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teaching 7yo to work independently

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This is our first year homeschooling and my oldest ( 7yo DD) has always had a hard time staying on task and doing things independently, not just schoolwork. I am making a big push right now to teach all the kids independence and responsibility in all areas before baby #4 comes but it would really benefit our school day as well. I am hoping to develop a routine where I can get the 7yo started on something and she can chug along while I work with my 5yo. She catches on quickly to math concepts but struggles to stay on task to complete practice problems. I would like her to be able to practice the recorder herself and do some copywork without constant prompting. All of her teachers (preK, K and 1st) have mentioned her trouble staying on task; it was a big issue last year in 1st grade. Anyone have suggestions on how to help her? Thank you!

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I can't really imagine a 7yr old being able to stay on task completely independently.  My DS is 6 going on 7 and if he does any independent writing or work, I am happily surprised.  As in, "ok write out this spelling word  times, I am going to go potty" and if I come back to "H O" written on the line, then I am happy.    He will be 7 in October

My DD8 turns 9 this month, She can be somewhat independent depending on the work and the day.  She does have an ASD diagnosis, but I don't think that really applies to her independence with school tasks.

I also have a 10 yr old who has more independence, but still, I have to prompt and direct quite a bit.  

I know the schools have mentioned it, but honestly, I am not sure that it's actually developmentally appropriate to expect a 7 yr old to stay completely on task with complete independence.  I think there are just way too many shiney things for 7 yr olds to completely ignore without some help.  

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I recently listened to SWB's podcast, Teaching Students to Work Independently. I found it to be very helpful. SWB offers good advice about transitioning kids to more independent work. Although recommends beginning this around age 9 (IIRC), not 7. https://welltrainedmind.com/p/teaching-students-to-work-independently-mp3/

Honestly, my daughter would not have been capable of doing any of her schoolwork independently at age 7. 7 is awfully young. I would suggest that it's completely normal for a 7 year old to have a hard time staying on task. I know that teachers tell parents that's a problem but the issue isn't usually with the kid but with unrealistic expectations. They probably tell that to every parent. I would also guess that the kids who stayed on task better in the 1st grade (at least according to the teacher) were probably a year older. 

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I agree with happysmileylady. "On task" while you are literally in the same room, with at least one eye on her, is possible for seven-year-olds. But not without feedback literally every few moments, and not with you out of sight or otherwise engaged.

Public schools sometimes have expectations (and therefore pressures on children and families) that are unresearched and developmentally inappropriate.

If your eldest is seven, even with a big push, you are not going to teach all your children to be independent and responsible in all areas, before your next baby comes. It would be more realistic and effective to thoroughly de-clutter your house, fill up the freezer, and establish regular routines for the whole family that you can manage. 

Alternatively, if you're concerned that baby #4 will be the one to finally push you over the edge into not being able to handle all of them in a homeschool setting, unless they are somehow capable far beyond their years...there's an interim suggestion for those who want to keep hs'ing the older dc, and that's to consider preschool or kindergarten for the middler. 

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So much to unpack here.

PreK and K teachers shouldn't have anybody struggling to stay on task.  It's not developmentally appropriate to have them do something alone for a pre-determined amount of time.  Look at a Montessori classroom.  The students have specific, guided lessons, and a work period where they choose the length of time on any activity to work. It's a quiet, calm setting that allows a child to develop that skill.  A classroom, where students are told to work on X for Y time and sit when done is not developmentally appropriate.

2nd graders don't work independently for the most part.  It doesn't matter that you have two other kids or a baby on the way.  That has nothing to do with the 2nd grader and their development.  2nd graders are still small children.  They watch, they observe, they listen, they act.  If you think that it's an appropriate request to ask a 2nd grader to filter out all the "distraction", you're not thinking about what is appropriate.  They watch, they observe, they listen, and they act.  You need to remove the things to watch, the scenes they are observing, the things they are listening to, if you want to focus on the action.

Your best bet is to work with each child independently.  Do the 2nd grader's work with her.  Do the Kinder's work with her.  Don't expect one to keep working alone.  Save that for later.  Work on the building blocks of the routine you want.  You want her to do the practice problems.  Minimize the distractions (naptime?) and sit with her.  I tend to wean kids off of attention.  I'm all over it at the beginning.  Every step, every problem, everything is talked through with my full attention.  Slowly it moves to just introducing the problem and checking it.  Then every other.  Then a whole row.  And we stay there for a few years, sometimes giving them space for the whole page, but not too often because I need to catch mistakes as they happen.  I'm not looking to provide a public school education, where I'm not sure what an individual kid is grasping or have to work on something longer because I'm not catching problems from the start. 
 

