Why should we encourage independent learning in our children?

Feb 2012
What is their current approach to studying and are we equipping them to be able to learn for themselves? 

Consider the skills and attributes a child will need to be successful, not just now in their schoolwork and homework, but in the future. What is their current approach to studying and are we equipping them to be able to learn for themselves? 

Independence, concentration and self-motivation? All of these are attributes of an independent learner and this is something that we can nurture in our children from a young age.

Andrew Loh of Brainy Child website states:
"Independent learning is all about your children seizing available opportunities and time to think, plan, develop and execute their preferred play and interests. It also means that your child will be able to extend his or her learning process to different domains that eventually lead to an all-round personality development."

Directed teaching for a specific topic may help our children pass an exam or get a high mark for a homework task but it doesn't prepare them to answer questions on different topics or help them to overcome challenges beyond schoolwork. As the saying goes: "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him how to fish and he eats for life." Independent learning skills help a child to experience a situation or challenge they have never experienced before and enable them to utilise their independent skills to confidently solve the problem.

Children who develop independent learning skills at a young age can apply these to many areas of learning and life, both at school and beyond. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't help and support our children when necessary but rather encourages us to take a step back and allow our children the opportunity to problem-solve and tackle new challenges independently. It is only by doing this that we get a true understanding of our child's level of knowledge and understanding.

A recent TES guide to independent learning states: 
"Being able to think and act independently remains one of the most important skills that a student can learn. We live in a culture that is rooted in individualism − where independence is central to our ethical and social world view. Failure to prepare students for the demands of a world where teachers will not be available to provide all the answers is to do them a great disservice. While spoon-feeding styles of teaching can sometimes offer the most direct route to ensuring that all students are making demonstrable progress, it is possible to teach in a way that allows room for independence without sacrificing those all-important results. But to create a more independent learning environment we must first start by adjusting the mindsets of everyone in the classroom − students and teachers alike"

Kumon students are encouraged to develop their ability to self-learn, to think, to work out the answers for themselves. Through this approach, their learning will be memorable, the achievement feels powerful and the sense of pride is motivational. As children start to take ownership of their learning and experience success they also develop invaluable confidence and self-motivation. This can increase their enjoyment across a wide range of subjects at school whilst also preparing them for future personal and professional success in life.

Equipping children with the knowledge and skills for use at school and throughout their adulthood can unlock your child's potential and build a brighter future. Rewarding and praising your child when they display examples of independent learning is also vital for their growing confidence and development.

As parents, we naturally want our children to succeed in life and are becoming more involved in their education and long-term development. School, of course, plays a pivotal role, but many parents now seek additional support in terms of growing skills for learning and skills for life. This comes as part of our natural desire to provide our children with the best possible chance for a brighter future and fulfilment.