It’s so easy for homeschooling moms to be available for all the questions and comments that homeschooled kids ask during the day. But, as those kids enter the middle school years, they need to start becoming more independent.
For each child that transition to independent learning will be different. Some will quickly adjust to the changes. Others will take more time and hand-holding along the way.
For those kids who need a bit more coaxing to reach that independent stage, like my daughter, there are a few things that I’m learning will help make that transition easier. I think we have to be a bit more intentional with them and take smaller steps to reach that independent stage.
We’re still in the very beginning of this stage at our house, so if you have any advice for teaching middle schoolers to be more independent, please let me know!
Homeschooling middle school kids
If you are homeschooling middle school aged kids, you already know that teaching them has it’s own set of challenges and joys.
In the younger years, there’s lots of cuddling and fun projects and picture books. There might still be some of that as your students get older but they will also begin to assert their own opinions and viewpoints (if they haven’t been all along!). It’s important to listen to them, let them talk and share, and just be available for them. After all, they still need you!
1. Begin with a checklist
5th grade is a great time to start having kids keep track of their assignments. I still keep daily and weekly lesson plans, but in the morning TJ and I go over her assignments and she writes them on her own checklist. Here’s what her weekly checklist looks like (click to open PDF in a new window):
2. Start with one subject
Choose one subject that your child shouldn’t have too much trouble doing on their own, teach the lesson, then have them go off (but still within your sight, of course!) and complete the assignment. Or you leave the immediate area and work on something else while they complete their assignment. (Use Susan’s tips for M&Ms if necessary! See the audio linked below for more details.)
3. Supervision is still important
While it’s important to give them a small bit of independence, sending them off to their room or some other unsupervised location isn’t a good idea in the beginning. When we tried that, TJ doodled and wasted 40 minutes on something that should have taken her about 15.
Now, when she wants to take her work to another location, I have her take one assignment and we set the timer before she leaves the room, with the expectation that her work should be done or nearly done by the time it beeps.
4. Give them choices
Now is the time to let them start taking the initiative in their studies. Let your middle schoolers choose what they’d like to read in history or study in science. If they are interested in a topic then they will have more invested in the outcome. If your day is crammed full of too many assignments, books, and piles of worksheets, find a way to streamline what you’re doing and provide time for interest-led learning.
5. Join an academic co-op or online class
Now is a great time to have your students look to other adults as their teachers. It frees you up to focus on the areas that take more of your time in teaching and it provides your children with an opportunity to work with other students and adults. It’s also a perfect time to use an online class as a ‘practice-run’ if you know that you’ll be using online courses for high school credit.
More tools for creating independence
If your child was born with that independent streak, you might find this transition a bit easier (or not!). For those of us with kids that are a bit clingy or like us to sit with them while they work, that transition might be slower. But it’s possible!
Susan Wise Bauer’s audio, Teaching Students to Work Independently, has some more awesome tips and ideas. She shares a ton of practical advice for this stage. So, if you have a middle schooler, check out her audio presentation. I love how she walks the listeners through the different phases of teaching and the tips she provides for growing independence.
Do you have a middle schooler in your homeschool?
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