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So if you want to know if she has ADHD, you could get psych evals, talk with your ped, sort it out. I'm hard-pressed to remember 2nd grade for my dd (who is diagnosed ADHD and is on meds), but independent would NOT have been a word with her, lol. Structure, yes. Working from lists, doing the next task. So around 2nd grade I was what SWB I think calls "at elbow". Like we'd do the math lesson and I'd step from the table into the kitchen (10') and make lunch while she did a few math problems. Or we'd outline a retelling together and she'd type (again, at a computer in the kitchen), while I cooked. 

If I could say exceptionally gently, your oldest is looking old because you're pregnant with #4 and you're needing her to grow up. She's actually very young. Make sure you're staying developmentally appropriate and not stressing her out.

The key with ADHD is STRUCTURE. I agree with the suggestion to put some of them in school or bring in assistance if it's not working out. If she needs to be home, she needs to be home.You could also consider evals and meds. I'm not super heavy gung ho meds. Like with dd, she started them around 16. But honestly that's a LOTTA years of issues and a LOT of water under the bridge. I don't advise it. I had one and we used incredible flexibility to make it work. If it's not working, then bring in better tools. Just be kind of honest about whether it's working or not. ADHD doesn't really respond to feats of willpower, so either you adapt or she gets meds. 

The other thing about 4 kids 7 and under is you're wanting more efficiency. My dd needed a lot of custom, a lot of high interaction. You're probably going to hit some walls here with reality. And would meds make her enough more functional that you could get it to work? I'm just saying look at your whole situation. It might be something you need to push forward sooner.

Also, it's your first year, yes? I would consider it totally normal to throw away everything you bought, haha. I'm not joking. You're going to have a learning curve, no matter how well researched you are. Give yourself some grace on that and BE FLEXIBLE. There's a lot of virtue to read alouds, kid-driven projects, going out of the box. I can save you $$$ and tell you what the psych told me: GO OUT OF THE BOX. Every time there's the option, go out of the box. 

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Gently, this is an unrealistic expectation, that a 7yo can (or should) be capable of staying on task or working independently.

A 7yo only needs about 60-90 minutes of homeschooling a day maximum. Some of that will be direct one-on-one teaching time, and read-alouds. Surely you could find small taks (such as folding laundry, making lunch, etc.) that could be done during that remaining time of school, where you can do the task while sitting right with your student to gently help keep her on task as needed?

When the 7yo has finished, then spend 30-45 minutes with the 5yo, and have a stack of *supplements* that the 7yo could do independently (while you work with the 5yo), as "added value" to do in addition to your core 1-1.5 hours of homeschooling. Or, have 7yo entertain the toddler while you teach the 5yo, and have the basket of independent supplements handy for throughout the day, as your 7yo student *wants* to do them.

Ideas:
- listen to audio book
- basket of books at or below her comfortable reading level for self-reading
- education video or computer game or educational website
- "fun pages" of age-appropriate mazes, very simple word searches, logic puzzles, and other printable activities
- sticker book, dot-to-dot book, paint with water book, etc.
- Rush Hour Jr. or other solo hands-on logic puzzle
- put together a jigsaw puzzle (50-100 pieces are a good amount for this age)
- explore with a basket of art supplies (clay; markers or stamping markers; construction paper/scissors/glue; downloaded/printed craft project; etc.)
- learn to sew or crotchet or other hand craft and let her loose on some very simple/basic patterns/projects
- a manipulative and a go-along solo-working workbook (like, cuisenaire rods and Picture Puzzles with Cuisenaire Rods; pattern blocks and Math Discoveries with Pattern Blocks; geoboards and downloaded printed pages; tangrams and puzzle card set; etc.)
- a page or two out of Miquon math as a supplement to your spine
- age appropriate science kit
- a few pages out of Brain Quest or Complete Book of 1st Grade or Kumon workbooks

Edited by Lori D.
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6 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

PreK and K teachers shouldn't have anybody struggling to stay on task. 

So yes, this is something the op can google!! For K5ers, a normal amount of "independent" work is something like coloring a page when they come in the door. That's like 3 minutes. That's normal independent work, lol. And if you look at 1st graders, they might have centers that run 5-10 minutes. I googled 2nd grade independent work and popped up an expectation of centers lasting 15-20. 

