Stop Doing It All For Them!
Academic independence needs to be cultivated in our children every day. First, think about all that you are doing for them. Are you helping them become independent or dependent? Stop doing it all for them! Each school year we plan and organize for the new school year. I see and hear of so many who do all that for their children instead of with their children. Include the children in the preparations for the school year. Engage children to get ready for the school year so they understand that process in order to get to the learning process.
Academic independence does not just happen overnight. It also does not happen by changing curriculum. Here are things I did to teach my children. These are things you can teach your children whether you homeschool or they go to school.
Teaching our children how to plan and schedule things is part of the process of teaching academic independence. Scheduling will be used throughout life. Including our children in the process to work out the school schedule and plan for accomplishing the academics is of utmost importance to cultivate that independence. I didn’t want to be scheduling their college years and adult lives. So in order for them to learn to schedule and plan, I had to take time to teach them.
I began teaching this skill of scheduling by including them in the actual scheduling starting in middle school. By including each child in his or her own schedule process actually made for a smoother school day. I had our children help me with their schedule because they knew which subjects they enjoyed or struggled with better than I did. We could discuss together the best place in the schedule to put each subject in order to accomplish our goals for each subject.
In the elementary years, I created the schedule for my children. The first few days of school was spent going over the schedule with them and setting up their timer for the routine of changing to a different subject or activity. This was the start to include them in the scheduling process. They each had an assignment notebook and each child created a cover page for that notebook. That cover page could be as simple as a coloring book page they colored to a blank page they decorated. I just wanted something where they could be a part of calling it their personal guide book for academic progress.
Here are some tools to help with scheduling >> Time Saving Tools to Rock a Homeschool Schedule
Next, was teaching each child how to organize his or her own materials. Teaching them to organize didn’t mean I had to teach them to organize my way. I needed to teach them how to organize the way they can actually find and understand the organized materials. Then, I modeled by showing and explaining the organization process and engaged them in developing a style of organization that works best for them. I gave them different ideas on how organizing is helpful to them to figure out their style of organization. The different ideas began in the elementary years, but by middle school I began to allow them to develop their own style with guidance of course.
Studying and Taking Notes
Learning to study and take notes to retain information is another skill that must be taught and cultivated. This is a skill that I concentrated on teaching during the middle school years. The academic foundation was laid out in the elementary years. I was confident that as the foundational concepts were being reviewed in the middle school years, I could concentrate on the study skills.
Since I was using BJU Press Distance Learning, I had the lesson presentations already done and ready for each child. This was great for me to be able to use a subject or two to focus not so much on the grade, but the notes that my child was taking during the presentation in order to study for the tests. Sometimes I would have open notes (not open book) tests. By having open notes, my children learned the importance of putting information in the notes for reference on the test. I recommend that you start with a simple “how to study” class. Check out this Study Skills Video that I used to help teach mine.
We must also show them how to know when to take a break. Going back to scheduling, I always included breaks in the schedule. I have seen college students overwhelm themselves because they forgot to include breaks when creating their schedule. If they don’t include breaks, they feel the effects. There are more issues than just being tired. That tired feeling hampers their grades, their health, their relationships and much more.
We get wrapped up in the hours per day we are educating our children, when in fact, we need to remember we are teaching them from the time they get up till the time they go to sleep. Therefore, when scheduling, include those breaks. Break away from the textbook to practice music, do a chore, take a run around the backyard, make a snack, read a chapter in a fun book, and even help with supper prep. All these things offer a quick break to refresh the mind. Including them in the schedule prompts the break times.
Introducing children to technology and its many uses will prepare them for the ever-growing world of technology. Teaching children at home about technology will prepare them for independence in the world of technology. We use email, pay bills online, using online banking, apps on our phones, and so much more. Every thing seems to be going digital. We need to dive in and learn it ourselves in order to teach our children so they can work with technology safely. Trust me, they will surpass us quickly, but being in the know about the current technology will benefit them in the process of cultivating independence.
Start early in teaching technology. Schedule it. Make it a part of the learning process. I used to let my children practice spelling words on the word processing software. I would show them the little red line or squiggly line and how to right click to get an immediate correction for learning the correct spelling. Letting them type out the essays and papers on the computer and showing them word count functions and more. Letting them instant message with a friend while you monitor and insist on typing complete words not the current short hand.
By middle school setting up emails for each child and begin teaching them how to use email properly. Teaching how to recognize when an email doesn’t look right. I used to tell my kids to email me reminders on activities they wanted to do or gifts they wanted. There are ways to have emails forward through your email so you are able to watch and keep them safe with email. I have seen so many who have been afraid of technology so they shelter their children from it and when they reach college they have no clue how to operate. Technology is always advancing and we need to keep up with it and prepare our children while they are young so they will be prepare for the ever-changing world in which we live.
Asking for Help
Asking for help is not easy for an independent learner but it is also too easy for the non-independent learner. Academic success comes by teaching the independent learner to ask for help. Once they have exhausted their resources it is simply time for them to seek help. Whether that help is from a professor or teacher or home education parent, they need to know it is okay to ask for that help. We as parents need to recognize that when the independent ones are asking for help, then they are really needing our one-on-one undivided attention on the matter.
My very independent daughter does NOT like to ask for help with anything. She, to this day, wants to do everything herself. She has had to learn when it is time to ask for help so that she can continue learning. I point her to Scripture, showing her that the older and the wiser have been through many things and are commissioned to help the younger. This has helped to cultivate that independent learning. Yes, even teaching the independent learner cultivates independence. Mom and Dad may not always be around. They need to know when and who to seek help and advice from in the future.
As for the non-independent learner, we need to teach them to research before asking for help. This brings it back to “stop doing it all for them” idea. Show them how to ask for help once they have depleted all their resources available to them to find the answer. Encourage independence by advising them where and how to find the answer they are seeking. Then, if they have exhausted their resources, it is okay to ask for help.
As parents, we have to ask, “Is my child dependent because I keep doing it for them or is there another reason they lean on us?” Or is he lazy, not allow to filter through resources, or possibly have a special needs issue? Determine what is holding them back from being independent and focus on that issue. As parents we want our children to succeed academically, but sometimes we tend to do way too much for them rather than letting them try to do things for themselves.
Engage them in building skills for
- planning and scheduling
- organizing materials
- planning to take a break
- using technology
- knowing how and when to ask for help
I am so thankful that all four of my children know academic independence. However, it warms my heart when they ask for help at times. They have all had very successful college years, for which we are very grateful. I didn’t have to plan or schedule any of their classes. We are so thankful we encouraged independence.
I know when they ask they need the advice and sometimes for this momma, it is over my head. Big smile goes here. We work through it together though, and I hope they find the advice helpful. Do you teach independence? What are some of your ideas for cultivating academic independence?
Want to use what I used in our homeschool to help me cultivate academic independence?
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