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Teaching Students to Work Independently Conference Handout

Susan Wise Bauer
Susan Wise Bauer

Note: This is the Conference Handout for the lecture, Teaching Students to Work Independently:
Moving towards independence in grades 5-12. 

Do not reproduce without permission. Please give appropriate credit for ideas and quotes.

I. Levels of supervision
Parent at Elbow (PEW)
Hovering Parent (HOP)
Assign and Check Parent (ACP)
Start and End of Day Parent, On Call (SEDPOC)
Start and End of Week Parent, On Call (SEWPON)
Tuition Paying Parent (TPP)

II. Thought experiment
Student #1
Student #2
Student #3

III. Grades 4-5
Move towards Hovering Parent in all but one or two subjects
•Make use of a Student Checklist
•Allow student to choose alternating subjects
Reading _______ Math ________ Piano ________
Grammar _______ Riding Lesson _______ Handwriting _____
Spelling _____ Science________ Math______
History _______ Practice Piano Alone______
Reading______ History ________
Art_______ Math _______
Piano_______Spelling _______

IV. Grade 5
Begin to work on personal schedule-keeping
•Buy student a wall calendar or notebook planner
•Make sure student has an alarm clock and a watch
Challenge for the year: the student should write in all appointments (doctor and dentist visits, holidays, birthday parties, babysitting jobs, visits with friends)
Challenge for the year: the student should establish regular time for getting up and going to bed and other family deadlines, and should keep them without prompting.

V. Grade 6
Goal:one Parent at Elbow subject, two Hovering Parent subjects, rest Assign and Check
•Continue to use checklist
•Continue to work on personal schedule keeping
•Identify which subjects require you to be At Elbow, which require you
to Hover, and which can be moved to Assign and Check
1. Give the assignment, a time frame, and a timer.
2. Student reports back at end of time frame
Rewards for diligence
Consequences for irresponsibility

VI. Grade 7
Establish regular school schedule
•Work out academic schedule along with daily schedule, monitor
•Surrender the teacher’s book
7 AM Get up, chores and breakfast
8-9 Math
9-9:30 Break
9:30-10 Grammar
10-11 History
11-11:30 Break
11:30-12:30 Science
12:30 Lunch

VII. Grade 8
Work towards becoming a Start and End of Day Parent, On Call
•Work out academic and daily schedule as in Grade 7
•Help student plan how to organize and store books and papers
•Establish morning check-in time for student
•Establish end-of-day check-in time for student
Check work that needs grading“Eyeball” all work

VIII. Before Grade 9
Plan out tentative four-year schedule
Subject Years of study
Language arts 4
Math 3-4
Foreign language 2-4
World history 1
American history 1
American government 1
Science 3-4
Physical education 2
Electives 4-8

IX. Grades 9-12
Start and End of Week Parent
•Beginning of each semester: revisit master plan and make adjustments
•Student continues to keep academic and daily calendar.
•Review the week’s tasks at the beginning of each week
•Check progress in each subject, including correspondence courses, at the end of every week
•Schedule monthly (at least) updates from any tutors
•Ask student for a “Friday report.” What’s going well? What’s going badly? Does he/she want to drop/add work? What changes need to be made?

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Susan Wise Bauer

Susan Wise Bauer is an educator, writer, and historian. She is the co-author of The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (now in its fourth edition), and the author of (among others) The Well- Educated Mind, The Story of Western Science, the Story of the World series, the History of the World series, the elementary series Writing With Ease, and the pre-rhetoric series Writing With Skill. Susan was home educated through high school and has taught all four of her children at home. She has a B.A. and M.A. in English language and literature, an M.Div., and a Ph.D. in the history of American religion from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, where she taught writing and literature for over fifteen years.

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