Friday, May 20, 2016

Helping Make Independent Learners

I’ve been asked a few too many times how we accomplish so much in our weeks. Is it that we do it all very day? Do we dedicate one subject to each day? How do you do it? In all honesty these types of questions scare me a little bit.

I think every homeschooler is a bit afraid of not doing enough for their child. I don’t feel I’m failing my children, I know they are receiving an education that is more then worthy. I know they are learning, progressing, & they’ve proven time & time again that they can keep up with their peers with little to no trouble. Yet, I do harbour that fear.

I harbour the fear that when all is said & done I might have missed something really important & that it will come back to bite us all in the bum. I worry that what we will have accomplished might not be good enough, deep enough, strong enough. Yet, I also know that what we’re doing works, & that’s enough to quay those fears & remind myself that God’s got this whole thing under control.

Here’s the other reason that question scares me a bit. I don’t do it all. Morgan is 15 & totally responsible for all of his own work getting accomplished in a day. This kid is an incredibly hard worker & he’s dedicated to his education. Like clockwork he’s generally up at 730 to have a little quiet time before he starts his day. He generally wants a goofy 20 minute programme, follows up with a shower, & “hangs out” with his USA grandmother until Mr S heads out the door for work. Then this kid is all business.

He works methodically through his planner in the way that best suits him. I don’t dictate when or even how he does his work. He knows what has to be done & he deals with it. If he has questions, concerns, or gripes I see him. He surfaces for help with his writing if he doesn’t have an audio lecture to rely on. With his SSS/VPD he doesn’t always have the brain power to read the longer lessons & then complete the writing sessions without over taxing his brain. Literally. He will break down with dehydration, tiredness, & headaches. 

Aside from that, & a few minor things he does all the rest on his own. Now, I’m not going to lie, this kid puts immense pressure on himself & sometimes I feel the need to step in & say, “Why?” His reasonings are generally well thought out, but after chatting about it we find a way to remove the excess stress & he continues forward.

This wasn’t an overnight happening though. It was a step-by-step process. Starting with just one subject & slowly adding more & more onto his own plate until he was off on his own. Our 12 year old still relies on me a bit, but not totally.

Jayden is capable of doing half of his subjects on his own & we are slowly working on turning the other half over to him. Each bit of curriculum I pick I do so with a few thoughts in mind:

Is this worthy or our time?
Can my kids do this on their own?
How much of our day will this eat up?

These are important questions for helping my kids start out being independent, & also maintain that down the road. All though as they get older & take more of the workload on I also ask & hear their opinions on curriculum. They know, that over all, Mom & Dad have the final say to what is purchased & used. However, we really hear their opinions because ultimately it’s up to them that the work gets accomplished. 

There’s no set schedule for how I progress my kids to independence. Sometimes it happened intentionally, like progressing a child to reading on their own. Other times it wasn’t intentional, but they rose to the challenge. Such as when one was impatiently waiting for help with math & was urged to just go watch the lecture on his own & come back to tell me about it. These days they don’t report back in on their math lectures, they just do the work.  Each time an opportunity arose we jumped on it & they ran with it. I think it’s far easier to underestimate their ability to accomplish things.

A couple of resources I’ve used over the years to help us along are: The Self-propelled Advantage & Teaching Students To Work Independently. Both have great points in how to help you get your child working independently. The former takes an all or nothing type approach while the later takes a more incremental approach.

One big question I hear a lot, when I mention my children being independent learners is, “But I want to learn alongside my children.” Here’s the thing, Friends.. Sometimes Mamma is holding her kids back. I’m not saying that to be mean, I’m saying that to be honest.

By the end of the day my independent learner has accomplished Math, Assigned Reading, Writing, Science, History, LA & generally at least 1 elective, & all his chores. When he use to wait on me there was always at least 1-3 subjects that regularly ended up on the rotating wheel of “will we get to them today..” Not because my dedication was less, but because balancing your time between children isn’t an easy task.

Here’s another thought, Children will only rise to the expectations we have for them. If our expectations are low because they can’t do things without us, that will extend into other areas of their life. The more independent each of my children become the more I see them stepping up in other areas too.

Offering to help without being asked, seeing a job that needs doing it & dealing with it. Now, I’m not saying this is a perfect solution. My laundry room is often my biggest angst as my children have been known to use it as a personal dressing room. My kitchen is often home to hockey gear & countless books that don’t belong there. 

On the other hand, when my kids see me cleaning up they ask if they need to do anything. When they see someone struggling they jump in. The other night my eldest weighed the odds of throwing wet laundry in the dryer & possibly having that wake me up vs leaving the wet laundry in the washer & possibly be smelly in the am. The idea of the dryer waking me out worried him less so he threw it in the dryer & I woke up to discover my workout gear was clean, dry, & ready for my morning walk. Talk about grateful!

Yes, some of that can come with maturity, but Friends I’m telling you right here, right now, I’ve seen more maturity in my children blooming since handing work to them & saying, “Here you go.” It’s okay to let go & watch the efforts of your work unfold.


Shelly L. said...

I got on here because I enjoy pics of your kids and hearing how life is going for you, Kendra (my have they grown!!), but your post turned out to be something I really needed to hear! I have had a hard time making that transition to letting my daughter be more independent, but I know it's a necessary step. You are a wise mom!!! ; )

Aussie Pumpkin Patch said...

Aww, thanks Shelly. The boys are growing up, aren't they?!

I think letting go is so much harder for Mamma's then it is for children. They're always ready to try it out & see how far they can get. We made the mistake a few years ago of having our eldest being completely independent & then backtracking for some silly reason. He was quick to point out that it was a lot easier to get the work done if we just let him do it. ;)