Working Independently Yet Responsibly

A reader recently asked ~

“Do you have any ideas when dealing with boys?  My son (11) to be a different learner, wanting to be more independent and do things on his own, which I am fine with and would like to encourage, however he keeps putting everything off and doesn’t want to be told when to learn….”

Your son’s desire to work independently often occurs when children, both boys and girls, move into their tweens and teen years.  The trick is to find the balance between independence  and accountability.  

I believe that independence is given through trust that is earned by repeated responsible behaviour, and so my teen children gained more independence when they regularly worked up to standard.  

I have written several posts on High School and independence here and here, and the tips and advice that I share below applies to high school ages, but you can apply most these points to your independent learner, whatever his age.  Here’s what I found works for us ~

  • Collaborate and decide together what subjects/ topics/ themes/ courses/ or programs your child wishes to cover.  When you provide delight-directed subjects, he will definitely be more motivated.  He may still have to cover other compulsory subjects to meet your country/ state’s education requirements, but if the majority of his homeschooling focuses on his interests and passions, he should co-operate with you.
  • Plan and schedule his subjects and determine his goals and deadlines. Create a basic timetable and a year plan.  Once you schedule his chapters/ lessons/ and topics over each month, this will form your basic year plan.   You can plan your child’s work on  Google Calendar or Homeschool Tracker or in a Spiral Notebook.
    Google Calendar
  • Keep track and record his work. Provide your child his own checklist so he can keep track of his own work.  I use my year plan for my record of work and created space to write comments, marks and dates.
  • Allow your child freedom to choose what and where he wants to work, providing he achieves a certain standard of work.  (Lying on the floor or bed to work is fine for some subjects, but is not effective for written work.) Teens often want to work in their own rooms.  Privacy is important, but, again, they need to demonstrate their responsibility in order to earn your trust.
  • Be flexible yet consistent.  Independent learners should work at their most efficient times (maybe later in the mornings or in the afternoons), but they should work regularly.
  • Set the standards and encourage your teen to raise their standard to meet the requirements for high school.
  • Be firm about how their work is presented or how detailed their notes should be.  Phase this in as they start their new work.  Encourage them to improve as they master the basics.
  • Very Important — Schedule regular accountability sessions with your independent learner.  Start with daily meetings before schooling starts, to discuss the schedule and his assignments.  Sign-off his check lists and discuss and evaluate his assignments at the end of the day.  Once he has accomplished his assigned tasks correctly and independently, you can meet to sign off his work once a week. These accountability sessions should be friendly, but focused meetings.   They are essential to building trust in relationship so that he can work more and more independently.  For example, if a child skips work or produces inferior work, re-schedule the assignment for him to do/ redo.  It is good to sit side-by-side and talk about the work, rather than simply tick pages with a red pen.  Quite often these discussions are an excellent opportunity to evaluate your child’s understanding, their focus or ability.  I make notes in my record of work when we meet.   Please read Heather Woodie of Blog, She Wrote post Fostering Collaboration With Morning Meeting Time.
  • Mom, you need to be consistent.  Keep an eye on your child’s progress.  Don’t skip meetings or forget to have daily or weekly meetings, because, before you notice, your child may fall behind or skip work altogether!  I “dropped the ball”  when I lost track of our middle daughters’ progress in her first year when she worked independently.  If I skip weekly meetings, some tasks fall below the standard.  Children need regular checkups with the necessary encouragement or suggestions to upgrade and improve in their work.
  • Never stick to something that simply doesn’t work!  You can adjust the course as you go along.  Find alternatives such as a study group/  a tutor or an online course where there is conflict between you and your child.
  • Tailor-make your homeschooling to include a variety of subjects such as life skills and entrepreneur options.
  • Ensure that your independent learner avoids obvious distractions such as cell phones, social media notifications, computer games etc.  My hubby insisted that our children put their cellphones in our bedroom at night until after 2pm the next afternoon, so that they had undisturbed sleep and homeschool without temptations of constant online distractions.
  • Above all, maintain a heart-to-heart relationship with your child.  Remain interested and involved in your child’s interests, passions and friends.  Even though they seem to “push us away” in their desire to become independent, they still want and need us in their lives.  Listen to their music, watch their games and videos.  Read aloud to them, laugh with them, pray with them.  Despite your changing role, this is still the most wonderful, intimate way to educate your child!

Dear mom, your child’s desire to work independently is actually your goal!  Our role as homeschool moms is to facilitate our children to become independent.  We need to prayerfully and graciously learn how to move out of center stage and stand in the wings of our emerging young adults’ lives.

Wishing you much wisdom and grace as you work through your son’s transition.

Blessings, Nadene


5 thoughts on “Working Independently Yet Responsibly

  1. Hi Nadene,

    Thank you for your reply……we are only into our 3rd year of homeschooling and I found I had to undo bad habits picked up at government school before re instilling good ones and became overwhelmed of all that was expected of me… perhaps my son is going through a little of this too……thank you for your ideas…..we are slowly, gently moving towards a stronger foundation.


  2. Hello Nadene. Thank you for these great pointers and tips that worked for you. Keeping a routine has worked well for our family is so many ways and for that I am grateful. As for our now 10 and 12 year old growing blessings and their desire for independence, they shared this desire for more independence with me on a walk one day. Soon after I tried, again, to make a list of book subjects that they had to do in a way that they could see. Then I told them what I expected to see completed in the morning before our mid-day break (lunch) and that they had to make sure their afternoon studies. They had a say in what they thought they wanted to do in the AM/PM. Each day for about a month or three we would revisit their outline and hopes and together we would revamp the subjects and the time when they are done…this would be done by talking together. So, communication and routine have worked well for our family and thus for me. Each day, when Daddy gets up to go to work we are all up and waving him good-bye before getting dressed and going on our morning routine ourselves. Each day Daddy goes to work, we go to work. When their book work gets done in a timely manor we head to the park or have “free time” in the day when they get to choose what they do with their time be that reading, playing with toys, or going outside. TV is not an option at this point, but we do enjoy Saturday morning cartoons and may slip a cartoon in during the week from time to time, it’s just not in the routine. *smile* So, for other moms in our boat, home school moms with growing blessings getting their first big bird wings so to speak. Just like the Lord carried us through potty training, teaching them to talk, and the start of home schooling in the first place, we will make it through this season as well and with His help we will do it gracefully. *big smile* Remember to pray always. Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!


    • Oh, I love your gentle approach, @Blessings! Your children will wonderfully transition into increasing independence with all the love, support and encouragement they need from you! Wishing you every blessing as you continue your homeschool journey!


      • Thank you so much Nadene! You have been a great source of encouragement to me along this path. Thinking about it… I think I’ve been following your blog for seven or eight years now. It’s been a long time, and you keep me remembering to bring painting and drawing into our lives even though it’s not my strong suit by any means. *big smile* Thank you for your encouraging words in this response too. I appreciate it! *big smile* Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!


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