Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Age Should a Child Start Studying Independently Part 1

At what age should a child be studying independently? I hear this question asked everywhere I go in the homeschool community. Let me just start by saying there is no magical age. Having said that I want to add that if you have a child without any learning disabilities he should definitely be studying independently by the time he's in high school.

Much of a child's success at school is found in his study habits. If as a homeschool mom you spend all your time going over every problem with your child and coaxing him through every page you are doing that child a huge disservice. One of the main goals of parenting is to teach a child to be independent. If you haven't taught your child that by the time they leave home, your child will flounder in the real world.

So how much should the homeschool mother be involved? How independently should a child be working for their grade level? This question has about as many answers are there are homeschool moms. But since this is my blog I will just give you my opinion on this. Bear in mind that I am speaking of the child without special needs.

First grade is almost entirely hands on. Second grade is too. Third grade the child should be more independent. By fourth grade and on up a child should be able to work on their own about 3/4Th's the time.

I am schooling four children this year. They are working in curriculum at 6 different levels; grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Tink is the fifth grader and she is almost 100% independent. Tink would be a 7th grader if she were in public school. But we all know the story of Tink. If you don't you can go over to Dishpan Dribble and click on the Tink label and read about her struggles.

But even though Tink is working independently I go through every one of her workbooks on the weekend. She has a terrible habit of just skipping over a section that she doesn't understand or just doesn't want to do. I go through every subject and circle in red the sections that were skipped or the sections that she got wrong. She self corrects her books but she doesn't always go back and correct the wrong ones after checking them wrong.

As I go along I write on a piece of notebook paper what page each section is on. I tuck the paper into the book and this becomes her first assignment in each subject on Monday morning. Every book has a notebook page of sections she must repeat.

Before doing any quizzes or end of unit tests Tink has to check with me. I give a cursory look through the book and give her the go ahead or stop her and send her back to do more work. No quiz can be taken until all those little sections skipped have been made up. But sometimes Tink will go ahead with the quiz. Whenever she does this she fails the test.

If after completing, grading and redoing the entire section she still fails the quiz at the end of the unit then I take the section that she got most wrong and give her Extra Practice worksheets until she understands that section. You will find that usually if your child fails quizzes or tests it wont be the entire thing. It will be one or two sections that she just didn't understand thoroughly while going through the workbooks. Pay close attention to the things your child is missing most and concentrate on that area.

I give Tink a lot of independence but she will be 13 in a few weeks and she needs this. I even have her on her own at the charter school on Mondays. It is up to her to get herself from class to class and to write down the assignments and know what her homework is for the week. Again this is practice for life outside my four walls. All this does not come easy for a child with a processing disorder but Tink is doing very well and Im proud of her.

I say she is independent but even then I have her read aloud to me at least three days a week. She either reads from her history book or her reading book. I help her with fluency and comprehension while we read. She also reads the words to me from her word wall every day. Mondays post will have more about how to do a reading class with your child and how to teach them to be fluent readers.

If Tink is going to test out low on something you can count on it that it will be in the vocabulary part of it. She is doing book 5 of Wordly Wise and again I have her read every vocabulary word to me before doing the lesson. You can see that although Tink is basically an independent learner at this point I still need to be involved in a very real way in her learning.

Now you may be wondering why I don't keep a closer eye on Tinks work during the week and why I just go through her books on the weekends. The answer is two fold. I want to teach her to study independently and I don't have the time to check it all while she's doing it. I can tell you though that the parts she skips are becoming fewer and fewer because she's catching on that if she doesn't do them now she has to do them later. This is all part of teaching a child independence.

Now the other three children I follow closely. The first grader never leaves my side- well almost never. I will explain tomorrow how to work with children in grades 1 - 4 so you will more clearly see the progression of total dependence to independence.


  1. Thanks for sharing. Good points. I am excited to read next posts. Thanks for being a great mentor to me. Love you too.

  2. Thanks for posting this! Yes, every child is different, but I think your guidelines are wise. God bless you today!

  3. I've only homeschooled one child through sixth grade(current), but that has been my experience as well - independent by fourth. We use similar curricula so I know that these books support independence. In fact with CLE the children are suppose to(if you strictly follow the curriculum) self check their work.

    Correcting and review are so time consuming. I do mine everyday after lunch, but Fridays sometimes get skipped to Monday. I can't wait until we switch to CLE in ninth grade, and J gets more comfortable correcting his own work. He does correct his math himself.


Thank you for taking the time to add to the discussion here. Your ideas and thoughts are always welcome!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin