With its characteristic emphasis on experiential learning and flexibility, homeschooling offers plenty of opportunities for students of all ages to develop excellent writing skills. After all, these lucky learners usually have the freedom to work at their own pace and to choose topics that fascinate them to research and write about. Here are a few tips to help you develop a writing program for your student:
Keep a “Reciprocal Writing” Journal. This can be so much fun! Have your student compose daily entries about the book he/she is reading in a notebook – and write your own response to your child’s entry with ideas that will broaden his/her understanding of the book. For example, say your child is reading Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, a book set in New York City in which the heroine spies on her neighbors and gets caught! You might respond to your child’s entry by asking her to imagine how Harriet’s story might be different if she lived on a farm rather than in a big city. This sparks creativity, encourages critical thinking and reinforces the connection between reading and writing. Another advantage is that it gives you the chance to model good writing for your child!
Write about your field trips! A trip to an art museum or a farm, for example, can open up a world of writing opportunities. You could ask your child to write an opinion piece about the importance of supporting local farmers or an expository essay tracing the life of their favorite artist. It is exciting to see how first-hand experience informs and enriches your child’s writing. You might also help your child learn how to take effective notes by asking them to jot down the highlights of the trip throughout the day. Click here for a note-taking sheet to bring along when you visit a museum.
Follow current events. When I homeschooled my son through 7th and 8th grade, each day started with him reading news stories on CNN.com and writing a paragraph summarizing the issue and stating his opinion on it. This is not only a valuable writing assignment, but it helps students stay up-to-date about the world around them.
Get together with other homeschoolers for a weekly writer’s workshop. Have students read their own work and critique that of others. Not only does this help students’ improve their own writing, but it’s a great opportunity to connect with your local homeschooling community and make new friends. And it’s motivating, since most kids will be eager to have something ready to share at each meeting.
Keep a writing portfolio. Date all finished work and keep in a binder so that you can track the progress of your child’s writing skills. Encourage your student to take pride in his or her work by allowing them time to illustrate their stories and essays with photographs and other visuals.
Those are just a few ideas about how to make writing a fun and meaningful part of your homeschooling day. No doubt many others will occur to you as you work with your child. With your creative ideas and one-on-one attention, your homeschooler has a great shot at developing into an outstanding writer!
Cynthia Williamson worked as a copywriter in the advertising and publishing industries for many years before switching gears and becoming a special education teacher. She stays busy today as an tutor and a freelance writer.