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Myth of Independent Work


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#1 missmoe

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 03:31 PM

Quite often on these boards I read that parents are working towards having their students work independently.

I was one of the parents who pictured my children working independently--especially in high school. I pictured my oldest would be so well trained that I would be able to give him a book and have him complete the course work on his own. AND he would do this happily! And to just to throw in even more "pie in the sky" he would get to the point where he would tell me what book he wanted to study from! So I would no longer even have to research!

My experience has been that kids do become a bit more independent after they are able to read well. You can give them a worksheet and they can read the directions and problems on the worksheet--I'm thinking along the lines of math here. All kids still need an interactive teacher, if they are going to really learn the material.

And I've also found that as children enter the logic and rhetoric stages, their need for one-on-one time increases once again. I've had to increase one-on-one time as we learn logic, how to outline and write, how to analyze lit, ect. And again in the rhetoric stages, lots of new skills that need one-on-one time to teach.

I picture it like a wave--the crest is right when the kids seem to have mastered that stage's (grammar, logic, rhetoric) skills and then down, down, down they go into the next stage where lots of hand holding is needed to climb back up to the next crest.

And that dream of my oldest working independently through high school--we hit it his senior year! He choose all of his classes (all outsourced at that point) as well as lots of other ways to productively fill his time.

So if your child isn't working independently, it's okay--and normal!

Edited by missmoe, 27 November 2011 - 03:38 PM.


#2 Calming Tea

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 05:45 PM

Excellent observations!

I agree especially that children learn better with a one on one teacher. Looking at the past 2 years, I realized that my son learned the most from his interactive courses- Sequential Spelling, Story of the World, Calvert writing and poetry, CHOW, etc.

The courses that he gained little from we're those which I thought could be done independently -Easy Grammar, Calvert Science, Calvert Grammar

Even with Saxon math, it's clear that when I don't do a little interacting, my son doesn't do as well. When I actually sit and do the mental math, and am consistent with checking his work and re-teaching, he soars.

Plus, you know, my kids like me. They like taking on the challenge knowing I'm guiding them through. They like interacting. If I had extenuating circumstances, then almost complete independence would be a goal. But I don't see why complete independence should be the goal for all of us.

#3 happycc

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 05:46 PM

I am so glad you posted this...
I also began to see that independent work is a fallacy.

Even if the kids were in normal school they would still get lectures and input from the teachers as well as guidance. Plus I still have to either help with homework or hire a tutor for them if their subject is totally utterly beyond me or if I am already overwhelmed with other kids.
This is why I love FLL, WWE, AAS because it takes the temptation away of just handing them something and tell them to go figure it out. YOU HAVE TO DO IT WITH THEM.

I tried handing my kids some math work to do on their own and realized quickly enough they still need handholding or else they get a significant amount of items wrong. Retention zilch! Also with any worksheet or assignment they learn more when you at least sit and discuss with them what the worksheet was about either before or after they did it. Otherwise it is merely busywork right?

In every subject I have to be on board to teach...Latin for Children, Grammar, Writing, History, Health, Social Studies, spelling, vocab, math----stress case stress case stress case.

Ok there is maybe one independent work--coloring in coloring pages. Even then you still need to make a comment about their coloring. Oh I like how you used that color kind of thing otherwise then it becomes simply busy work.

When do we have time to go to the bathroom, shower, laundry, meals etc?
When I am not teacher directing I am reading, studying, planning preparing and researching curriculum or finishing up a project that requires me to do the typing or printing or cutting or gluing, or laminating.

So independent work idea---completely tossed. Now my question is how to not get burn out?????

Edited by happycc, 27 November 2011 - 06:10 PM.


#4 54879525

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 05:52 PM

I am so glad you posted this...
I also began to see that independent work is a fallacy.
Even if the kids were in normal school they would still get lectures and input from the teachers as well as guidance. Plus I still have to either help with homework or hire a tutor for them if their subject is totally utterly beyond me or if I am already overwhelmed with other kids.


This was my thought exactly.

