Friday, August 22, 2014

7 Ways to Encourage Independent Work in Homeschoolers

If you homeschool, let me let you in on a little secret. 

The secret to surviving homeschooling is to get your kids working as independently as possible as soon as possible.  Especially if you have multiple kids. 

Because I don't know about you but I ain't got no time to sit down and walk each kid through all their work.  As my kids get older, my job as a homeschooling mom tends to change from teacher to overseer...they do more and more on their own and my job is relegated to answering questions and correcting stuff. 

Trust me..we've had many a homeschool day where we were still going at 4:30 in the afternoon and those are NO FUN. 

Encouraging independent work has really helped lesson the number of those days.  Because there are 3 of them and only one of me and I can't help more than one kid at a time, our days were dragging out FOREVER.  One kid was having to wait while I helped another kid and things were just taking A VERY LONG TIME.  The more my kids can do independently, the sooner they finish their work and that makes us all happier. 

1. Have age appropriate expectations. 

Independent work isn't really possible in kindergarten...or first grade.   With my experience, it wasn't until around the middle of second grade that my kids started to become more independent.   

This picture is staged.  John (1st grade) can't read that book independently yet. 
And, if your child isn't reading well by then, it could very well be later. And that's okay. The good thing is that generally the younger the grade the less work they have...and to be quite honest, you really DON'T have to do science and history in the 1st grade. In the early's okay if you only focus on reading, math and handwriting (and religion if you are religious)  It's great if you can do more, but if you do nothing but reading/phonics, math and handwriting in kindergarten and first grade, you're doing just fine.  

2. Be sure they know what to do and where it is. 

This is probably the biggest thing for encouraging independent work.  Kids must know what they need to do and where they can find the materials/books. Some families use workboxes, which can be great.  We don't, because we don't have the space or the boxes, but we do something similar.

The way our homeschooling works is that we basically do each subject, every day.  Generally we follow the syllabus from Mother of Divine Grace (although we do tweak a few things). 

My older kids know how to find the syllabus, look in it to see where they are, and if possible, do the work on their own. After they complete each day, they write their initial next to the lesson plan.  That way they can see at a glance where they are in the syllabus and we can use the syllabus for multiple kids.

3. It's okay to change things.

We do change things in the syllabus.  For example, the Mother of Divine Grace syllabus has kids memorize catechism questions and answers and practice them with a parent every day.  We don't do that. My kids who are old enough to read, practice them on their own.  It works better for them and me.  My kids tend to be visual as opposed to auditory learners (same as me).  They remember things that they read better than things that they hear.  When they are just listening to me be all blah, blah, blah on, it is easy to mentally "check out" and get distracted, but if they are actively reading and focusing on the questions themselves, they tend to remember them better.  And, this way I don't have to sit there and go over the questions with them 

4. Have a system for checking their work

One thing I've learned the hard way is to always check up on their work.  Always.  With the aforementioned catechism questions, about once every 2 weeks, we do a "check" where I ask them the questions. With other work (like math or Latin or Language Arts), I check it on a daily basis.  With some subjects, especially with Heidi (7th grade) I just check the quizzes/tests.  
Checking their work is easy for potty-training class.
It's a bit more involved with math. 

The important thing is to keep on top of what they are doing...check their work and make sure they are doing it thoroughly and completely.

About the worst thing in homeschooling is to realize that a child has NOT been doing the work you thought they were doing and they are now a month behind. 

5. Encourage working together.

My kids will frequently help each other with their a "you read me my spelling words and I'll read you your spelling words" type of way.  This is a good thing.  Again...just be sure to check up on them. 

6. Keep the momentum going.

This I found is probably the most important least for us.  It is helpful if my kids can move quickly from one task to another without having to wait for me (which is why independent work is so important).  Some families do well with lots of breaks, but we don't.  We tend to do best when we just keep going. Taking a break makes it harder for us to get back into work.  We try to take just one break a day at lunch-time and the rest of the time move straight from one task/subject to another. 

7. Have natural consequences/motivation.

We have certain rules in our house... playing on the computer/outside until schoolwork/exercise/piano practice is done. That provides them quite a bit of natural motivation to keep moving and "finish early".  Having that natural motivation built into the day really does work for us. 

What about you?  Do you have any tips for encouraging independent work?

(linking up with Jen and other 7 Quick Takers).

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  1. This is great! Thank you for sharing. Yes, we are in the midst of potty training over here, and checking for progress is pretty easy ;)

  2. Wonderful, practical ideas. We are in an usschooling phase of life where we are not doing a whole lot of at-home formal lessons as we lean towards experiential elarning, personal skills choices and out-of-home-schooling. However, during our next at-home learning phase, I will be employing some of these tips!

  3. I love this post! We're kind of at an in between phase where Sadie is suddenly doing some subjects mostly on her own half the time (usually involving math) although as you mentioned with the reading thing, I'm still heavily involved in all things that involve reading since reading is just starting to click. But I feel like I'm just starting to get a little glimpse of her doing more and more on her own, which is really, really nice!


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