Topic | Moving toward working more independently…

This topic contains 17 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Michelle G. 6 years, 5 months ago.

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  • I would love some advice from all of you about gently moving my 9yo son (almost 10) toward working more independently…

    Does anyone have ideas about charts, check sheets or schedules?  Or any ideas about how to organize your childrens’ work so that they know exactly what is expected of them each day? 

    How about them directing some of their own studies? 

    Any habits that you feel must be in place before this should be attempted? 

    Pretty much any suggestions would be helpful.  We do A LOT together he and I, and I want to gradually start working away from that so that he becomes more independent and responsible for his own learning and so that I have more time and attention for my youngers.  We are not super new to homeschooling but we are new to CM and very enthusiastic! Laughing

    Thanks in advance,



    Hi Michelle

    Check out ideas from which has a lot on working independantly.  I also have an article from her that was published somewhere with a bit more info – you might email her asking about it?  

    I also use the Organizer here.  Each day (well, the night before), I print off a to-do list.  My kdis are a bit younger and not too independant yet… but I take the to-do list for them, highlight the things I feel they could do on their own.

    The other thing we do, is we school monday to thursday.  Anything they don’t get done from M-Th is done on Friday.  If everything is done on Friday, we have a day out either nature study or field trip.  If everything isn’t done – we stay home.  Very motivating!  (If for some reason things aren’t done by the end of Friday, they would have to do it Saturday….  but that hasn’t happened yet.



    Hi Michelle,

    One of our goals is that we don’t do for our kids what they can do for themselves, generally. Not that we never offer help, but it’s training for independence. My 3 year old is perfectly capable of emptying the waste paper basket without assistance after being shown how. The same goes for schoolwork. DS7 can complete copywork without oversight now that he can form all of the letters and connect them. I’m always working toward the goal of independence for their individual work. We’ll always have family work – scripture memory, history, map drill, fine arts, etc., but other subjects become their responsibility as they are able. 

    We use the CM organizer and I print the lists, but I’m a big chart girl, too!Wink I’ll post some at the bottom.

    In our family, ds7 completes the following on his own or asks for help.

    • Math (unless a concept he doesn’t understand, rare for him on this one)
    • Rapid Recall Math Fact practice
    • Copywork
    • Critical Thinking (unless he chooses a multi-person game)
    • Devotions (new this month)
    • Reading (does silent and aloud to me)

    DD10 completes the following on her own:

    • All of above plus
    • history for her level
    • science living books
    • grammar
    • written narration
    • Story Starters
    • piano
    • grammar (about half the time)
    • homophone & idiom study
    • crocheting/sewing – current handicrafts
    • reading, more reading, even more reading

    Essentially, I expect them to manage anything they’ve been trained or taught on their own with my guidance as needed and my oversight as long as necessary. Our motto, which we blatantly stole from Lindsey here, is “Do it nice or do it twice.” It works.

    Weekly Schedule

    4th Grade Daily Schedule (last term’s but gives you the idea)

    1st Grade Daily Schedule

    Independence in their habits/work is a goal for us along with interdependence upon the Lord.





    Thanks for showing your personal schedule. I have a question though. For your individual kid’s schedules, are the ones shown above the ones they actually use, or is that for your reference only? I think my son would be so overwhelmed with that to use as his guide. Do you have a more simple look that your kids use? I am currently trying to make a simple chart for their timetable.

    Thanks again for your help. It is appreciated! 🙂


    Yes those were their charts last term. The color made it very clear what was independent and they liked them. This time no color yet, but it’s on the to do list.

    To simplify, you could use just the weekly schedule or if all days are alike, one column of the daily would suffice. Another idea is to have a page or an index card for each day.




    Yes those were their charts last term. The color made it very clear what was independent and they liked them. This time no color yet, but it’s on the to do list.

    To simplify, you could use just the weekly schedule or if all days are alike, one column of the daily would suffice. Another idea is to have a page or an index card for each day.




    Christie, thanks for sharing your schedules.  So it looks like you are deciding when the subjects get done, but the children do certain subjects without your help?  What do you generally do while the children are doing math, and are your kids separated or working at the same table? 

    I have a problem, especially with my oldest dd (who is 13), of her constantly wanting/needing(?) my help with math.  I have told her to read the directions and if she doesn’t understand, to read them again.  She will say she did, and that she still doesn’t understand.  She gets upset, mad and cries.  The directions seem plainly written out to me, and usually all I do is read through the directions again, verbally breaking down the examples very slowly that are shown to her on the paper, then I go through a problem or two with her and then she usually does the rest on her own.  Is there any way to know whether she really needs my help or she just wants me to do the thinking for her? 

    For a while I tried having everyone at a different place in the house so they could have quiet and concentrate better, but then I had everyone called “MOOOOooooommmm!” and I was dashing all over the place to help and I quickly burned out from that.  So now everyone is at the table together. 