#5 dragons in the flower bed

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 05:55 PM

You know, I'm not sure I completely agree. My boys are able to learn from resources independently. But I'm with you on the spirit of it. When children are finally at the age where you could hand them a stack of worktexts, assign page numbers, and deny them supper if the work hasn't been done, that's when they're finally a joy to engage. That's when a good explanation makes a difference. Before that, it's usually a nap and a snack, or waiting three months, that makes the difference in whether they understand.

#6 missmoe

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 10:05 PM

When do we have time to go to the bathroom, shower, laundry, meals etc?
When I am not teacher directing I am reading, studying, planning preparing and researching curriculum or finishing up a project that requires me to do the typing or printing or cutting or gluing, or laminating.

So independent work idea---completely tossed. Now my question is how to not get burn out?????


You squeeze it all in--and it does get easier! I'm teaching 7th-grade for the fourth time this year, and teaching is much more enjoyable this time around because I feel I have it figured out. Of course each kid is different--I just recently chucked the spelling that wasn't working (though it had worked for the rest of the kids). But you know I wasn't second guessing myself like I would have the first or second time around. I knew what change had to be made and what to look for in the new program.

And realize that this season of life does seem like forever, but really isn't. I feel like I am nearing the end--and am a little sad about it.

And I don't mean that my kids don't do anything without me right there, but I do have to teach them. I teach them a math concept and then they do the work. I am available for help during school time. And as kids mature then you get to discuss lit, history, science, math--and that for me has been really enjoyable.

#7 Bloggermom

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 08:21 AM

Having my 5th grader in online classes has made him 90% independent from needing my help. This allows me to focus on my other 2 homeschoolers.

#8 By Grace

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 08:30 AM

You know, I'm not sure I completely agree. My boys are able to learn from resources independently. But I'm with you on the spirit of it. When children are finally at the age where you could hand them a stack of worktexts, assign page numbers, and deny them supper if the work hasn't been done, that's when they're finally a joy to engage. That's when a good explanation makes a difference. Before that, it's usually a nap and a snack, or waiting three months, that makes the difference in whether they understand.


So true. My 4th grader *could* figure out more of her material by herself, but our conversations are getting so much more interesting at this point! Yesterday, I was thinking she could handle doing her own poetry reading, but as I looked ahead to the poems in her book, I realized I really *wanted* to read those with her. It's hard to find time for everything when there are littles about, but it's sooo worth it.

#9 54879525

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 08:35 AM

You know, I'm not sure I completely agree. My boys are able to learn from resources independently. But I'm with you on the spirit of it. When children are finally at the age where you could hand them a stack of worktexts, assign page numbers, and deny them supper if the work hasn't been done, that's when they're finally a joy to engage. That's when a good explanation makes a difference. Before that, it's usually a nap and a snack, or waiting three months, that makes the difference in whether they understand.


Absolutely! The key is IF they are interested though.

I work towards my kids becoming more independent (not just with school work). I think that is part of parenting and teaching, but I don't envision a day where they take total control of their learning until perhaps late high school (in a dream I had once).

Besides, at this point I enjoy being involved. What else would I do with myself? Housework?! *shudder* ;)

#10 54879525

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 08:35 AM

So true. My 4th grader *could* figure out more of her material by herself, but our conversations are getting so much more interesting at this point! Yesterday, I was thinking she could handle doing her own poetry reading, but as I looked ahead to the poems in her book, I realized I really *wanted* to read those with her. It's hard to find time for everything when there are littles about, but it's sooo worth it.


Same here! I'm loving some of the conversations we are having lately.

#11 CalicoKat

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 09:35 AM

Quite often on these boards I read that parents are working towards having their students work independently.

I was one of the parents who pictured my children working independently--especially in high school. I pictured my oldest would be so well trained that I would be able to give him a book and have him complete the course work on his own. AND he would do this happily! And to just to throw in even more "pie in the sky" he would get to the point where he would tell me what book he wanted to study from! So I would no longer even have to research!

My experience has been that kids do become a bit more independent after they are able to read well. You can give them a worksheet and they can read the directions and problems on the worksheet--I'm thinking along the lines of math here. All kids still need an interactive teacher, if they are going to really learn the material.

And I've also found that as children enter the logic and rhetoric stages, their need for one-on-one time increases once again. I've had to increase one-on-one time as we learn logic, how to outline and write, how to analyze lit, ect. And again in the rhetoric stages, lots of new skills that need one-on-one time to teach.

