LEARNING is a lifelong journey that begins from birth, whereby a toddler starts learning to crawl, walk, run, talk, and eventually, starts thinking for himself or herself. Each stage is a crucial part of child’s development process. With schools shifting to online classes and modules because of the global pandemic, education has become a more daunting task. Therefore, one of the most important learning skills parents should help their children develop is the one that helps them become independent learners.
Children who are independent learners tend to have more self-confidence and a greater sense of control towards learning. Encouraging independent learning can happen from a young age, but it can be hard for parents who are not trained teachers to know when they are giving too much help and when they are not giving enough. But then, the sure thing is that with the right guidance, children should become independent learners—whether online or offline.
According to Mbanugo Augusta, “one of the most important things we have in our mind when helping our kids with their assignments and other things is that we are raising independent learners, bearing in mind that we will not always be there to hold their hands through everything their whole life.
This is why my educational philosophy lies heavily in the “teach them how to think, not what to think” category. I am a firm believer in raising children who can think for themselves. I want my children to show initiative and integrity whether I am there spurring them on or not. My goal is to raise children who love to learn so much that 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 need to in order to gradually increase their level of taking responsibility from simple tasks to entire subjects. But how will other parents out there accomplish this?
What if they are not sure where to start? What if their children are older and they are feeling they have wasted precious time? The good news is that it is 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.
“As a parent, you must first of all 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 is not very noteworthy. However, if you believe your child cannot or will not learn and hone the skills needed to be a self-starter then you have given up before you have even started. Believe he can do it. Children often become what we believe they are”. Give your child the freedom to explore, learn and to go about things their own way. Every child is different; there is no standard template to learning”.
“Let your child know that you believe in and support the things they set out to achieve. Ultimately, this will give them the assurance they need to perform important tasks without you around. This can apply to helping your child out with his or her homework – if you help your kids with their homework regularly, they may get into the habit of letting you do their work for them. While it is important to guide children, it is also vital that you let them take the lead as often as possible, so that they develop the motivation to accomplish things on their own, without you having to push them all the time”.
“Again, we must encourage intellectual curiosity: young kids are naturally curious about everything. Let them ask as many questions as they want and allow them ample opportunities to figure out the answers by themselves. Curiosity leads to better learning and understanding, while giving the answers or getting them to constantly practice can help them learn to do those things on their own. Help them stay motivated to learn by encouraging them to be inquisitive. Discovering new things should be fun! Make learning an enjoyable activity for your kids and help them grow to become intellectually curious adults.
It is also a good idea to have a ‘learning corner’ in our homes. This means carving out an area in our homes for creating a good study environment for our children to learn in. This works better if the children decorated it by themselves. The “learning corner” should be an exciting and creative space where they are in control; from the way things are arranged, to picking out the toys and stationary they need for their learning journey. Building a fun and comfortable space for them to study will provide them with the much-needed motivation to sit at their desks and continue accomplishing new objectives.
“Then, inspire in them the love for learning: If you as parent love learning, your child is going to be more motivated to learn. Use anything to motivate them to learn. They love football, encourage them to find out more about their favourite footballer. If they love video games, encourage them to find out how it is made. If they love cars or gadgets, watch documentaries on how they are made. And if you have daughters that love fashion, help them learn about types of fabrics, how they are made (the science behind it all) will motivate them to learn
Again, help them set goals: Setting goals with your children helps them to be independent learners. In doing their assignments for example, help your child set a goal to complete a particular subject within time duration. Goals must be realistic and individualised. For one person, it can be getting all A+ but for another, it can be getting A+ in Maths and English. Constantly setting clear and smart goals is key to raising an independent learner.
Also, teach them discipline: Once they have set goals and there is a clear plan to achieve the goal, then the key thing is discipline to carry out the plan.
It is important also for parents to resist the urge to step in to help: When a child is very young and is still at the stage where they may not understand say a math problem, it makes sense to read through the lesson with them and guide them along. But as they get older, instead of always coming to their aid, start replying, ‘If you cannot figure out the problem, you will need to keep studying and try and figure it out.” The more they can solve it on their own, the more independent they become.
“Once in a while, it is good to reward their efforts because we cannot run from the fact that we live in a results-driven society. We need to focus on their individual progress, not their performance compared to everyone else. Compliment your kids on their work ethic and the amount of hard work they have put in. Praise their efforts and draw their attention to the improvements they have made along the way. This encourages children to do their best and search for new targets on their own, instead of worrying about their grades or amount of time they have spent on their homework or any activity”.
While Mrs Maureen Ibeh has this to say, “As parents, nothing is more rewarding than helping your child build independent learning skills that set him or her on their path for success in navigating the complex world we live in as parents, we cannot protect our kids forever. The journey to becoming independent learners includes fall and failing. While it may be tough for parents to watch their children going through these tough moments, you must understand that these moments are what will ultimately define your children.
“Most importantly, be firm. If your child won’t try to work independently or is fussing over something that they can do quite easily when you are there, let them know that you have confidence in their ability to do it by themselves but you won’t help them unless they really need it. It can be hard to say ‘no’, but it is worth it to see them become more confident and self-assured as learners and people.
“Often ask them what they need to facilitate their learning process and how you can help them with it. Perhaps they need more guidance in certain topic or perhaps they prefer less. Don’t assume you always know what is best for them. If kids don’t feel heard, or if they feel like their opinions are not important, they will lose interest in what they are doing. Encourage them to be honest, and don’t judge them if they express thoughts you disagree with. Having an open communication benefits both you and your children.
“Independent learning definitely isn’t helicopter parenting. Give your kids the space and opportunity to solve their own problems – be it homework or other aspects of their life. Let them take ownership over their learning journey and help them cultivate the confidence that is essential in building self-motivation and future successes in life. Sometimes, taking a step back can mean your child gets to take two steps forward, on their own.
“Eventually, they will be fully responsible for every aspect of their day. Anything we can do now to help facilitate full maturity of this skill is part of our job as parents. Raising independent learners means raising responsible adults.”