One of the key skills that we as homeschoolers can impart our students is to teach them how to learn independently. This is a gradual process, but today I want to share with you three steps for getting your students started on the road to independent learning.
What is independent learning?
Independent learning is a style of education that focuses on independent study under the guidance of a teacher. In other words, the students are in charge of learning the material on their own, while the teacher acts as a mentor. This is the type of learning that our students will need to succeed in college and for the rest of their lives.
As homeschool teachers we play a vital role in our students’ education, but we also need to realize that there will come a day when they will need to take charge our their own education.
The good news is that we can gradually move our students toward independent learning so that by the time they graduate, they are prepared to direct their individual learning journey.
What does the independent learner need to know?
The student directing his or her own learning journey needs to be able to:
- Find the necessary information about a subject;
- Determine what and when he or she should study;
- Create a schedule that allows him or her to meet all deadlines;
- Complete assignments, research, and projects on his or her own.
That list should encourage you because everything up there can easily be accomplished in the homeschool setting across the subjects.
We can teach our students how to research, how to determine if the information pertains to what they are learning, how to schedule their time, and how to work through a project, including know when and how to ask for help.
How do you foster independence in your student?
Here are three steps that will help you guide your students as they begin the process of independent learning:
1. Are they ready?
The first key is to determine whether or not your students are ready to begin to take charge of their own education. This typically starts during the middle school years, but you can look for these signs:
- They start asking for independence;
- They move forward with routine assignments without you telling them to do so;
- They become interested in keeping their own schedule;
- They are able to complete tasks without you hovering over them to make sure they finish.
When you begin to see these signs, you can test the waters by placing some of the smaller school assignments into their hands. Typically, one of the first tasks to be handed over is reading as it lends itself well to independence. So start there and then as they prove capable, you can add increase the amount of independent learning.
Don’t forget though that just because they are learning independently doesn’t mean that you don’t still need to check their work and make sure they are understanding the concepts. I’ll share more about this in step #3.
2. Choose curriculum that fosters independence.
Letting your students loose on independent learning can be a daunting experience, so you want to be sure to choose curriculum that will foster their new found independence. This will make your job as mentor in the equation much easier.
These types of programs will have separate student and teacher materials. The student materials should have:
- The course assignments in them, preferably ones that are written to the student;
- Some form of homework pages and/or descriptions to guide the students through the process of recording their work.
The teacher materials should have:
- The assignments plus additional helps for you;
- Discussion questions and/or answers for you to use to verify that the student is learning the material;
It would also be beneficial to you if the curriculum had schedules and additional activities in the teacher materials, so that will have multiple tools at your disposal as you mentor your students.
If you can’t find materials that suit your needs, you will need to do make sure that you know what your students are learning. In other words, you will need to read, to research, and to do the assignments before they do so that you can guide them through the process.
3. Set them up for success.
Now that you have determined that your students are ready to move towards independence and you have chosen curriculum that will support this goal, you need to set them up for success.
For us this meant the evolution of the morning meeting.
The morning meeting is the time we use to go over yesterday’s assignments, to correct any misunderstandings, to clarify the concepts, and to review previous knowledge. I also take the time to explain any of the new information my daughter will need to know to do the day’s work.
Since she is relatively new to independent learning, I make sure that she has all her assignments written down before we leave the table. I also ask her if she needs help breaking down her longer assignments into manageable chunks.
My overall purpose is to guide her through the process, to recognize any pitfalls, and to point her in the direction of success.
Closing thoughts on independent learning
Teaching our students to be independent learners is a privilege and an honor. We get the chance to prepare them for college and to set them up for success in their future endeavors. It takes some effort on our part, but the rewards are well worth it!
Check out these three posts from other homeschoolers for more encouragement you as you guide your students toward independent learning:
- Tips for Encouraging Independent Learning from Kris at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
- Raising an Independent Learner from Amy on Simple Homeschool
- How to Encourage Independent Learning from Angie at The Happy Housewife
If you have any questions or want to share your experience with independent learning, please feel free to leave a comment below!