We can read every article we find about the importance of independent learning with students, but we all know that it's essential for them to grow and thrive in the world around them. We won't always be there to hold there hand. As parents, our goal is to see our children succeed.
Independent learning doesn't happen over night. Some children achieve the goal faster than others. They seem to have a natural ability to thrive when they are left to there own devices. They love discovering new and figuring things out. Other children have to be led. They need to be taught how to work independently. They just don't seem to know how to stay on track. They can't focus and have no idea how to manage their time well. I have one of each of these children. Therese seems to know have to manage her time well, while Michael seems to be having a little more difficulty getting into the routine of it all.
This past year, we have been focusing on getting both children to be more independent in their learning. One resource we found to help was an assignment book or planner. Therese has used her planner religiously through out the year. She writes down her assignments and when they are do. She goes back and crosses them off once she has completed them. She has stayed on top of everything and hasn't missed a due date. The planner didn't work for Michael. He didn't like how it worked. He'd fill in the necessary assignments with their due dates, but would never go back and check it. He missed quite a few due dates. He was banned from all electronics for his lack of completed work. His excuse was he just never thought to check the book. Maybe a digital planner on his tablet would work better, but we haven't tried that yet. What we did try was writing down his assignments into a notebook. For some reason this work for him. Maybe it was because he's used to looking at a notebook, maybe because it's bigger and he didn't misplace it as much. Whatever the reason, this option worked for him. He knew what was due and slowly worked through the list. He was still late with a few due dates, but he did eventually complete them all. Using a planner or assignment book does take time to get used to. The children are still trying to figure things out. Just be patient and they will eventually get it down.
Since we homeschool the majority of our subjects together, the kids only have a few classes they do independently from each other. We did add a few workbook style books this year to help encourage independent learning. Geography and Editor in Chief are two books the kids get to work through on their own. Therese has worked ahead, while Michael has chosen to work at the assigned pace. Flexible scheduling allows them to work on assignments and projects own their own. We start each day with prayer, Religion,Math (done independently, but done at the same time), and English. These three are done together. History and science are introduced together, but then they can work through the assignment on their own at their own speed. When they are done with them, they move onto Geography and Editor in Chief. This freedom and flexibility allows them both to work at a speed they are comfortable with. Usually one is done faster than the other, but that's O.K. Whether their work is done quickly or drug out for hours is up to them. They are in charge with how much free time they get in the afternoon hours. They can chose to have school done by lunch time or dinner time.
Independent classes or projects are a great way to encourage independent learning. Not all students are going to have similar taste in what they what to learn about. Even when the kids were little, they showed distinct difference. Michael loved dinosaurs, while Therese loved horses. Offering them chances to learn about topics and subjects that interest them often leads to independent learning. They can read books about the subjects, complete a project to go along with it. Notebook journaling and lapbooks are great for this. Of course writing a paper or giving a report is a fantastic assignment for this age group.
Give them a little more independence. Encourage them to handle some of their own outside commitments. Get them involved with volunteering at your church. They can join the children's choir, be an alter server, an usher, and aid in the younger children's religious education classes. They can volunteer to help with church functions, at a local food bank, library, etc. Have them purchase their own items at the store. Make them talk to leaders of groups and other adults. Ideally this should have been going on before this age, but practicing social skills are important. Getting them involved in clubs like 4-H, Little Flowers, Blue Knights, Trail Guides, and church youth groups are a wonderful way to get them out there. The skills they learn in these clubs and groups can help them in the future.
How do you encourage independent learning?
Till Next Time,
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