One of the biggest frustrations I encountered while teaching gifted kids in public school – and continue to encounter with homeschooling my own gifted children – is that teaching can feel so restrictive. Their brains move and process so quickly, it’s often frustrating for them to sit and listen, wait for everyone else, and not rush ahead as quickly as they can. Not only is it frustrating, but so much of kids’ natural curiosity and excitement can fade when being made to wait while learning. Being lifelong learners, losing that excitement is one of my biggest fears for my children.
In order to feed their curiosity – and buy me some quiet mornings – we have embraced an interest-led, more independent style of learning. Whether it’s strewing, gifting subscriptions for birthdays, or just getting out of their way and being available to fund or support their rabbit holes, independent learning is a huge cornerstone of our homeschool. It can feel shaky, at first, to trust that your child is learning something without a ton of guidance. To help you feel more confidant in letting go and letting them learn, I’m sharing some of my favorite resources for independent learners, things I know a child can’t get through without learning something, and books that don’t require a formal lesson plan from me.
One of my absolute favorite resources for independent learning are books from the For Kids series. I discovered these while falling down a Frederick Douglass rabbit hole and have been nothing but thrilled with each one we’ve read. Mixing detailed and expansive knowledge with fun activities or hands-on projects, along with colorful photographs and sources for further exploration, these books catch and hold my kids’ attention. They’re especially great for history, such as their American Revolution for Kids, Industrial Revolution for Kids, Native American History for Kids, or specific historic figures, like Leonardo da Vinci for Kids. The For Kids series also has books over specific topics, such as Zoology for Kids, or maps with their Charting the World book. And don’t let the “for kids” title throw you – their books are filled with higher-level information and are suitable for almost any age, so even your teens can learn independently.
Another favorite book series of mine – and my kids! – are the You Wouldn’t Want to Be… books. There are a ton of topics to learn about, and the great graphics and unique format are attention-getters from the go. Any period in history we’ve studied so far has had accompanying You Wouldn’t Want to Be… books, and my kiddos have found almost countless supporting titles for their independent learning. Adding You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Viking Explorer to our always-popular Viking bread makes for a memorable study. Unique perspectives like You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Secret Agent During World War II, You Wouldn’t Want to Be Sick in the 16th Century, even You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Skyscraper Builder give so much more insight than simply reading about dates and events. These books are great for more than just history, they have plenty of topics for independent readers to enjoy, such as bees or weather!
There are plenty of beloved series that are perfect for independent learners, workbooks to practice in, or supplemental texts to support a specific study. The Cartoon Guide to… series is so visually engaging that kiddos can’t help but devour them, and Brain Quest workbooks are simple and thorough enough for independent work, waiting room work, or “sub” days when your kiddos might be with someone other than yourself. The Who Was… series is full of small, easily digestible readers for younger kiddos. If you haven’t enjoyed any Sir Cumference books yet, you are missing out! Full of colorful illustrations and stories that are as engaging as they are educational, the Sir Cumference books have been fantastic resources for my kiddos when approaching math independently. And while it’s not a series, The Number Devil is such an entertaining story that kiddos are able to learn quite a bit of math without realizing it.
Homeschooling and rabbit trails don’t have to take up every second of your day, and when given the freedom to explore, kids will astound you with what they can learn on their own. Stocking your library with books that allow for independent learners is a great idea that not only encourages lifelong learning, it also builds the confidence in kiddos to practice learning on their own. And it might even buy you a few quiet mornings!