Friday, September 27, 2013

Transitioning to Independence Part II

Continued from Part I.

After that first online class attempt in Year 2, we took a break from scheduled online classes. Almost exactly a year later, we decided to try again, for math this time. Year 3 is a significant milestone in kiddo's homeschooling.

Unlike Year 2's group class, the Year 3 math class was a one-on-one arrangement. Kiddo was required to listen attentively and engage as much as he could for about an hour. His teacher used an online whiteboard to discuss the work and kiddo was required to write out his work (this was his introduction to showing work for multi-step math problems) using a pen tablet. His writing was such a scrawl lol...overly huge characters slanting in all sorts of angles. Against the pristine white background of the online whiteboard, his scrawls looked like a family of squiggly, black spiders, giant papa and mama spiders with the babies all lined up afterwards from the biggest to the smallest. His equations consisted of letters and numbers that started off huge and got smaller and smaller down the line because he quickly ran out of whiteboard space.

I'm grateful that his teacher was super patient. Along the way kiddo also figured out how to write smaller and in a straighter (but still not straight, lol) line. This easily took him six months to a year to master.

Unlike the Year 2 class, there was much less hand holding from me during the class meeting time itself. I helped him log on the first few times, and I needed to help him figure out some bugs involving Java and the pen tablet software. After that he was very much on his own. I usually stayed somewhere close, like the next room, eavesdropping once in a while to make sure everything was going smoothly. He was however, much more comfortable by this time doing it alone. When I knew that the class hour was ending, I came into the room and helped make sure kiddo was writing down the page numbers and question numbers for homework assignments.

The next day, looking at the textbook pages and question numbers, we broke up the assignments into equal or almost equal sessions so that he could be done with the homework in three or four sessions, before the next class began. Then we sat together and did the work side by side. I count these homework discussion sessions as among the most helpful things I have ever done for him. There were frustrating days too. I can hear myself even now, getting upset with him when he skipped multiple steps by working everything out mentally, to write just one single number when that wasn't what I was hoping he'd do.

Because I was doing the work next to him in my own notebook, I could calm things down quickly by showing him all the steps I used. I showed him how I lined up my equations, how I boxed up my answers, how I explained in a short line when a short proof was required. I could see that at times he just wanted to be done with it. We had disagreements galore. We still do. As hard as it is, we try not to take the arguments on a personal level. I try to diffuse the situation with a joke whenever I can. I think a big reason why we managed to avoid getting overly personal and hurt by the disagreements was that someone else was doing the assigning, someone he obviously admired (and still does!). Yes, I am definitely in favor of trying an outsourced class when homeschooled kids are ready for them. I wish I was qualified and experienced enough to teach everything myself. But I'm not. And sometimes, not doing it all yourself can help save the parent-child relationship even if the homeschool teacher-child relationship has to be put on hold.

I spent about 10 months--the entire duration of that online math class--working side-by-side with him. It helped on so many levels, but best of all, it helped us become math partners and helped me refresh my own math knowledge so that even now, as much as he has outstripped me in math, I'm not altogether left in the dust.

This class was kiddo's first taste of independence. By independence, I don't mean doing his work entirely by himself. What I mean by independence is being responsible for his own work, wanting to do it even if he has to do it all alone, because it means something special to him. It is important to me that he feels responsibility and ownership towards his work. If I relied on him liking something just because it was created or planned or ordered to be so by me, then I am setting myself up for disappointment and setting him up for resentment.

After this Year 3 class, I feel that I have given him enough tools to carry on his own if necessary. And now, because he has the tools, I can let him decide on how best to approach a subject. I see him taking charge more happily. I can be confident that even if his "always cheering and supportive but sometimes criticizing (but in a constructive way) squad" (i.e. his Dad and me) is unable to help, he can still carry on because he owns what he does and knows what to do next even if he has to do it all by himself. I hope this makes sense. :)

In Part III, I record how we've transitioned to kiddo working even more independently now.

Links to other parts:
Part I, Part III and Part IV.


  1. I'm loving these "transitioning to independence" posts. I feel like transitioning my kids to independence is one of the main points of homeschooling - as an adult, he's going to have to decide what he wants to know, and be able to plan his own path to figuring it out. Math has been our first subject to transition, too - we did it with computer based math and Life of Fred rather than an instructor (Ko's Journey and later Descarte's Cove). It's nice that the Life of Fred books say right in the front that the kids are supposed to do the work themselves, and it's good for them to struggle with it sometimes. I've shown that to my son, and use it as an excuse to help only very little. :) I'm considering online classes for writing, but not right away. I've only just started trying to really teach writing, so I'm going to give it some time before deciding on that.

    1. Sounds like a great plan! I enjoy teaching what I can too so I try to hold on to those things as long as possible myself before considering outsourcing.

  2. I love how your homeschooling has changed over the years. I can relate to all the ups and downs. It's wonderful to see Kiddo making gradual steps toward independence. Already, I feel like I cannot teach everything. It's just not possible. Your posts are always encouraging.

    Great picture of Kiddo, by the way! He looks so very mature.

  3. Thank you for sharing this journey. I see so many people define independence as working completely on their own with no input or help from a parent. I never want my kids to feel that they have to be working independently in that way. What I do love to see, and what you so eloquently put into words, is a student becoming responsible for their work, for their education, for their goals.It is wonderful to see our children grow in their homeschool journey. I see it in my kids and I see it in your son. It amazes me sometimes!

    I also love the picture of your son. He is looking so mature lately!

    1. A spot-on thought there Jill. In fact, I am drafting Part III now and I've explained how I see independence as being separate from isolation. Kiddo is never working alone in that way at all. I've repeated what I mean by independence in Part III as well because I want to be absolutely clear about that. So thank you for expressing that. :D

      Also since two of my readers have brought it up...this picture was actually taken in Year 3! When he was 8. I took it to send to his math teacher (that's why kiddo is posing with the math book) in a thank you card. He's growing up so fast. :(

  4. This is still something I struggle with. B is completely independent (ie responsible for his own learning) for everything he *wants* to do. For eg yesterday he taught himself (using a YouTube tutorial) how to master a technique in Photoshop. I'll help him when he gets stuck or asks for some direction but other than that he's on his own - it was his idea, he carried through with it, he (constantly) shows me the finished products he's created.

    But if it's something I *require* him to do, like Maths, it's like pulling teeth. I still have to sit beside him and keep him focused. Or do I? Hmmm... We need to start getting more formal in some subjects as reporting requirements will be more stringent as he hits high school (Yr 7). So I need to start making him more responsible for those things he *has* to do but doesn't really want to.

    1. Kiddo is the same way with writing. It really is a struggle here to require him to write. I haven't looked into online writing specific classes yet. So far all his online work has been enjoyable so sometimes I wonder if he will prefer writing if someone else assigns it. Meanwhile, we take looooong breaks from it. :P Completely agreeing and empathizing with you.


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