A frequent question homeschool parents ask is, “How I can encourage my student to become an independent learner?” On the surface, homeschooling may not seem like it provides opportunities to promote independent learning. However, homeschooled students can be empowered to become confident, independent learners. Here are some tips that can help you encourage independence in your student.
1. Seek a curriculum that provides opportunities for independent learning and study.
When reviewing choices, ask how much parental involvement is involved. Are there videos that can support learning? Are the lesson instructions written with a student-first approach, or are they directed to the parent? Can my student work at their own pace? Are there opportunities that allow my student to hold themselves accountable for their work, such as grading rubrics that will enable them to self-evaluate?
Remember that a less parent-intensive curriculum does not mean no involvement. Even when working independently, encourage your child to ask questions and seek support when needed. There will still be subjects or lessons that your student finds challenging and require one-on-one support from you.
2. Let your student take control.
During your homeschool day, allocate time for your student to choose an activity…or even create a lesson. This time can be as long or short as you want it to be, and it can occur how often you want it to during the week.
By providing this independent time to your child, you show your confidence and trust in their ability to work independently and to incorporate what they like and learn into the new activities and lessons.
3. Ask your child to share what they’ve learned.
Whether in front of you or delivered to a room full of family and friends, letting your learner share some of their newfound knowledge is a great confidence booster. But how they present this knowledge ingrains them with a sense of independence and creativity.
At one time, book reports or shoebox dioramas were the norm for presenting what you learned. While those are still forms of presentation, kids can use many more fun and creative approaches. They can create a video or a slide presentation with effects and music. They could also write a poem or a song, or design something in Photoshop or Canva.
Allowing them to choose what method and material they present not only builds their independence but also lets you know that they have understood and retained what they are learning.
4. Give them the freedom to explore their interests.
Most kids, regardless of age, are passionate about something. Whether it’s dinosaurs, sharks, video games, music, dancing, technology, crafting–you name it, let them take that passion and run with it! Encourage them to explore their passions by independently reading, researching, and creating projects.
For example, if your student loves building with LEGO®, head to the library and check out a book on the history of LEGO® so they can learn everything there is to know about their favorite hobby! If your child is a huge music fan, look for an online music-writing program or composition software so they can start to create music on their own.
5. Answer a question with a question of your own.
Learning is more than simply the answer to a question. It’s also about learning how to get the answer, an important life skill.
Rather than answering a question like “What’s the capital of Pennsylvania?”, reply with a question that steers them to find the information. An example could be, “Where do you think you could find that information?” They may say “Google” or an atlas, globe, map, encyclopedia, and other forgotten relics of yesteryear. Either way, they likely know where to get the answer, and you’re simply encouraging them to use another tool.
This independence-promoting technique can be used in many situations. For example, instead of providing the correct answer to an incorrect solution on a quiz or test, ask your student how they came up with their response. Then, ask them to review their lesson work to see if they can find their own error and encourage them to attempt again.
This approach is a very effective way to boost confidence, encourage independent thinking and learning, and show them that you trust they can find the answer themselves.
6. Teach your child that it is OK to fail.
Life is full of adversity, and we do not always succeed at every endeavor we try. There will be failures sprinkled in with the successes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s an old saying that baseball players who fail seven out of 10 times at bat often wind up in the Hall of Fame.
So, while you’re letting your student try new things independently and explore their independence, let them fall down occasionally. How they get back up, dust themselves off, and get back gives them a chance to build their character. Kids are resilient–sometimes, they don’t know it yet. It can take some stumbling to realize they can solve a problem, ask for help, persevere, and not give up. Either way, you demonstrate how much you trust them to bounce back after an occasional failure.
Becoming an independent learner is a gradual change, and the age at which a child becomes independent will vary. It takes time and some trial and error, but it will be worth the energy, and they will become more prepared for what comes later in life. You know your child best. These tips can help you start on the path to encouraging your student to become an independent learner.
Find out more about our independent learning options.
If you’re looking for a fantastic resource that encourages independent learning in a fun, interactive way, look at Elephango! Elephango offers supplemental lessons for any K-12 student using any curriculum. You can choose lessons that support subjects your student is struggling with or subjects they are passionate about. Elephango features personalization tools that allow you and your student to select lessons that fit their learning needs and appeal to their personality, interests, and academic level. Each of Elephango’s lessons offers instruction, interactive quizzes and activities, educational videos, and project-based assignments designed to challenge students.
Discover independent learning options with Bridgeway Academy and Elephango by calling us at (800) 863-1474!