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Help Your Kids Become Independent Learners

By Andrea Rennick

You’ve probably noticed that children are like sponges, soaking up everything in their environment (whether you want them to or not!) at a more accelerated rate than they’ll ever experience again. To ensure a lifetime of successful learning, the most important tool you can give your child is the ability to learn independently. The earlier you can train your children to learn on their own the better — but it’s never too late to give your children skills that will certainly help them in their adult life.

Encourage questions. A common complaint I hear from parents is how much a young child says, “Why?” The first time your child learns to say it, in proper context, should be a reason to rejoice. After all, how else is a child to learn anything if at first they don’t ask “Why?”

Show them where to find the answers. A short discussion and maybe a picture book usually suffice in quenching a young child’s need to know. As your children get older, start showing them which books to look in to find the information they want to know. Eventually you can show them how to use encyclopedias, indexes and even search engines to find out the answers to their many questions. Counter more complex questions by asking, “Well, what do you think?” You may be surprised how readily they can find the answer!

Foster a love of reading. Read to your children often. Provide them many books on a variety of subjects and let them follow their own interests. Let them see that you enjoy reading. Discuss the things that your family is reading.

When your children are old enough for more formal learning, you can present new ideas and concepts to them without much fanfare, just brief instructions if needed. Since they’ll already be used to asking questions, they won’t hesitate to ask for help when they get stuck or are unsure of what to do.

Give them just enough clarification for them to move onwards. Try not to provide them with the answer, even though it may be easier or quicker for you. Get children to describe what they did or are doing. That will often be just what they need to find their own mistakes and move forward.

If you present schoolwork and learning in an atmosphere of fun, your children will see learning something new as an interesting challenge. Harnessing and guiding children’s natural curiosity lays a foundation for a lifetime of learning.

Learn More
Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax
How to Talk So Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber

© Andrea Rennick

Andrea Rennick has been a homeschooling mom of four children for 10 years. You can read all about her adventures as they happen at Atypical Life weblog.


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"The media have become the mainstream culture in children's lives. Parents have become the alternative. Americans once expected parents to raise their children in accordance with the dominant cultural messages. Today they are expected to raise their children in opposition to it." -- Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe columnist

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