I know somewhere in our Mommy Hearts we secretly want our children to both live with us forever and to grow up and move out so there are fewer dishes and laundry. In theory, it’s great to be needed – except in the middle of the night anyway! In reality, when push comes to shove, we want our kids to grow up and move out to become productive members of society. This requires them to develop independence. In order for our children to develop independence we, as their parents and educators, must provide them with plenty of situations that foster independence
A mentor sets the tone for independent children
Our kids don’t just KNOW how to work independently, however. Fostering independence involves some mentoring on our part. To be an effective mentor you first must take the time to get to know your kids. This sounds like a no-brainer, I mean you are with them all day and they are YOUR KIDS after all. But, stick with me… It goes a little deeper than knowing that pizza is a favorite food and blue is a favorite color.
Mentoring is getting to know what kind of learner your child is. Understanding how they think. What motivates them to complete their work? Both schoolwork and chores? Do they just want to get it done to move on to the next task, or are they truly seeking knowledge to fulfill their purpose in life? Is your child working to their potential? Why or why not? What needs to happen to continue on the path to greatness or to adjust their sails?
This does not happen overnight. It is a process of getting to know yourself at the same time as you get to know each child. I have 3 children, and I like to meet with each child every day, one on one. In order to accomplish that – the other two absolutely need to be able to work independently. This is crucial to success. When I work one on one with each child I expect that this special time is not interrupted by the others. They must be able to meet their own needs (or be napping, or with another adult) while I am mentoring for 30 minutes each day.
Take a look at how FREE CHOICE LEARNING helps provide this important one-on-one time.
During our time together I keep notes about the basic likes, dislikes as well as things that are difficult and things that are easy. I can plan activities to help further develop fine motor skills, or sight word recognition, or formation of the letter “S” if that is a struggle. Together we set realistic, but challenging goals that focus on the strengths I notice in each child.
ways to foster independence
As you practice mentoring and implementing the free-choice learning strategies here are 7 ways to foster independence in your children
- Keep materials within reach
- Allow kids to get their own snacks (or make their own lunch)
- Set realistic, yet challenging goals together
- Provide choice
- Encourage risk-taking
- Expose them to other mentors
- Use self-assessment
Keeping Materials Within Reach
Back to the idea of being needed… You also might like a relatively clean home. Inadvertently this need for order may be impeding your child’s independence. Consider your school area. Materials should be within reach and easily accessible by each learner. You as the teacher should not have to “pass out” materials from behind cupboards. Scissors, glue, pens, pencils, and other common school items should be placed at kid level. If an item, like a glue stick, runs out, your child should know where to get a new one without interrupting you.
Serve Yourself Snacks and Lunch Time
I even went so far as to have the juice boxes and a “snack bin” placed in the pantry so my kids could get their own snacks at break time. I was available at snack time, but this autonomy builds confidence. Mommy does not have to do everything. As the kids are age-appropriate they can even make their own lunches, or help with dinner. Chores and other responsibilities around the home are necessary stepping stones to adult living.
Set realistic Goals
The key term is realistic. You don’t have to be a dream squasher, but I was not going to become a professional baseball player since I never set foot on a little league field. Goals must align with reality. And in order for goals to be accomplished, and your children to gain the benefits, they need mentoring and guidance. Goals don’t just magically manifest without any work. If your child wants to set a goal of learning the ukulele, that’s wonderful. Outline everything from earning the cost of renting or purchasing their own, to lessons or learning via online videos. How long will they practice a day? Is there a professional ukulele instructor available if they meet certain goals? You don’t learn to play when it sits in the case.
When a child stops engaging in a goal they have set, a good mentor explores why. Was practice too long? Is the instructor clear? Is there a conflict with their favorite television show? Can changing the goal help your child re-engage, or is it reasonable to abandon the goal? Achieving goals is MUCH MORE desirable than abandoning goals. It is only when success is realized that kids feel pride, a sense of accomplishment, and the satisfaction of self-reliance that helps foster independence.
Provide your children with choices
Choice is another strong motivator for building independence. Providing your child with choice is a way for them to feel as if they have control in their life. It can begin with choosing what to wear. If you are worried about the clothing matching, Lay out 2 or 3 complete outfits and let them choose from those. If you don’t care if things coordinate like Grananimals – then as long as a full closet isn’t overwhelming, allow choice!
Give options for demonstrating learning, such as a variety of ways to complete a Charlotte-Mason style narration. (LINK) Your kids can even choose the order of the subjects, as long as all the subjects are completed each day, the order in which they are completed is irrelevant.
As your child makes more and more decisions and discovers the natural rewards and consequences of those, they will get better and better at it. This builds confidence and fosters problem-solving skills.
As it is age-appropriate, encourage risk-taking. Risk implies a level of difficulty. It’s about riding a bike with training wheels, then removing them. When the training wheels are first removed, generally an adult holds onto the bike, then lets go as the child feels confident!
Risk-taking can also look like trying a new playground with larger play equipment or trying out for a team sport. It can even be spending the night at a friend’s house.
Kids don’t always understand the consequences of their actions, so good mentoring is important in this area as well. Keep in mind your child’s ability to follow instructions and understand consequences. If you say no, or stop – do they obey, as that can be a safety issue. On the other hand, encouraging them to go down the “big” slide by themselves sends the message you trust them!
When my daughter was 11 she learned how to light a fire in the fireplace. She was interested and eager.
Expose your children to other mentors
I have freely admitted I homeschooled out of fear, but God outsmarted me. He sent amazing people into my life so my children were not encapsulated in too tight of a bubble. Exposing them to other adult mentors was crucial to helping them establish independence.
Our homeschool group held park days and classes sharing the responsibilities of educating our children.
Another valuable tool to help foster independence is self-assessment. Self-assessment requires your child to take a critical look at their own work and the process in which they used to complete it.
Each week they chose an item of “BEST WORK” to display on our brag board. This style of self-assessment simply put is allowing the child to work at their own pace, produce work at their own level, and self-identify the need for improvement (if such need existed). Self-identifying is KEY to producing quality work during the school years and adult years! I take a deep dive into self-assessment and how it can increase motivation in THIS POST.
Thanks for stopping by Happy Hive Homeschooling to learn some ways to foster independence
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I’d love to chat with you each week about the methods I used to organize, schedule, and lesson plan in my homeschool with the hopes it will help you have a happy hive too. In the meantime, “Bee” sure to check out the different methods of homeschooling as well as our 3 easy strategies for burnout.