A friend asked me recently to write a post about independence and homeschooling. Should children be able to work on their school assignments independently? At what age? How much work should be independent? If we’re homeschooling, why encourage your child to work alone? I am no expert but it did spark some thoughts on the topic.
Why teach independence in homeschooling? Is it really important?
In my opinion, yes. Should they be able to do their assignments independently right from the start? No. Young children will need almost constant supervision and guidance while they’re learning to read, write and do early math. I’ve heard it said “Children will learn to read so they can read to learn.” This is so, so true in my limited experience. As a child is learning to read, they need constant help. Not only are they just learning to read and recognize numbers, but they’re learning to sit still, to hold a pencil, to listen quietly, to control their energetic little bodies and hear what’s being said.
I try to think about learning to do independent work like learning to ride a bicycle. When a young child wants a bicycle, they need training wheels. They can’t just jump on and go. The training wheels in homeschool are those first couple of years when a child is learning to read. They need those rails. They need to constant reminders to focus, to pay attention, to complete the task at hand. As a child gets good at riding a bike with training wheels, many parents will take off one of the training wheels to help a child learn to balance on their own. It gives the child some freedom but also a feeling of safety, knowing they can lean onto their training wheel if they lose their balance. This is like a student learning to do some work on their own. Maybe Mom (or Dad!) can go over the instructions for a page of work and then go do a chore, leaving the student to complete the work on their own. It may take a bit longer but it’s good for the student to learn to complete the task.
The next step would be taking off the training wheels and helping the child by holding onto their seat. They’re pedaling. They’re balancing. You’re just lending a little support. In your homeschool, you make the plans and you give the assignments. Maybe a tough math lesson or a special research report needs a little extra guidance but for the most part, your student can take an assigned page or project through to completion. The last step in teaching a child to ride a bicycle is letting them go. When a child is ready to choose their own courses, it’s time for mama to back away and let her baby fly.
How much work should a student be able to do alone and at what age?
I think this completely depends on the student. Some students will be able to read well at an early age but have a harder time concentrating so they’ll need an extra training wheel for a bit longer. Some will struggle with reading and will need both training wheel in place. Some will naturally just balance without training wheels and take off with learning on their own. Each child is a unique creation and each child will be different. I know with my three, nothing has been the same when it comes to how they learn. They are each so different! And that’s just how God made them. The frustrating part for homeschool moms is figuring out how to best lead each student. The wonderful part? God has an infinite amount of wisdom that He will impart to us when we ask. Pray about how to teach your children. He will answer you.
How often should I be working with my students?
If your student is in the one training wheel stage, you’ll probably have to work together a few times a day. For my daughter that’s in this stage, I still review her math, phonics and spelling each morning. We do science and history together, as those are usually harder texts and topics. I’ve found that this can vary based on learning style as well. One student may thrive on the independence while one may comprehend better when read to rather than reading their own textbook. No matter what the age though, I find myself checking in with my daughters several times a day. They’re just learning independence, they’re not completely functioning in it just yet.
How come I should work towards independence? Don’t we homeschool so we can be together?
I don’t think that many people really need an answer to this question. Teaching independence is crucial to a child maturing into a productive member of society. It will serve them well through high school, college, summer jobs, careers and eventually parenthood. The aim is not to teach independence from Christ but dependence on Him while being able to move through their responsibilities with confidence and order. We do homeschool so we can be together and even when a child is doing their work independently they are included in home life. It’s a great balance!
What do you think? Should homeschool students work independently? Or maybe you have another homeschool questions you’d like to hear my thoughts on. Leave a comment or email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.