Teaching Our Kids to Be Independent Learners

Teaching Our Kids to Be Independent Learners

At True North Homeschool Academy we believe it is essential to create independent learners.  We polled our amazing FaceBook Group Help Homeschooling High School and came up with some great tips and resources for you!

So how can you teach your children to be independent learners?

Let them fail

Amber Fonseca teaches Advanced Literary Analysis and Composition (CLEP Prep) for us at True North Homeschool Academy. She also blogs at The Journey of Life.

Amber’s advice, “ Let your kids fail. And then encourage them to assess, make changes and start again. Scientists and inventors fail way more than they succeed, but they don’t let the failure stop them. Even our President had to file bankruptcy…but look where he is now. Failure is not an end but a chance to begin again.”

As parents, we want to see our kids succeed- that is only natural. But allowing them to fail, and teaching them how to not get stuck in that failure, is just as important a skill as how to handle success! Assessment tools are a great way to evaluate successes and failures and can keep us moving towards our visions, mission, and goals, despite set-backs!

Christine Joseph reiterates that we must be willing to,  “allow our kids to LOSE. One of the many lessons we learn by playing games are sharing, taking turns, following rules/instructions, how to compromise, empathy, being a good winner and a good loser. Using games allows kids to gain mastery in areas that they may be weak in. Allowing kids to create their own games (using the answer key) to play with other students benefits everyone. At Teaching with Games, most of our games are made with rules from time-tested, traditional games. Use our FREE custom Game Tool with your information.”

Let them be bored.

Jennifer Ann suggests, “it’s important for us to allow our kids time in their schedule to get bored, allow them time to shape what they study; by either helping design their own classes, make decisions about curriculum being used or by eliminating busy work.”

You can hear more of Jennifer Ann’s thoughts on this recording she made for Global Learn Day.

Teach your children life skills

Susan Brown shares important life skills your teen can learn including phone etiquette, laundry tips and more! Check those out here!

Dana Susan Beasley recommends,  “help your students discover their passions and calling by giving them the opportunity to develop marketable skills. Think outside the job box and prepare them for a bright future by given them entrepreneurial skills.” You can check out Dana’s blog, Angel Arts, here.

Require your kids to do chores and big projects around your home. Our kids all know how to do the laundry, shopping, cooking and cleaning, along with drywalling, laying brick, floor and tile, garden and many other life skills. We’ve required them to work alongside us, partly out of necessity and partly by design and now they wow us with their domestic superpowers!

Let them pursue their passions

Merideth Duke suggests, “parents learn to say yes when our kids want to do something different, like beekeeping, or starting a small business…or writing books and self-publishing them. When kids find something that truly interests them, let them pursue it further. It could lead to a better education than you could plan. Successes, failure, planning, frustration, marketing, sales, etc.

My son has a successful small business as a beekeeper from 11 years old through high school. My daughter has written 4 books and self-published 3 of them. She ‘s pursuing a publisher for her 4th. She’s 16. Let them dream. Let them plan. Let them do it. Let them fail. Let them try harder. Let them succeed. You want your child to be an independent learner? Let them pursue a dream and see how much they can do.

It’s only the beginning to what they will learn to do on their own. In addition to that set goals and tests for the week that have deadlines. Check their work when it’s due. They learn consequence and rewards pretty fast when they see a passing grade or an “F”. Start small with short deadlines and easy assignment. Add as they get used to it. Lengthen the dates on big projects like research papers and have smaller deadlines to break it up so its’ not so overwhelming. By the time our kids were in high school they knew our routing. My son is now in college and working ahead because he knows how to plan accordingly.”

Travel is another great way to teach independence

The very act of travel expands and changes our paradigms. You don’t have to travel far (but that can be really fun too); be a tourist in your own area. Get to know the idiosyncrasies, unique features, and beloved landmarks well of your region well!

Read widely to and with your kids across time and geography. Magazines are an easy way to get unique views and perspectives and our assortment over the years has included but is not limited to National Geographic (+Kids), Ranger Rick, Ladybug, Cobblestone, Science News, Biblical Archeology Today, Artifax, The Economist, and World Magazine.

Encourage Self-Directed Learning

In my experience, one of the most effective and straightforward ways to create independent learners is to outsource some classes each year, beginning in Junior High. Preferably a class that meets regularly has homework, regular assessment, and grading and provides feedback to student and parent. Not all stress is bad and coupling creative, self-directed work with work that comes with external accountability and assessment teaches kids that sometimes we have to perform to a standard beyond ourselves. True North Homeschool Academy offers great classes, we do the grading for you, and our price is amazing!

