Overview: Are your kids learning everything that you THINK they are?!? Would you like to be sure? There are ways to find out that won’t be a burden on you – or them!
As homeschoolers, we all know the value of teaching our kids how to become independent learners. We work hard to pass the mantle of teacher from ourselves to our students. And we thrill as we see them picking up this mantle and running with it. They are checking items off their lists, reading books, doing research, and filling their minds with lots of amazing information about science, history, geography, and more.
Or are they? What if your independent learners aren’t learning at all? What if they’re breezing through their work in order to get to free time? What if they’re skimming through the books? What if they’re killing time and not really learning what they say they are?
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As homeschoolers, it’s wonderful for us to pass the responsibility of completing work off to our teens. When they learn to manage their own time, to juggle their work, and to complete projects from start to finish, they are learning valuable skills. We need to be sure we have accountability systems in place, however, so that we will know if they are dropping the ball.
Here are 8 Ways to Hold Our Independent Learners Accountable:
1 – Read what they’re reading
If you assign some reading to your teen, do your best to read it along with them. You can either read it together, read it BEFORE your son reads it or read it at the same time. Then, discuss the daily reading with him so that you will have the peace of mind of knowing that he read it and understood what he read.
Obviously, it isn’t always possible to do as much reading as our students will. When you aren’t able to read the book, try to find a synopsis of it online. Some great sites to search are SparkNotes, Schmoop, and CliffsNotes. I often Google “chapter summaries X” where X is the title of the book.
If you’re assigning reading from a textbook, there are often study guide questions after each chapter. Go over these with your child from time to time to be sure he’s absorbing the information.
2 – Check their work
When you assign math problems, writing, grammar, etc. have your teens bring you their work so that you can review it. I try to check these papers as soon as possible after they’re completed so that I can quickly correct any errors they have made. This helps to ensure that the work is actually getting done. It also helps to make sure your kids understand what they’re doing and don’t get too far down an incorrect path of doing things.
I’m diligent about this now because in the past, I have made the mistake of not correcting work right away and it burned me. One of my sons, who will remain nameless, was using the computer version of Teaching Textbooks math. He learned his lessons on the computer, completed his lessons on the computer, and had his lessons checked on the computer.
When we first started using this system, I checked his computer grade book often. But then I got lax and stopped checking it as frequently. I would assign problems to my son and assumed that when he checked that subject off his daily checklist that he had actually completed them.
After a few months of doing this, I decided to go into the computer grade book and see what was going on. And to my shock and dismay, my son wasn’t doing anywhere near the number of problems that I had assigned to him. And he was even skipping over whole lessons!
That instance helped me to realize how important accountability really is. Our kids don’t necessarily have an intrinsic desire to learn every subject. There are certain ones that need to be more closely monitored than others. Remember that our teens aren’t fully mature and they need our support when it comes to getting the most out of their education.
3 – Discuss it with them
This point is huge. The more discussions you have with your teens the better. These discussions can and should be about what they’re learning. But they should also be about so much more! What’s happening at the youth group events? What are they feeling convicted about during devotions? What did they think about the statements made in the last presidential debate? What are they struggling with? What are they happy about right now?
Homeschooling our kiddos means that we’re together a lot more than parents of kids who are gone all day long. Take advantage of at least some of this time by talking with your kids. By the way, if you have a son who isn’t as talkative, try taking him on errands alone. There’s something about sitting side-by-side in the car with a boy which opens his mouth up more than just about anything else!
→ Related Content: 10 Tips for Teaching Teenage Boys
4 – Do some subjects together
Some subjects are going to be more difficult for your son than others. Even if your son is a successful independent learner with most of his subjects, be on the lookout for areas in which he would really benefit from your help. Do these subjects with your child or have all of the kids do these subjects together to see how that goes. Always be ready to pitch in and get your child over a hump when needed.
5 – Have them present what they’ve learned
This is a GREAT way to find out what your son is learning! Have your son give a speech, create a documentary, put on a play, create a project, make a poster, design a lapbook, or use whatever other methods you deem appropriate. Try to vary these presentations to keep things fresh and so that your son can explore various methods of communication.
6 – Have them keep a portfolio
Sometimes it’s valuable for our students to keep a portfolio of their work. This is especially valuable for subjects such as art or writing, where it’s much easier to see their progress from the beginning of the year to the end when you’re able to flip through a body of work. This can also be extremely encouraging for subjects in which your teen struggles. When they are able to see how much they’ve improved, it can go a long way toward helping to build their confidence.
7 – Have them write a paper
While I don’t recommend assigning book reports for every book read or every concept presented, there is a time when writing papers is a valid way to see what your son has learned. Use these wisely because sometimes the student’s dread of writing will cause you to think that he hasn’t learned anything when it’s actually a case of him not being able to express himself adequately through writing.
8 – Tests and quizzes
Again, I don’t recommend this for every subject or every set of new information. But there is a time and a place for tests and quizzes as well. When you feel that you have no other alternatives for finding out what your student knows, then maybe it’s time for a test or a quiz.
Some homeschoolers like to give lots of tests and quizzes because they want to be sure their kids become good test takers. I have a different philosophy. I’d rather have my boys enjoy learning and become life-long learners than to have them become great test takers when they’re forced to be… but never learn anything when they aren’t forced to do it.
Again, the ultimate goal is to help our kids become independent learners. But let’s be honest. If we didn’t have the accountability of a scale, would we always eat healthy snacks or might we be tempted to eat that entire pan of brownies? If we didn’t have the accountability of having company come over occasionally, would we keep our houses clean or might the clutter overtake us?
Let’s make sure we support a successful transition to independent learning by helping to put accountability systems in place for our kids. Remember, accountability is a good thing for all of us. And with it, we can be confident that our kids are learning what we THINK they are. That’s always a good thing!
Have you found that your kids do better with some accountability? Have you discovered any other tips that you could share? Please leave a comment below.