I have written before about how writing is the bane of my homeschool existence. Specifically, my oldest two children seem to find it amazingly difficult to transition from writing paragraphs to writing essays and research papers. This is not for lack of proper instruction on my part or for lack of opportunity to practice the skill of writing. The problem, in a nutshell, boils down to laziness.
I have walked my children through the process of writing a proper essay for several years using a variety of different materials to make sure the steps are clearly explained and understood. I cannot tell them anything more than they already know, which is the reason why I am graduating my teens this year. It is now up to them to start using what they’ve been taught of their own volition.
Here is a case in point: This year for part of composition, we used IEW’s Advanced Communication Series course. The course covers skills such as writing a persuasive paper, note-taking, and writing a research paper. The instructions are laid out on a weekly basis and are very thorough. For the final project, students have one month to complete a research paper. They are walked through the entire process by the student workbook. One of my teens was fully aware of how to write a research paper and of the assignment’s requirements. Yet, for whatever reason, said teen chose not to follow them.
What I got instead from said teen was a rambling paper that lacked direction, organization, and a clear purpose. I asked said teen if an outline was made prior to writing and said teen said “no.” I suggested to said teen that before starting to write a lengthy paper, a person must have an idea of what he wants to say. He then needs to ensure that his writing is organized so that readers can follow his train of thought. I quoted a phrase from Ruth Beechick: “Writing is thinking.” Based on that phrase, I asked said teen if there were clear thoughts about the topic before the writing process was begun. Said teen admitted “no.” I explained that I, as the reader, could see that given that the paper was not clear to me. I was disappointed that more effort had not been put into a month-long project where step by step instructions were to be followed.
I have advised my teens that in order for me to sign off on their transcripts, they must each produce at least 3 well-written papers that can be included in a portfolio of work to be submitted for university admission. So far, I have not seen such a quality paper. Hence the reason why my teens will be working next year and further honing the skill of writing until they get it. There is no point in trying to pursue higher education when the skills necessary for obtaining the requisite grades for the chosen career path aren’t yet there. My teens need to comprehend that and to understand that their father and I are not willing to let them “explore” their options on our dime when the work ethic necessary for success is not present. Sometimes people have to learn things the hard way. It seems that writing is one of those things for my teens.
Have you had any difficulty teaching writing to your teens? If so, how did you help them overcome their difficulty?