In closing, I would also like to recommend the book Grit by Angela Duckworth. Great advice for teaching our kids how to set goals, keep them, fail well, accept disappointment, defeat, and failure and keep moving towards success and fulfilling their call and vision. Some kids are natural goal setters and some struggle with frustration. Teaching our kids to structure themselves is a great gift. Teaching our kids to fail, accept defeat, learning to de-brief and self-evaluate – these are all great skills to equip our young adults with so that they can move towards independence.

We’d love to hear from you! How do you teach your kids to become Independent Learners?

Are you teaching independent learning in your homeschool?  Check out our tips for creating independent learners in your homeschool. #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #independentlearners #homeschool #homeschooling


Spotting a Struggling Learner in Your Homeschool

Spotting a Struggling Learner in Your Homeschool

(The following is a post from Amy Vickrey, special needs/struggling learner teacher at True North Homeschool Academy.)

We all struggle.  Sometimes our families struggle financially due to unexpected expenses or situations.  Sometimes we struggle with finding enough time in the day because we work and homeschool, or we have therapy and doctors appointments that eat into our precious little time.  Sometimes we struggle as a family because of personality conflicts and differences in needs. But what do we do when our kids struggle with doing the work we have given them to do?

When our children struggle with reading, writing, and math, it is sometimes hard to know what exactly is going on.  Is it just this concept they are struggling with? Does math (or reading) come easy to them, whereas other things are harder?  Especially if it is your first child, and if you have never taught children before, it is hard to know how much help you may need, or if you should just “wait it out.”

When our struggling learners are younger, it can be difficult to decide whether to seek help or not.  

Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP suggests to take the following things into consideration:

  • At least 7 ½ to 8 years of age?
  • Is the child a boy or girl?  Boys sometimes take longer to mature and be ready to learn.
  • Can your child say (not sing) the ABC’s in order, differentiating L, M, N, O, and P?
  • Can your child hold a pencil?
  • When your child writes, does he reverse letters?
  • Does your child have a desire, an eagerness to learn?
  • Is a younger sibling catching on to concepts faster, or catching up?
  • Does your child like to be read to?

By the age of around 10, children should be moving from learning to read to reading to learn.  This means they should be able to read the words without much difficulty on age-appropriate levels and should be beginning to build an understanding of what they are reading and learn from it.  

So what about older kids who need some help?  At what point should you be concerned?

Can your child:

  • Look at a set of objects (or fingers) and tell you how many are there (without counting, up to 10)?
  • Know math addition and subtraction facts or a quick strategy to solve them (not counting fingers).
  • Know multiplication and division facts or a quick strategy to solve them (not skip counting from the 1x place).
  • Understand about multiples and factors
  • Understand about decimals and fractions
  • Tell time on an analog clock (not digital)

All children learn differently, and it is true that some children simply need time and repetition to be ready to learn certain concepts.  

So when is it important to seek testing and/or services for struggling learners?

  • When it will benefit your child to get them needed therapies
  • When your child is preparing for a trade school or college/university that requires a current “diagnosis” for support
  • When you choose to utilize services available from the local school district (this varies by state and district)
  • When there are state services that are available to you with a diagnosis (such as audiobook programs available to those who have vision impairments or dyslexia diagnosis)
  • To seek recommendations to better understand how to help your child learn (at these times, seeking out someone who understands homeschooling would be beneficial).
  • Your child becomes overly frustrated by their limitations and struggles

Other things you can do to ease the struggles and frustrations as a parent:

(More great articles to check out – Developmental Red Flags for Children Ages 3-5, Do IQ Tests Tell the Whole Story?, Finding Peace Amid Struggles)

Feel like you need MORE help with your struggling learner?  Check out our great struggling learner program at True North Homeschool Academy.  We also do tutoring for struggling learners, as well as academic advising.

Amy Vickery - Struggling Learners Teacher

Amy Vickrey, MSE  is a mother of a seven-year-old and almost three-year-old. Her homeschool journey began over 20 years ago when she saw how homeschooling enabled her sister who had memory issues and fell through the crack at school, to graduate and go to college. Amy knew then she wanted to implement what she saw – the love and individual attention – into her own teaching. She now homeschools her two boys and loves every minute of it! Having completed the second year of their homeschool journey, she is looking forward to many more to come!

Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos.  Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning. Teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.

