Writing in your homeschool high school is not automatically an easy subject. 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 own will make a world of difference. Equipping strong writers is a goal you can reach; you just might need to adjust the way you're attempting it.
Homeschooler Hates Writing
"Every time I ask my child to write, she says she doesn't know what to say. Getting started is so hard!"
"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?"
"When I give my son a writing task, he starts off fine, but he ends up rambling and can't stick to the assignment."
"My child's writing is lifeless. How can I help him without imposing my personal style on his 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.
Is getting started hard? Find help with the videos on the 7 Sisters Homeschool YouTube channel. There's a 5-part series in this playlist that breaks the writing process down into manageable steps: 7 Sisters Homeschool YouTube Channel.
Is editing a writing assignment wrecking your relationship with your teen? Change your approach to correcting writing assignments.
If your homeschooler hates writing, try this: lose the red pen and instead try talking about the positives in the piece first. Then address simple spelling and grammatical errors; those are not subjective. After your child has corrected misspellings and grammatical errors, read the piece aloud and see if an awkward sentence might leap out to your child without you even making an issue of it. Stop to ask questions for clarification. Suggest that your child make notes on the paper in the margins regarding places to consider changes in wording.
You have to edit assignments or their writing will never improve, but some forms of correction 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, a new approach may help.
What to do with a "ramblin' rose"? Many writers hate to start with an outline (I am one of them, actually). But writing a rambling first draft can be effectively followed by outlining! If you encourage your rambler to write from the heart first, then have him or her go back to outline the way the paragraphs support the thesis (or not!), you may find greater success.
If you have a lifeless writer, it is a very delicate thing to coax forth a writing voice from your child without imposing your own style on the piece. Talking about your student's goals for the piece with the paper out of sight entirely can be a key to success. Ask questions like these:
* Do you want to convince someone to agree with you?
* Do you hope your reader will feel an emotion? If so, what emotion?
* Do you want to encourage the reader to take a specific action when he is finished reading? What action?
* Do you want the reader to picture something in his mind? Hear a sound in his imagination? Remember a smell or a taste or a touch?
Once your student has decided on a goal for the piece, it becomes much less threatening for you to say, "You said you wanted me to remember the taste of strawberry ice cream on the boardwalk at the beach. What can you add to your paragraph to help me do that?"
Even if your homeschooler hates writing, these subtle changes in the approach you take to correcting him or her just may make a world of difference in the writing that is produced...and the level of tension in your homeschool!
Homeschooler Hates Writing
Essay writing is an essential skill for homeschoolers these days- for high school students and even for those in middle school.
Homeschool Essay Curriculum
Too many students are either bored or intimidated by the challenge of writing essays.
Those who are intimidated need a homeschool essay curriculum that will explain the process clearly and in a friendly way. They need assignments broken down into manageable pieces so they don't feel overwhelmed. They need to understand the thinking process that is required for developing good support for an essay thesis.
Those who are bored need topics that are meaningful to them personally. They need the freedom (even the encouragement!) to write with passion, to write with humor, to write with examples that are out of the ordinary.
Homeschool essay curriculum from 7sistershomeschool.com is designed to meet the needs of the intimidated as well as the bored student...and students who acutally don't MIND essay writing enjoy it, too!
Geared to give your student a successful experience, our Guides to Essay Writing, by Marilyn Groop, will introduce essays to your homeschool in this user-friendly, no-busywork format.
Presented in a 10-week, 4 days per week, format these downloadable pdf guides will teach your homeschooler the steps to writing a coherent essay including:
-Basic essay format
-Editorials/letters to the editor
-Tips for taking a short-answer essay test)
The Guides include 3 essay rubrics that you can use to grade the essays, as well as an answer key to the short-answer essay test.
For more posts about essay writing, check these out:
Take advantage of the great writing resources Vicki Tillman has pinned to her High School Writing Pinterest Board, too!
Homeschool Essay Curriculum
It's no secret that developing good writing skills is important. Many students struggle with writing because they start the process with pencil and paper.
Homeschool Writing Help
Wait a minute! Isn't that where writing HAS to start?
