I’d like to share with you five independent learning strategies you can use in your homeschool today. There are a number of reasons why we want our children to be independent learners. The biggest reason is they will become adults that need to function in the real world and the workplace. As an adult, no one is going to be standing around watching them to make sure they are getting their work done.
It doesn’t take long when you are out in public places to realize work ethic and competency is a thing of the past for much of the younger generation. In addition, if you ask any business owner about his employees you will hear of problems such as people standing around doing nothing because they don’t know how to go and start the next task that needs to be done. Employees are arriving to work late because they can’t manage their time or there are errors on written work because it wasn’t checked over and corrected before being handed in. These are just a few of the many situations going on in the workplace today.
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I feel that teaching life skills that will help our children become successful adults is a huge part of the learning process. They don’t always come naturally, but luckily, they can be taught. I’m going to show you a few easy ones to implement in your homeschool.
Independent Learning Strategies
Strategy 1- Determining Goals for the Week
The first strategy, which is probably the most important, is to establish some goals for the week. Obviously, depending on the age of your child, he may or may not need some assistance with this. But over time, he will catch on and be able to do this by himself.
The layout of every curriculum is different, and you as the parent may need to let your child know how many pages or what assignments need to be done for the entire week for each subject. If you take the total number of pages in the book and divide it by the total number of school weeks, you will get an approximate amount of pages that need to be done each week. Be sure to add an extra week or two onto that total before dividing to allow for things such as sick days and unexpected interruptions. This puts a little cushion into your year.
The child then has to take that weekly number and divide it by the number of school days for that week. This helps to break the work down into smaller manageable daily goals and gives him something to work towards.
Strategy 2- Daily Progress Chart
After the goals have been determined, it’s time to get them down on paper so they are visible. A chart can be created that includes each day of the week and all the subjects that must be completed. The student writes down the number of pages or a few words describing the assignments into each block. This can be done daily or at once for the entire week. Try out both to see which works best for your child.
Using a progress chart 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
The daily progress chart can be something you draw on a piece of paper or a table you create on the computer. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just have enough room in each box to write out the work and possibly a small checkbox to fill in when it’s completed.
Most students like to check off their work as it’s finished because it gives them a feeling of accomplishment. 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.
When the chart is filled in, the child needs to keep it somewhere where he can see it. This helps keep him on track and for you to be able to glance at it and see what is getting done. I bought these book stands* for each of my children, and they place their charts on them so they are visible at all times.
I also prefer to print off enough blank charts for the entire year and bind them together. This makes them sturdy and less likely to be lost in the shuffle than a single piece of paper. It also provides you with complete lesson plans for the entire year if you have a portfolio review done.
Strategy 3- Organized Work Space
An organized work space is essential. Many of us school right from our kitchen tables so when I say space, I don’t mean you need a beautiful homeschool room with individual desks or tables. Just a small area for your child to work at each day that is neat and organized is fine.
The book stand* I mentioned helps to accomplish this by keeping important materials together but be sure he always keeps the progress chart in the front.
Having all materials within their reach keeps them on task by not having to get up and go search for items such a pencil and eraser. I love using Workboxes and will most likely do a post about them in the future, so stay tuned!
Strategy 4- Checking Station
This next strategy is also a character-building one. Children must be taught to be honest. Having a checking station where they can check their work will definitely help foster this.
The station needs to be in a separate place from their work area, and the student cannot bring his pencil to it. As daily assignments are completed, the child takes his work to the checking station and compares his answers to the answer key. Any problem that is wrong is marked with a specific colored pen (red or orange stand out best.) This mark can be an X over the problem number or a check mark next to it. Just pick something and keep it consistent.
When the entire assignment has been checked and marked, he goes back to his seat to correct every answer that was wrong. The pen and answer key must remain at the checking station. When that is finished, he returns to the checking station again. If a response is now correct, a circle is drawn around the X or check mark to reflect that. If it is still wrong, it is left alone. These steps are repeated until all missed answers are corrected.
The child most likely will memorize some answers to write in when he is in his seat. I personally don’t have a problem with this because he is still learning the information and doesn’t realize it. If it is a long math problem that involves steps, you can require that his work is shown on the page to be sure he didn’t just memorize the answer but understood the concept.
At the completion of an assignment, the student checks off the little box on his progress chart or puts a line through it and moves on to the next task. I want to mention the student does not check the quizzes and tests. They are completed and turned in to the teacher for correction. Only 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 all the answers are filled in. If cheating occurs, this is an excellent opportunity to have a discussion about it and set up some consequences for the future. As I said, this step will help to build character.
Strategy 5- Daily Planning
At the end of the school day, there is still another strategy that is necessary. The child should clean up his area by putting materials back and preparing for the next day. He should look over his progress chart to make sure everything has been finished and checked off. One step I have had to add, depending on the student, is to have the child bring the chart to me so I can approve it. I can make sure there doesn’t need to be adjustments made in the schedule if it was written out for the week and some work wasn’t finished or needs to be repeated.
Is It Worth It?
All of these 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 as needed from you.
These independent learning strategies are simple tools which will help establish a work ethic in your child that will develop into an adult/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.
What strategies do you use in your home to create independent learners? I would love to hear them in the comments below.