Recently there was a discussion about independent learning on a Facebook group I follow. One mom was upset and tired of feeling like her children couldn't follow through with a given assignment or directions unless she was right there, they would get distracted and/or start playing. She also spoke of her children not listening while reading aloud too, and too often she felt like she was talking, and NO ONE was listening!
One of the comments on this post, suggested that homeschool mom's shouldn't expect their children to learn independently. Public school children are not working independently, nor do children typically like to do things they don't want to. So if you are asking them to work on something they dislike, then of course they'd rather not do it.
Since Independent learning, is so important to me, and how I honestly have homeschooled my 11 children, over the past (technically) 15 years, somewhat sane. I thought maybe I should just write a blog post about it, because Facebook is not the place to write my "novel" answers! Sometimes I think I'm simply too long winded for Facebook! :)
First off, this happens! It happens to the best of the best of Moms. Honestly we are dealing with children, or teenagers- there's built up energy, not enough energy, too many emotions and or hormone changes! So even if you figure out the perfect plan, or the perfect way to make independent learning happen, there will still be those days.
So here's my first thought, yes no one likes to do things they don't want to. I surely don't want to do the laundry everyday, clean up the millionth mess my toddler made, not change the tenth dirty diaper of the day. I surely don't want to pay my mortgage or my utility bills. These things simply must be done, and are simply part of my responsibilities. There's no one there to nag us to do them, except when you realize all your clothes are dirty, or the company sends you a late bill. Sure I could just say I enjoy shopping so much more than I do washing clothes, so let's just go buy something new to wear! Wouldn't that be fun!!! Until tomorrow when you realize that now you just have one more outfit to wash, and honestly you didn't get anywhere, you just made your load larger.
Well I could just allow my children to only learn what they want to, completely. Would they learn, Yes. (though I wonder if some of them would ever learn anything past how to build with Legos!) Do I want them to learn things they love, definitely!! So how can I do this? Simple don't plan your school days so full, that there's no down time. Don't over plan what you want them to learn, to make sure they learn everything, only to overload them so they don't learn anything. Plan to have them learn their basics, their core subjects. Give them time to still explore and enjoy their interests.
One way to do this, is to give them guidelines. You need to study science for 30 minutes, 2 times a week. I only asked them to study science, the topic is their choice. The project is their choice. Everyone has to like atleast one thing in science, nature, astronomy, earth science, gardening, or maybe engineering.
Well how do they know what they want to learn about, or what might interest them? Simple I spend my family teaching time exposing them to greatness. I use our family learning time to expose them to a wide range of topics and ideas, usually we simply read and discuss. I don't do many activities during this time, unless it's art or a science experiment. Sometimes I have a notebook, but even then it's simple and not something that we won't get through in 15 to 20 minutes. It might be something we discuss and then I give directions on how to do, or allow them to study that idea or topic in greater depth.
There are core subjects that I want them to do everyday such as reading, writing and math. Those things I have curriculum for and they do a lesson a day- by themselves. Then they report their scores, or put them in a pile to be graded later, however that subject needs to be done.
My second thought, is simple... to learn to be an independent learner, the children must be "taught" how. This may seem silly, but everything we do, we had to learn. How do I do this in our homeschool? I make a very basic chart listing what I expect to be done. I make these for all my homeshooled children. Yes, even the ones that can't work independently yet. The are simply learning the way that we homeschool. They are learning how to use our chart, and mark things off, and getting use to the structure and routines around here.
That's how I do it, simply because I like organization, I like reminders, I like to have it all written down so I can look and say, yes you're done.
My third thought is I am consistent with the concept that until your schoolwork is done, you don't have independent learning, you don't move on. We accomplish our have to's first, and then our want to's. Along those same lines, we don't "play" until our learning time is done. We have a learning time, which simply means no friends, no screens until that time of the day is done. Screens are allowed, when asked permission and they need to have a specific need or idea they want to study online. This is their time to either explore their own interests, or to gain a love for each other and family.
Some children learn this quickly, while others may not. Some figure it out, if I get up get my chores done, start my school and then get done, I have more time to do the things I enjoy. Some are feel lifes not fair when they are spending their free time/ free play time doing school still. Some need to spend a whole day sitting at the table, dawdling and doodling, day dreaming before they get the idea that if you get your have to's done first, you have more time for your want to's. Which by the way are usually the things your spending your time daydreaming about in the first place. So if you want the time to put those "dreams" into action, or answer those questions you're thinking about, then put your energy, and thought into your responsibilities first.
And lastly if your children are not sitting and listening to you while you are reading aloud to them, then it's time to teach them to respect their elders, and especially their Mother. If we are reading aloud and someone isn't listening, I simply stop and say I will not go on until I am the only one talking, or it's Mom's turn to talk right now. This is also something that we must teach our children. Children can and will learn how to sit and listen, they can and will learn how to respect those around them, not only their leaders/teachers but also those who are sitting and listening. It is an important character trait that often times is skipped. Be consistent with your consequences and you will gain a great reward, of obedient and loving children.