I know that the title of this post is a little confusing; it sounds like something that would be asked by someone who’s not sure they can do something really hard (like homeschooling their kids). While that’s part of what I meant by it, it’s actually more of a “conversation” between child and parent. When you ask your child to do something on their own, they might ask, “But can I do that?” Your response should be an emphatic, “Yes, you can!”
Such is the case when our children get a bit older and they’re ready to begin tackling some of their school subjects on their own. This can be difficult for both parent and child. We’ve been guiding them thoroughly and intently for so many years that when they reach the middle school years and it’s time to teach them to be truly independent, it can be a bit scary for both of you. I know this was the case when we reached this point with Seahawk (13, 7th grade). It felt weird to suddenly just push him out of the nest, so to speak, but it turned out to be exactly what he needed.
What does this look like in our homeschool? Because we’ve been doing this for a couple of years already, it’s pretty basic. I give the older boys a subject and specific assignment (do this page of math), and then they do it. Sometimes a lesson needs to be taught first, especially if it’s new, but sometimes the textbook itself is a good enough teacher and they can just read the lesson and then do the exercises. When they’re done, I look over their work to make sure they understood the concepts and nothing needs to be clarified further or retaught.
Another thing we’ve recently added to our homeschool to further enhance the boys’ independent learning is weekly research papers. Every Tuesday, we go to the library. My mom takes the littles to story time (this falls into the category of allowing/asking for help when you need it that I talked about in the Day 3 post) while I help the bigs choose a topic and find books about said topic. They go over the books, take notes, and choose which ones to bring home. They have until Friday to turn in a paper on their topic. I don’t give them any firm guidelines except for the due date. This forces them to work on their own, but it also allows them to express themselves. See, some subjects (like math, science, or literature) are pretty dependent on their grade level and not so much based on their interests at all. But the research paper allows them to choose any topic they want – I give literally NO limits on this – and learn more about it. I was hoping that this weekly project would accomplish two things: a) help them expand their horizons and begin to research topics they didn’t necessarily think they’d have any interest in, and b) teach them to want to learn and how to learn. So far (we’ve been doing it about two months), I think we’re on track with both of those objectives.
How do you foster independent learning in your homeschool? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments!
Annette @ a net in time
My boy does research projects as well