I picture it like a wave--the crest is right when the kids seem to have mastered that stage's (grammar, logic, rhetoric) skills and then down, down, down they go into the next stage where lots of hand holding is needed to climb back up to the next crest.

And that dream of my oldest working independently through high school--we hit it his senior year! He choose all of his classes (all outsourced at that point) as well as lots of other ways to productively fill his time.

So if your child isn't working independently, it's okay--and normal!


Good to know!

I've discovered that all independence jumps out the window when my dd 12 decides she doesn't like it or finds it "too hard." And if I'm not checking on her progress she'll just not do it and not tell me. :glare: Independent, but you gotta keep checking on the progress.

#12 shanezomom

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 09:46 AM

Because I work in our family business next to our house and wasn't able to spend as much time as I wanted on daily homeschool, I decided to try the Robinson method to ensure at least some work was getting done. I found that our 4th grader at the time got very lonely and begged me to just sit with him while he did Saxon. When I corrected his work, I could see he needed more guidance and instruction.

While he is more independent this year, I decided we weren't homeschooling so he could be alone all day. I love the interaction and involvement I can have, and since he's an only child, he really likes having us around, even if it's sitting with him while he does his work independently.

#13 dmmetler

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 10:00 AM

What I've noticed is that my DD needs to learn with me, even if it's just so she has someone to talk about what she's reading on her own with, but she also needs to demonstrate competence without my hovering over her, because if I don't step back, she never feels confident enough to try without me there. So I try to have a balance of both.

#14 Moonbeam Jones

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 10:05 AM

Besides, at this point I enjoy being involved. What else would I do with myself? Housework?! *shudder* ;)


:iagree:

I laughed when I read this. I could teach, read and do experiments all day, but housework :glare:

Thanks for this thoughtful post - keeps me grounded. As a mom just starting out I have already seen some of the points y'all made.

#15 Ester Maria

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 10:07 AM

You know, I'm not sure I completely agree. My boys are able to learn from resources independently. But I'm with you on the spirit of it. When children are finally at the age where you could hand them a stack of worktexts, assign page numbers, and deny them supper if the work hasn't been done, that's when they're finally a joy to engage. That's when a good explanation makes a difference. Before that, it's usually a nap and a snack, or waiting three months, that makes the difference in whether they understand.

Exactly. When they become independent enough to do it all on their own is also typically when they become fun enough to work with! :tongue_smilie:

The way that I handle it with the older (middle / high school) girls is to let the preparation of the material be independent (i.e. they do the reading and all of the "preliminary work" on their own), but then I engage them in a good discussions once they are prepared. So, while I am not there with them most of the time, I am still actively engaged in what they do - and of course we break the monotony quite often by deciding we will work on something together. For some reasons that elude me, they actually LOVE my lectures :lol: and sometimes they beg me to prepare some lectures for them, so that is another way of doing something together, as it usually ends up in a discussion too. In any case, I do not find myself being almost out of the picture as they get older - I will only be out of the picture when we stop homeschooling (and that might happen quite soon, LOL, so I am trying to be extra engaged while I still CAN!).

#16 G5052

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 10:10 AM

Even with outsourced classes, those who are successful generally have a parent behind them asking them about due dates, reading their drafts, helping them plan their time, etc.

I'm a bit concerned about the emphasis on outsourcing as the "answer" for busy moms. It helps, but you still have to be involved IMHO.

#17 choirfarm

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 10:16 AM

My experience has been that kids do become a bit more independent after they are able to read well. You can give them a worksheet and they can read the directions and problems on the worksheet--I'm thinking along the lines of math here. All kids still need an interactive teacher, if they are going to really learn the material.

!


