Homeschooling upper elementary students is fun and trying all at once! Today I’m sharing tips for homeschooling upper elementary children without pulling your hair out! Homeschooling kindergarten begins with each assignment completed side by side with your child, but as students approach upper elementary it’s time to let go of the reins a little. That can be hard to do! The goal (at least my goal) in homeschooling is to teach children to teach themselves, giving progressively more independence as they gain skills. The idea sounds great, but is hard to apply. It’s so easy to treat my students like always, hand holding, and coaxing through each subject as was necessary those first few years. Especially in homes with younger siblings, the older students feel frustrated by their increased workload without increased independence. Suddenly there is tension. Older children feel stifled and babied. Mom feels tied to the school table all day. Attitudes are poor all around. Make the transition to homeschooling upper elementary homeschoolers smooth with these simple tips!
Pair more school responsibility with big kid perks. In our school these are some favorite perks:
- pretty pens– Once a child demonstrates good handwriting she can use pretty pens just like Momma. I start my students with these great erasable pens.
- beverages– Older children can bring hot chocolate or another beverage to the school table (we love Tervis mugs for this!)
- typing– After the keyboard is mastered the student can choose to type assignments.
Find areas of school that your child is capable of taking responsibility and control of. These areas are different for each child and mom, but here are several ideas that work well in our home. My best advice? Pick your non-negotiable then find wiggle room on the rest.
Allow your child to find a quiet, comfortable place to complete assignments. My upper elementary children often complete assignments in their beds or a comfortable chair while younger students stay at the school table for all assignments.
This is my non- negotiable. I don’t want to be stuck to the school table all day as students rotate in and out. So, during ‘school time’ I stay close to the school table, available to help and teach. Any work done outside these hours must be work that can be successfully completed independently. Or at the very least, the student may follow me around the house as I go about my day so I can answer any questions that come up.
No one enjoys busy work. By upper elementary students can spot busy work a mile away. Remember that the textbook was written with enough work to help all students reach mastery. If you have a student who is capable of reaching mastery without completing every single problem and assignment in the book, then let him! My students know that a 100% on a spelling pretest means that they may cross out spelling for the week. Why complete busy work on words they can spell, and take a second test if they’ve already gotten 100% correct? Busy work will have different definitions for each student, but pay attention and don’t be afraid to skip something your student really doesn’t need!
Much of the angst between upper elementary students and Mommy/Teacher is over students feeling micromanaged, so give as much leeway as possible in schedule and assignments. Allow your student to choose the order in which he completes his assignments when possible. Allow students to work ahead to have a lighter workload (or even day off) during the week. Create assignment sheets that give some control to the student. Teach your student how to break assignments down into manageable chunks, and then step back and allow independence. For example, my 2nd grader is assigned science on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, history on Tuesday/Thursday etc. While my 4th grader can choose to complete her first science and history assignments on Monday or Tuesday, and her second on Wednesday or Thursday. Some weeks she chooses one thing a day, others she stacks both on one day. My 5th grader has many subjects with weekly assignments. At the beginning of the school year I broke each weekly lesson into 2 to 4 manageable chunks on her assignment sheet. She had control over which days to complete the assignments. However, I didn’t allow her to stack those separate chunks all on Thursday/Friday. If she had a 3 assignment lesson, and she didn’t complete any work on the lesson on Monday or Tuesday, she must complete those three assignments Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. She could do more than one chunk a day earlier in the week- I didn’t want her saving everything until Thursday/Friday. Once she demonstrated that she was capable of that independence I gave her more. Now I merely list the weekly assignments and she determines how to break them down and schedule them. She has the freedom to do the entire week of one subject in a day, or to break it into multiple days. Often by Friday she only has her daily assignments, such as math to complete! The key is that your students know that they’ve earned these big kid perks. These perks are a privilege, not a right… if they take advantage the privilege is gone. The wonderful thing about these simple tips is that I no longer have to stay on top of each student all day. My students value their big kid privileges and protect them by doing contentious work.
Do you have any tips for schooling upper elementary students? I’d love to hear them!