5 Ways to Encourage Independent Learning

October 2, 2017
Written by:
Guest Author

This post is by Kerry, a homeschooling mother of two, and is from our contributing sponsor, Time4Learning.

Homeschooling during the elementary years involves a lot of hovering, doesn’t it? If you aren’t hovering above your child as they work, they are likely hovering nearby waiting for help or with questions about what to do next.  You probably have been looking forward to the opportunity to see your student work a little more independently. As with all of child development, boys and girls move from needing help with tasks to being able to tackle more and more responsibilities on their own. If you see, though, that your child isn’t naturally progressing toward independent school work, these five suggestions may help:

1) Allow your homeschooler to see you learn.

It’s incredibly important for students to realize that learning isn’t just for school; learning is for a lifetime. If they “catch you being curious” about something, highlight it. Tell them why the topic interests you, why you’d like to know more about it, and how you plan on getting your curiosity satisfied. Just recognizing that an adult has things they want to know more about and the desire to find answers goes a long way toward encouraging them to follow their own curiosities.

2) Ask, don’t tell.

Many times, a question doesn’t need an answer. Rather, it needs another question. When your elementary age child asks you how to spell a specific word, for instance, instead of telling him or her the answer, turn the query back to them and ask them where they think they could go to find the answer. When they return an assignment, instead of pointing out what is wrong, you could ask them to review it again and give you their ideas on how to improve it.  If they weren’t able to finish something on time, ask them if they can think of a way to budget their time better.   Moving from telling to asking indicates to your child that you trust them to be able to find answers on their own.

3) Let your child fail.

Trust is a double-sided coin. Trusting your child to work more independently means understanding that they are going to fall flat sometimes. It also means letting them do just that and  letting them determine how to pick themselves up again. Obviously the path of least resistance is to immediately rush to a child’s aid when they falter, but in the long run, helping them figure out how to problem solve is much more beneficial.

4) Use curricula that encourages self-sufficiency.

With all the curriculum options for homeschooling today, when you have considered your choices, “independence” might not have been high on the list.  Perhaps it should be. A program that requires a student to follow outside instructions, that lets them choose when and how to use it, and that makes them accountable to what they are learning will move children toward independent learning much more swiftly.

5) Provide ample time for exploration and rumination.

Many times, when a subject lesson is complete, we’re ready to move on to the next lesson but our homeschoolers aren’t. They may still have questions that are unanswered, or the topic may have triggered a whole new curiosity. When you are planning out your homeschool day, figure in room for these “rabbit trails.” Never view a question as an interruption of your plan; instead, see it as an opportunity for your homeschooler to look up an answer or even test a theory. Let your motto be that you haven’t finished a lesson until everyone’s curiosity has been satiated.

With these tips, you can hopefully begin to find balance between being involved in your homeschooler’s learning, and giving them room to learn more independently.  After all, you are probably ready for a little less hovering and a little more self-direction.

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