Um, depends on the kid. My oldest has learned math almost entirely without me. I normally just gave him Saxon when he was in 4th grade ( 1st year to homeschool and that is what they used. ) We did Saxon but I just handed him the book.. and he actually got to skip a lot of it and generally finished books in Feb. Then we switched to Singapore. I started with 3B in 6th grade and he did all the way through 6B that year on his own. 7th grade he did TT Algebra I and II. Then I switched to Chalkdust. He watches the material and does the homework. I graded it from AlgI, Geometry and Alg II. Very occasionally I would have to explain some error, but most of the time he did not. He is doing Precalc all on his own now: even grading his homework. I grade the tests, though it is hard since I don't understand it at all. Believe me, he is s stickler for doing his lessons. He has always watched a lesson and DONE AN ENTIRE lesson almost every day. Very occasionally, he will spread out a lesson to two days. He will often actually watch a 2nd lesson if he needs to do a lesson while he is at cc the next day. He is SO independent. Now my other two are not like that.

#18 siloam

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 11:07 AM

You know, I'm not sure I completely agree. My boys are able to learn from resources independently. But I'm with you on the spirit of it. When children are finally at the age where you could hand them a stack of worktexts, assign page numbers, and deny them supper if the work hasn't been done, that's when they're finally a joy to engage. That's when a good explanation makes a difference. Before that, it's usually a nap and a snack, or waiting three months, that makes the difference in whether they understand.



I agree.

My oldest is doing her Latin, writing/grammar, and science independently. Though she is 8th grade and I have spent years working with her one on one. My 2nd dd does Latin and science independently as well.

But I didn't even try for anything independent other than doing math after I explained it till around 5th grade.

With Latin I just don't have the time to teach both programs. I have gone through the youngest child's program myself, but my oldest I haven't even done that. I just correct their work and go over anything they miss with them. Thus while they read and do the work independently I am still involved.

Science is much the same way. They read and then do the "tests" open book and give me the answers to correct. I go over anything they miss with them.

With my oldest in grammar and writing (her strongest area) she corrects her stuff with the Classical Writing TM. I am only seeing her finished writing. It is her strong point though, she just needs to keep up the skills not learn them. I corrected her work up until the point I knew she had learned it.

Yet at the same time it is a fallacy that your time will be totally free. It sill takes time to correct their work and you still have to go back and teach areas they aren't getting...and that is the harder, approach it from a new way so they get it teaching. I am spending just as much time hsing as I used to...if not more.

Heather


#19 Beth in SW WA

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 11:36 AM

Even with outsourced classes, those who are successful generally have a parent behind them asking them about due dates, reading their drafts, helping them plan their time, etc.

I'm a bit concerned about the emphasis on outsourcing as the "answer" for busy moms. It helps, but you still have to be involved IMHO.


:iagree: but it depends on each student. Some just have an inner drive to self-manage.

Dd14 took 3 online classes w/ Potters School last year in 8th and I wasn't involved at all. She is super organized and responsible and didn't want me micro-managing her. She is in 9th and needs NO supervision. She didn't become a truly independent student until around 7th grade.

Ds needed many reminders in middle school but now is completely independent. Homeschooling a kid like him would not be ideal for high school since he is highly competitive and thrives in a challenging & stimulating environment. Performing for an outside evaluator is the key for him. Boys need to 'own' their work. Despite my efforts at home to challenge him -- it didn't hold a candle to what his high school offered him. This morning I asked if he has any tests coming up and he says, "Mom, you don't need to worry about it." He juggles work, sports, leadership, friends, church and school. He is researching ROTC this week and is disappointed to learn that he can't apply to a military academy with Type 1 Diabetes. He is still hoping to do ROTC.

Both older dc get straight As in high school and have intrinsic motivation to excel. It isn't something that can be taught. Kids either have it or they don't. Parents need to guide & direct but also let consequences do the talking. I am trying to apply that philosophy to my younger dds.

#20 Canadianmumof5

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 03:27 PM

Thanks for a great post Miss Moe.
I learned my lesson this year on this topic.

We need to remember that there is a very distinct difference between being an independent learner & being an independent worker.

DS10 is great at both - with the exception of grammar. He still needs my help with this - and that is fine. He can learn lots on his own, prefers to figure it out on his own, and will ask questions when he is stuck.

DD8 is fantastic when it comes to doing her work independently AFTER I've explained the new concept, and made sure she understands it. Age difference aside, she really is the type of kid who would rather discuss it and work collaboratively, rather than fly solo.

