Helping Teens Become Independent Learners: Using a Syllabus

Here’s information on helping teens become independent learners: using a syllabus.

Helping Teens Become Independent Learners: Using a Syllabus

Helping Teens Become Independent Learners: Using a Syllabus

I have several hats that I wear, one is a life coach to young college students who are learning how to be successful in an environment where no one is telling them what to do. They are often struggling with regulating their schedules and studies and have NO clue what to do with they syllabus that each professor provides.

This isn’t a surprise! In my years of coaching I’ve discovered that lots of young people graduate high school and do not have the skills to be independent learners. I’ve seen this in teens from traditional schools and homeschools.

Want to help your teens become independent learners? One important way is to teach them to use a syllabus.

Here is a popular course for trying out a syllabus:

Human Development

What is a syllabus?

A syllabus is a document that lists:

  • Name of text (often including author, publisher, edition and isbn if applicable)
  • Other materials that will be used
  • Brief summary of the purpose and goals of the course
  • Topics (or chapters) to be covered
  • Grading scale
  • Due dates of key projects
  • Test dates
  • Homework assignments
  • A schedule: week-by-week or day-by-day to show what topics will be covered and accompanying assignments

Note: Sometimes homeschool parents think they don’t need to bother creating a syllabus since they are homeschooling and not in a class setting. That is true: it is not a requirement. However, for core courses or important electives, it is a good idea for you to have a syllabus for your records (it is used as a course description for your records). AND what we are after here: A syllabus helps develop independent learning skills.

Here is how teens can use a syllabus:

  • Read over the syllabus at the beginning of the year (or semester, if it is a one-semester syllabus).
  • Take a look at the textbook quickly
  • Get a feel for the length of chapters, locations of questions, reviews, activities
  • Gather the other materials and look them over
  • Read the goals and purpose of the course, the topics to be covered, as well as the grading scale
  • Discuss these together- teens and parent
  • Get your calendar out (digital or paper)
  • Mark the due dates of projects, papers, and tests
  • Using 7Sisters: Scheduling Backwards, mark when to start and 1/2 way points of working on each project, paper and test (parents may need to help with the first few courses)
  • Mark on calendar when homework is due and daily assignments

Now your teens are empowered to:

  • Understand what the course is about
  • What is expected and when
  • When to study or work on each requirement

This is the foundation of independent learning. The more they use syllabi the better they get at the process. College athlete, Carly Smythe, attributes some of her success to knowing how to use a syllabus.

Understanding how to use a syllabus is often crucial to success in group classes. Read about other skills that can make the transition to group classes successful.

It is a parent’s job to check in when homework and assignments are due and conduct any discussion of the material, of course.

For a look at developing independent learning, check out this Homeschool Highschool Podcast interview on helping teens own their education.

Another fun course to introduce the concept of using a syllabus is Introduction to Psychology from a Christian Perspective. Download this popular etext for your teens.

introduction to psychology


Helping Teens Become Independent Learners: Using a Syllabus

Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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