Teaching Homeschoolers to Write Well – Takes Less Than 10 Minutes a Day!
A guest blog post by Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
Homeschool educators only make one consistent and glaring mistake: They Compare Their Results to Schools.
I realize we live in a culture that will punish us if we don’t play the game properly; however, we have a different experience with our five children. We’ve noticed that if your children are well informed, articulate, and test OK…they’ll overlook the fact that they were homeschooled. Yes, I realize that articles tell us that schools really want homeschoolers. Maybe they do, but in Texas the upper percent of students are automatically accepted into college, so there are only about 15% of the placements remaining for homeschoolers. The game is a bit fixed here (and I bet it is where you are too). The good news is that they still want good students. Here’s my best advice:
Realize you can’t compete with schools
Face it. With millions of dollars and a multitude of teachers, trying to expose your children to that kind of experience is impossible. Even though the classroom size alone almost destroys real learning, we still think there is something to it. You can’t become an expert and know more than your child about every subject for every year of school. Our children passed us both in math before we knew it. But, we realized we didn’t have to know math to help them learn math. Our focus was on teaching them to learn how to learn. So, my youngest son tutors calculus for pay (he’s 17 years old). We helped our students keep working, and they simply kept learning.
Realize you can produce a student who rivals their best
It isn’t that hard. Humans are made to learn. If your child fills her head with info and develops a few fundamental skills, especially discipline; then she will easily be in the upper group of educated students. Honestly, the current obsession with the self-image of the student guarantees that most students won’t learn. Learning is about curiosity and frustration. Educated students feel good about learning (though frustrated), while the rest feel good about themselves (avoiding frustration).
Realize writing is the most powerful learning tool
Writing integrates decision making, language, vocabulary, logic, thinking, persuasion, character, conviction, perseverance, and hope; what more could you want from one schooling activity? When a student is writing, he is making hundreds of strategic decisions with every paragraph he writes. Writing also has the magical quality of connecting thoughts in the experience of ‘Ah-Ha’. All this means is that your student will make discoveries and insights merely by writing. It helps students become their own teachers.
If you give your child about 10 minutes a day, he will grow rapidly as a writer and thinker. Every student of writing needs feedback more than he needs grammar rules. The student may write for 30 minutes, but all you need to contribute is feedback for their learning. Here are a few simple way you can do it in less than 10 minutes.
- Make the issue about writing something that is OK-but-not-Great at first
- Make ‘corrections’ a matter of feedback to make it ‘even better’ (toward Great)
- On punctuation or grammar or style, use this question when you make a correction, “Does this sound better?” Often your student will see your idea does sound better when you read it out loud. Of course, sometimes it doesn’t sound better!
- Use a red pen and a green pen. The red means Stop! and the green means Go! Marking things you like with green gives a child the good feedback she will almost never hear in school.
There, you have a great start on teaching writing. Any student who writes some each day and receives feedback on his writing is bound to grow. Never underestimate the power you have as a ‘coach’ with two pens and a few minutes.