So my dd in 2nd was doing maybe 10-15 minutes of independent work. And a dc doing that in school would have routine, STRUCTURE, herd effect. Their day might roll the say way each day, with a routine they're used to, so they have habit. All the kids are doing it (going to stations, whatever), so there's herd effect. These structures can help ADHD kids who have more internal entropy and can't create their own structure.

So it's so, so important to be developmentally realistic. Even the MOST AGGRESSIVE people I've read, aggressive/ambitious/pick your word, would say "independent" in 4th grade. Anything before that we expect highly supervised. And if there's ADHD, we expect a 30% delay and the kid just flat to need more supports, more help structuring. So you back off 1-2 years and that's the more realistic "independent" level.

I like ADHD unmedicated. If the kid likes themselves in their state and it's working, it's working. It's not like you HAVE to function a certain way. But sometimes the kid likes themselves better on meds, honestly. And if the kid has ADHD and you're not going to medicate, you have to be willing to bend and meet them where they are.

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4 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

Ideas:
- listen to audio book
- basket of books at or below her comfortable reading level for self-reading
- education video or computer game or educational website
- "fun pages" of age-appropriate mazes, very simple word searches, logic puzzles, and other printable activities
- sticker book, dot-to-dot book, paint with water book, etc.
- Rush Hour Jr. or other solo hands-on logic puzzle
- put together a jigsaw puzzle (50-100 pieces are a good amount for this age)
- explore with a basket of art supplies (clay; markers or stamping markers; construction paper/scissors/glue; downloaded/printed craft project; etc.)
- learn to sew or crotchet or other hand craft and let her loose on some very simple/basic patterns/projects
- a manipulative and a go-along solo-working workbook (like, cuisenaire rods and Picture Puzzles with Cuisenaire Rods; pattern blocks and Math Discoveries with Pattern Blocks; geoboards and downloaded printed pages; tangrams and puzzle card set; etc.)
- a page or two out of Miquon math as a supplement to your spine
- age appropriate science kit
- a few pages out of Brain Quest or Complete Book of 1st Grade or Kumon workbooks

Just for laughs, this is EXACTLY the kind of stuff I have my ds10 (5th gr by age) doing for his independent work! That's what he's capable of independently. He can't self-teach for academics, but we're always wanting to work on independent work, waiting skills, compliance, etc.

And for op, I'll just mention that when I structure my ds' independent work, I have these vertical magazine bins, so he knows to work through them and put the completed work into the completed work bin. So for him it's 3X5 min or 4X5 min, but still high structure.

Edited by PeterPan
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59 minutes ago, Lang Syne Boardie said:

If your eldest is seven, even with a big push, you are not going to teach all your children to be independent and responsible in all areas, before your next baby comes. It would be more realistic and effective to thoroughly de-clutter your house, fill up the freezer, and establish regular routines for the whole family that you can manage...

 

...2nd graders don't work independently for the most part.  It doesn't matter that you have two other kids or a baby on the way.  That has nothing to do with the 2nd grader and their development.  2nd graders are still small children.  They watch, they observe, they listen, they act.  If you think that it's an appropriate request to ask a 2nd grader to filter out all the "distraction", you're not thinking about what is appropriate...
...Your best bet is to work with each child independently.  Do the 2nd grader's work with her.  Do the Kinder's work with her.  Don't expect one to keep working alone...
...Work on the building blocks of the routine you want....


Can't like and agree with these 2 posts enough!!! 👍 👍 👍

Edited by Lori D.

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Teaching independence is not something that can be taught to children in 9 months or less especially with a child too young to realistically expect independence. I typically start teaching independence with school work in 3rd grade. Depending on the child and what I've learned I can reasonably expect from that particular child, they start with one or two tasks they already know how to do with me sitting right there. These tasks take 5 - 10 minutes with me sitting right there. They typically take twice as long when they start learning to do it independently. I don't expect them to start being fully independent with any of their school work until 6th grade at the earliest. So it literally takes 3 years of training them and working with them for them to be reliably independent where I can give them a list with the reasonable expectation that they complete it. And even then there are still subjects they cannot complete independently and days that they rebel and try to see if I really do still want them to complete the work to the same standards every time. 

