Allowing Homeschooled Students to Take Charge of Their School Day

preteen lying on floor with laptop and homework
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Homeschooling parents often name flexibility as one of our favorite homeschool benefits. We should be willing to pass that flexibility on to our children. There are non-negotiable tasks in every home and homeschool, but there is usually room for giving children the freedom to make some of their own decisions.

Allowing our children the freedom to make some of these decisions lets them take ownership of their education.

It also helps them begin to develop effective time-management skills.

Consider these areas in which you may be able to allow your homeschooled students take charge of their school day.

1. When to complete their schoolwork

Depending on their age and maturity level (and the flexibility of your schedule), consider giving your kids some freedom on when they complete their schoolwork. Some kids prefer to get up and get started right away each day. Others feel more alert later in the day.

When my oldest, now graduated, was a homeschooled teen, she preferred doing the bulk of her schoolwork late at night and sleeping in the following day. As long as she was completing and comprehending her work, I didn’t care what hours of the day she worked on it. It can be a valuable skill for kids to learn to recognize when they’re most productive and alert.

We did have relatives who worried that she wouldn’t be able to adjust to a regular work schedule when the time came, but that has not proven to be a problem.

Even if she had continued to prefer a later schedule, there are plenty of third shift jobs and someone has to work them.

2. Where to do school

Allow your children to choose the physical location to do their independent work. My son prefers to do his written work at the kitchen table. He does his reading lying in the bed or on the couch.

My daughter prefers to do all her her work in her room, spread out on her bed.

When the weather is nice, my kids have also been known to take their schoolwork to our front porch or screened-in deck.

Again, as long as completion and comprehension aren't an issue, I don’t care where my kids do their schoolwork.

3. How to complete their schoolwork

Sometimes the assignments in their textbooks don’t mesh well with my kids’ personalities and interests. When this happens, I’m  open to alternatives. For example, if the topic of the writing assignment isn’t a good fit, they are free to choose an alternate topic that achieves the same goal.

Just last week, my son had an assignment to write a letter of application to a particular type of business – a place to which he would not apply in real life. Instead, he wrote a letter to an actual company where he would like to work some day.

On many occasions, we have swapped the boring book activity for a related hands-on learning activity or chosen a different book for assigned reading.​

If your kids prefer a different activity that accomplishes the same learning objective that the curriculum is trying to teach, allow them some room for creativity.  

4. How to structure their school day

If your students don’t do subjects together as a family, letting them decide the order of their school day is one of the easiest freedoms to allow.

After all, what difference does it make if they complete math before science?

Some kids like to get their most challenging subject out of the way early, while others feel more accomplished if they can quickly mark a few subjects off their to-do list. Allowing kids to choose the order of completion within the framework of their daily schedule gives them a sense of freedom and personal responsibility for their schoolwork.

5. What topics to study

If you write your own unit studies, let your kids chose the topics. This is an effective technique because you’re giving your kids input on the topic, but you can determine the scope of the study and the resources you’ll use.

Because this idea is very child-led, I highly recommend it for people who like the concepts of unschooling but aren’t quite ready to commit fully to the philosophy.

6. What curriculum they use

Don’t go to the homeschool conventions alone – take your children! Let them have some input on the homeschool curriculum you choose. This helps you discover what appeals to them and gives them a sense of ownership over their schoolwork.

You probably don’t want to take them with you the whole time, particularly if you have younger children. First, go do a little reconnaissance shopping. Then, once you’ve narrowed down the possibilities, let your kids have a say in the final decision.

I have often been surprised at what my kids chose and why. My older daughter preferred books with large text and colorful illustrations all the way through high school. My younger two chose workbooks, much to my surprise, and strongly preferred those that broke each topic into weekly units and daily lessons.

7. What books to read

At my house, it’s pretty much a given that if I assign a book, it’s going to be boring. We have persevered through supposedly boring books only to discover that my kids’ interest was captured pretty quickly. There have been times when a particular book needed to be completed even if it really was boring.

However, I’ve discovered that my kids enjoy reading much more when I give them choices even if the choices are limited. I’ve started offering two or three choices on the topic we’re studying and allowing them to choose which of the books to read.

A friend takes her kids to the library on a regular basis and allows them to choose any books they want under the headings: biography, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.

This allows them some leeway in their topics while providing some general guidelines.

8. How to spend their free time

Let your kids choose what they do with their free time. Surprisingly enough, studies have shown that playing video games can be beneficial. And sometimes a little mindless TV or fluff reading can be just what kids (and adults) need to unwind and process all the information they’ve taken in during the day.  

I’ve found that my kids tend to self-regulate on TV and video games after a bit and instead choose to use their time to play guitar, paint, write, or other similar activities. On the days when they over-indulge in screen time, I try to consider the possibility that the mental break is beneficial.

9. Where to go on field trips

Sometimes we parents put a lot of pressure on ourselves to choose and plan the perfect field trip. Get your kids in on the action. Ask them what they’d like to learn about and where they’d like to go. Often their insight and ideas will surprise you. Dream big together!

Homeschooling families tend to be big supporters of personal freedoms. Let's make sure we're extending those freedoms to our kids and teaching them valuable life skills (such as time management and how to learn) in the process.

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Bales, Kris. "Allowing Homeschooled Students to Take Charge of Their School Day." ThoughtCo, Feb. 24, 2017, thoughtco.com/students-to-take-charge-of-their-school-day-4010599. Bales, Kris. (2017, February 24). Allowing Homeschooled Students to Take Charge of Their School Day. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/students-to-take-charge-of-their-school-day-4010599 Bales, Kris. "Allowing Homeschooled Students to Take Charge of Their School Day." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/students-to-take-charge-of-their-school-day-4010599 (accessed November 22, 2017).