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3 Tips to gently encourage independent learning in your homeschool over this next year {Episode 87}

March 16, 2020 5 min read

 Come listen and learn how to gently encourage independent learning in your homeschool over this next year.

One of the key skills that we as homeschoolers can impart to our students is to teach them how to learn independently. This is a gradual process, but today I want to share with you three tips to help you encourage your students to get on the road to independent learning.

Hi, I’m Paige Hudson and welcome to season 6 of the Tips for Homeschool Science Show where we are breaking down one of the lofty ideals of teaching science into three building blocks you can use in your homeschool. In this episode, I'll share three tips to help you gently encourage independent learning!

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Episode 87 Transcript

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. In other words, the end goal of our homeschooling journey is to produce an independent learner.

As homeschool teachers, we play a vital role in our students’ daily education, but we also need to realize that there will come a day when they will need to take charge of their own learning. It’s sad, but the truth is that we are working ourselves out of a job. And to do this, we need to move from a “tomato-staked student-teacher” connection to a “mentor-student” relationship.

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. As I said last week, it’s a process, one that we encourage bit by bit.

But before I share the three tips, let’s chat about what your independent learner needs to know.

He or she 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.

Okay, now that we understand a bit more about our end goal, let’s chat about three tips to help us get there!

3 Tips to gently encourage independent learning in your homeschool over this next year

As your kids get older, you can begin to encourage independent learning and these three tips will help you do that!

Tip #1 – Know when they are ready.

The first key for encouraging independent learning to determine whether or not your students are ready to begin to take charge of their own education. You can look for these signs:

  • They can read or write on their own.
  • 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. You can start with simple stuff, like reading a chapter or finishing a math assignment without you hovering over them, in the elementary years. As they gain confidence, you can increase the amount and the difficulty of independent learning assignments.

If you wait until your student is showing signs of being ready, you will definitely gently encourage independent learning in your homeschool.

Tip #2 - Choose a curriculum that fosters independence.

Letting your students loose on independent learning can be a daunting experience for them, so you want to be sure to choose a curriculum that will foster their newfound independence. This will make your job as a mentor in the equation much easier.

We talked about this a bit in the last episode about homeschooling with a big age gap. But here are a few guidelines of what to look for when you are seeking a program that encourages independent learning.

  1. These types of programs will have separate student and teacher materials.
  2. The student materials should have the assignments in them, preferably ones that are written to the student.
  3. There should be some form of homework pages and/or descriptions to guide the students through the process of recording their work.
  4. The teacher materials should have the assignments plus additional help for you.
  5. There should also be 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. You can take a look at our logic stage materials to get a feel for what I am talking about.

If you can’t find materials that suit your needs, you need to do make sure that you know what your students are learning. In other words, you will need to read, research, and do the assignments before they do so that you can guide them through the process.

If you choose curricula that foster it, you will definitely gently encourage independent learning in your homeschool.

Tip #3 - Set them up for success.

Now that you have determined that your students are ready to move towards independence and you have chosen a curriculum that will support this goal, you need to set them up for success.

Enter the morning meeting. The morning meeting is the time you use to:

  • Go over yesterday’s assignments,
  • Correct any misunderstandings,
  • Clarify the concepts,
  • Review previous knowledge,
  • And explain any of the new information.

When your students are new to independent learning, I also suggest that you have them write down all those assignments before they leave the table. As they grow, you can help them break down those longer assignments into manageable chunks.

The overall purpose of these morning meetings is to guide the student through the process, to recognize any pitfalls, and to point them in the direction of success.

If you set them up for success, you will definitely gently encourage independent learning in your homeschool.

Wrapping it up

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.

So, learn to recognize the signs of readiness, choose curricula that will foster independence, and set them up for success. It takes some effort on our part to encourage independent learning, but the rewards are well worth it!

Check out these posts for more encouragement you as you guide your students toward independent learning:

If you have any questions or want to share your experience with independent learning, please feel free to leave a comment below!


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