Posted in Helpful Information, Homeschool Encouragement and Support, Practical Homeschool Tips

Can My Child Be More Independent?

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To find out about the “PHB” HOMESCHOOL WRITING CONTEST, click HERE:

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How do I get my child to be more independent?

“Jacob gets so distracted!  He doesn’t do any work unless I’m sitting right next to him.”

“Amy complains everything’s too hard.  She doesn’t seem to be able to work unless I’m right there, helping her.”

“All my kids are in the same room, schooling together.  There’s so much squabbling, poking, bothering, etc; they don’t do their work unless I’m in the room with them.”

“I spend so much time sitting with my kids, I can’t get work done around the house.”

“How do I get my child to be more independent???!!!”

For the past few years I’ve been asked these questions or variations of them.  Perhaps you may be experiencing similar struggles in your homeschool.  Here are some humble suggestions of ways to lead your child toward greater independence.

1.)  Prayer –  God tells us to ask Him for what is good .  Child of God, He knows your heart and your struggles.  Bring your desires and needs to Him in prayer.  Matthew 7:11 “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

2.)  Set Reasonable Expectations –  First, make sure the expectations you have for your child are reasonable.  The older the child, the greater the level of independence should be.  Children in elementary grades will naturally need a lot more time and attention from their homeschool mom, dad, or guardian.  Children with special needs or learning disabilities may require more time and assistance from you as well.

3.) Focused Instruction Time – Examine yourself and your teaching methods.  Are you trying to explain a concept to one child, while simultaneously helping another?  Are you trying to teach while you’re on the phone or the computer?  Your child may not be able to work independently because he or she has not fully grasped the concepts being taught.  This can be very frustrating for your child!  Rule this possibility out before proceeding to the next step.  Colossians 3:21 “…. do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”

4.) Start Small – Independent learning almost never happens all at once.  Start small.  Choose one subject that you believe your child can do without any help from you and assign that as “daily independent work”.  When my children were about 6, I had them do their spelling work on their own.  That was the only subject they did without Mom nearby.  They really didn’t need me, and the lesson could be done in about a half hour.  (Basically it was copy work.)  After they were consistently doing their spelling work on their own for several months, I started having them do a second subject independently.

5.)  Make Yourself Inaccessible –  Many children will begin to depend on a parent for help when they really don’t need to.  If you believe this is the case with your child, make sure you give him or her some space.   After providing an initial explanation of what needs to be done, tell your child that you will be leaving the room for a short period of time (15 min to a half hour), and that he/she shouldn’t ask you for help while you’re gone, but should try to do it all by him/herself.  Give him the space to do it on his own!  Take a shower.  Get some exercise.  Help another child.  Do some laundry.  Do the dishes.  Make sure you leave the room so you don’t become a crutch for your child.  After the given time period is up, come back and check on your child.  If he’s worked on his own, reward him; if he has sat there without doing anything, provide a consequence.  (See # 6, next.)  Genesis 2:15 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”  (Consider: God gave Adam work to do in the garden; but then He left Adam & Eve to do the work themselves and came back in the “cool of the day”.) (vs 3:8)

6.)  Set A Reward/Consequence – If you find that your child is unmotivated to do his “Daily Independent Work” without you there, you may need to set a reward/consequence for his work ethic.  (Please see my post, “Reward or Punishment”  for more on this issue:

7.) 40 Day Habit – To get your child to do his “Daily Independent Work” everyday, you will need to consistently assign his “Daily Independent Work” everyday and possibly provide a reward or consequence for work habits everyday.   If you insist that your child work independently 3 days a week, but let it slide the other two, your child will not learn to work independently as quickly.  It also helps to assign the work around the same time each day, so your child begins to know what is expected when.  (Maybe right after breakfast, or right after nap time, etc.)  Take the 40 day challenge!  Be consistent with your child; in approximately 40 days, you will see your child has developed a regular work ethic!  Proverbs 18:9 “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.”

8.)  Consider a Change of Surroundings –  Some children work better in a room by themselves.  If your child has a hard time working on his own because siblings are distracting him, consider moving him to another room while he does his independent work.   One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you can do work anywhere!  Maybe your child can suggest what might be a good “study corner” for him?  Think outside the box!

9.)  Consider a “Warm-up” Break – Getting the blood pumping can sometimes actually help your child work better.  Consider having an exercise routine or doing some calisthenics together before assigning independent work.

10.)  Build After the Habit Forms –  Once your child is doing one assignment on his own regularly, you can add another small assignment to his list, and then another, and so on.  Gradually, over a period of years, you will find that your child is doing more and more on his own, and is depending less and less on you.  Of course, you should always be available to him or her when he or she is really struggling.  Your child will consistently need your help in many areas as he grows.   But, growing an independent learner is a wonderful goal to strive for, and will ultimately help your child succeed in life.   Proverbs 22:29 “Do you see a man skilled in his work?  He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.”

How has your homeschooling been going so far this year?  Please feel free to leave comments on this blog!

Copyright November 7th, 2012 by Gwen Fredette

All Scripture taken from NIV (New International Version)

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To find out about the “PHB” HOMESCHOOL WRITING CONTEST, click HERE:

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