Writing only starts with the blank page for people who are natural writers...you know, the ones who just love words, made up stories as little children, and thrive on discussing ideas. For many very "literal thinkers," learning to write needs to start in a very different place.
Perhaps you have a student who hates to write, or who finds it terribly annoying, or whose final drafts end up dry, vague, or lifeless. If so, taking a new look at the writing process can give you (and your child) a perspective that's empowering instead of frustrating.
Writing is communication.
Some people find communication easy. Some find it invigorating. But some find it to be difficult. They are often misunderstood when they speak. They have trouble articulating things more than one way. They deal well with facts, but ideas are vague and slippery. These kids need homeschool writing help, and it needs to start before the blank piece of paper is in front of them.
Writing is expression.
More than the simple conveyance of fact, good writing also gives the reader a sense of WHY the author bothered to set these words on paper. There is purpose. There is often opinion, emotion, or evaluation involved. For very literal thinkers, it feels vulnerable and dangerous to allow feelings or preferences or passion to appear in their writing. If they do not understand the importance of this element, they may be truly unable to incorporate anything more than a basic listing of facts when they write.
Writing is individual.
The rules of grammar and spelling do not change, and a well-structured sentence is a well-structured sentence. But every piece of effective writing includes the writer's own unique voice. A student who struggles to write descriptively may find strength in writing a persuasive piece. A people-pleaser who hates to take one position to the exclusion of another may be almost unable to write persuasively, but give him or her the chance to write an expository (how-to) piece and the homeschool world becomes a happier place.
Do you and your student need homeschool writing help?
Some time back I created a 5-part series of videos to get you started from a different perspective. The first video in the series is here:
Vicki made available a great way to get started with Research Writing in this post - Help! My Reluctant Writer Can't Do a Homeschool Research Paper!
Vicki has lots of resources on Pinterest, too. Here's a link to one of her boards with lots of great homeschool writing help: Homeschool Writing Ideas.
The writing guides in the ebookstore offer homeschool writing help that is easily adaptable to different learning styles. Click the images below and view excerpts from guides for Essay Writing, Research Writing, Poetry Writing and Short Story Writing at a variety of levels from Introductory to Advanced. Written in a friendly style, designed to help students understand WHY different pieces of the writing process are important, they work well with even reluctant writers.
Homeschool Writing Help
I know by experience that homeschooling a child with learning differences or learning disabilities can be a challenge.
One of my children had dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, and a bit of childhood ADD-inattentive. Fortunately for me I had training as a counselor and my mother, Dr. Rose Kelleremann, was an educational psychologist. I had good support and lots of ideas.
God made each child to have gifts and a special place in the universe. Homeschool parents have the opportunity to help their children discover and develop these gifts. My son is creative, visual, and loves movies. His strengths are in story-writing, art, silliness, and (as we learned over time) filmmaking. In elementary school, he told and drew stories, he scribbled pictures, he reveled in silliness.
Today, he's an education major at Lancaster Bible College. All his strengths from childhood give him sparkle in his studies.
My son's dyslexia was a weakness because it hampered his ability to read. We worked on compensating for his weakness by using sight words instead of phonics. (Our favorite books for sight reading are Mary Manz Simon's Bible Stories.) We would read these aloud together (me reading just a little louder than him), pointing to each word as we read. We read over and over, for days, until the book (and each individual word in it) was memorized. Simon's books revisit those same words so there is much re-enforcement.
To help with his auditory processing struggles, we found a 1904 diction book that was filled with ditties and rhymes. We memorized and said them daily, enunciating consonants carefully and emphasizing leaving space between words. Here's one of our favorites: Round and round the rugged rocks the ragged rascals ran.
He had just enough ADD to feel awkward in social settings, so I worked with him on 10 basic social skills. (They can be found in our book Social Skills for Children- just $3.99, btw.) This paid off with his ability to employ skills and make friends at church, AWANA, karate, and co-op
3) Use multi-sensory techniques
We did lots multi-sensory learning. We did hands-on work with reading: making letter and word cards of glue and glitter, felt, and sandpaper. We wrote in shaving cream, finger paint, and sand. We rubber banded 4 color-makers together to write multi-colored letters and words. We sang spelling words. (We hopscotched math problems, too.) It took a long time to get the basics down. But it clicked in around 3rd grade.
