Overview: Want your teen to have more fun writing during the homeschool day? Listen for some great ideas from Misti Lacy of WriteShop.
This episode is the first of three in which I chat with Misti Lacy, who is the Curriculum Consultant at WriteShop, which provides homeschool writing curriculum for all ages. Misti has umpteen years of experience teaching high school and college writing, and her wisdom is inspiring and encouraging!
I’ve already made it clear that I’m a fan of WriteShop, but this episode is not a sales pitch. Misti gives helpful ideas and tips for conquering the “boredom” that many teens claim to have about writing. We know this is an important skill; how can we help our teen actually have FUN writing rather than just slogging through?
This is also just a sparkling conversation between two veteran homeschool moms—you’ll be smiling while you listen!
Over the next two episodes, Misti and I will discuss how to prepare teens for college writing and also options for mom’s involvement during the writing process. Be sure to come back for those!
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Episode 51: How to Make Writing More Fun for Your Homeschooled Teen
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You are listening to episode 51 of the, It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast.
When a kid is learning how to walk, we don’t criticize the fact that they fall down. My daughter was learning how to walk and she smacked herself on the coffee table and got a scar and I didn’t say shame on you. I have a scar, if you could see me right now you can see I have a scar on my lip where I fell when I was learning how to walk. My daughter did the same thing, and we don’t say shame on you. You should’ve stood up. Why don’t you know how to walk?
Welcome to another episode of, It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people. So you can confidently competently and even contentedly provide the high school education that best fits your teen and your family, and live to tell about it. I’m your host Ann Karako from annieandeverything.com. Hi everybody. And welcome today. I’m so excited because I have Misti Lacy with me today. She is the curriculum consultant at Write Shop. Y’all know that I love Write Shop, we use it personally. I
0 (1m 26s):
recommend it all the time and there’s a reason for that. We’ll get into some of that today. Misti is here to discuss with us teaching writing to our teens because they’re a whole different animal when it comes to trying to get them interested in it. And also the fact that college is looming and we want to make sure they’re ready. And we’re also trying to foster that whole idea of independent learning. And yet, how do we help in the writing process? We’re going to discuss all of that and more with my time with Misti. We are going to split this conversation up into three episodes so be sure to come back through the next couple of weeks, to hear more from Misti.
0 (2m 11s):
Misti thank you so much for being here. Welcome.
1 (2m 15s):
Hello, happy Wednesday and I don’t know about you, but where I live, it is like below zero right now. So I’m in a house and nice and warm and cozy at the moment. Yeah. Where are you at? You don’t have to get specific. I live in Nebraska and I work remotely for Write Shop; as everybody in the world works remotely these days. So there’s a story on how I got to Western Nebraska, which I might expand upon. Yes, go for it, I’m ready. So I was living for a number of years in Phoenix, Arizona, and I ran a large homeschooling group there because I saw a need for teenagers to be accountable to somebody besides mom at the kitchen table in order to get them ready for high school.
1 (3m 2s):
So, I mean, really God just dropped this idea in my lap and a friend of mine and I got together and we created this homeschool organization where kids could come and take classes. And so, I ran that for 12 years and I taught a lot, a lot of students Write Shop and history and yearbook but mostly writing. And then my grandma who lived in Western Nebraska needed help and so I decided to give up my homeschooling organization and head to Western Nebraska, which is where I grew up in the middle of nowhere and to help my grandma.
1 (3m 45s):
So I turned the organization over to my partner, I packed up my dogs and my dehydrator, and I moved to Western Nebraska. Literally with my dogs and my dehydrator. Who moves all the way across the country with a dehydrator and dogs? I didn’t pack clothes. I didn’t pack anything else. I just got in the car and left with my dogs and my dehydrator, I called the counselor up and I said, Hey, would you like me to work for you? She said, yes. And so here I am. Well,
0 (4m 12s):
that is awesome. And with all that experience with Write Shop, it’s the perfect fit, I love that. But for your homeschooling years, what kind of homeschooler were are you?
1 (4m 22s):
I got a teaching degree and I taught in lots of different kinds of schools before I started homeschooling. My first job was close to where I live now, fifty-five miles out in the country. Fifty-five miles to the closest town. I taught in a little one-two-room schoolhouse so I had four grades. That’s the kind of school I grew up in, so if you think Little House on the Prairie, that was me. Wow. So I started doing that and then I moved to Ohio and worked at a Boys and Girls Club so that I could date my now husband and we’ve moved all over the world so I’ve taught in a lot of different areas and places.