    I guess when I think of children working independtently they just have a list of what needs to be done and a box with their materials and they keep plugging away at it until it’s done, but not with Mom breaking it all down for them.  I think my problem right now is that my girls are so behind.  My oldest is just now getting to multiplication, my younger two, who are almost 11 and 9, are just really learning to read, my 9 year old does not form her letter correctly, and I feel that they all need me constantly. 

    We do have a time set aside each day for math, 30 minutes with all of us at the table and they are supposed to just do however much work in that time they can.  But I’m always going from one child to the next trying to figure out different ways to break down the instructions.  And they don’t seem to me to be learning challenged or incapable in anyway, I just think they don’t want to put forth the effort when thinking gets tough.  But how  can I know?  And so I just keep helping, helpling, helping, in hopes that one day they will take off with it and I won’t have to hold their hand at each step along the way. 

    Sorry for going on and on.  I think my post might have exceeded the intentions of this thread.  I am just frustrated.  When I first started reading about homeschooling there were all these glorious stories of children learning to read at 3, and going to college at 15, and I feel that I’ve been trying to teach reading and basic math and handwriting for 8 years.  I want my children to do their own thinking, but I also don’t want to frustrate them to the point that they get nothing done by just staring at a blank page and crying on it.  Or should I keep putting the same blank page in front of them, forcing them to figure it out alone, until they do?



    I should clarify a bit. I posted previously from my phone and was being concise.Wink for my thumbs sake.

    I plan a routine and order the subjects, but it rarely goes exactly according to plan. I don’t really care what they work on first, but for the sake of planning, I like to know how long we’ll spend on a subject. So even though you see a specific order on our chart, our days are usually different from this. It’s my tool and I’d like for each day to proceed accordingly, but life happens and the baby poops or the washing machine breaks or whatever. However, when I work on spelling with one, the other will know that he/she has something to work on while I’m occupied. 

    If both older ones are occupied with independent work at the same time, I’ll read/play with the littles, do laundry, make a meal or check this forum or email. 

    Also, I help the 10 and 7 year old any time needed. I didn’t mean to imply I hand them a list and that’s it. We do it all together until they show aptitude for doing it alone. This is imperative for me with 4 kids.

    DD10 and I have math issues Undecided. For some reason, I cannot explain things for her as well as I’d like. We switched to Teaching Textbooks for a while b/c of this and it was a great change of pace for her, but we’ve come back to Ray’s Arithmetic, a true mastery approach. TT began to move too fast and jump around too much for either of our likings. Occasionally I will have to explain something a different way, but thus far it is basic arithmetic and she’s capable now of reading the instructions and completing it on her own, most of the time. If she’s stuck, she’ll ask. I’ll help her with grammar, too, if need be, but really the rest she just does.

    DD7 is just easy. He takes his list and he’s off. He’s picked up reading quite easily, more so than his older sister even. He isn’t a super smart genius or anything, but he is bright and he likes learning.

    The BIGGEST help to me by far is that my kids are trained to know what is expected and they desire to reach the level of expectation placed upon them. Taking pains to work on the habits in the young years has paid off and now our days are on the way to being smooth and easy. If it is an issue of poor habits and desiring to be spoon-fed, then figure out which habits you want to work on and devote the necessary time to it. One simple idea, use a timer and set the lesson before them, giving 15 minutes to complete the lesson. This is where the habit of attention comes in. Also, don’t forget to vary the lessons and use different parts of the brain to keep things fresh.

    I don’t worry about when mine achieve something in relation to others, but when they are ready to learn. If it’s taking your kids longer, then walk with them and guide them as long as needed, but be aware and discern whether it is a true need or simply trying to get out of the work. When you know that they are capable, slowly turn their work over to them bit by bit, checking up of course. 

    I need to run, but hopefully that explains what we do a bit better.





    Suzuki Mom – thanks so much for that link!  I’ve enjoyed “meeting” Joanne over there and reading about her strategy.  I think I’ve failed so far at undergirding my kids with the habits that they need for independence.  I also have seen in researching CM methods here and elsewhere that I have been The Teacher, learning everything first and teaching them, just the way we were taught in public school.  I think they rely way too  much on me to tell them what the meaning is, the moral, the instruction, etc.  So we need to work on this!

    Christie thank you for sharing your schedules!  Love to see that people can be all about CM and schedules and charts too as they are my bridge to sanity!  I liked a lot of things you shared and I especially liked that you designated minutes to the subjects – brilliant!  I have a question for you though.  How do you then assign pages, chapters, specific projects, etc.?  Do you have another chart for this or planner?