Amy Vickrey states, “My passion for learning and being a lifelong learner is something I want to pass on to the children I teach, as well as my own children.  Making learning fun and engaging is an important part of this process. My goal is to lift others up to help them achieve their own goals and dreams.”

Are you wondering if you have a struggling learner in your homeschool? Check out these tips from True North Homeschool Academy to find out! #homeschool #specialneedshomeschool #strugglinglearner #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #helpforhomeschoolers

5 Tips from a Working Homeschool Mom

5 Tips from a Working Homeschool Mom

How do you do it all?  I think it’s one of the top questions I get asked when people figure out that I am a working homeschool mom.  I guess looking at it from the outside it does look like quite a juggling act.  I mean I have two kiddos I homeschool, one who is reasonably independent and one with dyslexia.  Then I recently decided to add in my own business, which takes up between 25 to 30 hours of my already busy week.  Not to mention my girls are active (okay, EXTREMELY active) kids.

Add in the house, the laundry, the meals, and I guess it probably seems like madness. (And I won’t lie, on some days it is!)  However, I have come across some tricks that save my sanity on those busy days.  So here are my five tips for keeping your sanity as a working homeschool mom.

Working Homeschool Mom Tip #1 – Outsource

This first one is a biggie because I sometimes think as homeschool moms we feel like we have to do it ALL.  This isn’t the case though!  Is math causing you undue stress?  Outsource it.  Struggling to keep up with your house?  Outsource it.  Find your weak spot and let someone else handle it.

So what do I outsource?  Quite a bit actually.  Both of my girls use Teaching Textbooks for elementary math, mainly because it was one subject I couldn’t wrap my head around.  We also take advantage of the many fantastic courses available from True North Homeschool Academy.  My oldest is in LOVE with her writing club and has even made some really good friends from across the country.  (See what I just did there?  I even outsourced socialization, lol.)

My youngest sees a tutor for her dyslexia and a speech therapist.  They are both involved in Scouts, an activity that my mom volunteered to handle for me, so guess what, I let her!  So even if it’s hiring someone to walk the dog, outsource what you need to.  You don’t have to do it all!

(Related Reading:  You don’t have to DIY it all!)

Working Homeschool Mom Tip #2 – Self Care

This one has always been a biggie for me.  To stay running at top speed, I have to take care of myself.  Yes, there are days when it would be easier to eat a frozen pizza for lunch or skip the workout.  I KNOW you are busy, but trust me, make time for it.  In the end, it makes me more productive, and I get more accomplished in the day.  If I’m dragging it shows in every area of my life.

So set that alarm 20 minutes early, meal prep on the weekends, freezer cook, whatever it takes for you to take care of yourself!  While you’re at it, you have my permission for twenty minutes of free time every evening.  Take it; the world will survive without you while you regain your sanity.

(Related Reading: Self-Care for the Homeschool Mom)

Working Homeschool Mom Tip #3 – Planning

One of my best secrets to success is planning.  Since I’m a work a home mom it’s VERY easy for my productivity to be zapped by refereeing fights, cleaning the kitchen, or deciding that the spices need rearranging instead of working.  As I write this, I’m wrestling with the urge to clean out the pantry, but I digress.  The best tool in my entire arsenal is my planner, no lie.

At some point every Sunday I plan my weekly to-dos.  I check our schedule and mark off times for sports, appointments, church and any other thing we have for the upcoming week.  It doesn’t matter how big or small, it all goes in the schedule.  From there I add in my work schedule and any other things I need to address during the week, as well as my meal plan.

Do I always accomplish everything on the list?  Nope.  There are days when we don’t finish math and nights when we eat take out for dinner, but I’m a lot more likely to succeed with a plan in place.

Working Homeschool Mom Tip #4 – Know When To Ask For Help

I have been sooooo guilty of overlooking this one in the past, but I’m getting better as time goes on.  The truth is, I can’t do it all (refer back to number 1) and I will kill myself if I try.  So I’ve learned to ask for help.  My kids and husband help with the house (hey, they live here too) and my daughters both have a pretty good chore schedule.  I mean, they have to learn anyway right? Might as well make it work to my advantage now.  My hubs is also great to jump in and help.  Now before you say yours won’t help, have you nicely asked?  They aren’t mind readers ya know 😉 

Working Homeschool Mom Tip #5 – Time Management & Saying No

This one is probably the HARDEST for me.  As a busy working homeschool mom, you have to know when to say no.  There are thousands of opportunities out there, and a lot of them are great things.  Volunteering at church….a great idea, working at an animal shelter….awesome, the Robotics Club that meets twice a week…..that sounds amazing.  Guess what though; they are also all things that I don’t have time for right now.

