Help for High School: When Reading and Writing are Wrecking Your Day

By Sabrina Justison on 20 December 2012 / Curricula, High School, Homeschool Information, Lang. Arts - Lit. & Writing / 3 Comments

Homeschooling Literature and Writing during the high school years should be easy, right?  I mean, your child already knows how to read, how to write, and words are fun, so....

Actually, this can be one of the most frustrating subject areas for some high school homeschoolers.

Problems like these abound:

  • My kid STILL doesn't like to read, and he's two years away from graduation!  I failed!  How can I get him to love books?
  • Every time I ask my child to write, she says she doesn't know what to say.  Getting started is so hard!
  • My son likes to read, but only books he's picked...and he's NOT interested in picking classic literature.  How can I stretch him, and get him to read classics without World War III in our homeschool?
  • My daughter melts down when I correct her writing assignments.  How can I help her become a better writer without her taking it so personally?

Here are some ideas for improving Language Arts in your homeschool high school.

Perspective for Mom:

Loving books is not actually a sign of godliness.  As homeschoolers, we sometimes forget that each personality is unique, that likes and dislikes vary greatly from one person to another, and that this is actually OKAY.  If your student doesn't really like to read, you have not failed as a homeschooler, you are just homeschooling a child who does not enjoy reading very much.  Your job in teaching him is to equip him to read effectively (he'll need this skill the rest of his life, no matter what path his life may take) and to encourage him to read even when it is difficult or uninteresting to him (he'll need that discipline and perseverance along the path as well).

Stop telling him how wonderful books are.  Stop trying to convince him (he's a teenager and will be desperate to prove you wrong anyway!).  Instead, pour your energies into tackling the REAL challenge before you both.  Have an honest conversation and face the facts together -

  1. Reading is a necessary life skill.
  2. Books are filled with ideas and information that he must be able to comprehend and apply.
  3. 4 years of English credits are necessary on his high school transcript.
  4. Doing hard things because they must be done is important.  Finding ways to do them as efficiently and effectively as possible blesses the hard-worker.

Choose reasonable selections for your book list.  Include your student in this process so she can understand why you're assigning these books.

Here's a vlog in which I share a good way to choose books for high school literature.

Recognize the multi-step mental process that takes place when a student is writing.

Writing is not a mystical, intuitive process for most people.  Just as Math makes sense conceptually to some people but most of us need to have it broken down into steps for us to follow, writing can be broken down in a variety of ways to become more accessible to a variety of writers.  Talk to your student to find out WHICH PIECES of the process are most intimidating.

For many students, getting started is the killer.  Here's a post I wrote about helping a reluctant writer get off the starting block:

If a student gets started without stress but then rambles or "runs out of things to say," then address those specific problems.  Here are some posts that will be helpful with various steps in the writing process:

Steps 1 and 2 in the Writing Process:  The Idea and The Plan

Step 3 in the Writing Process:  The Support Step

Step 4 in the Writing Process:  Articulation

Step 5 in the Writing Process:  The First Pass at This Thing

When it's time to read a classic, give your child the tools he needs.

Applying the Socratic method when teaching from classic literature can be a lot less frustrating than using other approaches.  For more on this time-honored question-asking, discussion-cultivating style of teaching, read this post:

Why is Socrates Hanging out with My Homeschooler?

And understand that the classic book may simply be too much for your student to tackle alone.  Resources like Cliffs Notes, movie adaptations of the book, and literature study guides (we have lots available for just $3.99 each in the EBookstore) can make all the difference.  Check out these vlogs if you're not sure why:

Change your approach to correcting your child's writing.

You have to mark up their papers or their writing will never improve.  However, there are a number of different ways to do it, and some ways feel less threatening than others.

If you have a student who is in tears every time you hand back a writing assignment for further edits, this post will help:

Understanding WHY Students Hate to Edit Their Writing

Reading and Writing in your homeschool high school are not automatically easy subjects.  Having an honest conversation with your students about what's working, what isn't, what changes YOU as the teacher can make, and what changes THEY as the student can take responsibility for will make a world of difference.  Graduating confident readers and clear writers is a goal you can reach; you just might need to adjust the way you're attempting it.

Happy to link up to www.thedaisyhead.com for Homeschool High!

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