10 Tips from a Teen on Encouraging Independent Learning
Here are 10 tips on encouraging independent learning by Anna H. As a homeschooled teen herself, Anna brings a unique perspective on encouraging independent learning.
1. Discuss important topics whenever possible, whether it be news, history, important people, buildings around you, plants you see, anything!
Encouraging conversation without a predefined structure will make learning come more naturally.
- Conversation awakens curiosity and helps everyone share their knowledge.
- It can even lead to looking up information together, should you come to a point in the conversation where no one knows the answer to a question or comment.
- Discussions like this even come with a bonus: you get to know each others’ levels of understanding on topics of interest.
Best of all, natural conversation with an adult will help students of all ages understand that adults are human, too, and make mistakes just like kids do. Discussion is important for bonding, sharing morals, and teaching your child by example. Even babies should be talked to: the younger children make connections in their brains the better their learning experience will be later on in life.
2. When discussing with your students, bring up their interests and goals, no matter their age.
It’ll make it easier to supply them with what they need as well as open up your student to the thought of making goals and reaching them, an important life skill. Encourage them to keep track of what they want to do on their own, as well. Should they be more actively academic a good idea is listing off what they would still like to learn. 🙂
3. Make a day trip to the local library and encourage your kids to take out books about whatever they’re interested in.
If they’re reluctant you could help them: ask what their favorite things to do are, what they’re interested in, and go on from there. Librarians would most likely be at hand to help you, as well as direct you to the correct area of the library. There should be computers available for browsing the contents of the library, and there could possibly be a map of the library somewhere within the building (just ask the librarians 🙂 ).
4. If your student absolutely refuses the idea of libraries try this: leave books around the house on topics you know your he/she is interested in.
No matter how academic (or nonacademic ) the material, encouraging reading is an important step in self-directed learning. For example if they like comics you could encourage them to read about the maker of their favorite comics, how comics are made, and similar topics. Creative twists to broaden topics are always out there, feel free to brainstorm!
5. Smothering students with too much structure isn’t going to support their independence, and will in fact make them lean more and more on you as time goes on.
Sound similar to a different educational system? 😉 . Teenagers especially will need space and if they don’t get enough will react negatively and rebel to express frustration. In a library, for example, you could give them a tip about asking the librarian if they need help, and then let them handle it on their own while you observe from afar. If you don’t give your students opportunities to test their independence they will never achieve it. It’s also important for them to break any old thought patterns about learning always being “forced” and boring. Help them have new thoughts about learning based on their experience of choosing and studying what they want to study. They might not even directly realize they’re learning!
6. Take “negative” words and labels according to today’s public-schooled society, and make them positive.
Nerd, geek, dork, weird, etc., are good examples. Children of all ages need to understand that being knowledgeable or interested in something considered academic, intellectual, nerdy, geeky, etc., isn’t a bad thing. What’s so wrong about knowing something? The only problem there is is that people that feel less knowledgeable will usually respond with hostile jealousy. Having that understanding will help remove obstacles between your students and them taking initiative in their education.
7. Starting out with unit studies is a good way to encourage curiosity and broaden your student’s understanding of how things work.
When you cover a topic deeply enough you’ll help the child understand that academic subjects are mostly arbitrary – making it easier for them to pull together information and make better connections in their learning. They’re covering all the subjects in a natural manner, in a way that makes sense. Natural learning environments will indirectly teach your student how to handle new information in the future. The easier their learning is, the happier the child will be to continue to broaden their knowledge.
8. Keep kids away from mindless video games when they’re younger ( don’t buy them! ), and use the time to teach them about responsibility and priorities.
A positive view of self-enrichment will stay with them, making them able to be responsible with gaming as they’re older. Should they really want the gaming experience it’s possible to make a lesson out of the game: money management within the game, new vocabulary from the game manual and instructions, reading reviews and the Wikipedia article before purchasing, earning play time with work/chores, etc. A new twist to the situation could be having them teach YOU about the game: encouraging conversation, bonding, and most importantly a little bit of fun. 😉 On the other side of gaming: educational games can be a great addition to learning and usually won’t need encouraging.
9. “Traditional” games such as word searches, Sudoku and board games are usually good things to have around the house.
Most of the time people don’t even think of the intellectual value of such activities. You could keep a “boredom corner” in the house and direct your students there should they ever complain about not having something to do. Art materials, brain teasers, a camera, and objects good for building Goldberg-style “machines” are all great to include. Creativity is a very important factor in learning, no matter the subject.
10. And far from least: As many of these tips suggest, it’s important to encourage any sort of independence.
Confidence, knowledge of oneself and one’s abilities, and the experience of self-directed activity will eventually lead to learning. We learn in all activities we do, and the more experienced we are in exploring the world around us the more valuable we see knowledge. Self-directed activities your children already do might not exactly include mowing the lawn or reading a book on calculus, but any project or activity your child does on their own is bringing them one step closer to independence: both in learning and in life.
And as a bonus! >> If you’re a self-directed learner, you’ll be teaching by example. Never got around to learning French like you always wanted to? Do you keep putting off that self-instruction course on gardening for later? Now’s the time, your children are keeping a close eye on you. 😉
Good luck, and happy learning!
Anna H. is a gifted and talented teen homeschooler residing in Finland. She fills up her time with writing, reading, and learning.