2 Approaches to Ensure Independent Learning for Homeschoolers
Homework for Homeschoolers
Over the years of my homeschooling journey I’ve met so many other parents also homeschooling. In the last year that number of other homeschooling parents I’ve met has multiplied exponentially through social media. As the numbers rise so too does my realization of how many ways there are to successfully homeschool.
In the past, when I homeschooled students (other than my own children) I often said that if I couldn’t get their learning done within a 6 hour span per day then I was doing something wrong. I always told parents that I wanted students to go home, run around, enjoy free time, explore, have adventures, read, etc. My policy was no homework for homeschoolers!
My thoughts have changed in twelve years. I still want my kids to have time for adventures, reading, and enjoying their free time – but I’ve made a discovery I wasn’t expecting. My kids need some homework!
My middle son needed to learn his multiplication facts and was waiting for me to surgically implant them. Offering him songs, dances, games, handwritten worksheets, story associations, etc. only lead this child to think that it was up to me for him to learn anything I wanted him to learn. It was beneficial for both of us when I insisted that his homework was to learn the facts on his own.
Similarly, my oldest daughter also had the same misconception that her learning was completely my responsibility. It was my job to assign it, my job to get her to understand it, my job to make her remember it, and my job to make her do it. The result? She would pitch a fit every time something challenging came up. What was a mother to do?? Give her homework! I gave her assignments and took myself out of the he equation. She is understanding that she has responsibility in her learning. Now she comes to me with legitimate questions and is actually looking for help – not merely for an opportunity to complain that the work is “too hard” (in a very whiny voice) and expect me to spoon feed her.
Now as I make school plans for each week for my son and answer questions without the drama from my daughter I can sit back and marvel at how much this older homeschooling mother has learned. Helping my children accept that learning is ultimately up to them has offered them more of an education than the material itself. That’s the beauty of homework for homeschoolers!
Lisa Blauvelt (with her family and three dogs, two cats, a horse, pony, donkey, two red eared turtles, a fluctuating number of tadpoles and baby fish, and various other creatures collected by her adventurous boys) puts her education degrees to work at her home in the Deep South. There she teaches not only her own children, but others who come to her home to learn. Her decade long experience in teaching children to read will soon be published as a 476 page guide for parents.
I have facilitated online learning for students for three years. One of the greatest benefits I see for many students is the emergence of an independent learner. Online learning fosters this independence in various ways.
When a student works through an online curriculum, they have to interact directly with the courseware. Whether answering questions, arranging math models, completing offline activities, participating in a virtual lab, their response moves the program forward. Not only does this keep the student engaged with the content but it also provides the student a sense of ownership for the learning process – their own interaction has resulted in their own progress.
Online learning provides immediate (or nearly immediate) feedback. This keeps the learning momentum going.
With an online curriculum, students work at their own pace. There are opportunities for advanced study, extra information, and extra practice. Most curricula are mastery-based (a student has to show they have mastered a concept or skill before moving on), eliminating learning gaps. I have seen students who need extra support AND students on an accelerated track both using the same online curriculum successfully. All student develop confidence when they are able to learn in a way tailored to their specific needs.
I have students who get up early and get right to work on their courseware and others who sleep in and begin later in the day. I have students who plan their learning time around acting or sports careers, family travel plans, and hobbies or special interests. Some students like to tackle only a few classes at a time while others like to work on all courses uniformly. All of these options work with online learning. This flexibility requires students to take responsibility for their learning, planning and prioritizing their time.
I have seen this sense of ownership, momentum, confidence, and responsibility culminate in a successfully independent learner time and time again. I would predict that these independent learners continue as life-long learners.
JanElle Hoffman is a middle school math and science teacher with International Virtual Learning Academy.