4 Ways to Make Homeschool Writing Relevant

Making Writing Relevant for Homeschool Students
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“When am I going to use this in real life?!”

Your homeschooled students have probably uttered that question on more than one occasion. Chances are, you asked the same one when you were in school. Some subjects probably won’t be relevant in the daily lives of all students after graduation. However, writing is one that everyone will use to some degree in their daily lives. That’s why it’s so important that we don’t teach writing in a box.

Include Writing in All Subjects

When I was in high school, all college-bound seniors had to take a class on how to write a research paper. We spent one semester each working on two different research paper topics. Several teachers teamed up to give credit for the paper in multiple subjects. Students could type the paper in computer class, learning at add superscripts and footnotes while honing our word processing skills.

We could also choose a theme related to some aspect of social studies for report credit in that class in addition to the credit earned in both the computer and research paper classes.

As public school students, we were thrilled to be able to work on the same project for credit in three different classes. As homeschool teachers, that’s a bonus we can offer our students from the time they begin to write all the way through graduation.

Including writing in all subjects allows us to cover the mechanics of writing while demonstrating its relevance to our students.

 

Try Creative Cross-Curricular Writing Assignments

It’s easy to include writing in almost any other school subject once we change our mindset about two aspects of writing.

First, we must learn to quit thinking of writing as its own individual subject. Even if you’re using a specific writing curriculum – which can be helpful to ensure that all the mechanics and types of writing are covered – allow yourself the freedom to modify the curriculum.

If your student is learning to write a how-to paper, for example, don’t feel that you have to follow the topic assignment in your writing curriculum. Instead, allow your student to apply the type of paper to another subject. If you’re studying the election process, let your student write a paper on how the president is elected or how ballots are cast in your state.

Second, we need to begin thinking beyond book reports and five paragraph essays. Consider the following examples for incorporating writing in a variety of subjects.

History

Basic reports on people, places, and events are always an excellent way for younger students to practice spelling, grammar and the mechanics of writing. Let older students build on reports and practice different types of writing. Students can hone their persuasive writing skills by choosing a side from a major conflict in history and convincing readers to share their point of view.

They might practice expository writing, which is used to explain or provide information, by outlining the causes of a war or the travels of a particular explorer.

Other ideas include letting your student:

  • Produce a newspaper for the period in history you’re studying instead of writing a traditional report
  • Write journal entries as if he is a historical figure
  • Write a poem about an event in history (This can be particularly effective if you’re studying types of poetry.)
  • Practice letter-writing by composing a letter or email requesting information from a chamber of commerce or historical society
  • Write a dramatization of a historic event
  • Create a comic strip about an event in history
  • Compare and contrast two events, people, or places in history
  • Write a descriptive paragraph about a person or place

Science

Don’t overlook science lab reports. They are a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of writing and the importance of effective communication. I always instructed my homeschooled students to include enough detail in their lab sheets that someone could reproduce the experiment based only on the report.

Lab reports allow students to practice how-to and descriptive writing. Your children could also:

  • Write a biography about a famous scientist
  • Keep a natural journal or a weather log
  • Make lists (types of biomes, birds identified in your yard, examples of insects)
  • Write cause and effect papers about the scientific concepts you’re studying or the experiments you’re doing
  • Write a paper comparing and contrasting two different organisms

Math

It can be trickier to incorporate relevant writing assignments with math, but it can be done. It can even be a powerful comprehension tool. It is often said that if a student can explain a process to someone else, he truly understands it. Why not have him explain it in writing? Let your student write a how-to paper explaining the process for long division or multiplying numbers with multiple digits.

The phrase “word problems” often makes us think confusing thoughts about two trains leaving different stations to meet at some elusive point on their journey. However, word problems are simply real-life applications for math concepts. Invite your students to write their own word problems to cement concepts in their minds.

Don't overlook taking notes in math class as a relevant writing opportunity. Note-taking is a valuable skill for students to learn. We like to keep a handy “cheat sheet” of regularly-used formulas with a brief explanation of the process for my teens’ algebra lessons.

Provide Opportunities for Real-Life Writing

One of the best ways to help students see the relevance of writing is to provide plenty of opportunities for real-life writing. Consider the following:

  • Use email regularly. If you have older students with their own tablets or laptops, invite them to email you low-priority questions about their assignments. If they have questions for other instructors such as their co-op teacher or music tutor, let them email instead of asking you to do it.
  • Text each other. Sometimes I still get confusing messages from my kids. Being forced to explain themselves or clear up misunderstandings helps them see the importance of expressing themselves clearly.
  • Fill out job applications. Most employers want potential employees to apply online, but if paper applications are available, they’re great for practice.
  • Make lists. Don’t discount lists as writing practice. Let your student make grocery or to-do lists, lists of supplies needed for a project, or a packing list for a trip.
  • Try blogging. Blogging is a fantastic way to put writing concepts into real-life, practical use.

Publish Your Student’s Writing

Placing your student’s finished paper in a binder or filing cabinet doesn’t scream relevant to him. Instead, it makes writing just another assignment box to be checked off. Publishing student writing doesn’t have to be elaborate to show him that writing serves a purpose.

Some ways to publish your student’s writing include:

  • Include it in a family newsletter
  • Publish it on your blog – or theirs
  • Use blank books, which can be purchased online or at teacher supply stores (Let your student design a cover and include her author bio on the back.)
  • Submit your student’s writing to magazines or online publications
  • Create your own book using word processing software. Enclose the finished product in a binder cover or have it spiral bound at an office supply store. See if your local library showcases student writing.

It's easy to make homeschool writing relevant when we allow students to apply it to everything they do.