1 (5m 4s):
But when we got to Arizona, I really felt called. And I think that’s what homeschooling has to be, it has to be a calling; to take my daughter out of the private school, she was in fourth grade. So for those of you who are contemplating or who have done that, I understand it is a huge jump. And I took her out in fourth grade and I said, that’s it. We’ve got to homeschool her. So I started homeschooling, my son had never been in school. So he’s always been homeschooled kindergarten through. And yeah, that’s how I started my homeschooling journey. Then I was just involved with a lot of homeschool organizations and a cute story is I went to a meeting for new homeschoolers and I thought, oh my gosh, what am I getting myself into?
1 (5m 52s):
These people are all so smart. I know nothing, even though I’m a teacher, how in the world do I start? So I still remember that feeling when I talk to parents on the phone, especially through this COVID time, when so many people are taking their kids out of a public or private school and trying to homeschool them, I get it. I remember standing in a room full of veteran homeschoolers, and I looked around and they were, you know, their husbands were business people, or they were working full time and homeschooling, or they were doctors or lawyers and they were normal people. And that was the first misconception that I had to overcome is that if I homeschooled, I had to live out in the woods with a bucket for a toilet and never be in the real world.
1 (6m 43s):
And I realized, that’s not the case. Like normal people who are making a normal living, do this and you and I can do it. And I want to tell everybody that’s listening, they can do it too. It is a calling, but it is doable. And there are so many great resources to help people homeschool now. And so that’s how I got into homeschooling is I just felt the calling and the need and I don’t regret it. If people look back on their life or if they asked me what are some of the things that you absolutely are glad that you did in your life? I look at my kids who are now 27 and 24, and I have no regrets.
1 (7m 26s):
My motto in this life is to live for the creator of the universe without regrets. And I absolutely don’t regret one ounce of it. Was it hard? Yes. Did it consume my life for many, many years? Yes. Do you have to be dedicated to it? Yes. Did I meet the most genuine and beautiful people? Absolutely. Did I make lifelong friends? Yeah. Do I regret it? Not an ounce. I don’t regret it because I poured my life into my kids and they know that. Throughout the choices they’ve made in their lives, they know that I poured my life into them.
1 (8m 10s):
0 (8m 11s):
I agree with that wholeheartedly. And it’s not always that the kids are going to agree with what we did as adults. They may be like, I’m not going to do that with my kids or whatever. That’s not our goal necessarily is to have kids that believe or agree with everything we’ve done. Our goal is to deal with our own conscience and know that we are doing what we feel is the best and right thing to do. And so I agree with you, no regrets, as far as homeschooling goes. Regrets about little things where I did make mistakes, but in the big picture, no. I mean I do still believe that as well, and yall Misti mentioned talking to parents on the phone and so if you have any questions about Write Shop she’s the one you’re going to talk to.
0 (8m 58s):
That’s what it means to be a curriculum consultant or one of the things anyway. So definitely you can hear the wisdom just already pouring out of her. We’ve just gotten started. So definitely if you have questions about Write Shop give them a call and have a chance to talk to Misti, sounds like it would be a blast. Okay. So I want to talk big picture for a second, and then I’d like to get into some more specifics. But in general, you know this podcast is called, It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School so we’re focusing on teens here, although we know that Write Shop has K-12. But we’re focusing on teens here and there are specifics that have to do with teens that I do want to talk to you about, but for right now, just give us something big.
0 (9m 41s):
Just the one tip, as far as, if people are on the cliff and they’re like, I can’t do this. I can’t teach writing. What is one thing that you would tell them?
1 (9m 54s):
Focus on progress, not perfection.
0 (9m 57s):
Oh, Ooh. That’s good. I like that. Okay. Wow. So to elaborate on that for just a little bit.
1 (10m 6s):
I think as homeschool moms and dads, parents that we’re trying so hard to do the very best for our kids, and we want them to be successful, and we kind of know them, too well almost. And we focus on so many little details, but the fact is and I use this analogy sometimes when somebody when a kid is learning how to walk, we don’t criticize the fact that they fall down. My daughter was learning how to walk and she smacked herself on the coffee table and got a scar and I didn’t say shame on you. I have a scar.
