The Friends' Central School Blog

How Parents Can Empower Students to Own Their Learning

Oct 18 2018

Empowering-students-to-own-learningWhile there are many factors that go into raising an academically successful child, encouraging a love of learning is the most important. When a child loves learning, a personal investment and sense of ownership come naturally.

This essential factor, raising a child with a love of learning, doesn’t come with a clear-cut playbook for parents to follow. After all, each child’s academic path is going to be unique to themselves and their own interests.

Despite this, there are steps that parents can take, in conjunction with their child’s teachers, which will help encourage their children to develop a sense of ownership over their education and which can help to spark a love of learning. Some of the most important of these steps include:

  • Encourage curiosity and questioning
  • Find materials, opportunities, or experiences that are interesting to your child
  • Let them follow their own interests outside of school—do they want to read, build things, cook, collect bugs?

These considerations are important at all grade levels, from elementary school to middle school to high school, college, and beyond. Below, we explore each of these considerations and offer some suggestions for parents who want to ensure that their children develop a love of learning that allows them to take ownership of their education.

1. Doubling Down on Subjects that Spark Your Child’s Interest

In a perfect world, students would be absolutely enthralled in each and every class they take, and every subject that they are learning about. Math, Science, Literature, History—they would devour each with vigor and passion.


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The reality is that, as most parents find, children tend to lean towards certain subjects and classes that they are good at or that or that spark their interest. In some ways, this makes it easier for parents to encourage their child to take ownership over their own education.

In addition to encouraging your child to do their best in all of their classes, you can help your child develop his or her love of learning by encouraging them to go deeper into the material that truly sparks their interest. Some ways of doing this might include:

  • Finding books, magazines, and other resources for your child that allow them to learn more about the subjects that interest them, on an independent level.
  • Encouraging your child to ask questions—of themselves, their teachers, their curriculum
  • Signing your child up for clubs and other activities that lean into the subject matter that interests your child—for example, a robotics club for children interested in STEM.
  • Helping your child build connections between subjects so that they can understand how what they are learning in one class may impact what they are learning in another.

2. Making the Material Personal

Just as children are drawn to material that sparks their interest and curiosity, they are also naturally drawn to material that connects with them on a personal level.

When a child is personally invested in the material that they are learning about, it becomes more than schoolwork. It becomes something that they care about, something that they want to learn about, and something that they can relate to. This can lead to greater engagement with the material, a deeper understanding of what they are learning, and greater retention of information.

Some ways that you can help your child feel more personally invested in their studied might include things like:

  • Showing your child the real-world applications of what they are learning. This can be particularly effective in regards to mathematics and STEM, where children often wonder “When will I ever need to use this in life?”
  • For older children who may have particular career aspirations in mind, help them see how different subjects can be critical to getting a job in the field.
  • Especially for subjects like history, social studies, and literature, helping your child connect with the human element in their lessons

3. Ensuring an Appropriate Level of Challenge

In order for a child to be engaged in their education and develop a love of learning, it is important that they are constantly challenged to reach higher and do better. But it is also important that the challenges are of an appropriate level of difficulty. Too easy, and your child may grow bored, disengaged, and passive; too hard, and they may become frustrated and, similarly, disengaged.

While striking the right balance will largely be the responsibility of your child’s teachers, it is also important that you, as a parent, are aware of whether or not your child is being challenged by their schoolwork, and whether to the right extent. Some ways that you can keep an eye on this include:

  • Observing your child as they complete their homework to see if it is too easy or too challenging
  • Asking your child whether or not they are interested in what they are learning at school
  • Speaking to your child’s teachers to ensure that your child is on track and properly engaged in the classroom

Knowing When to Make a Change

Encouraging a love of learning in your child is the first step that parents need to take to raise children who are engaged in their schoolwork and who have a sense of ownership over their education.

Following the steps above, parents can help to encourage this love of learning in their children. But, ultimately, these efforts will work best when paired with a school and curriculum that similarly match your own personal educational philosophy. If you find that your child’s current school is not fostering the love of learning and sense of agency that you want your child to develop, it may be time to consider transferring your child to a school that does share your values.

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Topics: Lower School, middle school