Independent Study 101
3 Major Components:
Independent study is very different from a traditional site based school. You as a parent have accepted the big responsibility of your child’s daily education and you now have a wonderful opportunity to create a richly rewarding and memorable experience for you and your family. Parents play a huge role in the success of their students. Independent study is very different from a traditional site based school. We know this is a huge task and we want to support you in playing your role as day-to-day teacher. We have prepared a series of materials to support parents.
What does Independent Study look like?
To begin you will want to have a conversation with your entire family about what independent study will look like and the roles that each of them will have to support this endeavor. Your middle school student needs to acknowledge that during the school day you are now their teacher and they need to commit to their role as the student. Discuss how other family members can support this by allowing quiet time for the student to focus and learn with minimal distractions. It is VERY important to develop a structure to your day and stick to it. It is also important to give the student some choices such as do you want to start with English or Math? As you make a plan, here are some clarifying questions you need to ask yourself and your child::
Once you have gotten through the organization of your home classroom and roles and responsibilities of everyone you will move on to the another component of learning from home, creating lessons and documentation through paperwork. Some of you are experienced and know how your child learns best so you already have an idea of the curriculum you want to chose. Others are very new to this and will need help with assigning and choosing curriculum. Your IST is very experienced and will help you with any curriculum choices or guide you with appropriate assignments.
Use the "Back to School Checklist TK-5" from the menu on the right to think through various aspects of your home-based learning program. Your IST will review some of these items with you during your initial meeting and for others, they may direct you to regional parent training opportunities or other resources. There is no one “right way” to approach curriculum in a home-based learning environment. Pathways allows for tremendous flexibility in the methods used (curriculum) to reach the standards. For some parents this is very exciting because it means that they can design lessons and unit plans specific to the interests and learning styles of their child. However, for other parents this is overwhelming and does not give them enough direction on where to start. NO matter where on that spectrum you fall, discuss various options with your IST and select a place to start. Likely, over the first few months of school, you and your teacher will decide to make some changes to the materials selected or the types of assignments. That is to be expected. A few aspects to consider:
Also in the menu to the right, you will find an overview of paperwork guidelines- please review this document as well. This paperwork is not only a huge component of independent study compliance, but also outlines the expectations of your IST and is a tool for communication for the members of the educational team.
How do I know if my student is making progress?
There are several tools that help demonstrate how well your child is making academic progress. Referencing the monthly assignment sheet, learning objectives and evaluating assessment scores throughout the semester support ongoing progress monitoring. As the parent provides daily instruction, structure and support for their student you, have many opportunities to informally evaluate your child’s learning and progress. Here are some things to consider as you evaluate progress:
There are many online resources that parents can access to support student learning. A good place to begin is to have a better understanding of what the grade level standards are.
The following website : http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/ has the standards for each grade level so you can take a look to determine what is expected at each grade level.
When reviewing your child’s monthly assignments sheets you can review the grade level learning objectives that are written within the document. Here are a few examples:
Another progress monitoring tool is collecting baseline assessment data of where you student is at the beginning of the school year so you can determine if they are making adequate progress. Pathways administers an in-house benchmark assessment using Renaissance Learning for reading and math during the first few weeks of enrollment and each new school year. From these assessments you will have established a baseline and also determine strengths and areas to focus your teaching or intervention if needed. It’s important to re-evaluate student progress and frequently review target skills throughout the school year. Renaissance Learning reports include the following information:
Remember your Independent Study Teacher is a valuable resource to brainstorm ideas and any concerns you have regarding your child’s learning and progress.
If you or your IST have any concerns about your student’s academic progress, or any concerns in general, we can hold a student study team meeting (SST) to discuss the concerns and come up with a plan for support or intervention. Please ask your IST about this process if you need more information.
The skills that we need in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making. Specifically we need to be able to:
Pursuing a high school education via an independent study program can be very different than taking classes in a traditional site-based setting. In order to accomplish their goals, students must work collaboratively with parents/guardians and teachers as part of an educational team. (And because high school students take such an active role in their own education, this "parent training" is really a "parent and student training.") Choosing courses, completing graduation requirements, making post-high school plans while keeping options open -- a daunting task. Fortunately, you have plenty of support at Pathways, not only your independent study teacher but also our Guidance Coordinator, class instructors, office staff, and community resources.
To help you with this exciting endeavor, we have prepared a number of tools.
Start by considering the following questions:
Continue by exploring some of the materials available at this website.
Parents/guardians and students should review the Graduation Requirements and High School Course Catalog (see Advising above), and the “Paperwork Guidelines for Parents and Students: Grades 9-12” (see link on the right).
Take a look at the Parent Student Handbook, particularly “Section IX: For High School Students and Their Parents” (see Parents - Handbook & Forms above).
Students should work through the “Back-to-School Tasks for Pathways Charter School Independent Study Students: Grades 9-12” and discuss it with their teacher (see link on the right).
Remember to find time for some big picture planning with your independent study teacher and the Guidance Coordinator.