Today is the start of summer break for many schools in my homeland…which means, the start of independent study projects for the students. Ah, it brings back a lot of memories – some sweet and some bitter, but all very fond, now quite a few years later.
My earliest memory of independent studies goes back as far as primary school years. In my homeland, independent study projects are usually done during summer breaks only, but I had an extremely dedicated teacher who encouraged us to take on projects throughout the year as our interests arose.
He would read through thoroughly, make comments, and give timely feedbacks to all our projects, no matter how busy he was with other duties he took on as an extremely dedicated teacher. I was so excited to hear back from him, I quickly got immersed in independent studies in anything and everything that woke up my curiosity. I think he is the one who really got me going in pursuing all my interests, all at full throttle.
My last memory is equally memorable. It was for my French class, on the many chateaux my father took me and the family to when we lived in Europe. I was so little I did not remember them myself, but together with the research I did on my own, I got my family to help out, throwing in bits of family photos and the reasons why my father loved them so much.
And the best part of it all, my teacher invited my father to the class on my presentation day! He was so proud he had tears in his eyes, but I was even more proud of him – he impressed my teacher and classmates by conversing fluently in French. I still think to this date he was the key to the grade I got on my project!
And then, there is one that I would love to forget but never can. It was a complete failure as a project, but the most fun I had doing one and forever a cause of laughter in my mother and me. I had just started learning cooking from her, and I came up with the idea to do a project on chemical reactions in cooking.
I researched long and hard the entire summer, then we went grocery shopping for the necessary ingredients near the end of the break. We had just one chance to do the experiment, but we only got the most mediocre results possible. I had to hand in a report that turned into a long list of excuses on why the project failed. A few days later, we found the answer in the grocery receipt… instead of using red cabbage, we used red leaf lettuce. I probably learned the most from this project (more on life lessons than on the subject of research)!
Maybe none of my independent study projects were fancy or fascinating to others.
Maybe no one other than me enjoyed the planning, the process, and the products altogether.
Maybe they were immature, insufficient, and incomplete to be called projects.
But maybe to me, they were all important in making me the person that I am today.
Maybe it taught me my likes and dislikes, my abilities and limitations, my friends and foes.
Maybe these are things about myself I would not have found out had I not done the projects as independently as I possibly could.
These days in my homeland, I am seeing an increasing amount of sites and advertisements giving suggestions on independent study project ideas. I do not think they are bad in themselves – kids got to start somewhere! But I hope the people around them, especially parents, will leave all decisions to be made by the kids, including what to do, how to carry out, and when to ask for help.
Maybe the projects are just as much about independence as they are about studying.
Maybe there is as much to learn from the planning and the process as there is from the products.
Maybe there is as much to learn for the kids as there is for the parents.
Maybe they are independent events, but in sequence, come to predict what will occur next and form a compound person in your child.
Maybe the probability of your child growing one way or another depends a lot more on these independent study projects than we think.
Now, you would certainly want to increase that probability by offering help where needed, but not decrease it by getting in the way, would you?
Maybe you could let there be dependence on independence in independent study projects.