Homeschooling with a house full of littles is no easy task. It takes enormous amounts of time and patience. It can be done, I have done it and lived to tell the tale but I did get more than a few grey hairs from the experience. The way I handled it was to let go of my unrealistic ideas of what school should look like and make peace with the fact that even though it didn't look like what I imagined, they were still learning and still thriving. Combining subjects where ever I could was much more effective than trying to force my kids to be independent before they were developmentally ready. I was in your shoes and trying to figure out how to do everything with lots of kids in the house. In the end, it was my preconceived notions and unrealistic expectations from lack of experience that had to change.

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I'm afraid I have to agree with others that it is a rare seven year old who can do school work independently.

On the positive side, her schoolwork doesn't need to take long. Work with her for twenty minutes on math, twenty minutes language arts, ten minutes recorder practice, and do something fun like play a game together or go for a nature walk a few times a week. Get your dh to read aloud to her at bed time and you've got a decent education program for a seven year old. Anything more you do with her schoolwise is bonus.

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What about making your goal to have a "School Routine" in place before the baby arrives?  So that when you say "It's time for school now."  She knows to expect subject X.  Then come Subject Y.  and so on.    If a mom can make the routine predictable, that's one less battle you have to fight.

Sometimes the novelty of a personal timer from the dollar store might provide some incentive to focus ... but start with short, short time periods and work your way to longer duration.

A memory binder is working magically for us this year.  Of course some things need to be done together (the memory part ha!) but I started adding math worksheets or handwriting worksheets under a section.  I think my DC likes that he has control and knows which tabs to go to.  (Daily, Odd/even, day of the week, number of day in the month).  And often, there will be a whole worksheet for that day, but then  I just ask him to do half of the problems.  It's a little motivating to know you only have to *half* a worksheet.  Oh- and make these worksheets (that are really ,meant for training independence) below what she's learning; make it easy for her to succeed.

As for copywork, assuming she has the letter formation mastered, perhaps start with just a small chunk to copy - but make sure it's DC's best, most beautiful handwriting.  If it's sloppy then they have to do it again.  .... And I'd start this with just one, short word, so that they get practice in "doing-it-right-the-first-time."  Once the habit of careful, neat handwriting is mastered, then you can increase the required output.  Could DC listen to classical music while doing copywork?  or get to burn a scented candle nearby?  or use a smencil? something peppermint to get DC to be alert & focus?

But with all these suggestions, I'd be starting with  2 min or 5 min of independence ... in other words, short periods!

ETA:  you could start teaching her to use a check-list.  "Ok, we did our 15 minutes of math.  That's number 3 on our list, so let's cross that off our list!"  Again, it's not really independence, but you're laying the groundwork and knowledgeable and habits for when it IS time.

Edited by domestic_engineer
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I agree with pp. Asking for a 7 yo to work independently is...a lot. FWIW, my just turned 9 yo still does 99% of his work with my at elbow. Some things (cursive and copywork) I can get him started and putter around the kitchen (we do written subjects at our kitchen table). But if I give him a math problem, I need to be right there. Also, all of mine do better when they are the only kid in the room. If they aren't the kid I am working with, they go play. 

My only suggestion is that all of my HS kids do better working with our visual timer. They know that when it goes off, they get a break even if they are in the middle of a lesson. And if they wrap up a lesson with only a couple minutes to spare, I let them break early and make the timer ring themselves. (Who'd have thought that'd be an incentive to get work done?)

As pp have said, I'd work on decluttering and making sure you have a rhythm to your days for your older kids. That's what's been helpful each time we've added a kid (we have 4). They like knowing what's coming next, even if I did/do have to pause the rhythm for taking care of baby/toddler. Most helpful though has been giving myself/us grace and remembering that this is a season of life that will soon pass. 

GL finding what works for you and yours and congrats on the soon-to-be addition to the family!

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After some sleep and further thought, OP, I think what you really want is a smooth (as smooth as it can be) transition to life with another person in the house.  I think what you are *really* after is that your DD has a heart that is willing to do what you ask and with a good attitude.    Because if she's independently doing her work -- but doing it with a resentful or grumpy attitude -- then you'll be frustrated with your day.  I think her independence is a symptom/outward appearance of a deeper heart attitude, which is really what you want to establish in your daughter.  So, I'd encourage you to focus your vision on what you'd like from her .... then figure out how you can develop and make progress (not necessarily completion) towards that goal that in the weeks before baby comes.     (If only we could snap our fingers & immediately our kids have a joyous, compliant spirit ....... hahahaha.........)

