In today’s episode, we’ll chat about four homeschool writing tips that you can easily use right away in your homeschool with any age.
I know that teaching writing in your homeschool can feel challenging. But maybe that’s because you haven’t worked on foundational skills first. Most kids won’t be able to see a blank sheet of paper and just start writing well. They need to work on tiny skills first, growing in their confidence and ability before you require them to write paragraphs or essays.
But it’s not as hard as you think! Here are 4 easy to implement writing strategies to start using in your homeschool this week. And yes – you should start these strategies when your kids are young! But even if you have teens who have never learned these skills, it’s never too late to start. Here’s what to do.
My posts contain affiliate links.
Welcome to the show notes for Episode #154 of the Homeschool with Moxie Podcast!
As a former classroom teacher, now homeschooling mom of five, I love to equip and encourage other homeschooling families.
On the Homeschool with Moxie Podcast our goal is to inspire and encourage you with actionable strategies to take you from overwhelmed to confident in your homeschool adventure. Listen to interviews with amazing influencers in the homeschool world and beyond.
Check out the amazing value of the Download-a-Month club! Grab an audiobook to use along with your history studies – or just for fun. Jim has hundreds of products available for your homeschool.
Want to hear from Jim Hodges? We had him on episode 134 of the podcast to talk about using audiobooks in your homeschool.
Listen to the Podcast
Homeschool Writing Tips
So today’s topic is just simply writing tips for your home school. I know writing can be one of those topics that we find it hard to teach our kids for some reason, it just feels like there’s a roadblock for some kids in even just putting anything onto paper. Now, some of your kids are naturally writers and they will grab every empty notebook in the house, every scrap of paper and fill it with stories or you know, they just love writing.
But some of our kids really do struggle with This. So I want to give you four easy solutions that you can start using. I’m I’m even with your very young kids and by the time you’ve practiced these things and use these strategies, you will find that your kids are able to write. So if you have all young kids definitely start using these right now. If you have middle school kids who you’ve never done this before with, you can still use these strategies, you just might not need to use them as long because maybe they will pick up on it a little quicker due to their age and maturity level.
So let’s jump into these four really actionable writing tips that you can start using in your home school, even this week.
Homeschool Writing Tip #1: Narration
Tip number one is to use narration.
Now, you Charlotte Mason homeschoolers will know all about narration, but some of us who aren’t Charlotte Mason purists may feel a little bit intimidated when we hear this word. Sometimes we ask ourselves – well if I don’t employ all of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy in my home school can I really use just narration? Yes, you absolutely can. And this is one of the best things about being an eclectic homeschooler. I feel like is you can pick and choose the best from every method.
So if you’ve never heard of narration for before, I do have a narration cheat sheet, but narration is simply the act of telling or retelling. So, verbally have your kids retell after you read a chapter in your read aloud. Just say, “okay, what just happened?” Then let them tell back. You don’t have to be critical about what they say or say, well no, that wasn’t the main point. It’s just a matter of getting them comfortable with retelling.
And so this is so easy to do with young kids because there’s no writing involved and this is why it’s really good to start early with this. It is a skill and as they get older, you can start to say: “Instead of just telling me one sentence, see if you can answer a few more questions. What happened, who was involved, and why was it important?”
Do you see how you can use this strategy with your history lesson, your science lesson, your read aloud, or whatever you’re doing in your home school? You can start to use narration. So it’s simply your child summarizing or retelling back.
We use this in our inductive bible studies for kids as well because if your kids can narrate or summarize what they just read, you know that they understand it, some kids can kind of cheat a little as far as not really know what went on, but still fill out a worksheet and guess their way around it.
But when you’re doing narration, you either know it or you don’t, it’s pretty obvious.
It’s a great way to assess your kids learning without a pile of worksheets. And this goes along with what we were talking about last week in episode 153 with digging out from a pile of worksheets in your homeschool. One of the great strategies to start using is narration.
I mean, your kids could write a book report, but if this is just really painful for them and for you, why do you have to have a book report? They’re not in a classroom where the teacher has to have every child write a book report in order to assess whether they read the book or not. You could literally have a conversation with your child after they read each chapter or at the end of the book and say, okay, tell me what the book was about. Can you see how this is a whole lot less painful than writing when your child is struggling with putting pen to paper?
So that’s why it’s great to use even with young kids. But once again, if your middle schoolers have never done this before, go ahead and start with narration when they read their science topic or their history, just talk about it. That’s a very simple way to start with. It’s like a pre writing skill.
Homeschool Writing Tip #2: Copywork
The second thing I want to let you know about if you’re not doing it already in your home school and that is copy work. Now, sometimes copy work can turn into busywork can turn into I just want my child to be filling out worksheets, so I feel like we’re doing home school, but if you actually find really great writing for them to then copy, that’s actually a valuable skill.
So the real purpose of copy work is to familiarize your children with good writing. I believe I read that Ben Franklin actually learned to write this way. He would read a really good piece of writing, he would outline it, he would put away the original, he would look at his outline and he would see if he could rewrite it and do a good job. He trained himself to be a good writer this way.
Now with copy work you could eventually do that or you could simply find really great literature to copy. Just have them copy a paragraph or even just a sentence, depending on your child’s age and their ability.
For young kids, they could have one really well written sentence. For older kids, they could copy a paragraph from the literature they’re reading or their history. As long as it’s well written. So your kids learn spelling and punctuation and composition. They are learning vocabulary and sentence structure and grammar.
