How Can Parents Encourage Independent Learning? - Student Resources

How Can Parents Encourage Independent Learning?

Parents often are attracted to Kumon Centers because they read or hear that Kumon helps students become independent learners. Independent learning is prized because independent students are engaged and enjoy learning. They are more confident and perform better academically. What students learn at Kumon works best when it is reinforced at home, however. So, how can parents encourage independent learning?

To raise an independent learner, parents should allow students to set their own learning goals, encourage students to problem-solve and take risks.

Let Them Set Their Own Goals

Allowing students to have the freedom to set their own learning goals might sound scary to some parents, but when handled well, it should help children develop life skills such as challenging themselves and understanding what it takes to reach a goal.

Steve Shea became the Instructor at Kumon Math and Reading Center of El Cerrito, just north of Berkeley, California, in 2022. Before he purchased his center, he was a teacher and a Kumon Parent.

“At Kumon, we help students become independent learners by celebrating each student’s progress,” he says. “Instead of completing a grade level at school simply because of the date, Kumon Students complete study levels in math and reading that correlate to their efforts and when they master a concept. They can complete a year of school curriculum in months or even weeks.”

Instead of receiving grades on their first attempt at a Kumon worksheet, students repeat work until they demonstrate mastery and are ready to move to the next level. They are always working toward the next goal.

At home, parents can guide students toward increasingly challenging books or work. They might ask students to keep a journal with new vocabulary words they come across in a book, or what they learned from a science project and how they would take it a step further next time.

A big part of goal setting is evaluation. When students reach their goal, parents may ask questions like, “What did you learn from that? How will you approach a problem like this next time?”

Encourage Problem-Solving

Independent learners need strong problem-solving skills, so parents should encourage students to figure things out for themselves. For older students, that may involve suggesting books or online resources where they can do research. 

As often as possible, parents should encourage students to take the lead. Parents can ask questions to guide students and encourage them, but they should provide feedback, not answers.

To raise an independent learner, parents should make students feel empowered to find an answer for themselves.

“I encourage my parents to allow their child to work in the same room but not next to the parent,” says Alysia Pegram, who has been the Instructor at Kumon Math and Reading Center of Arlington-Southeast in Texas for six years and a former homeschooling stay-at-home mom. “I can tell which children’s parents sit next to them and make corrections while the student is working. Those children go at a very slow pace, because after each answer, they are looking for validation.”

Let Them Take Risks

Cultivating a child’s independence in learning involves fostering a willingness to experiment and try something new without fear of failure.

Brian Ford, who has been the Instructor at Kumon Math and Reading Center of Babcock Ranch in Florida for two years and a teacher before that, advises parents to create a supportive environment where mistakes are not only tolerated but viewed as learning opportunities.

“Kumon supports students in becoming self-reliant learners by creating this kind of environment,” says Ford. “We motivate students to tackle new concepts while providing the necessary guidance.”

To raise an independent learner, parents can focus on giving students the confidence to pursue a goal without second-guessing themselves or worrying about whether their parents will be disappointed if they don’t succeed. It’s important for them to try.

“We should praise kids for making an effort,” says Shea, the Instructor in California. “I want to show kids that I see their efforts and their efforts are working, even if the results aren’t perfect. That way, kids can develop the connection between striving and happiness.”