Independent learning is a concept that encourages children to work independently while being homeschooled. But, independent learning isn’t foolproof and does come with problems. We’re addressing the problems with independent learning and offering some solutions.
Independent learning. It is a must for most homeschool families. It is a definite must when both parents in a homeschool family work.
That is why I have mentioned independent learning so many times on this blog, and on the other sites, I write for. I have encouraged parents to consider independent learning, and to purchase curriculum that allows kids to work independently.
Now, before I go any further, I want to share how independent learning has looked in our homeschool. My kids have their student planners where I write down their tasks each day. Then, they complete the tasks and mark them off. We use a DVD program for language arts that allow them to watch the lesson and complete the worksheets. Their math program, Teaching Textbooks is all on the computer. With this, the girls are expected to write the lesson they completed, and the grade in their planners. Their Notgrass History and Apologia Science are both written to be independent.
At the end of the week I have gone through and checked their work, graded tests, and wrote down the grades they reported for their math program. Easy Peasy right?
But, what I’ve not talked about is the dangers of independent learning. You see, this is something that most people don’t talk about. They don’t even consider that independent learning isn’t all peaches and cream.
I have realized that even though independent learning is wonderful. It isn’t foolproof. And, it has some problems that all parents should consider.
The Problem of Cheating
As much as I’d love to say that my kids have never cheated, I’d be lying myself. Programs like Teaching Textbooks give way for kids to cheat. The program itself is great, but on tests, kids can rework the problem. And, the second time, they can easily type in the answer that was shown when they missed it the first time.
Using textbooks, notes, and the internet when taking tests is also a possibility when kids work entirely independently.
The Problem of Incomplete Work
This has been the most common problem we’ve come across with independent learning. When kids are left to learn on their own with little accountability it is easy to not complete an assignment here or there or to mark something off even when they haven’t done it. Sometimes the incomplete work is accidental, sometimes it’s intentional. But, regardless it is a problem we have come across with independent work.
The Problem of Laziness
This is one area where I have to say the fingers are pointed at me. It is easy when our kids work independently to get lazy in homeschooling. To go days at a time without really knowing what our kids are learning. It is easy to not log in and confirm our children’s grades, or ask them questions about their literature selection.
Laziness is real. And, I know that homeschool moms have a full-time job, we do. But, sometimes when our kids are so easy, and when we have 100 other things going on like work, younger children and our homes to manage, laziness happens. Even if it’s not intentional.
The Problem of No Follow Through
Going along with this is the problem of not following through. There have been many times when I’ve noticed the kids didn’t complete an assignment and I have not made them follow through. A book report due on Friday? It’s no big deal to give them an extra day. A goal of completing a science experiment this weekend? Let’s push it back until next week.
The problem with independent learning is that when our kids are left on their own there is little to no accountability, and really… we aren’t teaching them.
Now, I am not pointing my fingers at you. I’m pointing them at me. I have encountered each one of these problems during our homeschool years. And, just one of them won’t ruin a homeschool. But.. multiple? They can.
Moms, it is our job to give our children a quality home education. This cannot happen when we are lazy when we don’t follow through when we allow our kids to turn in incomplete work, or give them the ability to cheat. We must be strong. We must be good stewards and do our job to the best of our ability. We need to not be complacent.
How can we fix the problems with independent learning?
There are a few things I have changed throughout the school work to ensure that these problems don’t take over our homeschool.
- I am checking their math program daily instead of rarely. Any problems missed they must tell me what they did wrong. And, if they don’t know what it was, we go over it right then.
- Their planners are brought to me before they are dismissed from their school work. I look at each item and ensure it was completed correctly. I am also having them narrate to me some of what they learned in Science and History.
- I am setting aside one on one time with each child to help me accomplish the above tasks. The kids have always known I’m available if they needed me throughout the day (or so I thought) but in reality they didn’t want to interrupt me working with their brother, checking an email for work, or making lunch. They thought I was too busy, and that they’d check in later. But, guess what? Later rarely came.
These changes have added about an hour on to our school days. We used to be done around one. Now, it is closer to two. But, guess what? That is okay!
I am a huge advocate of independent learning. I truly believe it is important for our kids to be accountable for their own education, and that by around 3rd grade they should be able to work somewhat on their own.
But, it is not their job to be 100% responsible for their education, no matter what age that is. It is our job to coach them along, to teach them when needed, and to ensure their work is completed to the best of their ability. If we aren’t doing that, are we really homeschooling?
I think we all know the answer to that…
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