I’ve been thinking and working about cultivating independence in my children. This morning, David and I had a conversation that I thought revealed a helpful distinction.
He’s doing math. I’m encouraging him to try to teach himself before asking for help, and I’m also trying to help him evaluate truthfully if he knows a topic before doing a math lesson. (If he understands the topic well, then I want him to have the freedom to skip the lesson. He can test his evaluation when he does the chapter review/ tests.)
This morning, he asked about a certain set of questions: “Do I have to do these?”
Maybe they’ve asked this question a dozen times, but today I realized there was a better way to phrase the question and get him to use a better thinking process.
I stopped him. Told him that when he asks, “Do I have to do these” he is depending on me to manage his learning. That’s okay, but I’d rather he learn how to manage his own learning. Better questions are, “Does this have an academic value? What is it? Why is this important?” Then he has information that can help him decide if it’s something he needs to do.
In the case of the exercises he was asking about, it had academic value. When I explained why the textbook included those problems, he responded, “I understand how to do that already. Let me do one out loud to check.”
Some caveats: I don’t give my 8 year old the same freedom to decide if her work has academic value. Sometimes, I don’t know if something has academic value and I tell David he needs to do the exercise on trust. Other times, David disagrees with me that an exercise has value, and I expect him to submit to his teacher (me) and do the work.
Of course, now I’m thinking about other areas this approach might be helpful.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:11
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27-33