    Rene I know just how you feel!  We are “behind” too.  My son, as I’ve talked about in other posts, has auditory issues and that has delayed him in all areas.  Anytime there is reading comprehension needed (which is all the time!) he struggles.  He also can’t spell very well so writing is tricky.  All that to say, hang in there!  They do progress, they do come along, things do change.  As far as your daughter’s math, I would look at her overall character and tendencies.  If math is the only subject that she needs a lot of help in (she works well on her own with most other things with a good attitude) then she just might need the extra help in this subject.  Sometimes just hearing something out loud verses reading it is helpful.  I know it’s hard when there are so many other needs to be met and easier said than done, but with practice and patience she will come along.  Our first year homeschooling for math all I could do with my boy was go over and over the hundred chart because he couldn’t distinguish between the sounds of “thirty” “forty” and “fifty” which made teaching basic math almost impossible.  Now he really likes math but still can’t do it totally alone.  We got Teaching Textbooks this year and that has helped a lot – maybe your daughter would benefit from this program too. Smile


    I am doing a modified form of workboxes to help my children see what is expected of them in a day and to help them work as independently as they can.  I have written their daily work on colored index cards.  You can color code this — green means work independently, red means wait for mom, etc.   They each have a plastic tray and each morning I put in the index cards that I want them to work on for that day.  I have their actual assignments written in my binder, so they can check for more specifics.  For example, they’ll have an index card that says history reading and oral narration but they’ll need to check my binder to see what pages they need to read. 

    We’re working on setting up our curriculum more efficiently as well so that they know what comes next.  An example of this would be that they know that on Monday and Wednesday they have to get ready for a Spelling Wisdom dictation.  They can do most of that independently and then they are expected to be ready for the dicatations on Tues and Thurs.  Because we didn’t always do things in such a scheduled way in the past my children didn’t always know what to expect and neither did I! 

    The index cards give them a visual for their progress throughout the day and it helps me that I can just check their box instead of trying to remember if child #8 has done spelling or was that child #9?  Another bonus is that I can add in random index cards.  Example — one son just had a birthday and I want him to write thank you notes to grandparents.  So when I thought about that I jotted it down on a card and dropped it into his box.  That means I only have to think of it once, follow through is now his responsibility. 

    This method is helping us and it doesn’t take nearly as much space as workboxes! 

    jeaninpa –

    I like the sound of your system.  9 kiddos – wow!  Could you imagine having 108 workboxes somewhere for all of them?!  I love the concept of the workboxes but I too, just don’t have the space.  I do have just a couple questions about your index cards…

    Do you have standard cards that are used day in and day out for subjects that are done daily?  In other words, on Sunday night are you writing out fresh new cards for everyone for every task/subject?

    Also, how is their actual work organized (books, dictation passages, etc.)?  Is each child’s work in a box of some sort, or do they just follow the card and retrieve their things from wherever they may be located?

    And where do you physically keep the cards for each kiddo so they don’t get misplaced?  You mentioned something about a plastic tray, could you elaborate?

    Thanks so much!  Hope that all makes sense…



    I second Michelle’s post! I like the sound of your system. If you have pictures or a blog about it, I would love to actually see it too. 🙂

    I never liked the workbox approach, it just seemed like too much. But your way sounds simple and effective.


    Jeaninpa, your system kinda sounds like the Chore Packs that I use with my girls chores that has revolutionized our home in that area. If I could use that system for school that would be awesome!  I, too, would love more info on how you are making this work. 

    Do you combine this with a daily routine/schedule and the children do certain subjects at certain times of the day, or do they just get their cards in the am and are free to do the work as they see fit?


    Michelle G. – I don’t write down pages and such. The kids just know to do the next lesson/chapter/15 minutes or whatever. If it’s something that needs a specific page number or whatever, we refer to the CM organizer or print out. 



    Ok, I’ll try to answer some questions — sorry, no blog and my camera is currently broken so I’ll try to do a better job of describing.

    My children each have a spot where they keep their schoolwork.  For children under 12 this is just an open shelf.  We switched to an open shelf because it makes it easy for me to grab their books to look them over and it makes it much harder for them to stuff loose papers everywhere.  Shocking, I know, but yes, they did that.  Smile  We use a loose schedule.  We start the day together with Bible, then either science or history reading together (we do two days of history, then two days of science).  Then it’s on to individual work.

    For the workboxes I bought small, plastic containers at WalMart.  They come in a pack of three for $1.17 and they are just a bit larger than the index cards.  The boxes sit on an open shelf.  I have the index cards in a small file box and I reuse the cards.  Some cards are in their box everyday — math, LA, etc.  Some go in twice a week, typing for example.  I put the cards in the boxes the night before or in the morning.  It occurs to me that it would be great to throw in an encouragement card every once in awhile, or a math-free card — now that would brighten their day!!  When the kids finish a subject, they either give me the card or they put it back in my file box. 

    This system is working well for us as long as I stay on top of it and don’t give in when someone says, “What do I still have to do?”  Ummm, have you checked your box?  Obviously there is still quite a bit of interaction because I still have to explain assignments and check work, but it isn’t as chaotic as it used to be. 

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