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Balancing Independent Work & Teacher-Directed Learning


How Do We Handle Independent Work?

As homeschool students grow, they work more and more independently. But, independent work will always require balance. Even young children can handle some independent work for short periods of time, and that ability will increase as they grow older. It is important to remember, however, that even older teens will still need one-on-one help with lessons at times.

By developing a rhythm and routine in your daily schedule, you can learn to train your child to work with increasing independence while also ensuring that you are available to help them stay on track and process through difficult or new concepts.

Points to Ponder

Here are a few tips for creating a balance between independent and teacher-led work.

Make a Schedule

The first step is to create a schedule that will work for your family. Remember, this is not a rigid, clock-oriented school schedule. Instead, it is a flow of routine that fits with the specific rhythm and needs of your family.  As you create your schedule, consider your needs, those of each of your children, and the amount of time necessary to fit “working with parent” time in for each child. Evaluate the differences between each child’s needs, your own work or home management schedule, the typical flow of attentiveness and attitudes during each portion of the day, and outside obligations or anticipated interruptions that may redirect your days. Remember that the greatest advantage to having a plan in place is that it allows you to know in advance exactly where you can flex the plan when life happens and the plan must change!


As you get your routine and daily flow processed, the next step is to choose books and materials that fit into the needs of your family. Whether you are purchasing a box set or pulling from a variety of sources, shop with this independent/together balance and the personalities of your children in mind. Remember that one child may be able to handle math mostly independently while another may need your help to process through the lesson. You may have a natural writer who loves to sit down with a notebook or computer and hash out writing assignments alone while another child may be very verbal, thus requiring you to be a scribe for writing assignments until they grow more accustomed to the process. As you shop, look for curricula that offer flexibility for working with the various needs of your children. Materials written to the student instead of the teacher, including a teaching syllabus in addition to the student text or books, often allow you to offer help early on while encouraging increased independence even in subjects where your child has typically required extra help.

Consolidate and Tweak

Now that you have created a schedule and selected your curriculum, it’s time to re-evaluate and see if there are any ways you can consolidate the “work with Mom” times. If your children are all in the same history cycle, for example, schedule to have everyone together for some history read-aloud time. Then, in one-on-one time, you can simply work through the comprehension activities geared toward each child instead of having to read the material multiple times.

This tweaking time will extend throughout the year as you make adjustments based on the flow and rhythm of life. For the first few weeks, hold all scheduling loosely as you make adjustments based on how each day really plays out. As the year progresses onward, be sensitive to the growth and progress of your child, and increase the independent work challenge to stretch and grow your budding student.

A Few More Thoughts

Homeschooling is a full-time job, but that does not mean it has to control you. You are in control of your schedule and you determine how much time you need to spend interacting with your children during each school day. By giving your children an increasing amount of autonomy and responsibility for their education, you train them well for adulthood while also keeping yourself from becoming overwhelmed and burned out.

In addition to working as managing editor for HEDUA, Ann is a missionary kid, second generation homeschooler, pastor's wife, and mom of three. She loves encouraging and equipping others, especially women in the homeschooling and ministry communities.

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