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For math you could set a timer for how long it should take her to complete the work and then give her a small reward if she finishes in time. You could also use the timer to let her know what is expected. For example you tell her that it is time to practice the recorder. You set the timer and tell her to practice until it goes off. If it is really difficult for her to stay on task start with just 5 minutes. Once she is successful with that increase the time to 10 minutes. 

Routine is very important if you want kids to work independently. They need to know what they are supposed to be doing and what comes next. You can teach a 7 year old to do some of their work independently but it requires training. They need to be clearly told what is expected and there needs to be rewards and/or consequences for doing or not doing what is expected. 

Susan in TX

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My personal bias is that homeschooling actually requires someone doing the schooling.  It isn't meant to be done all independently.  I know people do it but I don't think that it is what homeschooling is supposed to be about.  Honestly, even a mediocre school that actual provides schooling would be a better choice. 

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Here are some things that my 7 year old son can do independently:

Select a library book from the basket and read/browse it on the couch for 10 minutes

color a history coloring page

do one math problem on the whiteboard that I have written for him while I get him a snack/clean up a mess

Help the 5 year old get a simple snack or get out/help with a toy while I am doing something else

today he asked to do a line of his cursive page by himself but I asked him to wait for me - I wanted to observe his letter formation. 

I understand where you are - I have a baby due in January and it will be an adjustment. I see a lot of me nursing at the table supervising school this winter and spring 🙂

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"Independence" with a 7yo is going to be

  • establishing a readiness-for-school routine (up, make bed, breakfast, brush teeth, dress, comb hair, whatever she needs to do). My child needed a visual checklist for this.
  • establishing a mini-chore to do each day (e.g., sweep the kitchen before coming to school)
  • establishing a school-starting routine with her (she gathers her workbox or whatever so she has a sharpened pencil and eraser and whatnot)
  • previewing the school list for the day, unless it's just the same every day (in which case do put it up on a wall or something for reference)
  • working in each subject like this: you introduce/explain, you demonstrate, she tries an example while you watch & give feedback, you ask her to see if she can do the rest of the page (and invite her to skip any that turn out to be confusing, but keep trying on the other ones). If a page is long (depending on your curriculum), one row or line or another short piece will work better.
  • establishing a school-ending routine (she puts what where?).

 

Edited by whitehawk
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7 minutes ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

My personal bias is that homeschooling actually requires someone doing the schooling.  It isn't meant to be done all independently.  I know people do it but I don't think that it is what homeschooling is supposed to be about.  Honestly, even a mediocre school that actual provides schooling would be a better choice. 

I don't think it is helpful to conflate valuing and cultivating independence with expecting a 7 year old to school themselves completely independently.

I am firmly in favor of the former and firmly opposed to the latter.

My 10 year old is just now able to work out of my sight for 15ish minutes at a time.  Up until now, all of my kids were fully supervised during every minute of school.  And yet, if I had a 7 year old, who after listening to me thoroughly teach/explain a concept or assignment, still struggled to work on it independently for 5-10 minutes with me nearby but not entirely focused on them, then that is definitely a skill I would work on.

I expect my 6 year olds, who so far have all had ADHD and other neurodevelopmental challenges, to work independently (in my sight, but with me only rarely needing to help or refocus them, for 5-10 minutes) on handwriting/copywork, assigned reading, practice math problems, typing, a Spanish flashcard app, a simple grammar workbook, and warming up at the piano before a lesson.  I also expect them to be able to stick with simple independent chores such as sweeping under the table for 5ish minutes.

That does not mean I am leaving any of my kids to school themselves and that they would be better off in any old school rather than having me force independence on them.  It does mean that when I sit down to teach a child a math lesson they gets my (mostly) undivided attention because all the other kids, including the 3 year old, have learned how to work independently for a short period of time.

In short bursts, I think independence is an incredibly valuable skill...for my special needs kids, actually more important than any academics I am teaching.  I have to explicitly teach and coach age-appropriate amounts of independence, but that effort is strengthening the child's executive function, perseverance, problem solving, self-control, ability to focus, self-talk, etc.

Wendy

 

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1 hour ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

My personal bias is that homeschooling actually requires someone doing the schooling.  It isn't meant to be done all independently.  I know people do it but I don't think that it is what homeschooling is supposed to be about.  Honestly, even a mediocre school that actual provides schooling would be a better choice. 

