There’s the old saying of “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish and he’ll never starve.” It’s a saying that’s been repurposed for any number of learning scenarios over the ages, but the sentiment is always the same. It’s important to teach people the skills they need so that they learn how to prosper in their own lives.
For young children, education is the bedrock of their ability to grow and thrive in life. A child should understand the core educational principles of language, reading, writing, mathematics, and basic science. Children who have the knowledge to understand these core principles have a more competitive advantage over those who lack the skills to interpret them.
However, that’s not the only reason to ensure your child gets a great education. A knowledgeable child can support his or her peers by sharing their own tips and tricks about how to learn, study, and grow. Peer to peer support is a byproduct of child development and empowerment, which further enforces that child’s strengths and belief in their own abilities.
So how can you educate a child to be their own teacher, and what are the benefits of childhood empowerment? Let’s look into that.
Help your children learn how to learn, not what to learn
There is a fundamental flaw in the education system; simply put, it’s very outdated. Material included in most curriculums is, more or less, regurgitated lesson plans dating back decades. The knowledge imparted in those sessions is less relevant today than it once was back then. As a result, there’s a gap between what material is taught in classrooms and what skills children need to thrive in modern and futuristic societies.
Instead of relying on outdated curriculums, help your child understand why it’s so important to develop educational skills around language, math, and science. Help them understand how those skills inform the rest of their lives. Help them see why learning and teaching themselves to improve these skills will further benefit their path in life.
Appeal to the child’s own interests
For example, your child may love playing video games. Many games come with problem solving skills to advance towards the next level of the game. A child who can quickly do basic math in their heads will have a far easier time climbing the ladder and beating that game.
Similarly, your child may love stories about their favourite superheroes they see in big blockbuster movies. If they know how to read on their own, they can consume endless amounts of content that fill in more of the backstory about those characters. They can immerse themselves in those worlds and feel more connected to their heroes.
By relating the fundamentals of a good education to their own interests, you connect with your child and help them understand why skills like reading and mathematics will help them do what they want to do with their lives. If you communicate on their level using real-life scenarios that matter to them, they’ll absorb the lesson you’re trying to impart and use it for their own interests.
Encourage self-directed learning and development
Once a child understands the why behind a good education, they’re ready to start learning how to acquire one. This is the first step towards helping children become their own teachers.
The University of Waterloo created a helpful guide for families to encourage self-directed learning for their children. It’s a 4-step process, and it’s summarized as follows:
Ensure they have the right attitude about learning
Help them set challenging but realistic learning goals
Determine the ideal learning approach; i.e. depth behind a subject vs. what knowledge is necessary to pass a test
Foster an environment for self-evaluation and improvement
When a child feels motivated to learn, their minds function like a sponge; they absorb as many details as their brains can process. When a child sets and achieves their goals, they feel validated that their hard work will pay off. When a child feels passionate to digest a subject in its entirety, they’ll develop a desire for continuous learning and development. And when a child feels confident to be their own evaluator, they’ll learn how to adapt and improve their performance for next time.
Become a willing and engaged audience
What’s the best way to help a child feel like they can be their own teacher? They need an audience willing to listen to the knowledge they’ve just acquired themselves.
This ties directly into the final step of the 4-step learning guide; evaluation and improvement. As parents, you want to encourage your child to become their own teacher who’s comfortable critiquing their own work. Help them develop this skill by sitting with them to go over the work they’ve completed. As the parent, you become the student and let your child be in the driver’s seat as they teach you all about a subject they’ve just spent hours trying to learn.
Feel free to ask questions and challenge any of their presentations if you feel certain knowledge is lacking or misinterpreted. This will help your child further evaluate their own work and become comfortable accepting challenges or constructive criticism. When they feel comfortable with that level of feedback, they’ll begin to identify gaps of their own and learn how to improve next time.
Benefits of helping children become their own teachers
Now that you have some ideas about how to motivate your child to become their own teacher, what are the benefits of this approach to learning and development? Why is it so important to empower children to believe in their own abilities to learn, process, and impart knowledge?
Reinforce their strengths
A child feels empowered when he or she recognizes their inherent strengths and validate those skills through learning, development, coaching, and honest feedback. By helping your child become a master of their own educational development, you help them reinforce their own strengths. More importantly, you help them unlearn perceived weaknesses so they can adapt those lesser skills into more effective ones.
Help them learn to empower others
Peer to peer support is one of the best ways to help your child learn the value of being a helpful member of society. When a child feels comfortable in their ability to acquire and interpret knowledge, they can help their peers who may be struggling to do the same. This is a great way to help them learn the lesson of the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Help your child see that lending a helping hand is the right thing to do and that it could lead to good karma one day down the road.
Let them learn how to become a leader
When children feel empowered to help their peers, they naturally take on a leadership role within the classroom. Children who are comfortable becoming leaders are more likely to develop initiative when new opportunities present themselves. This will help them develop self-confidence and a willingness to help their peers, friends, and co-workers whenever necessary.