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  1. #1

    Default Fostering independence

    We are now in our 4th year of HS. My DD is 9 and in Grade 4. I'm struggling with creating a balance between guided and independent learning activities. In short, she is reluctant to do almost anything independently.

    For example, we'll work on a new topic in mathematics. After working through several problems together, I'll suggest she try the next set on her own, at which point she gets flustered and won't continue without having me work with her side-by-side. The same is true with her writing. She writes beautifully and considerably above grade level, but can't get started without me sitting with her reassuring her through the initiation. I'm delighted to work 1:1 with her but it's also hard for me to accurately assess her mastery unless she can work some on her own.

    Her older brother, now in university, has a form of dyslexia; so I'm reasonably confident that it's not a learning disability issue based on what I observe. Instead it seems like crisis of confidence. She is a perfectionist and has low frustration tolerance.

    By way of background, DD is a violinist and we began homeschooling in part to accommodate her practice schedule. Her early training was in Suzuki - so I've been involved in that 1:1 since she was 3. The direct involvement of the parent practice partner is an essential part of the method. Most kids don't transition to independent practice until they're 12-13. But since it's such a big part of our family life I wonder if she expects *everything* to work that way.

    In any case, I'm looking for strategies to foster independence. Anyone else deal with this?
    DD age 9, Grade 4ish

    Eclectic. We do music, math English, history/geography/culture, Russian and science. Lots and lots of reading. I blog at suzukiexperience.com

    WARNING: Unwittingly, I may occasionally say things to which you take offence.

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  3. #2

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    Lol, nope, I don't think it is a result of her Suzuki training as none of my kids did any kind of Suzuki music training and they all did the same thing around your daughter's age. So the good news is that she seems to be completely normal, the bad news is you probably still have a few more years of independence training ahead of you before you can reliably hand her an assignment and expect it to be completed independently.

    I start around 3rd or 4th grade with small bites. Sometimes, literally one math problem or one sentence written that I expect them to complete on their own. Some of my kids could start with more than that but my ones who lacked confidence or just needed someone close by all.the.time. had to start very small. Once they could do that confidently, I would usually start dangling a carrot for them. I would only require 1 problem independently but I would offer a small reward of some kind for doing say 5 problems independently. They did not necessarily have to get them all completely right, I was looking for proof that they tried their best to do them independently. I was rewarding effort toward working independently, not right answers.

    Working in this incremental manner, by the time they were about 12 years old, I could hand them a list of assignments with a deadline and get reasonable results. Or at the very least I didn't feel bad taking away weekend privileges for incomplete or sloppily done work. After all they were still kids but at least they were old enough and practiced enough at independent work to understand that it was their poor choices or time management that caused the privileges to be revoked. They had to spend their weekend finishing or correcting their work instead of having fun.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by MapleHillAcademy View Post
    ...I was looking for proof that they tried their best to do them independently. I was rewarding effort toward working independently, not right answers.
    Very good point. Thank you.
    DD age 9, Grade 4ish

    Eclectic. We do music, math English, history/geography/culture, Russian and science. Lots and lots of reading. I blog at suzukiexperience.com

    WARNING: Unwittingly, I may occasionally say things to which you take offence.

  5. #4

    Default

    My daughter did Suzuki from age 4 to 7, and she is almost completely independent with her school work at age 9/grade 4. So I don't think its the Suzuki itself directly either. But maybe its having got used to have someone around who is willing to be there for things like Suzuki and math that it has become a bit of a crutch.