4) Have fun
My son specialized in silliness. We made sure to give him plenty of time for fun (this often included interrupted lessons while he and siblings made up noisy conversations between imaginary characters).
Of course. "Nuff said. (But if you'd like some encouragement look at our prayer journals- activities to help expand your prayer life.)
To this day, my son leans into his strengths to enhance his success at college and just to have fun with his friends. Here are 2 of his You Tubes, one from his college lesson on Ralph Waldo Emerson, one with his buddy, Jake, spoofing Lord of the Rings:
Sabrina shared some important skills in this classic post.
Parenting a child with special needs is no easy job, and I have the utmost respect for these parents. I also have the responsibility to equip my own kids to understand how to appropriately interact with peers with special needs. Here are some suggestions for helping young people become confident in reaching out to build relationships with peers who may look, sound, communicate, process information or move differently than they do.
* PRAY. One of the things we need to pray for our own kids is that they would grow in love for others, and grow in understanding those who may be confusing or frustrating to them in their flesh. By beginning with prayer (in this endeavor, and in all things) we are going to the Source of all love, and asking Him to enlarge our children's hearts to extend love to all men.
* TALK AHEAD OF TIME. Sometimes we fail to talk to our kids about physical disabilities, speech impairments, autism, developmental disabilities, or the myriad other challenges that are a part of everyday life for many individuals but may not occur in our own immediate world. Intentionally introduce the subject of ministering in love to people with special needs in your homeschool. Use video, books, and conversation to honestly and fearlessly explore the topic.
Allow your kids to begin with using whatever words they need to in expressing their feelings when they think about interacting with someone with special needs. If they say things like "weird," or "scary" or "embarrassing" in this private conversational context, they are not being mean -- they have to be able to honestly articulate how they feel in their flesh in order to recognize that they need something more, something from God, in order to deal with relationships that are out of their comfort zone. When you make it safe for them to admit that they are intimidated by certain situations, you can then lovingly show them that Christ is our strength in weakness, and that we need to ask Him to equip us to reach out in love, to change our view of people who are different than us, and to teach us to minister to them in His love.
If I wait until a situation is unexpectedly thrust upon my child, I have done him (and the person with special needs) a great disservice. My child needs to be equipped through conversation and research before the situation is in front of him.
* BE DIRECT. Every individual with special needs is just that: an INDIVIDUAL with special needs. There is no cookie-cutter that can be applied to a person because of a diagnosis. The vast majority of people with special needs appreciate direct questions like, "Is there a way that I can help with this, or do you prefer that I stay out of your way?" Asking the parent of a child with special needs very basic questions like, "What kinds of help may I offer your child?" will do more equipping in a few moments than weeks of fumbling and fearing offense.
If the child or parent is taken aback by your question, don't be offended. That is simply your answer; this is a person for whom help from strangers or casual acquaintances is not desired. Typically this type of reaction is NOT what you will get, but sometimes an individual or family is in the process of emotional adjustment to the special needs, and may not be comfortable to talk about it with you. If you have asked the question in love, you can rest assured that you have not really offended, only offered help and been told that it is not needed at this time.
* DON'T CRINGE. If your children are young, they are likely to ask something of a person with special needs (especially visible physical disabilities) that may make you want to cringe. Of a person with atrophied limbs, "Why do you legs look like that?" is not an insult, it's a genuine request for information. The person who is dealing with those atrophied limbs every moment of every day is likely to simply answer the question. Don't make the situation complicated by jumping in to answer for them unless they seem unwilling to answer for themselves. Following up with a gentle word of appreciation for the information validates everyone involved.
* GET SPECIFIC WHEN YOU NEED TO. An ongoing relationship (a co-op, a Sunday school class, a drama production) with someone with special needs will result in specific challenges where a solution will not be obvious. Pray, take a deep breath, and deal with them specifically when they arise. The longer you put off asking the awkward question or suggesting the delicate suggestion the harder it will be for everyone.
