An effective homeschool writing program for middle school and high school can be as unique as your student. There is no one-size-fits-all writing program, just as there are no cookie-cutter homeschoolers. Writing instruction doesn't always require curriculum. Sometimes you need to start gently, easing them into writing. And once your child knows how to write, you can use every day real world writing. Here are four fun ideas you can try.
Homeschool Writing - Journals
Journal writing is a great way for middle schoolers to develop writing skills when developing their own "voice." When I started my children on journal writing, my goal was to get my children to write quickly on any subject, in their own handwriting. That's what they have to do for high school or college essay questions.
In high school, my children wrote a longer paper every week, and they practiced essay writing each week as well. For those assignments, I would correct grammar, punctuation, and style. They did so much writing, I didn't feel like it was necessary for me to edit their journal, and editing it was not my goal. Keeping my goal in mind, I didn't much care WHAT they wrote about, so much as I cared about the length and how quickly they did it. For that reason, I gave them each a small 4x6 or 5x7 spiral ring notebook. When I assigned them a journal writing activity, they were allowed to write about anything they wanted, but they had to fill one whole page in their journal.
As they got older, they wanted to keep their journals private, and that was fine with me. I just wanted to be sure that they wrote a whole page. For that reason, I had them hold up the book from across the room, and if I could see from that distance that they had filled a whole page, then they had met my expectations. I tried using prompts for journal writing, but my kids felt frustrated by being told what to write. Again, my goal was for them to write, and I wasn't interested in the topic. For that reason, I allowed them not to use prompts, but just write from their daily lives. My advice would be to consider what you are trying to achieve, then adjust your journal writing requirements to meet YOUR needs for YOUR children in YOUR homeschool writing program. I'm sure that varies from family to family. I hope that helps!
Homeschool Writing - Blogs
For 9th and 10th graders, blogging is a great way to encourage writing skills, turn social skills into academic courses, and guide techie kids into using their computer skills while doing some writing. Any skills kids use while blogging can be used for academics.
Blogging can also be an English course, or you can have them blog about something they love, providing written material based on delight-directed learning. That may help you document their love of science or history with written assignments. They don't have to write a "paper" on a topic. They can blog about their subject, and then save the blog posts as samples of their work for that class. Blogging is great for kids who love being on computers, because as they learn how to blog, they also learn the very beginning concepts of computers and coding.
Two of the most popular blogging platforms are WordPress and Blogger. My son Kevin says, "Both are mainstream and self-explanatory. Just google it, go to the site, create an account, and the instructions are provided onboard. Pretty easy." My son Alex says, "Either one is very reputable and helps you through the process of starting a blog." Both were able to get a blog going quickly. The hard part is finding the time to continue writing! My oldest son continued blogging through high school and into adulthood after a brief intermission for college. It was simply too difficult to do college work and blog writing at the same time. Like journal writing, blogging can be a way to expand and add variety to your homeschool writing program. Kids tend to enjoy it!
Scholarship Essay Writing
During the summer before my son's junior year, I struggled with choosing a writing curriculum. When my husband forwarded my older son information on a chess scholarship, I had an idea. Using the internet, I spent months doing an extensive search for essay contests and scholarship opportunities for both my boys. The results were both an awakening and an answer to prayer. To put it bluntly, there are a lot of people and organizations out there that want to give your kids money for college...LOTS OF MONEY!
While most scholarships are highly competitive, some of them actually go unclaimed because no one applies. Never the type of family to refuse free money, we discovered that we could build an entire year's writing plan around scholarship essays. And this would give our boys a "new and different" type of essay to practice in our homeschool writing program!
Most contests required a 50 to 1000 word essay on the topic of the sponsor's choosing. Because there were so many options available, we were able to select just the ones that were of great interest to my boys: history, science, and economics. Because these topics were in my boys' "wheelhouses," it was much less of a chore to inspire them to write. The first $400 check didn't hurt either! This benefited our family in two ways. First, my boys learned the fine art of writing an essay (perhaps the single most practical skill for the college bound student). Second, we saved hundreds of dollars in curriculum purchases, in addition to the thousands of dollars the boys earned with their winning essays!
College Admission Essay Writing
For college-bound homeschoolers, admission essay writing will be a big part of their senior year. Why not get high school credit for that work? If you start when they are high school juniors, you will give them invaluable practice for when it really counts in senior year. You can use those essays "as-is," edit them heavily, or just use the practice to make writing a new one easier. You can find college admission essay topics on the websites of most colleges. Google the name of the college, and click on "Admission." You should be able to locate an option that says "Apply Now," which will lead you to the application essay.
If you'd like to incorporate more application essay practice, don't torture your kids with boring application essay prompts! Delight them with these interesting prompts instead: 75 College Application Essay Prompts. The wide variety of topics will give your student plenty to choose from.
I hope you will give these ideas a try. It IS possible to create a simple homeschool writing program that will support and develop your unique child's writing abilities - with some joy thrown in!