    My kids have from a very young age been expected to do things on their own and for themselves for large proportions of the day because I am working and I have zero tolerance for them not doing their own thing when I need them to. So they have somewhat been forced into being independent from early on. However, it has never seemed to harm them, and apart from some whinging on occasions, they don't really seem to mind it. So, keeping in mind that I have never had to try foster independence at the age your daughter is, how about just dropping her in it cold turkey and completely flipping around how you do things. Expect mostly independent working with a little bit of help at the end to go over what she struggled with. Give her math to sit down with and read and try work on for X amount of time, but I would make it the majority of her math time, then have a shorter proportion at the end where you sit down and help her go over what ever she had issues with. Have a chat about what she found, even things like how to work and think on her own, not necessarily solving the math if she never got to that because she was too busy stressing over trying to do it on her own. Like MapleHill suggested, congratulate her on working on her own. She probably won't get much done, so I would completely lower my expectations of what she was to achieve for a while. But maybe she will realize she can work on her own and its not scary and nothing bad will happen if all she does is sit there and feel frustrated. I think its a healthy thing for kids to sit on their own with uncomfortable feelings of challenge, frustration, or lack of direction and to realize that they can get through that and nothing drastic will happen. You just move on and one day you may figure out the problem you were working on, or not. I don't think a willingness to work/learn independently is necessarily an enjoyment of working on your own, its learning how to accept feeling out of your depth without someone to lean on. Maybe over time you could come up with a list of short reminders for her of what she can do to focus or start a task, based on the things she finds/feels once she is left to work independently. Some things my daughter does are if she is feeling really frustrated, take a short break to do some star jumps or run around the house. Or if she does not know where to start with something, write down everything you know and put in words what you don't know/need to find out. A list of things like that. Tools that she can use to help herself.

    You would probably pretty quickly figure out if it was going to help or just create a whole lot of tension. Then you could go do an incremental process after that.

    Good luck!

    Edited to add - so it does not seem like some sort of punishment thing to suddenly get her to work on her own, you could frame the change by either picking some sort of fun new activity book or short curriculum to work on for a while and say "hey I thought we could do it this way.." and then help her transfer her new found independence skills over to your regular curricula. Or if you work from home maybe if you have a project to do, you could discuss with her how you need your time to work and maybe you can both have X amount of time working on your own thing and then have a break to chat/work together. My daughter likes when we are doing our own independent work at the same time, and I ask her for help/ideas on my work as well so she can see that everyone has stumbling blocks in their work and they can get others to help problem solve an issue whilst still working independently.

    I hope I don't sound like a mean parent by suggesting this method, but I think that independence is not something you can really be taught/shown/hand-held through. I think they need to find it within themselves and be given the space and time to do that, and be allowed to feel uncomfortable so they can figure out how to overcome that.
    Last edited by NZ_Mama; 11-24-2017 at 05:11 AM.

  6. #5

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    This has been an issue for us, also. One day a week, DD9 comes with me to work. We always bring schoolwork that she CAN do independently while I'm seeing clients. But she will either choose to do work with my assistant (stamping mail, scanning documents, etc.) or she'll read. I had to put the smack down on video watching - she turns into a zombie, I swear, when she sits and watches for any length of time.

    At home on my days of schooling, we have managed to work it so I can do work on my computer while she does some independent work, but for the most part, the subjects that require more parental support (LA, math mammoth, history, science) are done by me. On my work days when DH is handling the schooling, they do more of the independent stuff (vocab and spelling workbooks, some math, writing assignments, research assignments).

    This has worked well, and I'm working on trying to get more of the work done independently, but with me nearby. I think she just feels lonely if no one is near. I do enjoy doing work with her, so it isn't a huge hurry to get her fully independent. But I know what you mean. It's like, come on, you can work through a few problems on your own!

    I've tried to frame it all in the context that as she gets older, this is how school and learning work - an increasing amount of independent work, with smaller amounts of "teacher" guidance. It is all part of growing up. Since she is VERY sensitive to wanting to be grown up, this logic works for us to a certain degree.
    Working mom homeschooling DD (9) who is working on a 4th-6th grade level and keeps me hopping!

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by NZ_Mama View Post
    But maybe she will realize she can work on her own and its not scary and nothing bad will happen if all she does is sit there and feel frustrated. I think its a healthy thing for kids to sit on their own with uncomfortable feelings of challenge, frustration, or lack of direction and to realize that they can get through that and nothing drastic will happen.
    Thank you. I really appreciate all the time and thought you put into this. I think much of her inability to get things done independently relates to her strong perfectionist tendencies. Doing independent work exposes her to the risk that it will be found imperfect. We'll have to do our own home-based cognitive behavioural therapy around that!

