Thinking of life skills: Here’s how to develop independent learning in teens.
How to Develop Independent Learning in Teens
One of the best gifts we can give our teens is the skill of independent learning. You have probably noticed that independent learning is an important part of adulting:
- College students must be independent learners
- Students in trade schools are expected learn on their own
- Anyone with a job will have some things they must figure out on their own
- If they get married and have children, those relationships require lots of learning in order to be successful
How can you develop independent learning in teens?
Training teen so to practice independent-learning skills depends on the personality of your teen. There are three types of teens (at least, regarding how much independent learning they show naturally).
- Some teens are born independent learners
- Some teens want to learn independently but do not know how
- Some teens are reluctant learners and resist assignments
Let’s address ways to promote independent learning in each type.
Born independent learners
Some kids are just born with drive, motivating interests and ability to organize their studies. They may be a minority but they are there! They will daily decide what to work on and how long and then will finish assignments on time.
Tips for born independent learners:
- Involve them in the choice of courses and curriculum
- Ask them if they want help setting up a schedule of studies
- Agree on a weekly check-in point
- This is important for these teens, not that they really need for you to check in, but if you do not do a weekly check-in they feel as if you do not care. That does not work for teens anymore than it would work for you if you had a boss that gave you a project and never checked in to see how it was going.
- If you find that your homeschool high schooler is hyper-conscientious and does not know when to stop studying discuss work/life balance in your weekly check-ins.
Wants to learn independently but does not know how
Many homeschool high schoolers have an internal desire to own more and more of their academics. It gives them a feeling of self-confidence to know they can manage most of their studies. However, many of those same teens have no clue where to start on organizing their studies.
Tips for teens who want to learn independently but do not know how:
You can help them by making Study Skills part of a Life Skills elective. Make it a course that you work on together (after all, some of us moms could use some help with the time management component.)
- Plan the course together. Cover topics like:
- After they have a grasp on these skills, work together to apply them to their easiest courses
- After they manage independent learning with these easier courses, apply the skills to more challenging courses
- It is perfectly okay and normal for teens to need instruction and guidance on any challenging material, so no guilt trips!
Reluctant learners who resist assignments
Not all teens are called to be scholars. God created all kinds of teens and it is right for them to become the adults he created them to be. Nevertheless, independence skills are important and independence skills can be applied to learning.
Tips for reluctant learners who resist assignments:
Hold to realistic expectations. Why push for college-prep courses if the result will be a lot of arguing and stress? Bring the course levels down to average (or remedial, for those with learning issues).
I have had moms push back on this strategy before saying that they did not want to close any doors to college. This is true, you do not want to close college doors, but students who have the history of reluctance tend to be better fits for community college for starting. At most community colleges, incoming students are given placement tests and start where they need to be. So, there is no worry about getting into a college. With this approach, moms and teens can enjoy high school together, rather than pushing and irritation for four years.
- Choose courses and curriculum together. Getting your teen’s buy-in is important.
- One excellent course for reluctant writers is our research paper for reluctant writers. (It is a freebie.)
- 7Sisters’ curriculum, literature guides and writing guides are adaptable to different needs and levels. The guides have instructions on how to work at average high school level rather than college-prep.
- For senior year writing, look at the practical writing skills in our Professional Writing Guide.
- Set SMART Goals together (Adapt the process to your teen’s needs.)
- Choose a practical course that your teen enjoys. Work on creating syllabus together.
- Agree on a daily strategy session and check-in points.
- You (or tutors, co-op, or online teachers) will be the main instructor(s) for other courses.
- As your teen gains confidence, add more courses to independent learning using the steps above.
God has plans for every teen. As they develop independent learning skills they can gain confidence to seek and find those plans.