A hygiene issue arose in a play I directed in which a teenage student on the autism spectrum was unable to process my instructions to the whole cast about being diligent in using deodorant when we were working up a sweat close to one another onstage. (Honestly, our church sanctuary where we held rehearsals was beginning to smell like a locker room!) I had already spoken to the parents to make sure that the student was able to use deodorant, and I knew that the parents had sent a stick in to rehearsal. But group admonitions like, "Wow, guys, we are really work hard here and it's starting to smell like it! May I tactfully suggest we all check our deodorant?" were lost. The response I got was a big smile: "I made sure I put it on when I got out of the shower!"
What to do? How to breathe? The other students were struggling mightily with the situation. I prayed, I took my student leaders in the cast aside privately and explained the new plan to them, and then I turned the challenge into a new cast-bonding activity. In a cast meeting, I explained that as we approached opening night the sweat was getting out of control, and we would have to re-apply deodorant whenever I called for it. Regardless of when you last put it on, it would be an act of cast solidarity to add a little more when asked to. My student leaders piped in with encouragement to everyone - "I make sure I shower and put on deodorant before rehearsal, and I STILL am getting smelly by the end of the first hour. I think re-applying during rehearsal is a good idea."
Guess what? It worked beautifully! "RE-APPLY!!" became a rallying cry for the cast. I would call it out, or one of the student leaders who noticed things "going south" onstage would start it, and before you know it every member of the cast was calling it out in response, marching merrily to their duffle bags to pull out a stick of deodorant. It was the craziest thing; what could have ostracized a student became a rallying point for everyone in the cast.
* ADDRESS YOUR OWN FEARS. Sometimes we struggle to equip our kids to deal appropriately with special needs because we ourselves are uneasy or face fears of our own related to the particular disability or challenge. Be honest with God first about your fears. Then find someone with whom you can share honestly about your struggle. Seek education for yourself via the internet or community resources. Joni and Friends has fantastic resources for understanding individuals with physical disabilities. Autism Help offers good information about spectrum disorders.
One VERY important book for homeschool high schoolers to read is Joni by Joni Eareckson Tada. It is the autobiography of Joni, who was confined to a wheelchair after a diving accident when she was a teenager. She shares about God's redemptive love as she encourages others with her Joni and Friends ministry. Check out our $3.99 study guide to Joni!
What has helped you equip yourself and your homeschoolers to minister lovingly to individuals with special needs?
Sometimes we homeschoolers can get a little competitive: "MY kid was reading when he was 4!", "How lovely, MY kids completed algebra in 5th grade!"
The truth is that MOST homeschoolers are normal, average kids. They won't go to Harvard, they score in the 50th-78th percentile on achievement tests. They perform well-enough in their 3Rs.
And guess what? God created them beautiful in His eyes. He gave each child just the right IQ and just the right other talents to accomplish HIS goals for each of them.
God doesn't need millions of homeschool Einsteins. He needs just a few of them. He need LOTS of future missionaries, artists, nurses, teachers, plumbers, soldiers, entrepreneurs, and counselors. Our homeschoolers don't need to go to Yale for that, they don't have to be top of the pyramid!
What they do need is to:
Search for and discover the giftings God has placed in.
Each of our children is fearfully and wonderfully made. Since that is so, then it is an honor to God to help them find the special blessings that He has created in each child. (You can start your homeschool high schooler with a FREE look at the role models God has placed in his life as guides.)
Learn to cope with any weak area by developing perseverance in character, specific skills that might help (such as organizational skills for homeschoolers with ADHD), and not wasting time doing overly high-leveled curriculum in their weak areas.
I have some helpful pins from some wonderful folks at my Homeschool Special Needs Pinterest board. Also all our literature and writing guides, AND psycholgy, human development, and philosophy have instructions on how to "level" the learning activities- from average learners to honors activities. AND no time-wasting busywork.
Compensate by really leaning into their interests and gifts. Specialize in those areas- create projects, field trips, read books, watch educational dvds.
Check out my Homeschool Career Exploration Pinterest board for LOTs of activities to help explore, then have some fun!