 

I agree that homeschooling requires someone doing the schooling and should not be done all independently. But that doesn't mean that children shouldn't be doing some work independently. Even in school most of the work is done independently by the child. The teacher explains what the children in a class are expected to do and the children are expected to then do the work themselves. There is no way a 1st grade teacher with 23 or more students can be right there with every child. So even in a school setting young children are expected to do work independently.

Susan in TX

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Audiobooks! That's the only way my 7 year old will work independently while I teach the other kids. And that's not for very long either. We use them a lot. For history he'll listen to Story of The World. We'll go over the activities together afterwards though, he wouldn't do it by himself.

We use them for literature too. He'll read a regular book by himself for about 10 minutes at most before giving up and wanting attention. Now give him the iPad (locked on the app) plus an activity to do with his hands (Lego, magna-blocks, play-doh, coloring or painting...) and he'll last a lot longer. I've seen him jumping on the trampoline, playing on the playground all while listening to a book. I don't know about you, but that counts as reading in my book. 

As far as other subjects like math, english and science... Those require my full attention. He won't do a whole exercise sheet by himself, it's like he needs me to say "ok, next problem now!" even if he knows the content, and I make it very clear that he'll be completing the page 😁 At this point, I don't mind. I am slowly trying to teach him to keep going, but I expect it to take time.

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5 minutes ago, Susan in TX said:

 

I agree that homeschooling requires someone doing the schooling and should not be done all independently. But that doesn't mean that children shouldn't be doing some work independently. Even in school most of the work is done independently by the child. The teacher explains what the children in a class are expected to do and the children are expected to then do the work themselves. There is no way a 1st grade teacher with 23 or more students can be right there with every child. So even in a school setting young children are expected to do work independently.

Susan in TX

In first grade, most teachers are walking around the room, tapping kids on the shoulder, pointing to the papers, gently calling a kid by name to refocus him or her and so on.  And that's about what I would expect from my own 6yr old.  Today, we were doing phonics and he had to simply write out each word to name the picture.  There were 6 or 7 words.  He was writing the first word, I turned to help DD10 with something on her math.  That took probably about 5 minutes.  In that time, he had finished the first word, and started on the second, but still hadn't written the last letter.  He was coloring in various parts of the picture for that word.  I only had to tap on the paper and he said "oh, sorry" and got back to work.

So no, a first grade teacher isn't right there 100% of the time, and in a similar manner, neither am I.  I have 3 (rather than 27) and I am often moving about among all 3 as they work.  But, there's no way I could assign DS6 to write 6 words, walk away and unload the dishwasher, and expect him to have all 6 words written.  Likewise, in a classroom of 27 kids, I don't think most teachers would assign the kids to write 6 words, then go make a phone call to a parent and come back and expect that the kids are going to have all the words written.  Some might, some might still be on task, but I suspect most start playing around, doodling, drawing, talking, etc within a few minutes.  

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I love Lori's list of suggestions, those are all great things for younger ones to work on their own. 

And I also agree with the suggestion that your time is better spent working on routines, decluttering, and organization. 

It will also be ok if you get none of it done, my 4th pregnancy brought thyroid disease and I hs'd from the couch and you know there was a blessing in that. I really cherished that snuggle time with the kids and didn't have the energy to try and accomplish all of these other things. 

The key with it all is to find where your daughter is and meet her there and remember the most important thing is the relationships, not how clean the house is or how organized you are or how much you get done, so give yourself and her some grace.

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3 hours ago, whitehawk said:

"Independence" with a 7yo is going to be

  • establishing a readiness-for-school routine (up, make bed, breakfast, brush teeth, dress, comb hair, whatever she needs to do). My child needed a visual checklist for this.
  • establishing a mini-chore to do each day (e.g., sweep the kitchen before coming to school)
  • establishing a school-starting routine with her (she gathers her workbox or whatever so she has a sharpened pencil and eraser and whatnot)
  • previewing the school list for the day, unless it's just the same every day (in which case do put it up on a wall or something for reference)
  • working in each subject like this: you introduce/explain, you demonstrate, she tries an example while you watch & give feedback, you ask her to see if she can do the rest of the page (and invite her to skip any that turn out to be confusing, but keep trying on the other ones). If a page is long (depending on your curriculum), one row or line or another short piece will work better.
  • establishing a school-ending routine (she puts what where?).

