Friday, December 6, 2013

I is for Independent Learning

One of the questions that all homeschool parents get asked at some point, and most of us hear it semi-regularly, is some (usually more polite) variation of "what makes you think you're smart enough to teach your kids instead of letting professionals do it?" My standard answer has always been that one of the things I value most from my own education was the teacher who, for a variety of reasons, wasn't doing much actual "teaching". It forced me to learn to read the directions, and look things up, and figure it out on my own, and that ability served me extremely well throughout the rest of my education, and in "real life". Therefore, it's my job, as a homeschool parent, to teach my children how to figure things out for themselves, not to have all the answers ready to hand to them.  In other words, I don't have to be smarter, or as a smart as, than my children, in order to teach them, we learn together and they learn how to be independent learners.

That was, of course, all "theory" when my children were preschoolers, and early elementary age. Children that age are still figuring out the basics of reading and writing and such, and while they are also amazing little sponges, their reasoning and logic skills aren't developed enough to be truly independent learners.

This past year, it's begun to hit me that NOW is when I need to be steering Lexie and Ashlyn toward that independent learning stuff I've always advocated in theory. . . and I'm finding it abit harder than I'd anticipated. One part of it is easy. I am really good at coming alongside my children, and learning WITH them. It's a no brainer that I can't answer all their questions, and they're REALLY GOOD at asking questions, so they've seen me model MANY MANY times, the idea of looking something up online, or checking the library for a book on a topic, and such. The piece that I'm now struggling with is that bit about stepping back and letting them do it all INDEPENDENTLY. Not only because they balk at it, but because I LIKE learning with them. I don't want to "miss out" on what they're learning.

Additionally, Ashlyn is very strongly an auditory learner. She doesn't process things nearly as well when she reads them herself as she does when I read to her, so we've done lots of read alouds, and I'm sure we always will do some. . . BUT . . . while it's important to honor each child's learning style, and help them learn to work WITH their learning styles, it can also be important to help them learn how to step outside that comfort box, because there are certainly times in life when we have to work with others even when it means not doing things the way that works best for us.

So I guess this post is a challenge to myself as much as to my readers. Our children are growing up so fast, it's important to continually adapt and work with them so that they "grow" in wisdom and knowledge, not just physically.

This is one of my goals for the upcoming new year

  • to gently push at those comfort levels abit and encourage more independence
  • to not be so fast to answer their questions, or even point them toward the answers, but rather to sit back and see how they do on their own
  • to "let go" of my own desire to learn along with them, and instead, ask them to "teach me" after they've learned things
I suspect this will all meet with some resistance, but I think it will be a good learning experience for all 3 of us.

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