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Writing at Home

The budding introspective nature of writing at this level can be especially tricky in the homeschool where the parent/child relationship comes into play.  Parents should respect that their student’s writing will become personally reflective as they get older.  A benefit of writing becoming more personal is that it gives rise to students finding their own topics on which to write.

By upper elementary school, students should be utilizing the writer’s notebook for daily writing. Allowing space and time – disconnected from the distractions of life – for thinking and writing is essential to grow the upper elementary student’s writing. Homeschool parents can model this for their children by writing in their own notebook.

“When students see us write during this time, and when they hear us asking for silence in order to think clearly, we are teaching them that quiet time is something writers need.”

Vicki Spandel
The 9 Rights of Every Writer: A Guide for Teachers

Upper elementary students should be very familiar with the structure of a paragraph.  In her book, Notebook Know-How, Aimee Buckner suggests a paragraph editing strategy using three colored pencils: green, yellow, and red. Students should read through their drafts. Topic sentences are underlined in green.  Sentences that add detail are underlined in yellow, and ending sentences are underlined in red. This allows a color-coded visual of paragraph construction.

“What do they learn? They learn where to put more details. They learn not to separate and organize their ideas. They learn when it’s okay to have paragraphs that are shorter or longer than the general three-to-five sentence rule.”

Aimee Buckner
Notebook Know-How

Once students have a firm handle on paragraph development, they should be taught the basic structure of a five-paragraph essay. The five-paragraph essay includes:

  • Introductory paragraph with a thesis as the final sentence.
  • Three body paragraphs, one for each main idea.
  • Concluding paragraph.

Upper elementary students should be accomplished in writing the five-paragraph essay structure prior to moving into middle school.  Homeschool parents should remember the two-step process or revising and editing when working with their upper elementary writers. Together, parent and child should select a number of pieces of writing to revise and edit. See Upper Elementary Writing Development for explanation of revision vs. editing.

When polishing for an audience, student needs time to draft a piece of writing multiple times, making sure what they want to say- the content - is worked out before their writing is evaluated for spelling and mechanic errors. Excessive use of a red pen when a child is still working on content will discourage the writer.

Not all writing should not be revised or edited. Writing to learn exercises can aid the student in learning content areas of history, science, math, and literature. Students should be writing daily in these subjects in addition to the writing assignments they revise and edit for language arts.

The University of Richmond Writing Center has compiled a list of writing to learn activities and directions for their use.  Homeschool parents have an amazing opportunity to move beyond fill in the blank workbook exercises and incorporate writing into every school day and every subject.  By becoming familiar with writing to learn strategies, parents will complement their homeschool curriculum and enrich their child’s learning experience.