For those of us who begin homeschooling when our children are young, we become accustomed to working alongside them, teaching them new concepts, repeating information, then reviewing or testing what they have learned. And if you have more than one child, it is so helpful if you can teach all of your children the same material, consolidating your efforts and making education a family endeavor.
If you have brought your child home from public or private school, you likely are working closely with him or her during the transition to make sure things are going well.
That is great! You should be totally aware of what they are learning and how they are doing. After all, we are homeschooling out of a desire to make sure our children thrive and have the best opportunities to learn.
But over the years, I have noticed that homeschool parents can have a hard time transitioning their children to take responsibility for their own lessons and assignments. Sometimes it is because it’s just easier to keep doing the same things with brothers and sisters. It is more work for Mom and Dad to have to deal with separate lesson plans and new curricula as their older ones grow. So they hold the older ones back for a while.
Other parents just don’t want their children to get behind or miss any information if they take on some assignments by themselves. So their high school students have to go to their parents as they complete each assignment and need their parents’ input every hour of the school day.
And other parents just enjoy learning with their children so much that they want to be able to continually engage with them, having deep conversations as new material is covered.
All these are reasonable and even good things, but we need to make sure that we have the right understanding of our position and responsibility as their parents and educators.
You see, we are working to train and educate our children to prepare them to become adults. So, yes, they need to learn lots of “data.” They have to be able to read, comprehend, write, calculate, think logically, know history, science, art, and literature.
But if we are sitting (or hovering) alongside them every step of the way, we are preventing them from growing both academically and in character, too!
In fact, building academic independence benefits your teen in two major ways:
First, they need to be academically prepared for whatever career path or occupation God has for them. By holding them back with their younger siblings for too long, you are deciding FOR them how much academic preparation they will have before they leave the home. And if a particular student is gifted in an area where they are held back, you know what happens…
They become bored and eventually don’t like learning that subject any longer. That is what happens to a gifted student in a classroom environment! The class learns at an average speed, and those who want to learn more become bored and either act up or lose interest. When you have an older student studying with younger siblings for too long, this can happen.
I know it is harder to have another curriculum for an older student. It’s more work, more expensive, and more time. But this is the opportunity to build independence in your older ones. Let them have ownership in choosing their curriculum. Let them help design their lesson plans and be responsible for making sure their work gets done. Give them deadlines with consequences and hold to them. Putting off assignments or doing a poor job will sometimes happen. Wouldn’t it be great to learn those lessons at home before they go into a college classroom or a job situation?
The second reason for building independence is to add to their character. Independence and self-government are critical qualities. Your students need to discover how to motivate themselves to complete assignments even when they don’t feel like it. After all, Life will hit them with this need right away. How many of us have to motivate ourselves to do our taxes each year, even when we don’t feel like it? Right??
Giving them school subjects where they are responsible for the progress is one way to do this. Consider a good time to allow them to get a part-time job or begin a small business, too. This can be combined with some of their academic subjects if it is an internship or is combined with lessons in economics. They will have to plan their weeks to make sure their school assignments are completed and their work schedules are met.
This is a gradual thing. You can still include your older students with your younger ones for some subjects. That situation has its own benefits and blessings. But just don’t forget that we are responsible to help prepare EACH of our children for the unique direction God has for them. They are made with individual strengths and passions, and it is our job…our privilege… to help build those traits so they are prepared to launch!