Writing can be tricky. You’ve got the right-brained people who can’t move their highly creative stories onto paper and the left-brained people who can’t connect to their creative side to jazz up their writing. And writing requires a little bit of both. Throw into this mix kids with learning disabilities, reluctant readers, those with developmental delays for whom holding a pencil for long periods is sheer torture, and you’ve got a dilemma on your hands.
How will you find the perfect writing curriculum that will inspire your kids to write while also teaching them everything they need to know? Here are four things to look for in a homeschool writing curriculum for your middle school child.
Clear instructions for the student and teacher
You might think this is obvious, but you would be shocked at how many writing curricula we have tried which leave much to be desired in the area of instructions. If my sixth grader cannot read and understand the instructions for each assignment, he has to get clarification from me. I have six other kids I am teaching. That means he usually just moves on and (inevitably) does the assignment incorrectly.
And while I do not mind being involved each day, I have to be able to understand the instructions as well. A teacher’s guide is especially helpful if I can dive in, find the information I need for just today, and get my son moving in the right direction quickly.
Short and engaging assignments
Eleven-year-old boys do not necessarily have a long attention span or the skills to sit at a table for multiple hours working on one assignment. However, they can learn much through the use of short, engaging assignments that teach a specific skill to enhance writing. And these assignments can be fun too! I love how Jump In: A Workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers by Sharon Watson has full color pictures, fun illustrations, interesting text, and very short assignments for most of each lesson that build up to longer assignments.
“Every skeleton needs a head. The introductory paragraph will become your skeleton’s head. The first sentence in your introductory paragraph (or introduction) should grab the reader’s attention.” (Jump In, p.21)
A well-planned attack
There are so many different aspects of writing and so many things that can help inspire writers. It is easy to jump all around with ideas and never go anywhere. An excellent homeschool writing curriculum will spiral upward, requiring students to attack new skills in shorter bursts but always building on what they just completed. Like building an elaborate building with LEGO bricks, one room at a time.
In order to be really top-notch, a homeschool writing curriculum needs to cover all the bases. It needs to be complete. It needs to cover brainstorming and paragraphs, short stories and book reports, essays and journalism, long stories and research papers. and POETRY. Please stop ignoring poetry. I’m so thankful that our writing curriculum of choice (Jump In: A Workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers by Sharon Watson) for middle school covers all of those bases while also helping each child tap into his own imagination and just get words onto paper when writing is more difficult.
“Limericks come to us from Ireland. They are happy and silly poems that have a definite rhythm. The first two lines have three beats. The next two lines have two beats. And the last line has three beats.” (Jump In, p. 229)
So, to recap: A great homeschool writing curriculum for middle school needs to have clear instructions for the student and teacher, short and engaging assignments, a well-planned attack to inspire and improve writing, and thorough lessons that cover all the bases. That’s what we look for.