Self-study skills are the process of self-improvement of knowledge not only from books but also from experiences in life. This is the most important baggage parents can help their children prepare for an educational path. No school teaches, and can’t be bought with money.
According to Ms. Tran Uyen Nguyen – a master of education, currently working at Willow Oak Montessori School (Pittsboro, North Carolina, USA), when children have the ability to self-study, whether the family is rich or poor, intellectuals farmer, the child also starts from the same starting line as his friends. Ms. Uyen Nguyen shares some parts of self-study from a neuroscience perspective and shows how parents can train their children’s self-study ability.
1. Growth mindset
Growth mindset – includes knowledge of brain plasticity and belief that we can train the brain to change in desired direction. Contrary to the fixed mindset, the belief that each person is born with a certain fixed IQ, the growth mindset proves that we are smarter day by day if practiced properly.
When we learn something new, a new connection is formed between the neurons involved in the formation of that new knowledge. As we practice, the layer of Myelin surrounding that connection gets thicker and thicker. Like a paved road, the circulation of information is faster and more efficient on a thicker Myelin-coated connection. Regular practice of a new skill spreads myelin over the connections of our neurons, making it easier and easier for us to use that new knowledge or skill.
When we make mistakes, it’s simply because the optimal connection has not yet formed or the brain is testing a new connection. Understanding brain flexibility and a growth mindset is the first step towards self-education.
Parents can help their child build a growth mindset by normalizing mistakes and rewarding effort and regularity of practice instead of rewarding good results (For example, instead of praising your child for being good, praise children for their hard work), as well as strengthen children’s beliefs about brain maturation through practice (e.g., when children are not yet mastered in calculations, it can be emphasized that they are “not mature” but not ” not good” or “ignorant”).
2. Intrinsic motivation
Intrinsic motivation is the desire to work without reward or punishment and not because of the influence of others. In contrast to extrinsic motivation – such as encouraging children with rewards or threats of punishment (the carrot or stick method), intrinsic motivation comes from within the child, helping children feel happy when working.
Research on intrinsic motivation comes from neuroscience. There are about 4 neurotransmitters that affect people’s work motivation and habits. They are also the reason people feel happy and fulfilled. When one of the following transmitters is catalyzed after an experience, the neurons associated with that experience make connections (with more myeline), making people want to repeat the experience.
1. Dopamine – satisfaction when achieving a goal, satisfying a basic need or experiencing a new sensation. For example, when you eat, your body is supplied with sugar/energy, so it will release dopamine; or when completing the checklist for the day, or winning a game of chess, the body also releases dopamine.
2. Serotonin – the comfort of feeling connected and an important part of a group, being respected and recognized. For example, when you go for a walk in the fresh nature or bask in the sun, the body perceives itself as part of nature and receives the energy of the sun, which will release serotonin. Or when you are in a peaceful, trusting, respectful community, your body also releases serotonin.
3. Oxytoxin – the safety of being around people you trust and trust others, this is also the love hormone. For example, when you are loved by your parents and family, your body will secrete oxytocin. That’s why you love being around people who love you.
4. Endorphin – pain reliever hormone. Since pain is very important information about the body’s limits, endorphins make pain more tolerable. A very good example of endorphins is the feeling of well-being after exercise or a long run.
From knowledge of neurotransmitters that play an important role to motivation, in the advanced learning environment there are always the following factors to be self-motivated for learning:
Choices (Lots of subject/learning options and always a playground and a variety of sports).
Collaboration – Teachers, students and parents work together. I often use the example that each student has a seed of knowledge in him – your task is to absorb nutrients from the environment schools for seeds to germinate – and it is the duty of parents and teachers to nurture the soil/school environment).
Context (The reason why that knowledge is needed – or its association in the totality of human knowledge).
Challenge (challenge – knowledge must be fresh and difficulty is just slightly above current ability. In the Montessori environment, each lesson must be designed with only 1 new information/skill – called a challenge).
3. Secure attachment
Secure attachment – a secure attachment to parents and the ability to regulate emotions. An important part of self-learning – the ability to connect with others and exchange information effectively – can be instilled in infancy. When parents create a secure bond with their children (always providing what they need when they are infancy and being with them often when they are younger than 7 years old), the amount of oxytocin in the child will regulate.
A child growing up with an oxytocin balance clearly understands what he or she needs and wants, and is able to seek and pursue those things in a peaceful, calm, polite manner. Children also have the confidence to create good relationships to exchange and discuss to increase knowledge. No one can learn on their own without good and good people around to help.
4. Executive functioning skills
Executive functioning skills – the ability to coordinate actions such as setting goals, planning and following plans, as well as coordinating emotions. Children who grow up in an environment that is organized, neat and has a regular schedule will be able to concentrate better at work. In addition, the calmness of the parents, and the positive, joyful outlook on life will affect the development of the brain, making the child calm, optimistic and capable of analyzing problems, not feeling emotional dominant emotion.
Before the frontal lobe (neocortex) is fully developed (at around age 30), a child’s ability to think critically, focus, and regulate emotions is greatly influenced by the environment and emotions of others around, especially parents.
A child can only learn on his own when he knows how to set goals, plan and follow plans, and coordinate his or her fleeting emotions, and parents’ help as an example is essential. If parents can give their children a neat and orderly environment with a clear schedule, and accompany their children with an optimistic, joyful and inquisitive mind, it will help the child learn much better on his own.