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Helping my daughter with writing

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  • Helping my daughter with writing

    I've touched on this in another post recently, but would like to ask for specific feedback about helping my daughter with writing.

    She is in eighth grade. We began using Memoria Press toward the end of her sixth grade year. Since Kindergarten, her writing instruction has been as follows:

    Grades K-3: not much other than copy work, plus First Language Lessons, books 1 and 2
    Grades 4-5: IEW's Style and Structure series, as used in Classical Conversations' Essentials program (which uses the 30-week IEW curriculum over 24 weeks, so it skips some big chunks)
    Grade 6, until we switched to Classical Composition: Writing With Skill, book 1 (Well-Trained Mind)
    Grade 6, last quarter, through grade 7: Narrative, using the advanced schedule of Narrative for 10 weeks, followed by Chreia & Maxim.

    She is now in eighth grade and using the Ref/Con level of Classical Composition.

    I realized this fall that she really did not know how to write a well-formed paragraph, with a topic sentence and details. We took a week or so to talk about that and I've started to make sure she writes good paragraphs to answer certain questions in science and geography, and also in literature. These paragraphs are hard for her; to write a three-paragraph essay is torturous.

    I would love some advice about what to focus on with her writing at this point. We are in the midst of working through and paraphrasing Aphthonius' models in Ref/Con, along with focusing on writing good paragraphs as I said. Does that sound like we are taking the best approach for now, to continue both? What would prepare her for high school writing next year?

    I'm chagrined that I didn't realize she wasn't really learning to write. I actually used to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages in our local public school, and writing was something I loved to teach, so I'm upset that I didn't do a good job of this with my own daughter.
    2022-2023 Tenth year homeschooling, third year using MP cores

    DD - grade 9; also in AHG and Tae Kwon Do
    DS - grade 5; also in Trail Life and Tae Kwon Do

    Five born to Heaven, between 2009 and 2014; because of them we have a ministry called Naomi's Circle for parents walking the path of pregnancy loss

    DH is a bivocational pastor

    Celebrating 20 years of marriage this year!

  • #2

    I think you are doing just fine. Writing is hard for students, and it's hard for parents who don't feel capable of editing. But I think your incorporating good writing throughout your daughter's subjects is the perfect reinforcement. So she is learning how to have good content (how to argue, how to persuade, etc) through Classical Comp. I think the key to learning to write is continual rewriting. I found when I was teaching that if I gave my students their paragraphs/papers back with red all over them, they didn't even look at them; they just filed them away. But if I insisted that they rewrite, using my edits, and rewrite again if needed, they became better writers. So I'm a fan of doing fewer writing projects, but doing them over and over until they are good. That's how students really learn to write. When we read King Arthur, we would summarize a chapter together on the board as a model, and then they would copy it. I would grade it and hand it back and if it wasn't perfect, they had to rewrite it. (It should have been perfect because they were just copying!!!) Then, I would turn them loose to summarize another chapter, and I would grade and hand it back, as many times as it took. I was amazed at how well this worked! My poor writers really did get better. When we worked on quotation marks in grammar, I would have them write a conversation between two characters in Robin Hood. I just looked for ways to have them write so that we could edit and rewrite. This, alongside Classical Composition, should have your daughter in good shape by the time for college.

    My kids never had an official writing course at HLS because we were in the early days before the curriculum was fully established, but they both went to college knowing how to write because they were forced to write in all their subjects. It just happened organically without a real class in writing. (I should have been concerned about that, I suppose, but it never crossed my mind that we needed a writing class! And when they made A's on their college papers, I still didn't process that this happened without a writing course. I guess ignorance really is bliss.)

    The problem with this is if you are a teacher who doesn't know how to edit to make papers better, and that happens. It sounds like you know what your daughter is working toward, so it's not a problem, but for those who really struggle with writing themselves, I would suggest an outside tutor to grade.

    I feel like you are doing just what you need to do, and you will see your daughter bloom as a writer if you keep it up!



    • #3
      The Steck-Vaughn Core Skills Language Arts books MP schedules up through the 7th grade would be a great tool to teach and reinforce paragraph form. Likely, your student has been seeing good paragraph form up through the grades. Sometimes students need a subtle reminder to lead with the most important detail first, limit details that are extraneous or belong to other paragraphs, and find a way to close out a thought and transition to the next idea.

      Not all paragraphs need to follow a strict paragraph form. Fiction writing lends itself to breaking these rules. Persuasive, informative and expository writing demand a logical flow.

      Outlining in CC's Narrative, Chreia & Maxim, etc, should have been highlighting a main topic (the heading of each paragraph or act), and the supporting details undergird and elaborate on main idea of each scene or point. If you go back through a few of the passages together from CC and look at the outlines you created, you can show her the logic to what she has already done.

      There are a few supplemental activities you could add if she needs the steps broken down further. Definitely take a look at the resources I PM'ed if you don't own the Core Skills books. A good activity might include crossing out sentences that don't support the main idea of the paragraph.

      FWIW, children in 8th grade still struggle with paragraph organization, so it's best to address these issues upon editing if your student doesn't start with an outline. Then, have your student ask the same questions of each paragraph: does each sentence belong here? Does each sentence support, develop, or give an example that makes the topic of the paragraph more clear or convincing? Chances are that many of the skills she picked up in CC will be useful at determining this.

      There are plenty of lit guide essay prompts that you can use as sample to write outlines together. Then, have her string sentences together with transitions and good sentence variety (like Fable or Narrative) to develop a good 3-paragraph composition.
      Mama of 2, teacher of 3 (Fourth Form Latin & Ref/Con)
      SY 23/24
      7A w/ First Form Greek

      Completed MPK, MP1*, MP2*, 3A, 4A, 5A, 6A
      SC B, SC C, SC1 (Phonics/Math)