Strive to glorify God by understanding and appreciating themselves and others.
Can your child tell you how he was fearfully and wonderfully made? Can she explain God's love for others? Visit tomorrow for more...
Your average kid: ABOVE average in God's eyes!
Our friend, Connie, has a lovely post with more thoughts on this at thedaisyhead.com: Homeschool Extremes.
Here's an excerpt from our FREE download, Scheduling Backwards:
Schoolwork. Chores. Co-ops. Part-time jobs. Sports practice. Church. Music lessons. Doctors appointments. Drama rehearsals. Parties. Errands. There's always something on those calendar squares, isn't there?
The struggle with time management is pretty much universal in our society. As homeschoolers, we have moved past the days when we worried about having enough opportunities for our children's social development, and now we wonder if we will ever stay home for an entire day! There are so many good activities, organizations, and events in which we can be involved.
SCHEDULING BACKWARDS is a different way of thinking about what goes in those calendar squares. If you'd like to try a more efficient and satisfying approach to keeping your schedule on track, give these easy steps a try for a month.
Why have I found SCHEDULING BACKWARDS to be so vital to my homeschool?
* It puts God first. Instead of first responding to all the screaming items on my to-do list, it forces me to first ask God for wisdom. Did you ever stop to think about WHO is putting the items on your to-do list? If during the night my toddler snuck in to the kitchen and found my notebook on the counter and wrote:
"Go to the toy store and buy one of everything,"
it would not actually be very smart for me to follow my list and complete that task in the morning. Sometimes the things that end up written on my list have been put there by someone who has no business setting my agenda or making judgment calls for me.
2. It puts my soul second. God knew what He was doing when He wired me the way He did. He knows what balance I need of time to rest and time to work. He knows how much alone time I need and how much time with others. He knows what I am capable of and what is actually beyond His perfect design for my life. His plans for me to bless others will also always be GOOD for me and my own growth as I follow after Him. Being exhausted and frustrated is not actually a measure of our holiness!
3. It models important life skills for my kids. If they see me bouncing around like I live inside a blender, they will learn to do the same. Whatever opportunity for activity arises, they will take it without first evaluating whether it's a good use of their time and energy or not. As parents we will not be able to set our kids' schedules and priorities forever; we need to give them the tools they need to manage time wisely for themselves.
4. It encourages others around me. If I make a mess of things because I'm stretched way-too-thin, I cause a mess for other people as well. If, instead, they see me sometimes say, "no" to some good opportunities because I have wisely counted the cost and found that it is too high, it encourages them to do the same. Even if someone tells me, "no" when I really wanted to hear, "yes!" I will understand - and even support their decision - if I can see that it is coming from a place of wise decision-making.
I recorded a Video Journal about Scheduling Backwards, and you can watch it here. Can you tell I'm passionate about this topic?
Click here to download the FREE white paper Scheduling Backwards for the practical application ideas of this philosophy of time management.
PRAYER is the NUMBER ONE MOST IMPORTANT tool for wise scheduling. Even if you think your homeschool schedule is perfection itself, take it to the Lord for a regular check-up. Vicki's Prayer Journals 1 and 2, and Lisa Schea's devotional for those with chronic illness, God Meets Me Here, will encourage you in your prayer life.
Homeschooling parents don't typically raise children thinking,
"Well, I guess that'll have to do..."
We have big dreams for success - academic and otherwise - for our kids. We want to cultivate character even as we sculpt a high school transcript. We long to see creativity nurtured alongside chemistry and calculus. (Oh, and we wouldn't really mind if outsiders noticed that we're reaching these goals.)
Dr. Seuss wrote a lovely book called If I Ran the Zoo. Sometimes I catch myself starting to sound like Gerald McGrew, trying to create a "new zoo, McGrew Zoo," where I will explore ways to bring dreams to life, where I will discover experiences that will shape my child's character and train his mind, where I will encourage his creative fire and hone his analytical abilities. (Oh, and I will receive admiration for the unusual and delightful outcome I've achieved in my homeschool.)