 

Thank you! This is what I am talking about. We are a long way off on most of these items. I have been working on the morning routine with all the kids (currently I am still in the room prompting for most steps) and want to expand the training into our school day.

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3 hours ago, wendyroo said:

I don't think it is helpful to conflate valuing and cultivating independence with expecting a 7 year old to school themselves completely independently.

I am firmly in favor of the former and firmly opposed to the latter.

My 10 year old is just now able to work out of my sight for 15ish minutes at a time.  Up until now, all of my kids were fully supervised during every minute of school.  And yet, if I had a 7 year old, who after listening to me thoroughly teach/explain a concept or assignment, still struggled to work on it independently for 5-10 minutes with me nearby but not entirely focused on them, then that is definitely a skill I would work on.

I expect my 6 year olds, who so far have all had ADHD and other neurodevelopmental challenges, to work independently (in my sight, but with me only rarely needing to help or refocus them, for 5-10 minutes) on handwriting/copywork, assigned reading, practice math problems, typing, a Spanish flashcard app, a simple grammar workbook, and warming up at the piano before a lesson.  I also expect them to be able to stick with simple independent chores such as sweeping under the table for 5ish minutes.

That does not mean I am leaving any of my kids to school themselves and that they would be better off in any old school rather than having me force independence on them.  It does mean that when I sit down to teach a child a math lesson they gets my (mostly) undivided attention because all the other kids, including the 3 year old, have learned how to work independently for a short period of time.

In short bursts, I think independence is an incredibly valuable skill...for my special needs kids, actually more important than any academics I am teaching.  I have to explicitly teach and coach age-appropriate amounts of independence, but that effort is strengthening the child's executive function, perseverance, problem solving, self-control, ability to focus, self-talk, etc.

Wendy

 

Thank you, thank you! I feel like I spend just as much time, if not more, teaching these skills as I do on actual academics. I absolutely agree that it is well worth my time if I want to educate more than one child. It is very encouraging to hear that even if the presence of neurodevelopmental challenges, which I suspect she may have, it is possible for her to learn to work for a 5 minutes with minimal refocusing. I am completely happy to answer questions. I do not want to be a nag. Thanks, Wendy! Now for the HOW

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19 minutes ago, omishev said:

Thank you, thank you! I feel like I spend just as much time, if not more, teaching these skills as I do on actual academics. I absolutely agree that it is well worth my time if I want to educate more than one child. It is very encouraging to hear that even if the presence of neurodevelopmental challenges, which I suspect she may have, it is possible for her to learn to work for a 5 minutes with minimal refocusing. I am completely happy to answer questions. I do not want to be a nag. Thanks, Wendy! Now for the HOW

In my experience: structure + explicit teaching + lots and lots of practice/mistakes/redo's.

But to be honest, in our house the biggest factor has been meds.  Last year Spencer spent the first three quarters of the year unmedicated and could not do ANYTHING independently...heck even with intensive scaffolding and supervision he could do very little.  He could not write his name without losing focus between every letter; he could not brush his teeth, get dressed, read a Bob book, finish a meal, etc.

He was diagnosed and started on med in April and suddenly he had an almost age-appropriate amount of executive function.  Suddenly he could do a puzzle, draw a picture, fix himself a simple snack, complete a couple math problems on his own, etc.  The meds have really allowed him to function and thrive and actually enjoy school and play activities.

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21 hours ago, wendyroo said:

In my experience: structure + explicit teaching + lots and lots of practice/mistakes/redo's.

But to be honest, in our house the biggest factor has been meds.  Last year Spencer spent the first three quarters of the year unmedicated and could not do ANYTHING independently...heck even with intensive scaffolding and supervision he could do very little.  He could not write his name without losing focus between every letter; he could not brush his teeth, get dressed, read a Bob book, finish a meal, etc.

He was diagnosed and started on med in April and suddenly he had an almost age-appropriate amount of executive function.  Suddenly he could do a puzzle, draw a picture, fix himself a simple snack, complete a couple math problems on his own, etc.  The meds have really allowed him to function and thrive and actually enjoy school and play activities.

Wow, that's amazing! Thank you for sharing your experience. I want to take a few months to establish our routine and work on these skills before we start exploring other options but it is encouraging to hear a success story. My completely uneducated opinion was that some families turn to medication as the easy way out when they don't want to put the effort into training, nutrition and other lifestyle modifications but I know from years of reading your posts that you are doing all of the above to ensure your kids thrive! 

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