How to Teach Your Homeschooler to Work Independently
As our homeschoolers get older, one of the most important things we can teach them is how to work independently.
I admit, I do have some selfish reasons to do this. Because I’m a work-from-home-mom, it’s extremely helpful if my children are able to do at least some of their work independently. To be honest, though, it’s really better for them and for me if they can do at least some of their work independently.
In the past, we’ve used these visual schedule systems to keep on track, but my children are older now and have outgrown the graphics-based system. They’re now ready for a more streamlined planner.
With this new system, all of their worksheets and workbooks have been consolidated into one place. Their weekly work is all together, easily accessible, and easy to keep track of, and my expectations are clearly spelled out in each child’s to-do list.
Creating a similar system in your home is easy!
This new method of organizing work has a couple of components.
Assemble a “master binder” for each child.
First, gather all the consumables: workbooks, student books, and print PDF materials you would like to use with your child. You’ll need a three-ring binder (I used a three-inch for a little over one semester’s worth of work.), dividers to separate subjects, scissors or a paper cutter, and a heavy-duty hole punch.
I know some of you will cringe at this suggestion, but go ahead and rip all the papers out of their workbook binding. You want these pages loose so you can hole punch them and put them in the master binder. If you don’t want to do it yourself (I just ripped and snipped as needed) you can take them to an office supply store to get the bindings professionally cut off for a small fee.
Doing this organizes your shelves (no more stacks of books- just one binder!), helps organize PDF curriculum (it’s all printed up-front and is ready to go), guarantees that individual workbooks will not be misplaced (as long as you don’t lose the master binder!), and allows you to give your children their weekly assignments in a more organized way without overwhelming them.
Teachers manuals are left together on my shelf so I have them as I need them. I wouldn’t take the binding off these because I like to be able to keep them neat and re-sellable to help my keep my homeschool budget on track.
Get a weekly binder or accordion folder for each child and set it up.
I found this accordion file, and it’s perfect for this project. If you already have an accordion file, use what you have!
Each weekend, I consult my pacing guide, pull out the week’s worth of worksheets and assignments, and place them in the daily folders. Not all programs will have worksheets. In that case, I write little notes listing what needs to be done each day for each subject and pop that into the binder.
Create clear expectations with a weekly to-do list.
I include the My Assignments To-Do List in the front of each child’s binder to make it easy for each child to find it, mark off assignments as they are completed, and see what has been completed and what still needs to be done. This also makes it easy for me to see what has been done or still needs to be done.
This list which shows the full week of work at a glance. You can download a free version of the to-do list in our shop, or if you have many kids with different needs or want a calendar or chore section (like the page shown below), you can grab our larger pack of to-do forms for a small price.
The printable versions are blank so you can write in your subjects down the side column. Then, black out any days where you don’t do that subject. For us, we have out-of-the-house activities twice a week, so those days are “light” days. I blacked out half the subjects, so each child knows we don’t need to work those days.
You can also write in page numbers for books you weren’t able to put within the file folder system. For example, our art program isn’t consumable, so I just write in the lesson number in the box. Our science program has a consumable booklet, but it stays together, so that also will get a page number written down.
Then, as your children work, they can mark off what they have completed. In the example shown above, art is circled because it was not completed for the day, so it’s a signal to that child to go back the following day to get it done.
Let your children take responsibility for their assignments.
Each morning, each child can see exactly what is assigned for the day. There are no more questions about what has to be done or questions of, “Are we almost done???” because it’s all right there in front of their noses. Each one can see on his/her to-do list what will need to be done with me and what needs to be done independently.
Let them work in whatever order they choose.
I allow my kids to work in any order they like as long as the work gets done for the day. Some of the lessons will need to be done with me (For example, I have to teach our science and spelling.), but many of their subjects can be started independently. My children know, though, that they can always ask me for help or guidance on lessons when they need it.
If for some reason one of my children’s assignments are not completed, those assignments can be moved to the last compartment in that child’s file folder. I’ve marked it as “homework.” My children know that any work in the homework folder must be completed before that child can watch TV or play video games. As long as the work is finished by Sunday night, there aren’t consequences other than that, but if the work doesn’t get done by the time I sit down to put the next week’s work in…. well, then we’ll have to come up with some sort of consequence. (This rarely happens. The screen ban is usually enough to keep my kids on top of their work.)
Get the Accountability Pack with 13 different forms (chores, reading, calender, planner pages, and to-do list options are all included)