Even though schooling and education continues year-round in our household, as the beginning of the new school year approaches for everyone else, I start to re-evaluate where we are and set new goals. I have been looking at and praying about what is important - what are my priorities when it comes to teaching my children. One of the things on my list is to teach my children to be independent learners. What does that mean? Eventually, I want my children to be able to learn anything that they need or want to all by themselves. I want to work my way right out of my job as teacher. Lately, I have been thinking more about what steps are needed to accomplish this. How do you teach someone how to learn?
To discover how I should go about teaching my children to independently learn, I first need to look at how I, myself, go about learning something. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed being an independent learner. When I want to know something, or how to do something, I just figure it out. I don't feel the need to necessarily take a class or ask to be tutored by someone else.
Here are the steps I generally take:
Search out all resources on the subject. I gather all of the information that I can find on the subject. I search the internet for pertinent articles, raid my local library for books on the subject, look to see if their are any classes in the area teaching this subject, and think about who I know with knowledge about this subject so that I can either pick their brain or have them direct me to more resources that they find of value.
Evaluate resources. This is the weeding out process. After, I have all the information and resources I can find, I evaluate which ones are worth my time and/or money. I most likely will not read every book on a subject cover to cover, but I will skim them to see which seem most helpful to me. I skim lots of websites, bookmarking those that are of value for future reference. I consider whether a class is worth my time and money. For myself, I have found that often I can get the same info that I would get in a class through good books that I can get from the library for free saving my time and money.
Study resources. Here is where the learning takes place. I take advantage of the best resources and study them, taking notes if necessary to learn the material and internalize it.
Use what has been learned. If you do not use it, you will lose it. You need to put whatever you have just learned to use if you want to truly know it and retain it. Especially if you are trying to learn a skill, you need to practice it. You can read how to bake bread or change the oil in a car, but until you actually DO it, you don't fully know the process. Practice makes perfect! If what you are learning is more informational. then it is important that you somehow communicate and share this information either by teaching it to someone else or writing an article about it. The process of retelling something in your own words is an important part of learning. I forces you to understand it better.
So, these are the steps that I want my children to learn and put into practice. Of course, as their teacher and their mom, I am (hopefully) an important resource for them, as well. I have life skills and knowledge in many areas that they would be learning. For me, I need to remember to restrain myself. I can play teacher and spoon feed them information, but that will be less effective than if they seek it out for themselves. Often, I look at myself as more of a facilitator of my children's learning. I guide and steer them to where they need to be, but then let them work things out and learn on their own. If they get stuck, of course I am there to give them help.