The following is a guest post written by Amy of Raising Arrows.
I am a firm believer in raising children who can think for themselves. I want my children to show initiative and integrity whether I’m there spurring them on or not. My goal is to raise children who love to learn so much they naturally do it on their own.
However, I also know I cannot expect my children to become independent learners overnight and of their own volition. They must first be dependent on me and my ability to teach them the skills they will need to gradually increase their responsibility level from simple tasks to entire subjects.
But how do you accomplish this? What if you aren’t sure where to start? What if your children are older and you feel as if you’ve wasted precious time?
It’s not as difficult as you think and you can start at any age! Here are a few easy to implement suggestions to get your child on a track of independent learning.
1. Believe in your child.
I know from experience how easy it is to expect very little from your child because the character you have seen him display thus far isn’t very noteworthy. However, if you believe your child can’t or won’t learn and hone the skills needed to be a self-starter then you have given up before you’ve even started.
Believe he can do it. Children often become what we believe they are.
2. Get your child on board.
Let your child know what your goals are for him. Tell him how wonderful it is to have the skills needed to search out answers and learn new things.
Tell him you want his input and ideas for additional topics and subjects he could explore during his school day. Pique his interest in becoming a life-long learner.
3. Integrate your child’s interests into the school day.
My daughter has a love of photography. It makes perfect sense to bring this interest into our homeschool in a way that teaches her to take initiative. For instance, we have encouraged her to use her photography to supplement her science. When we first suggested this to her, we offered her a reward for photographing any animal or insect she found that fit with what she was learning about in her science book.
Next thing we knew she had found other ways to incorporate photography into her school day, no encouragement needed. The beauty of homeschooling is that we can use the things that naturally spark our children’s interests to set a flame to their hearts for learning.
4. Give your child assignment sheets that progress from teacher-directed to student-managed.
As your children become adept readers, you will want to begin giving them some type of assignment sheet. This teaches them that tasks have a natural progression and must begin at point A and end at point B. It also helps them realize every task comes to an end, even those less-than-pleasant ones.
Our current form of assigning work is done on 3×5 index cards.
The cards are laminated with a hole punched in the corner of each one and slipped onto a metal ring. Every week during my planning time, I add each child’s weekly assignments to their cards with a wet erase marker and attach their set of cards to their crates which hold their school books and supplies.
My ten-year-old has many subjects that are marked out Monday through Friday; however, just this year I began adding assignments that look more like this:
Bible Study Book – pages 100-125
Sometime during the week, she needs to finish those 25 pages. I’ve left it up to her how and when she accomplishes that.
My 13-year-old son’s assignment cards are almost entirely made up of weekly goals and some of his cards have only the subject name at the top so that he is free to create his own weekly goal.
5. Keep increasing the responsibility level, but always inspect the work.
My goal is to work myself out of a job; however, I still have to do my part by keeping tabs on how they are doing and if goals are being met consistently and correctly. Never assume your child is getting all his work done simply because he hasn’t asked you for help in a while.
Every couple of weeks I check in with my older children to see how each subject is coming along and where I might need to prod a little more or help them plan a little better.
Eventually, they will be fully responsible for every aspect of their day. Anything I can do now to help facilitate full maturity of that skill is part of my job as mom. Raising an independent learner means raising a responsible adult.
How do you help to nurture independent learning in your homeschool?