The skills that really great independent learners require are vital life skills that all students can benefit from having. Skills like organisation, time management, task initiation, focused attention and memory are part of this skill set. These skills extend to social situations like controlling your behavior, being flexible and organizing and executing planned activities.
As children mature, they do pick up these skills, but getting them to practice over the summer holiday can really help them to be more effective at learning and at life. This is especially helpful for those children who are smart but scattered. If your child’s teacher has ever told you that they aren’t fulfilling their potential, then they will benefit enormously from a new set of executive skills.
Start small with a home-cooked meal. Your child can pick a date and a menu which must involve an ingredients list based on recipes that they have found for the meal they wish to cook. Help them to shop for everything they need, but remember to let them take the lead. Then let them read the recipe, follow the instructions and cook a meal.
Here they are practicing reading, following basic instructions and learning to cook all at the same time. They can then serve the meal and direct the other family members in a clean-up effort once dinner is done.
Older children can plan family outings, camping trips, weekend road trips and holidays and help to pack, make reservations and navigate their way through unfamiliar cities. They can also plan and execute birthday parties, sleepovers and other outings.
Getting a group together to watch a baseball game? Get your child to contact everyone, arrange for a meeting place and transport, buy tickets and manage the event on the day. They can also organize snacks and transport for their friends when attending their own sporting events.
Allowing your child to make these kinds of decisions helps them to plan their academic careers. They are able to think through what they need to take to school every day in order to be organized (no more forgotten text books and assignments!) It also means that they are better at managing their time so that they leave enough time for homework and studying, so no more last-minute rushes to finish assignments or all-nighters before exams.
Task initiation will also help them to start studying and assignments earlier so that they have the time to do them to the best of their ability. They are able to see the consequences of not studying or skipping assignments and are more likely to make the decisions that lead to success.
Children are never too old to learn executive skills and this development continues until they are 25. This may explain why some teens have difficulty thinking through their actions or considering the consequences. Allowing them to make more decisions early on and face the consequences of those decisions prepares them for a brilliant and successful academic career.
Pic by Rachel Adams