    Thanks again.
    DD age 9, Grade 4ish

    Eclectic. We do music, math English, history/geography/culture, Russian and science. Lots and lots of reading. I blog at suzukiexperience.com

    WARNING: Unwittingly, I may occasionally say things to which you take offence.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starkspack View Post
    This has been an issue for us, also...I do enjoy doing work with her, so it isn't a huge hurry to get her fully independent. But I know what you mean. It's like, come on, you can work through a few problems on your own!
    I hear you. It's less that I *have to* have her work independently. It's that I worry she will struggle later to produce work later that is authentically her own. Some days it's better than others. And with some work it's better than others. Many days she'd actually prefer me to *not* be in the practice room with her, for example, messing up her fingerings and bowings, etc.

    Thank you so much. I appreciate the chance to sound it out with others!
    DD age 9, Grade 4ish

    Eclectic. We do music, math English, history/geography/culture, Russian and science. Lots and lots of reading. I blog at suzukiexperience.com

    WARNING: Unwittingly, I may occasionally say things to which you take offence.

  9. #8

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    I worried so much about this with DD. She required me sitting next to her for everything and when I would give her things to work on when I had to be elsewhere, nothing was ever complete when I came home. She decided that she wanted to try 6th grade in middle school. I did not think it would go well, how in the world was this child who did nothing independently going to be able to handle middle school. Well she is excelling. She challenges herself, doesn't forget assignments and prides herself in not having to ask for much help with the assignments. I worried so much about her lack of independence and now I just can't believe I was so worried. I think something clicks in that tween almost teen mind and things change. Just my experience, of course every child is different, but I do think maturity plays a large part in this.
    Beth
    DS14 with ASD, DD11 and DS8

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by HawaiiGeek View Post
    Well she is excelling. She challenges herself, doesn't forget assignments and prides herself in not having to ask for much help with the assignments.
    It's good to know that just waiting for maturity to catch up may be another answer.
    DD age 9, Grade 4ish

    Eclectic. We do music, math English, history/geography/culture, Russian and science. Lots and lots of reading. I blog at suzukiexperience.com

    WARNING: Unwittingly, I may occasionally say things to which you take offence.

  11. #10

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    At that age, I had those exact concerns. And my kids, mostly on their own, just got more independent naturally by age 11/12. But age 9/10 was the HEIGHT of my involvement in the homeschooling so far. Now at 13, it's way more chill and they do a lot more on their own. But age 9 was really hard on me in many ways - they had a lot more to do and learn, work took longer, but they couldn't do much independently yet. I think most kids can't. Kids in classrooms aren't working independently either. A room filled with people doing the exact same thing while an adult stands over you is really not working independently, even if the kids are at small desks doing their own worksheets or whatever.

    Basically, while some kids are ready for more independence at that age and have great executive functioning, I don't think it's the most common thing - it certainly wasn't among the kids I've known.

    As for strategies to improve things? Um, other than just wait and continue to gently push when possible? I think if her only activity is Suzuki, then it wouldn't be a bad idea for her to have at least one activity that's away from you completely - rec league sports or a co-op class or a local art class or whatever. Just something where you're not involved other than as transportation. Or even an online class. I'm guessing she already does some of those things, but just in case, I'll toss that out there.

    Other thoughts... I think Destination Imagination/Odyssey of the Mind are PERFECT for fostering this sort of independence because they have rules about parent/coach involvement in the challenges. Robotics teams, scouts, and 4H can also be good because they give kids big tasks, challenges, or projects that they spearhead as a group and have to assume leadership roles to accomplish. Another strategy would be to have a time for open ended projects a la Project Based Homeschooling. Have you ever read that Lori Pickart book? It's worth the quick read and might give you a sense of how to foster a project time for her. Another idea - try out independence in other ways. My kids got to stay home alone for short periods by that age or to walk to the park alone. Or maybe she can learn to cook her own breakfast or lunch? Or have a night that she's in charge of dinner (even if it's always simple).

    Basically, my idea is go sideways. Don't try to hit the independence thing head on too hard in her schoolwork. I mean, you can try getting more simple workbook type programs and see if the skills transfer... but I'd just push for independence in other areas.
    Want to read about my homeschool?
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