When are children ready to do some things independently?

Turns out not as quick as others want!

My husband started building holiday narrow boats a year ago. We were lucky enough to go out for a weekend with friends on one in October and I did have a go at steering the boat. If you’ve never done it then you have to turn the tiller the opposite way to the front on the boat and as it’s long you need to anticipate when it will turn.

Yes, I parked it sideways the very first time!

This year just the three of us went away for a week. I can’t say it wasn’t stressful for me at times trying to get this steering business right. If you know me or follow us on Funics you may know that my daughter has been diagnosed with dyspraxia and I certainly think I have it as well.

My husband can’t understand…
If I know the basics
If I understand what I need to do
If he’s shown me so many times
I’m able and intelligent
…why can't I always remember and then just panic and freeze or make mistakes?

I was able to tell him it takes me a few seconds to think and adjust when something happens like another boat coming towards us. If you’re about to go around a corner at the same time then you may panic as well!

I just needed lots of time and reassurance of him being close by to help. I was just not ready to go it alone independently.

How does this relate to children learning?

We teach children how to hold a pencil, form letters, speak in sentences and use phonics to attempt to spell phonetically. Then, we quite quickly are expected to get them writing sentences and independently fairly quickly.

Now, with 30 children in a class and usually only 2 adults, writing with a child 1:1 takes so long. You can imagine how long it takes to get through a whole class. So to be able to fit in all the other subjects we kind of need them to be independent enough to have a go. I’m not saying this is right, it's just the expectations given to teachers.

What I want us all to be aware of, is that while as adults, we can reason and say we’re not ready to be left alone children can not always do this. They may not have the words, experience or confidence to speak up. Children’s thinking and reasoning part of the brain isn’t fully formed until they are about 24 years old. They can not reason, think like us or work like us with fully formed and developed brains.

Have you seen a child just give up, sit doing nothing or make silly mistakes? Chances are they are not ready to work independently.

Just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean you're comfortable or confident to do it on your own and we need to bear this in mind with young children.

This applies to all children but then we really need to put in extra consideration and strategies for our neurotypical children or adults.

What can we do to support children?

We can’t do much about class sizes or government expectations so we have to think of how to help them in other ways.

  • Give children strategies - ask a friend, use resources around the room (have you made sure that each and every child knows where they are and how to use them?)
  • Keep checking in on them often.
  • Make sure they have a way of letting you know they need help if they are quiet and don’t speak up.
  • Positive praise for trying.
  • Create a culture where children know it’s ok to make mistakes or ask for help.
  • Think about and remember when you didn’t think you were ready to go it alone!