Independence in Education. I had a Quora question that might be beneficial to post here with so many parents struggling to keep their kids engaged in online work. How can one make their child more independent in their studies? In a word – impossible. This is a matter of nature and not nurture. Adults can’t speed along a child’s ability to be independent. Children’s independence in learning is a matter of self-control, which is one type of executive function, and governed by the development of the pre-frontal cortex. Children acquire executive function skills from ages 3–6 which is why they don’t start formal education until age 6, when they have enough self-control to sit and pay attention for about 15 minutes while receiving instruction. The next big leap of self-control is age 13–25 years, which is the best time for children to receive more independent instruction such as online learning. They have the executive function to sit and pay attention to the instruction and then the self-control to set about doing a task such as writing an essay or planning a project. Independent learning begins about age 13 or grade 7 in schools to take advantage of this leap in executive function skills. Until that age, children learn best in solitary play, or group activities, or if it is necessary, very, very, very short sessions (5–15 minutes at most) of being assigned a task to do something, but with constant supervision and support. That means being close by their side to encourage them to keep at it. All children will eventually become more independent in their assigned work, but as with most developmental tasks arising from brain development, it comes at different ages with different children. Your child’s brain will get there. Be patient!
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