Tips to Raise an Independent Learner

By Dr. Raymond Huntington

One of the best things you can help your child work toward as a student is becoming an independent learner. In school, independence is a sign of maturity and confidence. Students who are independent seek to learn for the sake of learning and understand that learning requires discipline and diligence.   

The more you can help your child make that transition toward independence as a student, the more equipped they will be for college-level academics and their career.  

What is an independent learner?  

Put simply, independent learning is when students take ownership of their education and control of the tasks required to learn. They stay on top of what they need to do and engage in homework and studying without having to be nagged by you or their teachers.  

It’s obvious why this is important! Independent students are not afraid to fail and recognize that all learning requires effort. They take responsibility for school themselves and acknowledge that success in school will help them reach their goals, even if they haven’t defined them yet. They are persistent, even when a subject or assignment is hard for them. And they tend to comprehend and retain things better than their less-independent peers.  

How can you raise an independent learner?  

Teaching your child to be an independent learner isn’t like teaching them how to ride a bike or tie their shoes, but there are still many things you can do to encourage independence. Here are several tips:  

  • Focus on effort and learning more than grades and GPA. In school, encourage your child to keep in mind that grades matter and praise from teachers is always welcome, but learning is the goal. If your child receives a low grade on a test or assignment, talk about what they think went wrong. Did they follow directions? Study thoroughly? Keep up on class work? And when your child receives a high grade, point out how they got there.  
  • Set goals and talk about the future. Independent learners have the motivation to succeed in school because they know it will lead to a brighter future. From a young age, talk with your child about what they like to learn and what school subjects they enjoy most. Talk about college and what your child might want to do for a career one day. Help your child make the connection between their future and their actions today. 
  • Talk about school as a process of learning. Your child must understand that learning is a journey that will have ups and downs. Remind your child to pay attention to how they learn best and the pitfalls that can make school harder for them. Some students realize early on that they are a strong reader and less strong at math. This will mean they’ll need put extra effort into math homework and ask for teachers’ help. Other students might struggle with organization. Developing good routines will be essential. The more your child knows themselves as a student, the easier they can self-assess and get help when they need to. 
  • Resist the urge to step in too often. School is and always will be your child’s responsibility, so treat it that way. It’s okay for you to provide guidance and support, but don’t get too involved in the homework process or take over when your child gets stuck. Encourage your child to be resourceful by looking through their notes or textbook when they are confused by a problem, or searching the internet for videos to help them. And if you don’t know how to help when your child asks for guidance on that math or science homework, instead have them explain where they’re confused and come up with a few specific questions to ask their teacher the next day.  

It's so important that your child becomes an independent learner. As your child progresses through school and life, the responsibilities only become greater—and teachers expect that your child will be a self-starter who takes initiative to manage their own learning.  

If your child struggles to complete homework independently or spends a lot of time on homework but yields little results, call Huntington. We’ll perform an academic evaluation of your child to get to the root of the problem. From there, we will develop a customized program that focuses on the areas where your child needs the most assistance.