School is starting back up really soon here, and I’m eager for my oldest two to get back into it. Working at home with just my youngest is always a challenge, but it’s so good to know the older two will be in school, and the youngest will be attending a parent participation preschool soon as well.

One of the great things about working at home is that I’m there when the kids get home from school. I can even pick them up at school if necessary or if I just want to. Still, I think it’s important to give them age appropriate independence, and so this year I don’t intend to pick them up from school, as it’s less than a quarter mile walk in a generally safe neighborhood. It’s a nice amount of independence for their ages, and I believe that’s important.

Kids need to learn to do things independently of their parents. It’s hard to let go sometimes, but so necessary to your child’s development. When, how, all that depends on your child and your family’s situation – I’m not going to tell you when your kids are old enough to walk home from school like mine, as not everyone is in my situation or has kids as ready for it as I do. You know your kids and your situation, so you get to decide. But there are plenty of other places to encourage your child to be more independent, even when you’re home.

Homework

I encourage independence in homework. My kids get a short break after school, but they’re expected to start their homework after that without being reminded and with minimal assistance. They can ask questions, but overall it’s their responsibility. I often check math, but I only note if a problem is wrong – I don’t say how to fix it. Most times the kids know as soon as the fact of the error is pointed out. And those big assignments that some parents get a little overenthusiastic about – you can tell my kids handle those with only advice from me, not the actual work.

Working from home may in part be about being there for your kids,  but it shouldn’t be about doing everything for your kids. Allowing them to take as much of the lesson from homework as possible is a big help. Don’t be afraid to help when it’s really needed, but also don’t get dragged into doing the assignment for them.

Chores

Teaching kids to do chores well is a real pain. My two oldest can clean the kitchen adequately (not perfectly, but adequately) and it is such a relief to be able to tell them that it’s time to clean up in there rather than always doing it myself.

Teaching them to do it, as I said, wasn’t fun. Much harder than doing it myself. But now that they do that and other cleaning without direct supervision on my part, life is so much easier. They don’t like doing chores, but they know it’s a skill they need, so there is a certain degree of pride in their own abilities there too.

Alone Time

My oldest is getting into time for herself in a big way lately, which is driving my youngest a bit up the wall, as she’d rather be with her big sister. While it’s something of an annoyance for her siblings, it’s very healthy for my oldest. She’s doing things on her own, in her own way, whether she decides to close herself up in her room or go up a tree outside. Who doesn’t sometimes need time to be alone with their thoughts?

The Benefit to Parents

Parents benefit tremendously from having children who are capable of doing many things independently. It means you don’t have to be the entertainment or the boss all of the time. For me and my family, that makes the times we choose to do things together all the more fun. We aren’t usually being pushed to do things together, as that’s not the only way we function.

It’s much easier for me to work at home this way. I can work while the kids play, do homework, chores or watch television. I’m usually around them still so that questions can be answered, but if they don’t need help and are generally behaving, they don’t want my interference, as a general rule.

Letting go is hard, I’ll grant that. My oldest two are just started to wander a larger range outside. They’ve roamed some on their own for a couple years now, but we’re hitting the point where a greater distance is acceptable. They much prefer riding scooters around the block (big block, about a mile) to just going up and down the hills by the house. Deciding to let them do this, which few if any of their friends do, wasn’t easy, but they go together and come back very happy. I like that part.