How to teach kids to write well

October 10, 2009

Essay writingOne of my sons had to take the BJU Writing Evaluation yesterday – so writing is on my mind. Teaching a child to write well is one of the hardest things I have had to do. If you are hoping I am going to give a foolproof method of doing it, sorry. I can’t. All I can do is share with you some things that have worked with my kids:

1. My Access

My Access is an online writing program that provides immediate feedback. I started using this with my oldest daughter when she was in 8th grade. She did not agree with the feedback I gave her on her writing, and I was tired of arguing with her. My Access solved all my problems. It became the ‘bad guy’ telling her all the things I had told her, and I became the ‘good guy’ helping her fix her errors and improve her score.

My Access allows multiple submissions of the same essay, so students can polish their writing until they receive a decent grade. I now use this program for all my children. And if you are a homeschooler you can buy it through Homeschool Buyers Co-op for $49.95 for a year for 3 students. Other students can purchase a package for 3 students at $99.95 from Vantage Online Store.

My Access has improved my children’s grades  by 20-30%. There is also a SAT essay add-on that you can purchase which my 16 year old has been using this year.

2. Give them a good reason to write

Children often see writing as a form of torture. An 8th grader I know wrote this recently for a writing assignment:

Creative writing! The curse that beckons us all to come and waste our time on this misleading demon. Our parents have already been enraptured. Why do you think we are forced to do it regularly? Why do we even need to write?

I try to let my kids write ‘for real’ whenever possible. And as I homeschool, I try to get them to write for an audience other than me. One way is through contests. View my lens on Contests for Students to read more about History Day which has a research paper option, and other writing contests.

And I get them to publish what they write online. My 16 year old son chooses to publish many of his essays on Facebook and invites comments. He also has  blog and a website which reviews computer hardware. He now understands why he must learn to write well.

And then a few months go, I discovered Squidoo. Squidoo is free and it allows anyone to quickly put together an article on anything. They call these articles ‘lenses’ as they focus on specific topics. And what is even better, Squidoo makes it easy to add in links to Amazon, Cafepress etc – which adds the possibility of making money from what they write! This has been sufficient to energize my own kids to write – and I have managed to convince a number of students in the Business Class I teach at our co-op to make lenses too. All of them have written about subjects that interest them

My son wrote one on  Airsoft, one student wrote one on How to Give a Speech and one wrote on Authentic Beauty. You can also use Squidoo to publish any book reports your kids might write – see my son’s on Fallen Angels.

My kids have also written for our church mission’s magazine and for our co-op’s newspaper. And my oldest daughter had a letter she wrote to the editor of our local newspaper published.

Knowing other people will read what you write, and that you may make some money if you do it well, can be a great motivator.

3. Try to find a writing program that fits your child.

Each child is unique. I have tried to adapt writing assignments and even the programs we use to fit each of my children. My oldest daughter is a good writer and she entered many writing contests, and won some of them. My 11th grade son is gregarious, and as I have already shared, he likes putting what he writes in cyberspace for all to read and comment on. My next son (9th grade) is good at writing stories, so this year he is doing something completely different and using the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum and by the end of this school year, he will have written an entire novel! My youngest (4th grade)  is using My Access and publishing her work for her grandparents to read.

So, if you are frustrated by your kid’s lack of ability to write well, try some of these ideas – and brainstorm for a few more. Try changing what you are doing, and hopefully you will eventually see some improvement in your kids as I have in mine.



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Looking for homeschool curriculum at a good price?

August 29, 2009

booksHomeschooling can get pricey – especially if you have a few children. We all know we can look on Amazon and eBay for resources, but here are 5 other places I use regularly:

1. Rainbow Resource:They have such a huge selection, that you are sure to find what you are looking for – and at the best price. Spend enough ($150) and shipping is free. I buy gifts here as well as curriculum as they have a great variety.

2.  Home Science Tools: As their name states, they specialize in science curriculum and ‘toys’. They have science kits for practically every science curriculum there is. Order a catalog!

3. The Homeschool Buyers Co-op . The Homeschool Buyers Co-op is a free homeschooling organization.  Co-op membership is free and  entitles homeschooling families to discounts from over a hundred educational suppliers.  They also sponsor “Group Buys” for curriculum packages that save homerschooling families lots of money. I have bought a number of items from them – My Access (a writing package with online grading); Thinkwell’s High School Government course (which my son loves) and Meet the Masters Art program are the most recent. They negotiate really really good prices – and I have discovered many products I didn’t even know existed.

4. Homeschoolclassifieds.com is the place to go to find used curriculum. You can buy and sell for free here, and the site is easy to use (unlike Vegsource) and has many many listings, so there is a good chance you will find what you are looking for.

5.  Fetchbook.info lists the cheapest place to find a specific book. It links to sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Half.com etc.  Before I found this site,I would have to go from one site to the other comparing which was cheapest. This website does it all for you.