Inside: Discover 5 effective learning strategies for teaching independence you can use in your homeschool today and the results they can produce later in life. (They’re good!)
Why do we have a generation of young adults that don’t function well in the workplace? They don’t know how to self-start. They’re often late, lazy, and just don’t care.
How do I know this? My 19-year-old son is a supervisor at a big chain warehouse club. Yep, you read that right. They promoted a 19-year-old to a supervisor within six months. He was one of five interviewing for the position. The next youngest was twenty-four and the oldest close to forty.
Why did they choose a teenager? Because he has a work ethic! He has no idea how to supervise. This is only the second job he’s had, and the first was washing cars. He clearly doesn’t have experience managing people.
They saw something in him they didn’t see in the others. He shows up on time, he’s motivated to get his job done (and done well), and get this- he cares!
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I may not have done everything right when I homeschooled him, but the one thing I think I was spot on with was teaching him effective learning strategies that made him more independent.
When I was in the thick of homeschooling three children, I wasn’t sure if these ideas would pay off. There were times I had to keep reminding him to fill out his daily assignment sheet or go back and check his work. And to be honest, I just needed someone, anyone, to work by themselves so perhaps I could shave more than one leg that week.
As it turns out, he’s carried over many of these skills into his daily life and the workplace. Here are just a few of the results I’ve seen.
- Plans out his week with a planner
- Knows how to find other work to do when he completes a job
- Keeps track of employees with charts
- Wants to train the cashiers to handle situations on their own
- Takes the initiative in situations instead of waiting for a higher level manager to deal with it
- Wrote an action plan and presented it to the store manager to get more sales
What Are the Benefits of Independent Learning to You?
You’re probably thinking that’s all fine and dandy that ten years from now your child might be a responsible adult who functions well in the workplace. Who doesn’t want that, right? But you’re in the thick of things right now and desperately need one or two children to work by themselves so you can read aloud to the youngest, wash a sink full of dishes, or stop the toddler from flushing the toilet 27 times. I get ya!
When you can train one or more of your children to work by themselves, you will feel like a new woman!
Imagine being able to:
- Get some work done around the house
- Work one-on-one with younger children
- Start dinner
- Finish school earlier
- Have some free time in the afternoon
- Sneak off for some chocolate from your secret stash
If the chocolate one doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what will! All kidding aside, I’ve been where you are and it’s not fun.
Are you ready to teach your kids to work by themselves?
Effective Learning Strategies
Teaching skills that help our children become successful adults is a huge part of the learning process. They don’t always come naturally, but you can teach them. I’ll share five effective learning strategies you can use to teach independence in your homeschool.
Strategy 1- Determining Goals
Before you stop reading and move on to another blog, hear me out. When I say the word “goals”, I don’t mean is your child aiming to become a legal bank robber when he grows up. Although that could be exciting! (By the way, that’s someone who tests how easy it is to break into a bank.)
What I’m referring to is planning out his lessons for the day. What do you need him to do? A little preparation on your part will pay off big time. I promise!
You will only spend 10-15 minutes each night figuring out what you want your student to complete in each subject the next day. This is not a dissertation. Just a phrase or two. Example: History- Read pgs. 3-6. Easy peasy.
Hang in there (It’ll be worth it!). In the next strategy, I’ll show you the super simple tool I use to do this.
Strategy 2- Daily Assignment Sheet
As you do your planning, you will write out each assignment your child needs to complete for the day. Using a daily assignment sheet is one of the easiest ways to do this.
Using a daily assignment sheet helps the student:
- Make good use of his time
- Be responsible for his own work
- Gauge and estimate the time it will take to finish tasks
- Plan efficiently
This simple tool is a one page list your child will keep with him. It includes a small checkbox after each assignment your child can check off when his work is completed.
Most students like to check off their work as it’s finished because it makes them feel like they’ve accomplished something. This is an intrinsic reward that builds self-esteem. Also, seeing the boxes getting checked off throughout the day helps them see the light at the end of the tunnel. This alone can be motivating.
You can put the sheet on a storage clipboard and change it out each day (storing the old one inside), or bind a bunch of them together into a booklet for the year. I’m addicted to binding things, so that’s what we do. This makes them sturdy and less likely to get lost in the shuffle than a single piece of paper. It also provides you with complete lesson plans for portfolio reviews at the end of the entire year.
Keeping the sheet somewhere both of you can see it is important. It’s a visual reminder to your student of what he needs to do next, and you can glance at it to gauge his progress.
I bought these awesome book stands for each of my children, and they place their assignment sheet books on them so they’re front and center at all times.
