12 Ways to Support Student Independence and Autonomy in Learning

Posted on April 21, 2016 by Amanda Witman

Homeschooling parents often ask how they can help their children learn to work independently. Independence is a skill that grows slowly and needs to be nurtured over time. Students need opportunities to repeatedly practice and gain confidence in their capabilities. They also need to know they can trust that an adult will be ready and available for support when they need it.
Here are some ways parents and teachers can foster independence in children.

  1. Have them help plan how to set up their homeschool space. “How would you like to organize your space? You know yourself well; what would work best for you?”
    Photo credit: Lucy Enge  (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo credit: Lucy Enge
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  1. Let them pick out their own supplies. “What do you need? What do you like?”
  1. Give the student control over what they will learn. “What would you like to study? What are you interested in learning more about?” Help them understand educational requirements and encourage them to come up with ways to meet them.
  1. Help them develop the range of possible options. Listen when they have suggestions. “What other possibilities could we consider? Can you think of anything else?”
  1. Support different ways of demonstrating knowledge. Brainstorm possibilities with the student, let them choose, and then hold them accountable for their choices. “How would you like to share what you’ve learned?”
  1. Encourage them to use a planner or calendar. Provide one and show them how to use it. “You’re very capable. Let me show you how you can remind yourself what needs to be done.”
    Photo credit: The Bessent Family  (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo credit: The Bessent Family
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  1. Keep the schedule flexible. Let them tell you what they would like to do when. “What do you need to accomplish today? How will you make sure those things get done before tomorrow?”
  1. Encourage them to play outdoors. Playing on their own can help foster a sense of independence in children. “Go play outside! I know you can keep yourself occupied. It’s fun to be independent. If you need my support, you can ask.”
  1. Let the student define their own goals. Don’t demand perfection. Ask questions like, “What standards do you have for yourself?” “How accurate do you think this needs to be?” and “Are you satisfied with your progress?”
    Photo credit: Sarah Justice  (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo credit: Sarah Justice
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  1. Guide them; don’t direct them. Don’t tell them how to do things. “I trust you to figure that out on your own. Let me know if you need help.”
  1. Ask open-ended questions. Listen attentively to the answers they offer. “What do you make of this? What are your thoughts?”
  1. Let them learn from their attempts. Don’t correct them right away. Ask them, “How did things go? Could you make it better somehow? What do you think?”

What other ways can you think of to nurture independence in your homeschooled child?

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