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    Is composition done as a separate course at HLS? If so, what curriculum/ program do you recommend? I am planning for the 2011-12 school year for a 9th grader.



    Our students do have a separate time for composition, but it is taught by their English teacher and really bleeds into English literature. Their topics are based on what they are studying in English.

    We begin preparing students to write very early with our literature study guides. In 1st-4th grades, we work really hard on modeling good sentences to answer comprehension questions. Then the students copy the sentences from the board. By the middle of 4th grade, we start transitioning to student independence. Our literature guides also require students to begin putting several sentences together very early on, but that is also teacher-directed and modeled on a board with everyone working together to formulate the simple paragraph.

    When I taught 5th-6th grades, in order to show students how to do a good chapter summary, we began by doing the entire summary orally together while I wrote it on the board. Then, we would erase unnecessary sentences, make sentences more concise, add any necessary information, etc. until we had a good summary (which the students were then required to copy perfectly).

    So, by high school, students have done a lot of writing. They are required to write in other subjects besides English. All of our history study guides have writing projects in them, and teachers in other subjects require papers.

    That is the advantage of a school. For homeschoolers, this could become quite tedious, especially if writing is not your strength. Thank goodness there are good writing programs out there to use. We like Andrew Pudewa's IEW courses, and Susan Wise Bauer has an excellent little book called Writing With Ease that gives a great overview for writing that can be used with any curriculum you are using.

    If you are a good grammarian and can proof your students' writing without help, you probably just need to have them write within their other subjects, proof their writing, and make them correct it. I think that is the key. If students write but aren't made to re-write, they never learn. I know that if my children are handed a paper with red ink all over it and aren't forced to fix it, it will go into the bottomless backpack and they will never look at what they did wrong or need to correct in the future. It's not about volumes of writing assignments; it's about quality writing assignments. If you only get one paragraph done a week, but it has been improved and perfected throughout that week, you have accomplished something. The next week, shoot for 2 paragraphs, and so forth.

    I hope this is helpful.