How to Teach Kids to Learn Independently

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Have you ever dreamed of handing your child a textbook and walking away knowing it will be done despite you’re dashing off to deal with crisis? Or wanted to send your teenager off to college knowing they are able to teach themselves from a textbook and will thrive in the college setting? This is the advantage of teaching children to learn independently.

Teach kids to learn independently.

So just how do you do it?

Sit Next to Them

The first step to teaching kids to learn independently is to actually sit next to your child. Walk them through the problems. Show them how to read the instructions. Watch as they carefully work through each step. Small children need you to sit next to them the entire time they’re working, so don’t worry if your 1st and 2nd grader wants you there.

Dash Away

Once your child is comfortably able to work through some schoolwork, usually handwriting or math worksheets, try dashing away for a few moments. I usually get my child started and then suddenly remember I need to move laundry. Off I run, move laundry, and then return to check my child’s progress. These momentary dashes away gets your child used to working independently for a few minutes at a time.

Work Nearby

The next step to getting children to work independently is to work nearby, but not next to, your child. I like to get my child started at the kitchen table carefully working through their schoolwork. Then I stand at the kitchen sink to wash the breakfast dishes or fold laundry nearby. You’re close enough your child doesn’t feel like you’re deserting them, but they’re still able to work independently while you’re doing something else.

Give an Assignment List

Give your child a short assignment list once they’re able to work independently on one assignment with you nearby. As your child works through the list, walk to the other room. Fold laundry, wash dishes, or make beds. Check back with your child regularly. You’ll want to check to ensure the work is completed correctly. Ensure they understand what they’re learning and keep up the quality.

Check Back at the End of the Day

Once you’re certain your child is able to follow an assignment list, begin to sit down with your child in the morning for 30 minutes. Run through a quick tutoring session. Make certain your child understands what they’re suppose to be doing. This is critical. Children can sometimes get some wacky ideas in their heads. Double-check for understanding. Now send your child off to do their schoolwork. Check back at the end of the day to make certain the work has been done and done well.

Check Back at the End of the Week

Eventually you’ll be able to hand your child an assignment list and expect the work to be completed by the end of the week. This means your child will be able to sit down with their math textbook, read the lesson, watch the video explaining it, and complete the lessons. History lessons will be finished.

Science lessons completed. If necessary you’ll be able to focus events out of the house for short periods of time and know your children are still being educated. After all your child knows how to learn, to study, and take responsibility for their own education.

This Process Takes Years

This process takes years to complete. While my kids by late high school are able to complete their work and hand in assignments by the end of the week, none of my elementary children have been that responsible. More importantly, I discovered young children get crazy ideas in their heads.

They skip steps and misunderstand authors. While I encouraged them to complete work independently, that 30 minutes discussion everyday is critical in my homeschool. It’s when I ensure they understand their schoolwork.

Take your time when teaching children to work independently. Eventually you too will be able to hand a textbook to your child and know the work will be done.

Read more in the 31 Days to a Well-Run Homeschool series!

teach kids to learn independently

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  1. What a great post. This is our first year homeschooling my 10 year old, and in my head I gave her work, she worked on her work, I worked on my own stuff, and we lived happily ever after LOL. oh boy. Rude awakening. 🙂 I love how you set up these steps to help them become more independent though… I think they will definitely help us moving forward. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jackie! I had similar dreams as well. Assign my kids work. The assignments would appear on my desk like magic, completely done, done well, and on time. Some how that never quite happened until the junior and senior years of high school, lol. 🙂

  2. My children do this. They are very responsible and independent learners. As preschoolers, they attended a Montessori school were independence is encouraged all the time. We began the home education 2 years ago for their elementary. Most of the time they teach me…they go deeper into subjects, and explore their interest, which makes learning a joy!
    Independent learning is a wonderful skill and a wonderful adventure .

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