Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The gift of independent learning.

I apologise for the tremendously long break. Home educating my gaggle of children takes up rather a considerable portion of the day, as well as making sure they are fed (quite) nutritiously, hubby is not forgotten, the house is kept orderly (as much as it can with a feisty 3year old) and the one schooled child is given adequate attention when he returns home around 4pm...

Having my eldest son, Ben, in sixth form and home educating the five younger ones has high lighted the tremendous gift we can offer our children through home education - the gift of independent learning. Witnessing Ben use this gift within the school system has shown me how very important it is as he has found his experience as an independent learner invaluable.
From a tiny age all children are in awe of our world and learning is fascinating and enthralling. It does not take much to engage a 5year old in astronomy or a 9year old in Roman history (or vice versa!). As they grow and develop there is more scope within the home for them to pursue their own interests (as well as the subjects they may be required to learn, as in our home) and there is an inherent need to be independent, a joy when they master a subject or an activity which cannot be equalled.

Whether one directs their children to learn, follows a rigid timetable or/and curriculum, or even autonomously educates, the home educated child discovers how to master certain subjects and through this confidence, will become an independent, and usually more skilled, learner.
Whether academic or not, this skill will be extremely helpful through out their whole lives; whether they enter sixth form as my son Ben has, or they go straight to college/University or work, or remain within the home until they are ready to leave.

The skills they acquire are thinking for themselves - analysing, probing, questioning and constructively criticising. If, like my older children, they have been handed an IGCSE text book, a note pad and a pencil and watched Mam hastily flee the room, they will quickly decipher how to work for themselves. It is undoubtedly a harder and more arduous form of study- no spoon feeding in home education! Yet, this freedom and allowance for the child to direct, not the parent, is so imperative to forming their future work ethic and their character.

One interesting aspect of sixth form Ben often mentions - even now in the second year of A levels - is how many students find it taxing to work alone. They are told the key to success in A levels is independent study yet they are not 'taught' it or shown it  and this can be a stumbling block for many months. Ben thought the teachers were really helpful at first and always offering advice, opinions, handouts.This conflicted greatly with his peers' opinions (who thought they had been stranded) and became a source of amusement for about one week!

There's no question that, as I'm always saying, every child is unique, and therefore will learn differently. Yet most home educated children, which ever way they've learnt, will usually become more inquisitive, confident and independent young adults as they have learnt from a very early age what true freedom within learning is.

Do you believe home educated children become independent learners?

May the Holy Family continue to keep us all ever in their prayers!


  1. My older children also noticed that their ability to learn independently was the biggest difference between them and the other pupils when they went to school. They noticed it even more starkly when they went to university. I hope and pray that it is still helping them!
    My guess is that the text books that make you leave the room hurriedly are maths and science; but I could be wrong....

  2. I think you're right, Amanda, that this is a distinct advantage home-educated children have. My eldest did not have the required 'points' for the local grammar, and I am sure they took him not least because they knew he had gained his less than spectacular IGCSE results with virtually no help whatsoever (you really can't count the heavily pregnant/newborn-nursing mother throwing a textbook at him as help can you?!). They were undoubtedly impressed that he'd done it all himself. Let's face it, the teachers know exactly how much spoon feeding they do, even in the 'good' schools. Their pupils are coached to an astonishing degree. And, again, the IGCSEs are considerably more challenging than the GCSEs on the whole, which only adds to the 'kudos' of our kids' efforts.

    Now in the world of work, No. 1 Son is certainly given credit for possessing and employing those habits of 'thinking outside the box' and using his initiative, the lack of which is so lamented both in business and in academia.

    1. The sixth form Ben attends took him with fewer IGCSEs then the recommended number and were also highly impressed with his achievements (he had at least four textbooks thrown at him in one year, the poor soul!). One thing I have found irritating is in a comprehensive school where they (usually) do not teach IGCSEs, they had NO understanding of the difference in standard until I pointed it out. But, as for spoon feeding, Ben feels they still do this at A level even though they harp on and on about the need for 'independent learning'! I feel all our children will take these gifts of independence and using their initiatives and make the world of work a more interesting place!