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How Do Kids Learn Best From Others?

By Debra Bell | July 14, 2011 | by Debra Bell, The Science of Learning

Yesterday I started a discussion about raising an independent learner. Today I’d liked to explore the ways in which we learn from others and get your thoughts on this, too.

Have you ever considered God’s intention in human development? Why the cycle of life? Why not create us fully-formed, like Adam and Eve? Why do children need almost twenty years to reach full maturity and be equipped for life independent of their parents? What’s the Creator’s intention in this plan?

For one thing, it insures parents have opportunity to train their children and pass on their heritage. On a grand scale, it means each generation has opportunity to glean the cumulative wisdom and knowledge from all the generations that have come before.

Not only did God author human development, He designed us to live in groups. There are few hermits among us. We organize ourselves across cultures and time as families, tribes, and nations. Why? Not all of God’s creatures do this. What’s the purpose behind our social nature?

Again, one benefit is this allows us to pass on prior learning and build upon it. This is the secret of human progress—we are social.

So how do we cooperate with this grand design in our homeschooling?

How do children truly learn from others, and practically how do we facilitate what is beneficial about social learning? ( Clearly, we do not want children to learn everything they observe!)

David had one key idea in the comment threads under “How Do You Raise an Independent Learner?” He pointed out the power of modeling. We do learn more from what we observe than from what we are told.

However, we learn even more when watching someone model a behavior and they talk about what they are doing.

To leverage this even further, what they talk about is important. If we explain the mental processes we are going through while modeling that behavior; e.g. solving a math problem, swinging a golf club, those who are learning can copy that behavior more quickly.

In educationalese, we call this process of modeling and narrating our inner thoughts “think aloud.”

So what ideas do you have? Are you using co-ops, grouping siblings together for certain subjects, including grandparents in your schooling? What seems to work best? Or not at all?

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