Think about what they’re learning, They’re also practicing their handwriting. So as long as you’re picking really great things to copy. Copy work is an awesome tool to use as you get your kids ready for more advanced writing.
So number one is narration, this is verbal.
Number two is copy work. Okay, they really are writing but they don’t have to come up with the ideas on their own. They’re just getting used to what a really well written sentence looks like and composition that’s done really well. What does that look like? That’s copy work.
Homeschool Writing Tip #3: Dictation
The third step in kind of helping your kids get along in writing a lot better is to use dictation. Now this is where you will verbally give the sentence and your child will write it down. Of course you can repeat it, but you want to get to the point where you don’t have to repeat it a whole lot. They’re able to remember that sentence in their mind and then put it on paper. We use All About Spelling in our homeschool and we’ve talked about how awesome we think it is and All About Spelling uses dictation.
So my kids are doing this from this, you know about first grade, they’re learning how to do dictation with simple sentences and then the sentences get longer.
And I’ve noticed that they’re able to remember a lot and put it down on paper. And it really does grow. That skill really does grow as you’re able to repeat it over and over throughout their schooling.
So you can do the same thing as you would have done with copy work. Instead of giving them the sentence and they look at it and they write it down, you’re just going to say the sentence slowly, you know, repeated a couple of times as needed as they get used to it. You don’t want them to be frustrated and then have them learn to listen and write it down. Now, eventually you can turn this dictation into their own sentences.
So, for example, go back to narration. Maybe you just read Little House on the Prairie, you just read a chapter with your child and you say – “Okay, what happened in this chapter?” And she gives you a sentence. You then can write it down as the adult and then turn around and you say it, do it as a dictation exercise, and your child then writes it down. So they’re essentially writing their own sentence. But instead of that paralysis that sometimes happens where they’re like, “I have to put it on paper and it’s a blank sheet of paper,” you’re writing down what they say verbally and then you’re turning around and saying it to them as a dictation sentence and then they write it down.
So your child is essentially writing down their own sentence. But it takes away this pressure sometimes that some of our kids feel when they have to write. And as you do this over and over, they’re going to start to see – oh I really can write! I really can come up with the sentences in my head!
Now the next step is obviously going to be them coming up with the sentence in their head and then writing it on paper without you as the middleman. Can you see how all of these steps are connected? You start with baby steps, you do narration till they’re really comfortable.
You do copy work, you can also do copy work at the same time as you’re working on narration and then you start to do dictation of someone else’s sentences. Then you start dictating their own sentences back to them.
Homeschool Writing Tip #4: Short Reading Summaries
And now number four, the last tip is to require them to do short reading summaries. This can be great for any subject.
This is where if you’re, whether you’re using a textbook or you’re using just beautiful literature and beautiful books from the library to study your science and your history and that type of thing as you’re probably wondering – “okay if I just use library books to study, say the solar system instead of using an actual curriculum, how in the world will I assess my kids? Do I need to print out tons of worksheets?”
Well here’s what you can do instead. You can say – “okay, first we’re going to read this book about the solar system and do a narration orally.”
But as your kids get older and middle school and older you can have them write reading summaries and this is where they’re going to start to put those really well thought out sentences on paper.
You can start really short and talk about how to write three sentences or a short paragraph. Then you start increasing the difficulty from there.
You can even use reading summaries as your kids get into high school. This is applicable if you’re putting together a course and it doesn’t come with tests and quizzes and you’re wondering how to give them a grade on the transcript.
Well ahead of time, you can make a rubric. What are the guidelines for the assignment? What do I have to see in this paper to give you an A or a B? And it doesn’t have to be a whole paper. But with a reading summary, decide on the number of words, decide what they need to cover. And once they’ve studied through a topic, have them explain the importance and the main points of what they’ve learned. Have them show in writing that they understand the material. So you can use this even all the way into high school for an assessment for your kids.
Scaffolding for Homeschool Writing
So I hope these four simple writing tips have helped you realize you don’t need fancy writing curriculum, although you can get really great writing curriculum for the homeschool market.
But you can use this across the subject areas to help your kids become better writers naturally. It’s baby steps, it’s little by little, it’s not overwhelming because you’re helping them grow their skills. It’s kind of scaffolding, right?
So they’re starting with narration and this is verbal and this is really not scary even for really young kids. Kids naturally love to tell you about things. So take that natural love of just talking with your child and help them learn to craft their thoughts and get their thoughts more succinct and more clear.
Then you move on to copy work, which is helping them see really great writing and they go ahead and copy it in their best handwriting.
Then you move on to dictation, which could be you dictating really great compositions or sentences or it could be you dictating back to them what they verbally narrated to you.
And then finally you move on to reading summaries as they get older – upper elementary, middle school, and even into high school. And honestly, even your young kids can do reading summaries even if it’s one sentence. You know, after you read something, you’re say – “okay, write down one sentence.” And you don’t really have to be super picky about what they write. You just want them getting comfortable with writing and you can work on it from there.
Resources to Help Homeschool Writing
I hope these homeschool writing tips & strategies will be helpful in your homeschool. Plan to start using one or more of these tips right away and let me know how it goes!
Let me tell you about our favorite writing resources.
More recently, we’ve started using more resources from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) and we love it! Here’s our experience using one of their writing resources.
You can download FREE IEW samples to try them out!
Coming soon! We’ll be using Cover Story from Clear Water Press and writing a review about our experience with this program.