5 Key Ways to Encourage Self-Guided Learning

Self-guided learning is important for our self-confidence, self-esteem, self-worth and self-growth.

Teaching Kids to Teach Themselves

From the moment we are born we are learning. We are not being ‘taught’, yet we are learning. We use our awareness of our environment and our senses to grow and develop. This learning is self-guided, self initiated and part of our survival. It is not a trait that some of us have and others don’t but a trait we are all born with. With nurturing it is a skill we  continue to take with us as we travel life.

As life progresses our children are at risk of loosing the ability of self-guided learning. As more formal learning takes over and children are placed in the ‘education’ system there is a risk they will lose their self-confidence, love of learning and the ability to think for themselves. They stop discovering for themselves, expecting answers to be given instead of created. Instead of asking an adult for assistance to complete a task, using this assistance for learning, they begin to rely on an adult to complete the task and give them the answer.

So how do we create a world for our child that is conducive to self-guided learning when ‘education’ is the structure of society?

1. Cultivate Curiosity

Provide them with a stimulating environment. As society changes so does the way we parent. We have become a society that feels a need to shelter our children in order to keep them safe. The safety of our children should always be paramount but should not lead to isolation from discovery. By providing an environment full of activities that stimulate their senses, create curiosity and allow a level of risk taking we are giving our children the chance to discover their ability, question their thoughts and challenge themselves. They learn how to find answers to questions or problems on their own.

2. Be Patient

In this busy world we are way too quick to rush children. We tell them to hurry up or we complete a task for them so we can move on to the next. Having patience is a skill that, as parents, we need to relearn. Giving our children the time needed to work things out for themselves is investing in their long term future.

3. Give Encouragement and Praise

Children need to feel good about themselves and feel a sense of accomplishment. By giving them encouragement and praise we instill a sense of achievement and success. We reinforce that it is the process of learning and discovering that is of value not the outcome. Encouragement and praise is about recognizing all the little things they are doing, not just the final product or outcome but the little steps along the way. It is important that we encourage them to keep going and praise them for the great things they do even when the outcome was not what they wanted. Encouraging and praising effort leads to a child who will continue to believe that they can conquer anything they put their mind and heart to.

4. Nurture Their Interests

Show interest in their interests. Be present in their life by sharing what interests them and giving them the opportunity to expand on these interests. Use their interests to connect them to the broader world. Point out things relating to their interest that are in the environment. Expand their interest, thus creating expansion in development and learning, by offering an environment that pushes their interest to the next level or uses their interest to introduce a new interest.

5. Ask Open Ended Questions

Open ended questions are those that do not require a one word answer. They require thought and conversation. By asking open ended questions we challenge our children to think with reason, creativity and independence. Children who are taught to think about things from an early age are better equipped to relate information they receive from the world around them to their past and present experiences. There is no right or wrong answer to an open ended question. By giving open ended questions you are giving your child permission to think beyond the obvious, to express themselves and to acknowledge and communicate their feelings and thoughts.

Life is amazing. The world is a beautiful place full of wonder and learning. By encouraging our children to keep hold of their innate trait of self-guided learning we are setting them up for a life of discover, wonderment and belief in themselves.

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