I’ve spent YEARS feeling guilty over those things.  Trust me, let it go.  Maybe someday the time will open for those activities, and I will tackle them with all the tenacity I have the other things in my life, but not today.  Today I am a working homeschool mom.  This is the season of life that I am.  I am embracing it, and I would rather be good at a few things than mediocre at many.

(Related Reading:  Keep it Simple Homeschool Mom)

So there you go, my top tips for working homeschool moms.  Are you a working homeschool mom?  What would you add?

Are you a homeschool mom looking for the best tips on scheduling and time management? Then you need tips from a working homeschool mom! No one knows how to get more done in a day than she does. Check out our top five tips now. #homeschool #homeschooling #workinghomeschoolmom #homeschoolmom #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #workingmom


Unique Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens

Unique Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens

(I have been blessed to participate in the Homeschooling through the Holidays series over on LifeofaHomeschoolMom.com, be sure to visit the entire series!)

The holiday season is just around the corner! Gift giving is an important part of our Holiday tradition, along with stringing miles of lights and decorating multiple trees, filling our large 4 x 4 farmhouse with holiday cheer! If you are in a rut with gift-giving or feel like its materially oriented and has lost the joy of giving and gratitude, consider giving gifts that will contribute to experiences and that you can share together.

What hobbies, skills or crafts grab your kids’ interest that you could encourage? Is there a local guild or artisan around who could mentor/ help them? What about YouTube links in a card as part of the present?

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Are you looking for a unique gift for your tween or teen?  Check out these great ideas from True North Homeschool Academy! #Christmas #homeschooling #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy

Using Planners with your High School Students

Using Planners with your High School Students

(This post may contain affiliate links.)

For the past four years, I’ve worked as we’ve homeschooled and I have also had high schoolers who have been going through fairly rigorous academic programs. Throw in a few extra-curriculars, like music and karate and Latin National Exam, and a play mid-year, possibly TeenPact, and you have a lot going on.

We’ve managed all of this by using planners for everyone.

Because all of us are so different, we all have a different planner. For example, I like Bullet Journals- it allows me to keep a detailed calendar, take copious notes, brainstorm, brain-flow, and Venn diagram without leaving a zillion papers around the house.  My son likes a very structured planner, with room for notes; he color coordinates his day and refers to it all day long. My daughter has a very girly planner where she keeps notes, doodles, writes comedy sketches.  My husband is a Franklin Covey man from way back.

First, find a planner that works for each individual.

If it’s too structured, doesn’t leave enough room for doodles, notes or creative thinking or not structured enough when you need it, it’s a recipe for not getting used. Study your kids’ personalities and get them a planner that fits what they need.

Then, teach them to use it!

I sit down with my kids weekly throughout high school and talk them through planning their week. We put in daily details, overall big picture planning, on-going projects, monthly re-occurring things, church, music, school, sports and volunteer activities. They often forget to plan on driving time when they might need to get to church early to help with tech. These things take time and are all part of teaching young adults how to manage and balance everything.

We try to schedule a weekly morning basket, and some years we’ve had better success at this than others. This year has thrown us for a loop because I am either teaching first thing in the morning or my daughter is online in class first thing. So, our morning basket is going to be an after-lunch basket. The point is that we touch base for an intentional time throughout each day.

In the past, our week has revolved around our academic class day, making things somewhat easier in that projects, papers and presentations were all due on that one particular day. This year, we are no longer involved in that program and my daughter is taking several online academic classes, throughout the week. This has provided some stress for her as due dates are on-going (more like how public school is or college will be). That has provided a great learning opportunity as well, as we’ve had to discuss how to manage the various class and due dates.

We regularly have weekly planning meetings, as we have several drivers and multiple cars, live out of town and often have engagements in the evening.

(Need more information on teaching your student to use their planner?  Check out these 7 tips from Student Tutor.)

Why all of this work on planning with my kids?

Because scheduling is one of those skills that lead to time and self-management skills that I want my kids to have before they leave home.  So tell me, do your kids have planners of their own? What are your top tips for teaching planning skills?

(Are you looking for more skills to teach your high school student before they leave your home?  Check out our tips for teaching effective online communication.)

Have you taught your homeschool student to use a planner?  If not, now is the time!  Check out these tips from True North Homeschool Academy on teaching your homeschool child to use a planner.  #Homeschooling #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #Planner