to reach this goal.
Ask your child what their future goals may be. It’s totally okay if your rising freshman has no idea what their goals are after high school, but if your child has an inkling toward one particular interest or another, ask them how they can incorporate this interest into their short-term goals in some way.
It’s wonderful to see how creating independent learners helps our children not only in their academic lives, but in all aspects of their lives, for the rest of their lives.