Post by Eboni N. Walker
Between Juneteenth and the Fourth of July, the beginning of summer marks a time for celebration, remembrance, and reflection. Amid the cookouts and fireworks, I have found myself thinking about the concept of freedom and what it means for me as a black woman, and for my son who will be entering fourth grade this fall. As commentary circulates about leaving our country, I was drawn to thumb through my passport and stumbled upon this quote by Anna Julia Cooper: “The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.”
When asking my son, “What does independence mean to you?” He said, “Being able to do something on my own that you [mom] don’t think I can do, to prove to you that I can do it.” It struck me how differently he thought of the term independence. Whereas I was considering freedom, and the rights I am born with as a human being, his frame was totally centered on his agency.
We have a term in the early childhood field for children exercising their sense of independence, it’s called autonomy. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) refers to autonomy as agency, or, a person’s ability to make choices and influence events – in particular a child’s ability to make choices and influence events in the context of learning activities.
When children have agency to act upon their opportunities, it positively impacts their motivation. Whether it’s deciding what to wear or what activities to engage in at camp, agency gives them confidence in their choices. Motivation is a critical component in the learning process, and adults can unknowingly discourage this element through doubt.
Developing autonomy is a critical part of learning for all children, and requires the release of control from the adult perspective, instead following the child’s lead. Here are several ways to support children’s autonomy that focus on working with children to meet goals and tackle responsibilities. Any child-directed activity, even in small decisions, helps build confidence, self-esteem, and acceptance in one’s humanness.
Independence, the ability for a human being to act upon their own free will, matters.
Children’s Rights: To learn more about children’s rights and why they matter, check out this link!