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How to Write Essays in High School

During Alex's first week at college, he came home and thanked me for a specific skill he learned when we were homeschooling. Believe it or not, he thanked me for teaching him how to write essays in high school, specifically a quick essay. 

 Learning to write a quick one or two page, hand-written essay is important for three reasons.

  1. Being able to write quickly is the hallmark of literate adults.
  2. It's a skill that prepared my boys for college essay tests.
  3. Demonstrating literacy by writing under pressure is a skill that many students aren't taught.
Believe or not, both of my sons have actually thanked me for teaching them how to write quick essays. My son, Alex, actually experienced an essay test the first week into attending a university. For him, it was no different than what we had done at home, in our homeschool. But, for the other students in class, he said that they kind of freaked out. They didn't know how to write essays when given a time frame! 

You may be thinking to yourself, "I don't have time to spend on just essay writing." But, what would you say if I told you that you could count those hours spent on practicing writing essays as hours toward a class that will go on the transcript? You can! A high school English credit can be awarded when your child has completed about 120 to 180 hours of work. You don't have to painstakingly count up every single hour though, you can easily estimate hours. If your student works at least an hour a day on a subject, it will typically add up to one high school credit. If they work half an hour a day, they will earn a half credit. Your English class could include teaching your child to write a quick essay as the cornerstone of their composition studies. Get your child to work for about one hour a day on writing skills.

Once you have identified instruction that works (I'll talk more about that below), and found writing prompts that will help you apply the instruction, you are halfway there. The most important key to writing an essay in high school is practice. We practiced timed essay writing three times a week. I used quick essays to document many of our other courses, creating my own prompt from other homeschool subjects. At times I used essay topics from the history curriculum or other subjects. If a topic from the writing prompts book reminded me of another subject, I tweaked it a bit to obtain an essay that fit what we were studying. This provided written material for other classes, as well as practice writing.

It can take some time to learn short essay writing skills, and it takes a lot of practice. I would love to be able to tell you that I taught my children to write short essays, but I didn't teach them. I made sure they learned the skill but I didn't do the teaching. I felt incompetent and unable to teach such a subjective skill as writing.

With my family, I used the Institute for Excellence in Writing product called the Advanced Communication Series. This product is a tutorial for the student, not for the parent. I didn't have to do anything with it other than make sure my children watched the video. The Advanced Communication Series teaches three distinct skills: taking notes from a college lecture, writing a long and short essay, and public speaking. Each section was wonderful, but the one I relied on most was the instruction in writing a short essay. After watching the video, my children were ready to try their new skills.

People always ask me how to best teach quick essay skills. Andrew Pudewa, the founder of IEW, recommends me, too. You can find his full endorsement of me here, as well as a free class that he and I have done together. My favorite IEW products are:
High School Essay Intensive
Advanced Communication Series

I know people love IEW's other products as well. One of my Gold Care Club members used their Poetry curriculum and I thought it sounded fabulous.

Real success in writing a quick essay comes with practice. Once your child learns how to write reasonably well, additional writing skill will come through practice. Practice leads to success, which can help them get great grades in college and succeed in life.

I want you to be thanked by your children. I want them to demonstrate literacy in writing under pressure. I want them to be ready for college, in case they are ever headed in that direction. Start teaching them great writing skills now! You can do it! 

You can read my entire article about this subject here - there are lots of details to mention!

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Thursday, 15 April 2021

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