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

 

Google Calendar Planning

Earlier this year I shared how I use Google calendar for homeschool planning.

I want to emphatically declare that it was a huge success!

Not only was it quick and simple to plan all the school days, holidays and exam dates, but each child had their own calendar which helped me keep track of their work and their schedules.

My eldest wrote her matric and had a very strict schedule. After 11 years of fairly flexible homeschool scheduling, this was quite an adjustment for both of us. She has her own Gmail account and could get access to her own calendar on the desktop computer. I plotted out when her portfolio assignments had to be couriered to the marking department before the deadline dates. Also I added moderation dates, extra lessons and, most importantly, her exam dates. Because she wrote her exams at an exam centre in town, we had to book accommodation for some weeks. With Google calendar on my smart phone, I could easily confirm our accommodation bookings while in town.

For my youngest child, I did all my detailed planning in the beginning of the year and added details, websites, images, uploaded files and downloads to the description box for each event, sometimes fleshing these plans out a bit more as we went along.

I rescheduled some lessons if we fell behind with a quick click and change of dates. Some lessons I simply deleted (… sigh … we didn’t do it all …), but most the plan worked! Her calendar is now my record of work!  How nifty is that?

My middle child wrote Grade 8 this year. Her curriculum was fully planned and so I used Homeschool Tracker (HST) to record her exam and term marks. The HST program is quite complicated and I can only do the very basics. (I should have stayed with the free Homeschool Tracker Basic download … and buying the full offline HST program is one of my few homeschool purchase regrets …)  Despite my limitations, I typed in her subjects and exam dates for the year and entered her marks when done. It worked very well, and I printed her term reports and sent her mark sheets away with a click of a button.

For those clever moms that can plan and record using HST, my hats off to you! It is a brilliant program … I’m still just not brilliant enough to figure it all out!

Google calendar is a very versatile tool. You can add and change, delete and amend with no training. It is a wonderful platform on all the computers and smart phones.  It keeps the whole family, including dad, in sync. I am definitely going to continue to use it for our homeschooling!

As we enter 2014, I want to thank all my readers for their kindness and compassion and friendship.

May the Lord bless you and your families and fulfil all your hopes, prayers and plans for the New Year!

Blessings,

Google Calendar Homeschool Planning

I simplified my homeschool planning for 2013 by entering everything on Google Calendar.

[To be honest, I use my Google calendar for my planning and I haven’t put it to the test with our actual 2013 schedule … and I still love paper calendars … smiles]

But it is an amazing immediate planning tool!  It is an easy way to capture all the basic lessons, add all the website-finds and organize the schedule with repeats to fill the weeks and months for a whole year!

Google Homeschool Calendar Jan2013For example,I quickly jotted the theme/ subject for each month and put these into the calendar.  As I searched out my Famous Artist pictures, biography etc. for the month, I simply copied all the website links, YouTube URLs, PDF files and documents right on the lesson plan on the calendar.  I used these details later to create my actual pages and detailed lessons.

A few extra tips for planning Famous Artist studies:

I often use Pinterest for picture searches. Repins add these new finds to my collection. I also right-click and “save image” to my computer and download images to each famous artist’s folder. Quick and easy = online visual record of my searches on Pinterest + a copy on my computer to use as a screen-saver or print out.

Here’s an example of my famous artist lesson plan: Famous Artist study and notes

How Google Calendar planning works for me ~

  1. Create a calendar for each child. (Create each calendar in a different color.)
  2. Plot in all school holidays to create my school terms.  (I downloaded the 2013 government school terms as my guideline)  You can copy your calendar to any other calendar you create.
  3. Plan the year with subjects and topics divided across the 12 months.  (I do this with good old-fashioned pen and paper first)
  4. Type in the Nature Study topic, Hymn, Famous Artist and & Famous Composer for every month of the year.
  5. Enter subjects as an event.  In the event mode, I can also add #6, #7, #8, #9 and #10 below.
  6. Assign a color for each subject. (On the calendar it shows as a colored bar, on the printout it is a small rounded square of color)
  7. Click for repeated themes or lessons – Google calendar offers daily, specific days each week, all work-days, weekly, monthly etc.
  8. In the “Descriptions” box, add lessons, chapters & pages to the basic lesson entry. It may be easy to type in the book title for all and then go back to each repeat lesson to add the specific chapter and page numbers.
  9. Also add website links, documents, files and notes for each lesson in the description box.
  10. Attach files. I love this feature as I can organize my downloads to each lesson and print out lapbooks, maps, pictures later when I prepare for the month ahead.Attach document to calendar
  11. Under Tasks add further details for the day – complete and hand in a lapbook/ do a review or a test.
  12. Reminders can easily be added in the edit form – either as an email or a pop-up.  (I chose a pop-up because I don’t want my inbox cluttered with reminders.)
  13. I can print out the calendar.  You can select daily, weekly, the agenda, or monthly view, or even a specific range of dates. (I must confess I am disappointed that text does not wrap in the month view, and even when I selected the “smaller” print size, it was tiny and difficult to read.) I created events as “all day” rather than schedule the times so that the lesson prints out without the times taking up the space. Tick off  the “Add Descriptions” box to have all the extra info printed with the lessons. If printed in color all the events are printed with a small colored block.

This is what the Week Agenda looks like ~ Google Calendar Agenda View

If I had typed in the lessons with time schedules, these lessons would be listed with times instead of “All day” and would be arranged in order of their times.

My Task List print out would look like this:Google Task print out

Some other great features:

  • My Calendar year plan print out will also become my record of work.
  • I can tick off attendance and completed tasks on the calendar as we go along – both on the tasks on the actual Google calendar or on my paper print out.
  • With a click I can add my personal plans/ meal plans/ birthdays on the calendar view.
  • Drag and drop makes changes simple!
  • My calendar on my laptop is available for the kids on the desktop.  If children are old enough and have a gmail account, they can log in and access the calendar for themselves. (Just ensure that “modify event” box is unticked if you don’t want them to make changes)
  • I can take my calendar everywhere on “smart” phone.  This is useful when booking appointments or checking upcoming themes when browsing in the library.

I must admit that mid-year I went and bought the Homeschool Tracker Plus program hoping to use it to plan and record my highschooler’s academic year, but it is just way too complex for me.  Even though I used the forum, I kept getting muddled entries, or “loosing” a whole year’s plans for a subject … and I gave up. (I must spend some more evenings watching their training videos and I still would like to master the program as I believe that it will be a valuable tool.)

But right now, I have easy, quick, detailed and comprehensive plans that work for me on Google calendar.

Do you use Google calendar? What other Google calendar planning tips and tricks do you have?

Blessings,

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