1 (10m 47s):
If you could see me right now, you can see, I have a scar on my lip where I fell when I was learning how to walk. My daughter did the same thing and we don’t say shame on you. You should’ve stood up. Why don’t you know how to walk? But when it comes to writing; and also we don’t do that with art. When kids are drawing, we say, oh, look at that beautiful picture, and I’m so happy that you put a smiley face in the sun and those are beautiful colors, and you’ve done a marvelous job. But when kids are learning how to write, we seem to jump that philosophy and go to the, oh my gosh, this isn’t a complete sentence.
1 (11m 27s):
You don’t make any sense here, or you’ve misspelled that or your B is backwards. And for teenagers, when they’re trying to add new skills, it’s just like them learning how to walk. They’re not going to just turn 13 and automatically know how to write a paragraph, or know how to write an essay it’s baby steps that they have to take. So we really need to praise what’s right in their writing and gently critique two or three things at a time. To say, Hey, maybe you could improve upon this or that. And with that regard, I think that checklists are the bomb.
1 (12m 9s):
Checklists are a dream come true for a homeschooling parent because it keeps the checklist as the bad guy. And it’s not a personal attack. Then it’s not I personally, mom or dad personally, am I critiquing this writing and saying, this is not good. It’s you have to follow the checklist. Just like math has a right answer. Or science has a right answer. Writing has to have a right answer. It’s not a personal thing.
0 (12m 41s):
That is really good. I think we do turn it into something really subjective and also guilty of what you’ve said. I’m a grammar nut. And so that part was easy for me to go through my kids’ papers and circle all the grammar and spelling mistakes. When it came to some of the finer points that was more difficult for me. I would like to get back to that and talk about that some more later. And so, yeah, I’m kind of dovetailing off of that. I love what you said about gently critiquing because teens can be so self-conscience and so easily offended.
0 (13m 24s):
Right? Another thing that teens can be is bored with everything. And I think writing is one of those typical subjects where I don’t know if it’s because they’re intimidated by it, or they just, are putting forth the vibe that everything stinks. I’m bored with this. This is not interesting. But writing is one of those topics that teens seem to really feel that about. So what are some ways that we can make the study of writing interesting for our teens?
1 (13m 55s):
That’s a really good point. And I think it’s because a lot of times in writing curriculum, they’re told you have to write a story about a cat and dazzle me. Or you have to write a research project over this certain thing. And so they, if they’re not interested in that topic, then it’s really a drudgery for them. And you have to remember that the writing process is so many small things that are all piled together. They have to critically think, they have to type. And I would highly suggest that the teenagers type their stories in Google Docs or Pages or Word or whatever application you use.
1 (14m 39s):
But that way they don’t have to go back and labor with the handwriting over and over again. But I think a really good tip is to use technology to its best advantage. When you’re teaching writing to homeschoolers. That keeps them interested, and it breaks things up. For instance, you can combine media forms. Maybe they type, and they write up a narrative, but then they do little clay people, and they do still shots. Still shot videos to create that story.
1 (15m 20s):
And one of the best writing assignments, the best writing that I’ve seen was my son and a group. They work collaboratively. That’s another tip to have them work with other people. They work collaboratively to create this story and then they went in and they did a still shot video of this story that they had created with these clay fruit and vegetables. And it was hilarious and it was writing. They did dialogue, they did description. It was, they had a conflict. It was brilliant and they had so much fun doing that. It took forever, but they had so much fun doing that cause they got to work together. They got to use different medians and they got to shine at their writing as well.
1 (16m 3s):
So that’s one good tip. I think another tip is to especially in today’s age; is to video chat and record videos of the kids writing a speech. If they’re doing something that’s persuasive and they are passionate about it, have them record themselves and put that up on YouTube on a private channel, share it with friends and family so they have an audience. It’s boring if you’re just doing something just for an assignment. And mom is the only one going to be reading it. If they know there’s going to be an audience, they’ll work at it a little harder, and there’ll be a reason for doing that project.
1 (16m 48s):
So anytime you can find an audience for your teen’s writing, that’s always a good thing to do. Another good thing might be to do; if they like to act things out, have them write a monologue and then practice it. I had drama kids in my class. And if they’re a drama kid, if one of your kids is a drama kid, let them write a monologue and memorize that and act that out. In the non-COVID times have people over or in COVID times do video sharing and have some kind of a zoom meeting or a video chat with people and have them perform their monologue or their dramatic reading.
