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Your Child Needs to Leave School with a Love of Learning

While homework and tests are pervasive in the US education system, they can be a distraction. A successful high school education is not about accumulating knowledge, it’s about self-directed learning. If your child leaves school with a love of learning and is a self-directed learner, she will be set for life. Those are the ultimate career skills, and life skills.

And so if you feel the homework and constant test taking are affecting your child’s attitude to learning, you can have a say on how your child’s education proceeds.  Or more importantly, if the time on this work is distracting him from building fundamental learning and reading skills, then don’t let it happen.

In adult life, your child is not going to be a professional student. Rote memorization is not a needed life skill.  A love of learning is.  That should be your goal, nurturing a love of learning that will last a lifetime.

Many education and language experts – with John Hattie leading the conversation – have demonstrated, time and again, that blindly memorizing facts, dates, and numbers is not useful.  What is useful is self-directed learning.  But what is self-directed learning, and who can benefit from it?

Who Is a “Self-Directed Learner”?

As the expression itself suggests, a “self-directed learner” identifies a student who creates, manages, and organizes their own learning.
Not only that, but self-directed learning also enables students to set their own learning pace, choose their learning goals, recognize their understanding gaps and creatively come up with solutions to solve their learning challenges.

Self-directed learning is an energetic approach to learning, a habit that once developed, can last a lifetime. It has two main ingredients:

  • Metacognition – the ability to think about learning
  • A love of learning

Children with Learning Delays Might Need To Make Choices

For most students, self-directed learning develops naturally in a school career.  Hopefully a love of learning that most children are born with is nurtured into a permanent habit early on, and metacognition develops in high school.

For children with reading or learning delays, the path is not so clear.  First of all, a love of learning is hard to nurture when a child struggles.  And if you press too hard, a child’s natural love of learning can erode. In fact, because of the learning struggles, the added time on boring reading drills, the hours and hours taken over homework and the frustration, many children with learning delays can actually develop a quite negative relationship to learning.

Furthermore, metacognition is not easy.  It’s a higher level skill that takes a lot of practice and that practice cannot start until a child is reading fluently and with comprehension.  If your child is not reading comfortably, the process of learning metacognitive strategies cannot even start.

For children with learning delays, the path to self-directed learning is not an easy one.

Schools Have Different Goals For Your Child

It is important to understand that most schools have different goals and motivations for your child.  For the teachers, many of whom would rather not subscribe to this standard, and for the school as a whole –  the currency is test results and grades.  That is how they are measured.

And the best and fastest way to get good test results now is rote learning.

However as a parent, your number one target needs to be love of learning and metacognition – and learning independence. Homework is a distraction.  Tests are a distraction – they are about knowledge, not learning.  Neither activity is on the path to self-directed learning.  In fact, for many children,, homework and tests are a roadblock to self-directed learning.

It’s a tough conversation, but if you see your child getting frustrated with homework and/or studying for yet another test you may need to make a choice.  Negotiate with the school over homework and tests.

Benefits of Self-Directed Learning

When you think about it, what really is the benefit of knowledge?  There is some “working capital” of knowledge,  basic facts, that can be manipulated and thought about.  But these days, Google has made knowledge ubiquitous.

By contrast, self-directed learning has many benefits:

    • The ability to set individualized goals
    • The possibility to expand the learning approach as needed
    • More motivation, independence, and commitment to pursuing – and achieving – goals
    • The ability to control learning pace, process, and environment

Again, this is a skill that really only fully develops in high school, as truly self-directed learning requires the ability to recognize what’s not working, and recognizing when you are not fully comprehending the assignment or material.

If your child leaves high school as a self-directed learner, their career options will be plentiful.  So much is possible for a child who is an independent and enthusiastic learner.  This is the prize, and as a parent, you have some say in your child’s path to that end goal.

Learning Interventions Help Love of Learning

This self-directed learning end goal is a big part of why we started Gemm Learning, as an alternative to time-consuming tutoring, which can be tedious. We saw that first hand in our family, tutoring is not conducive to a love of learning, word lists are not conducive to a love of reading.

Gemm Learning offers learning interventions for reading, attentiondyslexia, APD and other delays, that work much more quickly than tutoring or other rote instruction because they go after the underlying cause, whereas tutoring works around them.  The idea is if we can get the fundamentals working efficiently without too much frustration for a child, a healthy attitude to learning can be restored.