Teaching Your Online Student To Be Independent

When you take the leap and enroll your child in an online high school program, you’re helping your child become an independent, confident thinker. That’s a great quality to gift them and will set them apart from their peers, but if your child struggles with their newfound independence, you can still work with them to develop this important skill.

As a provider of online education for decades now, Excel High School has some experience working with families to help their children learn and practice independence. These tips will help you along that journey. Your student will benefit academically and throughout their life if you can help them work through this, so taking the time is a worthwhile endeavor for you and your student in the short- and long-term. 

Establish Boundaries

If your instinct is to automatically jump up and help your child as soon as they need help, you might want to rethink that move. Before you teach your student that they need you to solve every problem them, sit down and define help. Figuring out how much help is too much help is step one. 

You can give your student some guidance instead of answers so that they learn to think for themselves. Helping your child figure out what they can do on their own versus when they need to reach out to an instructor or to set up time with a tutor is essential for independent online learning.  You can give them some good questions to ask themselves before they reach out for help.

  • • I know _. I get stuck when _. (Be specific.)
  • • Have I re-read my notes? 
  • • Have I re-read the lesson?
  • • Have I looked for any solutions online?

Once they’ve established that they are not able to figure out the solution on their own, you can teach them to advocate for themselves by reaching out for help. Students enrolled full-time in Excel’s middle and high school programs can reach out to their academic success coaches for assistance  Walking them through the steps for emailing for support or setting up a session with their success coach is a wonderful way to show your student that you support them by teaching them how to be independent.

If you do still need to help your student, then it’s important to provide guidance, not answers. Asking them questions to help them figure out the issue on their own is the key to helping your child while also teaching them how to think for themselves and solve problems independently. At the same time, keep in mind that a balancing act is going on where you also don’t want to overcorrect them if they’re not understanding a subject or skill. 


Keeping things positive for your student is essential, so both your mindset and theirs is an important aspect of independent learning to keep an eye on. If you make it your goal to teach your child that struggle is a critical independent learning activity, you’ll see great long-term results. Teaching your student about productive struggle is the key to them learning on their own. Through this teaching, they’ll learn to spend extra time on more difficult lessons and how to give themselves grace when something doesn’t come to them as quickly as other lessons. If you’re struggling, that means you’re challenging your brain, and that’s great news! Stretching your skills and knowledge requires some productive struggle. Framing that as a positive will help your student grow.

Make a Plan for the Future

If your student is struggling to stay motivated, helping them make a plan for the future is a great way to encourage them. When you create a set schedule and a checklist of to-do that lists both short- and long-term goals together, you’re modeling what adults do in their lives all the time. Eventually, they’ll be able to set their goals for their long-term future as well as make checklists of what they need to accomplish in their classes each week. The goal is to guide them and then watch them flourish as they learn to check things off their lists themselves.


Work with your student one day a week to stay organized. This one-on-one time will show them that their academic progress is important to you, and it will model more positive behaviors that will suit them well later on in life.  With this, the goal is again to teach them a skill so that they can eventually organize themselves. Some of the actions you can work with them on during this one-on-one time includes throwing away old notes or papers that they don’t need anymore, cleaning their work space, and organizing their calendar so that they have plenty of down time in addition to time spent with other young people engaging in athletics, volunteer work, or other extra-curricular activities.

By spending the time with your student teaching them how to be independent, you’re guiding them on their way to adulthood. When it’s time for them to leave home, you won’t have to wonder if you’ve done all you can to help your child be independent and make good decisions. You’ll know for sure you’ve done your part as you guided them through independent learning in their online academic program.

About Excel High School

Excel High School is an accredited online school that offers many different academic program options for students grade 6 through graduation. Our fully online, self-paced programs fit around your family’s schedule, and our support team is here to help you along the way. If you’re not already a student with Excel High School but would like to learn more, feel free to check out our programs on our website. Still got questions? Feel free to reach out to us by text at 952-465-3700 or call us at 800-620-3844. Our staff will be happy to answer any questions you have and guide you to the best program for your individual needs.

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