Here's a bit of wisdom from Vicki Tillman's post about homeschool outcomes:
We all have definitions of success, and sometimes our definitions are problematic. For instance, here's my definition of success:
All my children should grow up happy and healthy all the time, married in a Leave-it-to-Beaver-type Christian marriage, leaders in church and community, spending time in prayer and devotions, having excellent self-care and time for avocations, financially secure with fulfilling careers, homeschooling a bunch of their own perfect children.
Problem is: I have NOOOOO control over these outcomes. Only God does!
What if He decides a different outcome is better?
So I find myself faced with a dilemma: I can either insist on living in my own imagination (like Gerald McGrew, if he ran the zoo...) or I can be brave enough to live in the REAL homeschooling world to which God has called my family.
The REAL homeschool world is one that struggles financially when the economy is bad, that wrestles to find its identity in Christ instead of in the things the world can see, that gets sick and weary sometimes, that doesn't always find all its citizens living in perfect harmony, that doesn't fully understand the God who really runs the zoo...um, I mean, world.
May I close this post with another quote from Vicki?
God knows best. He works in hard times and difficult situations. He is in the redemption business so he's not afraid of our mistakes or our kids' mistakes or the flukes of the world around us.
Here's my vlog on the best-laid plans:
Our homeschool world has been a little hard to manage in the last month, so a re-visit of this wise post by Marilyn seemed appropriate. Control of our families and homeschools is NOT what God has called us to. Anxiety and exhaustion are not helpful. Trust in God is the goal. I hope that you will be encouraged by these words as I am! -- Sabrina
It’s the start of a new year and people all around the world are making resolutions, devising plans and setting goals.
Some will even follow through on them. Many will be forgotten before the month is through.
What happens when, despite our best efforts, our resolutions, plans, and goals are thwarted?
Perhaps you resolve to exercise daily, but slip on the ice and break your leg on day five. You might plan extended time in Bible study and prayer for the beginning of each day, but a sick child lands you sleeping in a vinyl recliner next to a hospital bed, unable to string together two coherent thoughts. You might set a goal of completing Algebra I with your child before Easter, but a family emergency interferes and you find yourself explaining the slope-intercept formula repeatedly, day after day, for several weeks. How do we respond to circumstances beyond our control?
At such times, it helps to go back to the basics:
- God loves you.
- He has a plan for your life.
- God loves your children.
- He has a plan for each of their lives.
- God is not surprised by these stressful circumstances.
- He will never leave you, nor forsake you.
You get the picture. God knows what you need and He knew that these circumstances were coming, so you can trust Him to help you get through them. Sometimes it’s just a day that doesn’t flow the way you expected. Sometimes a year, or several years, don’t meet your expectations. No matter what, God has it all under control.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5 & 6 (ESV)
Remember Pilgrim's Progress? Pilgrim went on a journey and things kept happening that he didn't expect. Homeschooling can feel like that. I plan, my family starts out on a journey of learning and life, and before I know it things happen that I didn't expect.
January is a good time to evaluate how the homeschool year is going and to face the interruptions that may have thrown us off the track I thought we'd follow.
God has always encouraged His kids to stop and remember where they've come from, what they encountered along the way, and how He got them through. Once they've taken stock, He reminds them of their destination and they get moving again, but now their focus is more firmly fixed on Him.
What did Pilgrim find on his journey in John Bunyan's classic allegory? When I read this book with kids and discuss it, I have them track their own observations about Pilgrim's many challenges and the lessons that arise from each. I try to help them take note of lessons that truly span time and culture and apply to them just as much as they did to Pilgrim and his friends. Can I do the same thing myself?
Instead of simply looking at "Where I Thought We'd Be" vs. "Where We Really Are," take stock of the journey so far in your homeschool.
- What challenges did you encounter unexpectedly?
- What can you learn from those challenges about God's presence and provision for you and your family?
If it feels like the dog ate your planner, like illness or financial crisis or learning disability or a home remodel that turned ugly have thrown your homeschool into traffic, don't despair. Remember Pilgrim. Remember God's loving sovereignty over you. Take a deep breath. Take stock. Share the lessons you are learning with those you love.
Then take another step forward on the journey. You will get to the end. I promise.