3 Steps to Encourage Independent Learning

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In my early days of homeschooling, I remember feeling like I was being pulled in multiple directions. At the time I had one in kindergarten, 3 in preschool, two toddlers and an infant (I ran an in home daycare). As my own children got older and I eased out of daycare I thought homeschooling would get easier, but it didn’t really. I began to feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of educating so many different grades.

It was at this point that I began easing my older children into independent learning. If you have kids of multiple ages, work from home, or just are in a season of life where you NEED your kids to do more on their own, I highly suggest independent learning.

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What is Independent Learning?

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings”.~Anne Landers

That is one of the best descriptions of independent learning that I’ve been able find. It simply means that children are able to study, think, and pursue their own course of education with little to no help from a teacher at a school. Being able to learn independently is an important thing for our children to learn. Independent learning can help them learn responsibility, prepare them for college, and helps them truly engage in the material.

How Involved Do I Need to Be in Homeschooling?

Independent learning does not mean that you have no involvement in your child’s education. It simply means that your involvement becomes less frequent as your child gets older. When it comes to structured activities and learning, parents need to be hands on from preschool through about 2nd or 3rd grade. At this age children are learning the fundamentals of reading and mathematics and they require our assistance. Until then children need someone to check their work, listen to them read, and help them with their math.

Beginning in elementary school, you can show your children how to use a homeschool planner. Take a planner or a simple notebook and write down what each child’s tasks are for the day. You can write MATH, and then the page numbers that need to be finished for that day. Once the lesson is completed, show the child how to mark it off in their planner. During the early years, the purpose of parental involvement is to show your child how to be responsible for his learning.

By around 4th grade, a homeschooled child should be able to work independently for the most part. At this point, your job will be to guide your child and make sure the work is done correctly.

Each homeschooling family will need to determine their own level of involvement in their child’s education. For us, the girls do their language arts and math work independently. Science and history projects are completed together but oftentimes the textbook reading is done on their own. By junior high, the goal is for each child to be independent in all subjects.

How do I Create an Independent Learner?

I know this all sounds great, but HOW can you create an independent learner? I’ll be honest, it takes some work in the beginning, but in the end, it is SO worth it!

Model it

The first step to creating an independent learner is to model it. If you want to learn a new skill you find a way to learn how to do it, right? That is what your children need to learn to do as well. I take classes regularly for work and I talk about what I am learning with my kids. They see the notes I take and me putting the new skills into action. They know that learning doesn’t stop when you finish school. It is a lifelong journey and that we will be learning new tasks and skills for the rest of our lives.

Encourage it

From a young age, our children are learning and asking questions. This is when we can begin encouraging independent learning. When they come to you with a question or want to learn about something that has peaked their interest show them how to learn more. This can be done by researching the web, heading to the library, or browsing through a book. This may require your help at first, but eventually, your child will know how to look things up themselves and will understand the importance of researching an unknown topic.

Embrace it

As homeschool parents we are used to being with our children, learning alongside them and teaching the material. Independent learning may make you feel as if you aren’t needed. Believe me, we are still needed! Yet, we also need to embrace the fact that our children are growing up, and need to be able to learn independently. When this time comes embrace it! You are moving into a new season, you have done your job, and you have done it well!

What Curriculums Work Best for Independent Learning?

These curriculums are ones that I have used for independent learning or that come highly recommended by friends of mine who have raised independent learners.

  • Teaching Textbooks
  • Alpha Omega LifePacs
  • Essentials in Writing
  • Christian Light Education
  • VERITAS Press
  • Apologia
  • Notgrass History

Independent learning works best with students who are self-directed learners and who are good at time management. Creating independent learners takes time, encouragement, and hard work. As our children grow they need to be able to work and learn independently. Independent learning is an important skill and one that will benefit them for a lifetime.

How do you encourage and teach your children the importance of independent learning?

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Misty Bailey is a work at home homeschool mom. She loves helping new homeschoolers and has a Homeschool 101 eBook for those getting started. She shares everyday tips and encouragement for the homeschool mom on her blog

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