I'm pleased to say that my teenager is FINALLY getting to a relatively independent stage in his learning.
Helping my fourth-grade daughter gain this sense of independence has not been quite as smooth. She still wants my constant attention and approval, which is obviously understandable. But to encourage her independence, this year I'm giving her a weekly responsibility chart.
Giving her a to-do list for her daily schoolwork helps her see the things she can do to herself, and when I'm tied up with helping her younger sister, she can see her jobs before her.
Responsible Kids is the Goal
The whole point of a child's education is to help a child become independent at learning. I want to help my kids see the ways they can solve their own problems, direct curiosity to resources that can answer questions, and find joy in exploring the world and how it works. By the time students graduate from high school, they should have some degree of understanding about their own responsibility to succeed, in education and elsewhere.
My teenager, now 14, is finally taking responsibility for his many assignments. He can't say that he loves his homework, and he would not have chosen the intense classes for himself if he had a choice. That said, I also do try to remember his age and remind him of various chores and homeschool assignments that he needs to be doing. This is to make sure he remembers his own responsibilities. I've noticed, though, that he now resents that because, as he says "I know! I know!"
When Do You Start Teaching Responsibility?
There is a time and a place for teaching responsibility.
When my son was in elementary school, his writing and history notebook was lost. It was a primary-grade lined book with a section on top for illustrations.
I was pretty annoyed by this. He told me he had been reading it and playing with it outside of the schoolroom. So it could be anywhere. Even after a few weeks, it was not found. Six months of notes had been lost, and while this seems like a silly thing for me to be annoyed about, it was meant to be his homeschool portfolio for the year, marking what he had learned and showing his improvement in handwriting and historical understanding.
What I realized from this experience was this: He had not learned that he needed to responsible. I had not expected him or asked him to take responsibility. It had never been something I'd asked of him. I had not set him up for any serious consequence or explained what I expected he needed to do. I had not taught him from the beginning that he was responsible for the notebook.
If I wanted him to be responsible for his papers and books, I needed to talk to him about it extensively before things got lost. I need to be more proactive in helping him. He needs guidance in learning responsibility. I can’t expect him to learn responsibility after the fact if I have not expected it all along!
Responsibility Charts to Help Children Learn
With my next two children, I've been trying to emphasize this kind of personal responsibility. One way I do so is by tracking good behavior with reward charts and tracking chores and homework assignments with weekly responsibility charts.
Actually, I started with a rainbow reward chart for my youngest two years ago when she was potty training. She loved running to add a sticker to her rainbow after a success. Now that she is in kindergarten, I can emphasize other successful behaviors. She is also eager to add a "done" sticker to her school To-Do list.
I had thought that my 9-year-old fourth grader would have preferred to track her work on a computer (as her older brother does), but she too enjoys tracking her finished work with a satisfying checkmark.
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Rewards & Chores Charts
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