Some students need a lot of prompting when they first start working by themselves. However, once they realize they can finish school sooner because they don’t have to wait on you, they’re suddenly motivated and get on board with the idea.
Another option similar to a daily assignment sheet is homeschool workboxes. We absolutely love them and they will teach your children how to be self-starters each day and motivate them to get their work done. They’re perfect for any age and all types of students!
Strategy 3- Organized Work Space
An organized work space is essential. I don’t mean you need a beautifully decorated homeschool room with individual desks or tables. (Although I’ll admit I’ve drooled over some on Pinterest.)
Many of us do school right from our kitchen tables, so when I say space, I’m talking about whatever area your child does school in.
It should be organized and set up so your child can find everything without your help. Having all materials within his reach keeps him on task by not having to get up and search for anything.
If you ask your child to start school unprepared…
He’s going to ask for a pencil.
When you tell him to go get it, he’ll probably find a toy.
When he’s finished buzzing around the room with his airplane, he’ll ask for a snack.
When he’s done eating his granola bar, he’ll want a break.
So you’ll have to tell him to go to the table and start school.
And chances are, when he gets to the table to work, he’s going to want a pencil to do it.
I love using the plastic shoe boxes from the Dollar Tree to organize the materials for each subject. I keep everything my children might need in those boxes, along with their school books.
They bring a box to the table, complete the lesson, and then return the box when they’re done and get a new one.
Another organizational tool that has helped is keeping a tool caddy filled with supplies right on the table. I went on a mission a few years ago looking for an antique one and finally struck it rich at a local Christmas event. But if you’re not into the flea market thing like American Pickers, you can use a modern one that’s just as cute to organize pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, etc.
You won’t believe what a difference it makes having everything right there! No one needs to get up and wander around looking for things. They stay on task and finish in less time. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m not sure why it took me so many years to figure this out!
Strategy 4- Checking Station
Having a checking station where students can check their own work will save you time. As a bonus, it also builds character.
Children aren’t naturally honest. I’m sure you had no idea, right? I thought I’d mention it just in case. Letting them be responsible for checking their own work will help develop honesty.
The station should be in a separate place from their work area, and the student cannot bring his pencil to it.
I don’t let my students self-check quizzes and tests. They turn them in to me. Only the daily assignments are reviewed at the checking station.
Your child may have the desire to cheat and take a pencil to the station or try to leave answers blank that he doesn’t know so he can find out the correct one and fill it in when he gets back to his seat. Be prepared for this.
You can have your child show you his work before he goes to the station to see if he’s filled all the answers in. If cheating occurs, this is an excellent opportunity to have a discussion and set up some consequences for the future. As I said, this step will help to build character.
Strategy 5- Wash, Rinse, and Repeat
At the end of the school day, your child should clean up his area, put materials back where they belong, and prepare for the next day. He should look over his assignment sheet making sure he’s finished everything and checked them off and then give it to you.
When your child turns in his sheet, he should wait for you to approve it. Otherwise, he’s going to disappear like the treasure in Al Capone’s vault that even Geraldo Rivera couldn’t find. This is your chance to see if he finished everything or ran into problems and have him fix it.
I like to include a “Mom Check” space on my daily assignment sheet. It’s kind of like my stamp of approval that everything’s done and my kids know they’re finished for the day when I check it off. Then they can take off!
You can grab the daily assignment sheets I have created at the bottom of this post.
Are Independent Learning Strategies Worth It?
These independent learning strategies are easy to set up; however, they can take a little time and practice to become automatic for the student. It’s a good idea to walk the child through each of these steps until you feel he is comfortable enough to carry them out on his own. Even then, you want to check in with him occasionally during the day to make sure nothing is being left out.
Will this require some work on your part at first? Yes! But it will pay off in the long run. By the time your child is in high school, he should be very independent and be able to do his work with only some guidance and direction from you when needed.
These simple tools are effective learning strategies that establish a work ethic in your child, which later develops into an adult and employee that stands out in the crowd.
He will have the ability to create a plan, set goals, complete tasks, be thorough, and do it all with integrity. These are awesome life skills everyone can benefit from.
Not only that, they will save your sanity right now! And you just might have time to shave both your legs!
What strategies do you use in your home to create independent learners? I would love to hear them in the comments below.
Hi I'm Heidi. I'm a former teacher turned homeschool mom of three. I've homeschooled from the beginning and my oldest is now graduated. I believe your home doesn't have to be chaotic just because you homeschool. When you join The Unexpected Homeschooler's community, you'll learn how to have a more organized, efficient, and productive homeschool, and I’ll send you this Daily Assignment Sheet tool as a gift to teach your students to work independently and free up your time.