Recently I discussed how I have ditched my homeschool planner for a more efficient system. One of the main perks of my system is that it fosters more independent learning in my children. We are starting our 6th year of homeschooling, and each year I push for more independence in my children. Don’t get me wrong, at times my helicopter mom personality comes out in full force, but it is in those times that I have to step back, and evaluate our goals and purposes for homeschooling to begin with. One of my top reasons for homeschooling is to better prepare my children for life. I mean real life, not the kind that takes place in a classroom. Independent learning is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
Why teach independence?
When is the last time someone offered to pay your bills for you? How about take out your trash? Manage your schedule? Like it or not, life is an independent sport. I know what you are thinking, but we have our family. Yes, that’s true, and I hope some day I am blessed with awesome son-in-laws and loads of grandchildren. However, said son-in-law probably won’t be very happy with me if his future wife has to be told when to clean house, or cook a meal. See, I am not attempting to raise children. I am hoping to raise successful women, and to be successful in life you have to show initiative and independence. Don’t get me wrong, my 7 year old isn’t balancing her own checking account yet, but I do believe the following tips help encourage independence at a young age.
Independent responsibility for chores
In our home we do chores, and I don’t mean the paying kind either. Both of my girls are expected to pitch in and help out. They have daily, as well as weekly chores. (You can see those lists here.) You may notice that they are only responsible for THEIR things. I don’t ask them to dust and sweep my bedroom, or to clean my bathroom, but they are expected to keep up with their own areas. In doing so I place the responsibility for their messes back on them. If they make the mess, they know they have to clean the mess. This is an important concept. Otherwise I can imagine visiting my adult daughter only to wade through piles of unwashed laundry and eat out of dirty dishes. No one will do it for them, they have to learn now.
Independent management of time
Another way I foster independence is by allowing my girls to manage their own time, at least somewhat. Each year I create a schedule, as well as a checklist, for each girl. It is their responsibility to complete their tasks in the allotted amount of time. Of course this is still a work in progress with my 2nd grader, but my 5th grader is becoming pretty efficient with her time. It is a concept that I have drilled year after year, and it is finally starting to pay off. In the younger years I simply provide the checklist and have them mark off items as they complete them. I make sure they stay on task and move them from subject to subject. I may also set alarms for start and stop times, just to give them an idea of how much time has passed. As they get older they are responsible for completing the process on their own. Occasionally I will still have to set alarms for my oldest for math. It is her hardest subject and she tends to waste quite a bit of time with it.
Independent responsibility for grades
Recently I noticed a trend in our schoolwork, it was getting sloppy. My oldest daughter was becoming lazy with her assignments, or sometimes attempting to skip them all together. What happened? She had started to realize that with mom constantly correcting her work she could let things slide. She would fix it when I reminded her, or perhaps even trick me into answering for her. My dear husband gently pointed out that if we started to take grades that would stop happening. Guess what…..He was right! Now we take grades on random assignments, as well as all quizzes and tests. If my daughter is TRULY struggling with a concept she gets a do-over, but if she is simply being lazy the grade stands. We keep the actual grade averages, and if she doesn’t meet a certain criteria she loses some privileges. Realize this is for my OLDER daughter only. I believe in gentle learning in the early grades, but there comes a time when responsibility has to be learned. If my husband was lazy at his job guess what would happen…..we would go hungry. Life doesn’t allow you to take the easy route.
Independence is not easily gained, it comes with time and a great deal of effort on the part of the parent. In the end though, it is worth it! What are some ways you teach independence to your children?