The following is a post by contributing writer Angie.
Independent learning is an excellent goal for homeschoolers to work towards. Independent learning is not something that happens overnight. However, if you work in small ways throughout your homeschooler’s younger years, you’ll find yourself with an independent learner in the years to come.
How to Encourage Independent Learning
Use Assignment Books or Pages
One of the best things I did to encourage independent learning was to use daily assignment sheets. After the kids became accustomed to using these, we moved into using weekly assignment sheets that they could find in a folder with the rest of their materials. This year, we finally graduated into using an assignment book for each child for the entire school year. All of us are big fans of using these (plus it saves on my printer paper and ink).
Assignment sheets or books help with independence because children can find out what they need to work on without having to be told. This helps children to feel in control of what they are doing and it may stop constant shouts of “Done!” when they finish each assignment.
If your children are way too young for assignment sheets of any kind, the workbox system could be a good introduction to being able to have a schedule they can work through independently.
Allow Some Flexible Scheduling
This can go hand-in-hand with having an assignment book. In our home, my kids get to see all of their assignments for a whole week. Things are broken up into daily schedules. However, I have told the kids that they are always welcome to work ahead of the schedule.
Another option might be allowing them to work through all of one subject at a time or whatever other set-up they decide works best for them. By monitoring this (so they don’t fall hopelessly behind) and supporting it, you are giving them the freedom to become independent learners.
Support and Guide Through Independent Studies and Projects
One of the beauties of homeschooling is that you don’t have to follow a set curriculum dictated by someone else. You don’t even have to have all of your children doing the same things. Ask your children what they most want to study, and then give them support to study it as an independent project. It’s a fabulous way to encourage children to grow into independent (and self-motivated) learners.
These projects could be a supplement to your normal studies. You could also consider having one day a week (or every other week) that is a project day. All of the students can work in a self-directed way (or with guidance) on their already discussed projects.
Have Them Be in Charge of Outside Commitments
If your children take outside classes, are in a co-op, or take lessons, it can be the perfect opportunity to increase their independence. Although it can be a lot to expect very young children to be responsible for these things, even my second grade daughter makes sure (with very little reminder from me) to get assignments completed for her religious education class as well as for her cello lessons (working with her teacher to keep track of what she is working on, etc).
I have worked hard to try to increase their responsibility for these types of activities, even though it’s not normally in my nature to want to do that. However, I know that if I don’t work on increasing their level of responsibility, they will forever be dependent on me to remind them to get things done. (I do write in their assignment books about practicing their instruments or when outside homework is due.)
Work Together to Plan Their Course of Study
As students get older, asking them to become an active stakeholder in their education is a big step toward independent learning. You can help your student to research curriculum options, work within a budget, or look for certain features that might be important to them or your family.
What are other methods have you used to encourage your students to become more independent learners?