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Homeschooling Independent Learners

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Homeschooling Independent Learners

Sometimes homeschooling can be frustrating; you dream of homeschooling independent learners, but how do you get there?  

Ashley is trying to get the dishes done while her daughter Emma works on her math assignment. “Mom, I don’t know how to do this!” “Let me get the teacher’s manual and we’ll go through the lesson again.” “But that lesson didn’t make any sense!”

Amy pulls out her son Micah’s ELA textbook and he groans “Do I have to? It’s so boring!”

Does this sound familiar? Do you struggle to find lessons for your kids that aren’t too hard or too easy? Do you want to help your kids learn to work through challenges on their own?

We have all heard about “Growth Mindset”, but how do you implement it?

Research has shown that there are two keys to raising independent, enthusiastic learners. First, you want to give them lessons at the right level. Second, you want to give them the right kind of support. But how?

To accomplish the first step of homeschooling independent learners, research shows that the right level to teach is the range that is not so easy they can do it alone, but not so hard they can’t do it even with help.  These are skills they have the background to learn, but will only be able to succeed with if they get your instruction and support. This is called the “zone of proximal development” or ZPD— MAP Growth assessments are designed to find student’s ZPD in math, reading, language usage, and science, and you get up to 30-60 pages of detailed information within days.

But once you know your child’s ZPD, how do you offer support while encouraging them to become independent learners? By using a technique called “scaffolding”. Like scaffolding in construction, instructional scaffolding provides a structure to help work on the problem that can be gradually removed.

For long division, scaffolding might look like this:
Phase 1: Sit with your child while they work each problem, reminding them of each step and teaching them a mnemonic.

Phase 2: Provide them with the mnemonic on a piece of paper for them to refer to while you are available to walk them through the mnemonic when they struggle.

Phase 3: Direct them to the mnemonic when they are struggling.

Phase 4: Let them work independently.

The magic here is that you aren’t just teaching long division, you are teaching them how to learn- the more you use scaffolding, the better they will be at using structures to learn new things, and with time they will be able to find or develop their own structures for learning.

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