1 (17m 30s):
Even work together as a group to do a dramatic reading, like the old fashioned reader’s theaters that we used to do. They can write a dramatic reading and do that together. So those are all good ways to let your kids go beyond the scope of just writing an essay as they’re writing. Maybe another tip is to let the kids write about what they’re interested in. There is nothing in the handbook of homeschool parenting that says you have to have your kid write about every topic under the sun so that your kid has a broad knowledge of every single thing.
1 (18m 16s):
Maybe your daughter wants to write about horses all the time. I had a student in my class who wrote every single Write Shop lesson about horses. If she was writing a biography, she wrote about a jockey or about an author of a book about horses. If she was writing a process, she’d write about how to calm down her horse. If she was writing about a description, she described her saddle. If she, no matter what the subject was, she wrote about horses. She loved horses. That was her life. And she wrote about that. That’s okay. She still learned how to write topic sentences and closing sentences.
1 (18m 58s):
She still learned how to write descriptive paragraphs. She learned how to explain a process. She learned how to write a persuasive paper. That’s fine. It’s okay to let your kids pick topics.
0 (19m 13s):
Love it, love it.
1 (19m 15s):
So I think the next and another idea is that oftentimes parents shy away from the hard topics. They don’t want their kids, or maybe they don’t want to have to delve into abortion or the legalization of marijuana, or why do I pay $250 to the HOA when my grass is always brown. I don’t know, kids want to talk about things that are relevant to them. And if you allow your teen and especially the older teens to delve into those hot topics, those little testy subjects now is the time.
1 (20m 6s):
You may never have the opportunity to talk about that again. And to help them research that and to impart your worldview into them with that topic. So why not do it now? If your 13 year old wants to talk about why the grass is brown, when you pay the HOA fees, then let him go into that and research it and write paragraphs about that or an essay about that. If your older child wants to talk about maybe why college is important or why college isn’t important, do a little research and figure that out.
1 (20m 50s):
The topics are endless. It doesn’t have to be political. It doesn’t even have to be religious, but it can be. I’ve had brilliant papers of kids writing about why music education is important or why they’re happy that they homeschool. Things like that.
0 (21m 7s):
One of my teens wrote a persuasive essay on, and this was years ago before every teen had multiple personal devices, right? But hers was why I should get an iPad or why should I be allowed to have an iPad? And so, yeah, if it’s something that they’re passionate about it probably gets rid of the whole idea of, I have nothing to write about, right? I don’t know what to write about. Well, when you’re passionate about it, then you’re going to have something to say. So that is neat. What is it about Write Shop that inherently, like, what are some of the aspects of Write Shop that would keep it interesting for teens to use?
1 (21m 51s):
The thing I always liked about Write Shop when I was teaching, and the thing that I tell parents now that I like about Write Shop is that it gives a big umbrella. It says, describe an object, but it doesn’t say what object. So if a child wants to describe a stuffed animal, that’s perfectly fine. If the child wants to describe the saddle, that’s perfectly fine. If a child wants to describe his shoe, that’s fine. So that gives the broad umbrella so the kids aren’t wondering what to write about; and it gives the parents the structure, the background information on what their kids should be doing and how they should be doing it, but not the what.
1 (22m 37s):
So there’s a lesson in Write Shop that’s writing persuasive essays, pick your topic. What are you passionate about? What do you want to persuade somebody about? There’s one that’s about over-exaggeration and how to write with humor, which is super important. And they can pick, I let the kids in my classes create inventions and then write commercials for those inventions and try to pitch those inventions to the rest of the class. That is so fun. That’s what I love about Write Shop is that it gives that broad background, but it doesn’t say you have to write a story about a cat and dazzle me.
0 (23m 18s):
Yeah. Love it. Love it. Anything else you wanted to say about how to make writing interesting?
1 (23m 25s):
I think the last thing is to don’t be afraid to change it up. The kids don’t have to write five-paragraph essays, every assignment it’s okay. Change it up. Let them write a blog article. That’s useful. Let them write essays and narratives. Maybe let them write a letter to some politician or some city official about something. Again, if we go back to technology, maybe they’re going to write something for a website, a front page, cover a home page on a website, keep it relevant to today. Keep them interested and keep the writing assignments appropriate: age-appropriate, skill level appropriate, but don’t be afraid to mix it up.
