Sunday, March 17, 2013

Homeschool Writing Courses

Lately there seems to be a push toward homeschool writing courses. Maybe I just notice it more since my daughter is in high school now and writing is very much a critical skill for high school kids who want to enter college. Actually, writing is a critical skill for everyone, not just those wishing to go to college. Good writing skills are helpful to those in the workforce and even those who do not work. At some point even those who do not have an outside job have the need to draw upon their writing skills whether it’s a letter to the editor, a letter to a business, letters to a family member or friend, keeping  a journal, or even learning to write a blog.  Writing is crucial!
   "For a change [students] are owning rather than renting the language of the classroom. . . .For a change they are applying theory and thinking creatively." -Larry Levy, Delta College Instructor Emiriti
Learning to write is important, but writing to learn is just as important and facilitates learning to write. Does that make sense? Writing enhances a person's learning of content. For example if a student is working on a science experiment, the simple act of writing about the steps involved and the conclusion helps them reflect upon and summarize their understanding. It helps them synthesize material and learn critical thinking skills all the while they are also improving their writing skills.
According to Diane Boehm, Instructional Support Programs, Saginaw Valley State University, the following are benefits of writing to learn: (easily adaptable to homeschooling)
1. WTL promotes active learning.
2. Students use their own language to understand course concepts; they "own" rather than "rent" the language and ideas.
3. WTL stimulates participation and discussion (/every/ student has a response to the question).
4. Teachers discover what students are thinking and learning, what's clear and what isn't.
5. WTL creates opportunity for teacher/student and student/student dialogue.
6. Students can "rehearse" ideas and strategies before tackling formal writing assignments; they can "practice" before the "big game."
7. WTL creates a way for students to reflect upon what they are learning, to think meta-cognitively and personally about their learning processes in the course.
8. WTL assists students in discovering what they know and what they don't know.
9. WTL gives everyone a stake in the class.
10. WTL can be adapted for whole group or small group activities.
11. WTL creates opportunities to write for audiences other than the teacher.
12. WTL allows for formative (assisting in the process) rather than only summative (evaluating a product) assessments.
Maybe helping your student see how writing to learn will benefit them, learning to write will not be as big a chore for them.