I started the year expecting them to try and be independent learners & workers. I thought I chose curriculum that would allow them to be independent. But the truth is that it doesn't matter which type of curricula you choose. If a child isn't ready for independent learning; it doesn't matter how nicely or neatly or simply it is laid out - it won't work.

#21 EKS

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 06:26 PM

I wrote a blog post about this very thing a while back.

I think this topic is very important as the myth of independent learning is pervasive and harmful. I think it is very difficult for a kid to work at a true challenge level independently.

#22 HiddenJewel

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 07:01 PM

Having my 5th grader in online classes has made him 90% independent from needing my help. This allows me to focus on my other 2 homeschoolers.


But with having an online class, your student is still being taught, just not by you.


I wrote a blog post about this very thing a while back.

I think this topic is very important as the myth of independent learning is pervasive and harmful. I think it is very difficult for a kid to work at a true challenge level independently.



I think you hit the nail on the head. Our experience has been that the depth of learning is much higher when we have regular interaction.
Humans are made for interaction with each other and that is where the richer learning takes place. We need the input of others to stretch our thinking.

Edited by HiddenJewel, 30 November 2011 - 07:03 PM.


#23 missmoe

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 12:12 AM

I wrote a blog post about this very thing a while back.

I think this topic is very important as the myth of independent learning is pervasive and harmful. I think it is very difficult for a kid to work at a true challenge level independently.


Excellent blog post. I agree with all you had to say.

#24 Barb_

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 12:43 AM

So if your child isn't working independently, it's okay--and normal!


:iagree:

Doesn't make it a myth, however.

#25 Barb_

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 12:48 AM

I wrote a blog post about this very thing a while back.

I think this topic is very important as the myth of independent learning is pervasive and harmful. I think it is very difficult for a kid to work at a true challenge level independently.


I don't think anyone expects a high schooler to be 100% independent. But it's perfectly reasonable to shoot for the reverse 80/20. 80% mom and 20% independent in 3-4 grade and working for 80% independent and 20% mom by say Sophomore year. I suspect those of us with "independent" students are there, but more in a background role. I do very little active teaching any longer, but I work with them to learn how to find the answers for themselves. I'm a resource co-ordinator. I discuss books and watch lectures and documentaries with them as the spirit moves me. I move from a teacher role into a mentor role as they move into their teens and that has worked very well for us.

#26 MamaJo

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 12:52 AM

Interesting. I suspect that my middle child will be like you suggest but my oldest is like you pictured it in your head.

#27 TXMary2

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 09:47 AM

:iagree: Well said, MissMoe. I had some of the same visions at the beginning and I thought my kids were going to be geniuses. LOL I realized several years ago that my job is to be their teacher, which means I have an active role. It is a full time job and I have accepted that I will just be very busy for many years to come.

#28 QuirkyKidAcademy

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 10:32 AM

I needed to hear this. Thank you!

#29 choirfarm

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 10:39 AM

But with having an online class, your student is still being taught, just not by you.





I think you hit the nail on the head. Our experience has been that the depth of learning is much higher when we have regular interaction.
Humans are made for interaction with each other and that is where the richer learning takes place. We need the input of others to stretch our thinking.


Well, yes. BUT my oldest has learned math completely independently. And no, he probably hasn't been challenged. But interacting with me will not challenge him ( see post on ratios). When we went to TCU, he came out with his eyes shining. They got into a discussion of what discrete mathmatics was. ( Never heard of it.) He thought it was SO interesting. Now, I know that he wouldn't have been challenged anymore in ps, so home school is the right option. He took the AP Stats test as a 10th grader and made a 5. But I still wonder if I am crippling him by not challenging him. But, sorry he is independent.

#30 SkateLeft

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 11:03 AM

I wouldn't call it the "myth" of independent work, nor would I use the word "fallacy," as another poster did. Just because some children aren't prepared to be independent much later, it's not a fair assumption to make for all kids. As with nearly everything else education-related, a lot depends on the child.

It really depends on how you define "independence."

#31 HiddenJewel

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 11:26 AM

It really depends on how you define "independence."


I think this is the larger issue - definition of terms. And a completely different question is the quality of independent learning (not independent work).

Edited by HiddenJewel, 01 December 2011 - 11:28 AM.


#32 Amy Jo

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 12:52 PM

Thank you for posting this!