Fostering independence

Published by Lori Pickert on October 15, 2008 at 02:17 PM


Yesterday, I wrote about helping pre-readers research.

Every part of this has to do with fostering independence — allowing the child to be in charge of his own learning.

If you can’t read, you are at the mercy of those who can. But if there is a system in place for having someone read to you at a determined time the materials that you have chosen, then you are back in the driver’s seat.

If you can’t write, you are at the mercy of those who can. But if, instead of having to pester someone else to spell the word you want to write, you can look it up and copy it by yourself, then you are in control.

Not only do they get to decide which library books to check out, but they get to decide what is most important.

There are a hundred ways you can help your child work independently. Books and materials can be stored where they can reach them without assistance. Clean-up materials can be sized for small hands and, again, kept where they can be used without having to ask for help. Small children want to take responsibility, if you will let them.

Sometimes we get so caught up in everything we want our children to learn — literature, math, science, geography, language, music, manners — that we forget the most important things. How to make good decisions. How to handle disappointment. How to talk to other people about what matters to us. And so on, and so on. The curriculum of what really matters.


Comment by Sarah Jackson on October 16, 2008 at 05:17 PM

Thank you for saying that. I think we get so caught up in facts that we forget the most important parts of learning - the parts that make us mature and thinking people. Sure, the literature and math and geography and art and music and science and history matter. All of those things are part of being a well rounded and well informed person. But having the critical thinking and decision making skills to do something with it cannot be overvalued. It's essential to the process of education and to life in general.

Comment by Stefani on October 16, 2008 at 05:46 PM

Oh a thousand amens! I often think that the most important things that we've learned in a day have nothing at all to do with traditional subjects, and everything to do with becoming capable, kind, mindful, people who are desirous of knowledge and capable of gathering it where it may be found.

And I thought you'd like to know that I have a new mama notebook, thanks to your inspiration...

Comment by Quinne on October 16, 2008 at 07:13 PM

Hi Lori :) I am enjoying your writing so much - the project learning, helping the little ones - it's been such an encouragement! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Blessings, Q

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 16, 2008 at 08:03 PM

sarah and stef, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. stef, let me know how that notebook works out! ;^)

quinne, thank you! please come back & comment often. ;^)

Comment by Juliann on October 17, 2008 at 01:44 PM

This idea of accessibility is huge in my thinking about supporting the child's learning. Recently the children asked for a tape dispenser in the loft. They had been told last year that they couldn't take things into the loft but they really needed tape (they are using that space for an office). The regular dispensers are heavy and hard to carry when you are climbing the loft ladder so I asked them how we could safely take things into that area. Just so many opportunities for learning and problem solving when we just allow the conversation to happen.

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 17, 2008 at 03:55 PM

juliann, absolutely -- and such a good example of a way that rules can be rigid and block learning. i almost mentioned that very thing in this post! that it’s not just important to make materials accessible, but also to have rules that allow their use.

i worked with a teacher who had a very rigid rule about carrying materials from one area of the classroom to another — based, i’m sure, on a classroom that looked at the end of the morning like it had been picked up and shaken. ;^) but her rule was unintentionally squelching project work. the children wanted to take items from the science table and use them in making complex block constructions. they wanted to carry art materials to the science table, and science table items to the art studio — they were making connections all over the place! but this teacher’s rules were preventing them like a roadblock to learning.

your flexibility and willingness to work with the children is to be commended!

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