Kids aren’t born ready to hit the books. In fact, adults play an important role in providing kids with stimulating and supportive environments for learning and development.
To become good life-long learners, children need to grow their confidence and independence. This is a process that happens over time. Kids need to ‘learn about learning’ and they look to the adults in their lives show them how.
Here are our top tips for families to create independent little learners.
Don’t give away the answers
It’s tempting, but giving kids the answers to their homework prevents them developing their learning and thinking processes and overall independence. As much as they need to learn about specific subject matter, children need to learn about the process of learning. This includes having plenty of chances to make mistakes, and to experience the joy of figuring things out for themselves. You don’t need to have all the answers!
‘Scaffold’ their learning
Scaffolding is a great way to build children’s confidence and capabilities. It involves supporting them through the task at hand using the following broad stages, and allows adults to draw back as the child’s learning independence grows:
ask questions about what needs to be done
break the job down into smaller steps
demonstrate how to approach each step, talking it through
praise achievement or, if they’re struggling, break the steps down further still.
Routine, routine, routine
Homework is a more efficient process if it is done at the same time and in the same place. Don’t expect that children will perform well with study tasks late in the day or night, or if they’re tired or hungry. One of the best routines is to attend to homework after school when kids’ minds are still firing. It can also help concentration if they have a chance to blow off some steam first and have something to eat. Getting school work out of the way before doing fun things keeps motivation up as well.
Don’t make it a battle
Is homework a constant clash of wills at your place? Battling kids to do their homework puts strain on relationships, including between siblings, and is exhausting for the whole family. A regular study routine sets the expectation and minimises any backlash. Framing conversations in positive ways - rather than interrogating or telling kids what to do - and giving them lots of praise for achievements helps keep things upbeat.
Being available doesn’t only mean being physically present for homework time. Many adults work full-time and might have another adult supervising study - like a carer at an after school program. If this is you, check in with your kids when you all arrive home. You don’t have to grill them over whether their work is complete, but simply take an interest in and discuss what they are up to. ‘Availability’ is about quality time more than anything.
You may like to read further about how children learn.