0 (24m 18s):
I love that, I do think teens need variety. Well, I feel like maybe we kind of all do to a certain degree. Obviously, if we’re doing the same thing week after week, we’re going to lose our motivation to do that. So when every assignment has a different kind of wrinkle to it; well wrinkle sounds like a negative term, just a different angle to it then that makes it more interesting for everybody. I love it, love it, love it. Okay, this is a quick answer as we’re wrapping up this first episode, other than writing, what is your favorite subject? What was your favorite subject in your homeschool and why?
1 (24m 55s):
Interestingly enough, I grew up hating history because I had terrible teachers. Sorry. If somebody that it was one of my teachers is listening to this, I apologize. But really I was not interested until I moved to Europe. When I moved to Europe and I realized that history was so prevalent there and they live with it every day and you can see trenches from World War I, and you could see that the effects of World War II and all of that, I became very interested in history. So when I came back to the United States and started teaching, I really wanted to impart a love of history to the kids because I am a firm believer that if people don’t know history, they’re bound to repeat it.
1 (25m 43s):
And so I really brought, I wanted to bring history to life, not just memorizing people, names, and dates, but the overarching idea of why, why did these things happen? How could we prevent this from happening again? And to get them excited about knowing our history as a country, but also world history. So on top of teaching writing at my homeschool organization, I did teach history for many years. World history and American history and I kind of liked to combine medians. So they wrote about some things, they did research papers about those things.
1 (26m 25s):
They did presentations and, and videos. And I always wanted the homeschoolers to get up and talk in front of people, whether they were in English classes or in history classes. So I did require presentations in all of my classes, and I think that’s valuable for a homeschooler because a lot of times they are home alone and they don’t have anybody to talk to or get up in front of. So it’s good that they learn how to do presentations.
0 (26m 52s):
Yeah, I agree. And that is one good reason to get involved with the co-op if you’re with teens in particular. But in general, I agree with you that Europe is a fascinating place as far as history. I’ll just share this quick little story and then we’ll wrap up. But I was able to go visit my daughter, she was studying in France for an entire year in Dijon, and they have a street in Dijon. If I’m remembering correctly, it’s called rue des siècles” à, which means “street of centuries”. And it’s fascinating because, at the first building on the street is like, middle age with the big beams, right?
0 (27m 34s):
And then the next building is attached to it, right? They’re all attached to one another as you go down the street, but the next building is from the next big time period. And then the next building attached to that one. And you can just watch the architectural changes, literally building by building as you go down the street. And the first one is like from 1200 or something ridiculous or earlier, who knows. And you go through the Renaissance and the whole, all the way down the streets, fascinating just fascinating, and people are still selling from the storefronts in the bottom and living on the upper floors of all of these buildings. Just fascinating to see and to stand there and think, what was this like when this particular one was being built?
0 (28m 14s):
What did the rest of it look like? And what were people doing and living and hoping and dreaming, just fascinating stuff. We don’t necessarily get that in the states. We don’t have that same sense of the majesty and the breadth of history, kind of fun. Well, this has been fun, Misti. So I’m going to wrap this episode up. Anybody who’s listening, come back next week. We’re going to talk about getting your kid ready for college writing. So that’s going to be super helpful, and informative. You can tell already that Misti’s going to have a lot of great things to tell us, so definitely come back for that. Misti, thanks so much for being here today. Absolutely.
1 (28m 52s):
Thanks for having me. I’ll see you in a little bit. You betcha.
0 (28m 59s):
Those of you who are listening, I want to thank you for being here today. If you think about it, share this podcast with your friends, tell them that it exists, tell them that it’s fun and encouraging so that they can listen in too. Also, I would love it if you left a review on whatever platform you’re listening on, just so those people who are running that platform know that I’m here and that this is something that y’all enjoy. That would be super helpful. You can find related resources to the things that Misti and I talked about today, linked on the show notes for this episode, which you can find on my website, annieandeverything.com. Click on podcasts at the top menu, look for episode number 51, click on that.
0 (29m 43s):
And then you’ll see all the links, all the resources, all the goodies that you can explore. If you have not heard of Write Shop before definitely look at those show notes because I’ve made videos, very detailed videos about Write Shop I & II, which are the high school level courses. So you’ll definitely want to take a look at those while you’re on the website. Definitely sign up for my newsletter, there’s a place on the sidebar to do that. You can also go to my about page, there are numerous places to get on my newsletter list so that you can receive my encouraging information and hugs right in your inbox. These days, I’m sending them out Monday afternoons, it’s a great way to start off the week.
0 (30m 26s):
And I’d love to have you doing that for now. Remember it may not always be easy to homeschool high school, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. See you next time.
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