I sat at the picnic table flipping through my Bible study when the two ladies walked up. My kids were playing on the playground happily and I was enjoying a little time in the Word. I smiled a hello and went back to my reading. But the moms couldn’t get over it. Convinced that I was a bad mom they gawked at my behavior. I watched as they stood closely to their tots and helped them navigate the playground, occasionally glaring back at my freakish behavior.
I chuckled to myself as I marveled at the differences between first borns and forth borns, but realized that perhaps it also had something to do with how different we are as moms. As a mom, I’ve always seen the value in training my children to work independently in all things. In fact I sincerely doubt that I have ever been dubbed the hovering kind of mom. Even when I just had one child.
Maybe it’s years of classroom experience or maybe it’s just my personality, but training my kids to be independent comes naturally to me.
Why would we want independent learners?
- Thinking for yourself makes the learning your own. It creates your own moral compass. It’s no longer what mama said, but what the child believes for him/herself. This is crucial for helping your children stay close to God when they leave home. Whether that’s a sleep over with a friend or a college dorm, they won’t heed mama’s words. They will remember God’s truth that has been hidden in their hearts and molded into their character.
- Employers don’t like to babysit…employers need independent thinkers and workers to get the job done. There is nothing more annoying than an employee who is at your desk every 5 minutes with a new problem. Teach your kids to solve those problems, so they will be desirable in the workplace.
- Time is precious. Let’s face it. No one has a bunch of extra time floating around. Why spend your time babysitting menial tasks when you could be enjoying your child? It’s so much more fun to do a science experiment together than to fill your time reading a worksheet to your 4th grader, right? I’d much rather teach them to be independent so that I can use my energy for the things that they really need me for.
- Further learning: when you teach a child to be an independent learner, it becomes a natural habit. After her school “assignments” have been completed, you will often find my 8 year old creating assignments of her own. She knows how to learn something new and pursues her interests even without prompting from me. Of course, this is not a guarantee. Some children are naturally more bent toward certain things. But regardless, I think you will find that your child pursues knowledge as he/she gets older.
So what’s the secret to developing independent learners?
Developing independent learners begins with home responsibilities. Start with simple things that don’t cause potential injury…let them put on their own clothes. Who cares if it takes an hour? Let them carry in a bag of groceries. Who cares if only one can is in the bag? This not only encourages helpfulness and investment in the family, it develops that sense of responsibility later. Ya know, so you don’t have that teenager who is sure that mom is going to do it for him. Amy at Raising Arrows has an excellent list of Teaching Kitchen Skills by age that might give you some ideas.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you are developing those independent learners:
Keep your hands off
Don’t be afraid
First of all, Christ did not give us a spirit of fear. Your sweet baby might fall off of the swings. He might get the problems wrong on that math sheet. But we can’t prevent failure. Of course it’s wise to be safe, but once you’ve taught your kids, revert to #1…keep your hands off. Don’t live in a state of fear over what might be.
Ask a lot of questions
What do YOU think the Bible says about that? As the parent, there is always room to bring out the Bible and show them exactly what it says. But allowing them to think about it and process it creates a habit for later. Ya know, when a friend invites them to take a sniff of some little white powder. You won’t be there then and don’t you want his/her first thought to be- what does the Bible say about this?
If it’s not a moral issue, still ask questions. Instead of telling your child that word that she can’t read, ask her to tell you some ways that she might figure it out. Probe with your own questions to get her thinking about a possible solution.The more you do this with the little guys, the more easily you will find them taking responsibility for their school work.
Make your child responsbile for completion. At age 8, my daughter is expected to do her school work for the week without my supervision. I help her with several assignments, but I DO NOT check her assignment list to see what she has completed. She is responsible for that. Does she always do it? Nope. But on Friday night when I check it, I hold her accountable. She will be completing what she didn’t do (or what she did poorly) over the weekend when she could be playing. No nagging during the week to get it done. Period. Once I instituted the Saturday completion rule, we didn’t have trouble getting the list done again. (My 7 year old is also help to this standard.)
Now my 5 year old is different. He is responsible for checkign the sheet off, but can’t read all the words on it yet. So he must ask me or his sister to help with that. I check his at the end of each school day, as it would be far too frustrating for him to get behind. (I also work with him on most assignments at least to some extent, so I am fairly aware of how things are going.)
I use Scholaric homeschool planner for my lists. Below is a typical sheet for my 8 year old.
Look for curriculum that doesn’t involve constant mom time.
This one can be a challenge. I want curriculum that is solid and useful for educating my children, but doesn’t require me to sit and babysit them through the entire process, especially after about 2nd grade. I want to be a resource and an educator, not a person who spoon feeds them tiny bites. This is especially crucial if you are a homeschooling mom who also works from home. Time is limited and it’s wonderful if you don’t have a needy curriculum pressing down on you.
A few resources…
Workboxes are a popular choice for families with multiple kids. This is one of many great posts about how they work.
Another post written by Amy of Raising Arrows, shares how she Raises Independent Learners with an index cards system.
Got little ones? Check out this free printable for Reading Directions with Independence.
From the Trenches…
Kristen shares: I have a notebook for each kid and what they need to accomplish each day. Some things are timed, like reading, and they are responsible for setting their own timer (3rd and 2nd graders).
Julie shares: I use a list on a dry erase board for my older kids. I used thin black tape to divide up the board and add subjects. I fill in their work for the day (or you could do it weekly) and they erase it when completed and I say they can. It helps me see how much work they still have to do. Also, helps them see what their siblings are doing and motivates to keep working.
Anitra shares: My seven year old questions everything all the time. When questions come up, I ask him his thoughts about the subject, we discuss his hypothesis and then he goes to find a book or google the answers. If it’s something science related, we often look at you tube for a cool video about the subject.
Rebecca shares: I begin when they are little…with small things they can play with. I get them started and when they are ‘in the midst’ I walk a few feet away, where I can hear and see and so can they. Then, I build up from there. Lot more to it but, it’s a great way to build them into that and grow it into reading.
Your turn…what works in your home for creating independent learners?