5 Steps for Setting Up BookShark for an Independent Teen Learner

a pencil sits atop a stack of small notebooks

I love the idea of a textbook-free homeschool in a house full of living books. I have bookshelf after bookshelf of proof. That's why BookShark is such a good fit for me and for my teens. BookShark is an amazing curriculum, full of fantastic books—a lot of books!

Here's another huge perk—BookShark curriculum can lead your teens towards more independent learning with Literature Packages that include both Student and Parent Guides.

My high schooler is using American History & Literature I for ages 13-15 this year. Getting her curriculum in order is top priority because I don’t want to waste time during school, looking for the materials. And since she is an independent learner, she, too, needs to know where everything is. Here's how I took my teen from Box Day to a back-to-school attitude in five steps.

1. Take Inventory

I love summer. It’s the time of year where new curriculum arrives at my door step—like Christmas. I take out all the new materials and all the re-used materials and spread them out on the table, inventory-style.

I check for doubles first; there is no reason to add clutter and extras to an already over flowing shelf. Then I compare resources, making sure I don’t have redundant material. BookShark is a complete History and Literature program, so there is no need for me to have extra history resources. I also make sure all academic subjects for the year are represented in the pile of materials.

This is also a great time to see if I’ve planned too much or too little. I can’t tell you what that may be for your family. Only you know your child and what they can accomplish in a year. Since I’m talking high school here and an independent learner, I need to be confident that it’s the right amount of school work for her.

2. Plan Your School Year

Now the fun begins! It’s time to take all that material and put it together in an organized fashion to carry you through the school year. Just the thought of that may seem overwhelming. Or you may be like me and love to organize things. Either way, it will be the difference between a successful year and a stressful year.

5 Steps for Setting Up BookShark for an Independent Teen LearnerI start with BookShark’s well-written 4-day lesson plans as a base. I’m going to keep my daughter on a 4-day schedule and balance her other work around BookShark. Her core subjects will take 4 days a week, and her electives will be done one day a week. You can peek at her schedule here. Sometimes it takes some adjustment, so don’t worry if you have to tweak your plans a month into the school year.

3. Set Up a Work Station

Independent learners need a dedicated work space so they have control over their study area, reduced distractions, and a place to retreat to—especially important in a busy home with lots of siblings.

Independent learners also need storage to organize books, school supplies, reference materials, a laptop, etc.:

  • a bookshelf
  • a tiered, rolling shelf
  • dollar store magazine holders or bins

Use what you have, and don’t feel the need to run out and buy more stuff. Be creative. You may not have a whole bookshelf to dedicate to one student, but a single shelf may be adequate.

4. Assemble the Book Collection

With a literature-based study come a lot of great books. Of course we don’t need all these books at our fingertips all year long, so I don’t recommend keeping them in your student’s work area. With my magazine holder system, only the books she is currently using are nearby. The others are stored more out of the way on the shelf, sorted by subject so they are easier to find. 

5. Create Systems for Independent Learning

For your student to truly be independent, they need to have a system. Provide a schedule, checklist, or lesson plans for your child. The Student Guides work well for this purpose. Teens need to know what is expected of them and where to find all their school materials. Let them be part of the process of setting up their school area so they can claim ownership of their work. 

Don’t expect what you don’t inspect. Have a regularly scheduled appointment to check completed work, discuss what they have learned, and assign grades if you do that in your homeschool. 

When getting your teen set up for back-to-school season, the goal is an organized environment and clear systems that can carry her through the upcoming school year with success. How you model and support her independent learning today will reap huge benefits for her ongoing education with professors who expect teens to manage their time and meet deadlines. Your teen will be ready because she's been doing it for several years as an independent learner with BookShark!

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Felicia Johnson • The Zoo I Call HomeAbout the Author

Daughter, wife, and mama, Felicia Johnson has been homeschooling for 17 years! She has 8 kiddos ranging from ages 1 to 20, with a varied sampling of special needs: deafness, ADD, sensory issues, and dyslexia.

At The Zoo I Call Home Felicia writes about homeschool organization and curriculum, with one overarching theme—the desire to find rest in the chaosShe admits that our busy, distraction-filled world can quickly overload her calendar with amazing things to do or get her sucked into Pinterest or Facebook for hours. To find rest in the middle of all life's chaos takes clear intention.