Overview: Helping our homeschooled teens prepare for college writing can seem intimidating. Misti Lacy from WriteShop is here to help with her wisdom!
Ack, not only can it seem scary to work on high school writing with our homeschooled teens, but to prepare them for college level writing is even more frightening. We don’t want them to struggle or fail in college because we didn’t do our job!
Misti Lacy, the Curriculum Consultant at WriteShop, has lotsa experience teaching writing at both the high school level and the college level, so she is the perfect person to talk us through our fears and give us practical ideas to feel more confident that our teens will be prepared.
NOTE: We discovered after recording this that we forgot to discuss formats such as MLA, APA, etc., which are definitely a component in college writing requirements. So we picked that up at the beginning of our NEXT conversation, which will be published as Episode 53 of the podcast. Come back for that next week (or listen right away if you’re here later)!
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Are you looking for a new Math Curriculum? CTCMath specializes in providing online video tutorials that take a multi-sensory approach to learning. Favorably reviewed in Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks and in The Old Schoolhouse Crew Review, the lessons are short and concise to help your children break down concepts and appreciate math in a whole new way! The lessons are taught the traditional way, not to a “test”. Each one of the video tutorials is taught by an internationally acclaimed teacher, Pat Murray, who is renowned for teaching math concepts in a simple, easy-to-understand way (and in only a few minutes at a time). Using a multi-sensory approach having the combination of effective graphics and animation synchronized with the voice of a friendly teacher together with practical assessment. This three-pronged attack makes learning so much easier and more effective. Even students who struggled with math are getting fantastic results! And ones who were doing OK before are now doing brilliantly.
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Episode 52: How to Prepare for College Writing with Your Homeschooled Teen
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You’re listening to episode 52 of the, It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast.
You have to have the foundation of the house before you remodel. You have to have the blueprint. You have to have the 2x4s and the drywall and all of that before you paint the house. So I think it’s important for parents to just kind of slow down and say, do my kids know how to write complete sentences? Do you make kids know how to write complete paragraphs with the topic sentence and a closing sentence and maybe some sentence openers in between and some detail and just description.
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. So glad you’re here today. I’ve got Misti Lacy, back with me. If you miss last week’s episode, you’ll definitely want to tune into that. Misti Lacy is the curriculum consultant for Write Shop, which means that if you call to ask questions
2 (1m 37s):
about the curriculum, you will get to talk to her, so fun. And last week, or in the last episode, I should say, we talked about ways to make writing interesting for your teen. So definitely worth listening to today. We’re going to segue a little bit into that freaky, scary idea of the fact that our teens are going to be writing in college soon. And how do we get them ready for that? But first I want to ask you another couple of questions, Misti, and by the way, welcome back.
1 (2m 9s):
Thank you. Thank you for having me today. You
2 (2m 11s):
bet. Yes. So I’ve always believed that one of the ways to create great writers is to create great readers. I feel like as our kids read, they’re reading good writing to a certain degree. It depends on what they’re reading, obviously, but even if they’re just reading, then they’re developing kind of this innate sense of what sounds right and what doesn’t sound right. So would you agree with that?
1 (2m 37s):
I do in some cases and overall, yes. I think that’s true. I think as homeschool parents our goal is to have not only well-educated kids but kids that can think critically and learn. I think we are all on this journey together to create people who are lifelong learners. That’s cliche, but it’s so true. So I think by doing that, if we teach them the love of the written word, that they will be lifelong readers and lifelong learners. And once you know how to read and to critically think about what you’re reading, the sky’s the limit.
1 (3m 17s):
You can learn anything then. So I do think it’s important to do reading in your high school. If that’s what we’re talking about, mostly in high school. A lot of people drop the reading off after the kids know how to read, and they don’t encourage them to keep reading through high school. I think that reading classic literature is important and it gives them a background. I teach college English, so I know from that standpoint that the kids generally in most entry-level college English classes, will be required to read something and then analyze that and write papers about that one particular work of literature, whatever that one may be.
1 (4m 3s):
So I do think it’s important to keep having those high schoolers read classic literature. I am not a fan of popular literature. I think that there is so much good, good literature that has a good moral tone to it that I don’t think we need to delve into the popular or the dark literature that a lot of people are letting their kids read today. That sort of does a disservice in my mind when they should be reading just the classics. There are book lists galore of the top 100 classic pieces of literature that everyone should know. And I think that once they get through those, they can be well-rounded.
1 (4m 47s):
So, yeah, I also think that vocabulary is important for high schoolers because it helps them to be precise in their writing. And a lot of times, especially in college, if we’re talking about college writing. College assignments will have a word count limit. And for the most part, they’re not very long assignments. And the students I have right now always complained that the word count is too short. Well, that’s given for a couple of reasons. One it’s easy to grade, but two, it does help with the rambling. To teach the kids to be precise, to say what they’re going to say without babbling on and on about it.
1 (5m 32s):
And I think that when you teach vocabulary to high school students, it does help with that. So I always require vocabulary. And then I require that they use that vocabulary in their writing. I don’t like to separate the two, just like I don’t like to separate grammar. People can teach, all the grammar they want, but if they teach grammar as an independent subject and don’t require that grammar be included in their writing; it’s like I said in the last podcast that I went to a country school from kindergarten through eighth grade. I remember studying all my spelling words for my teacher who was preoccupied with all the naughty boys.
1 (6m 13s):
And I learned all the spelling words. I could spell them. I got a 100 on the spelling tests. But when I went to write something I could not spell and I still have trouble spelling to this day because I never applied what I was learning in spelling to what I needed to do in writing. And so I think that vocabulary and grammar should be included in the writing assignment. Love
2 (6m 37s):
it, love it, love it. I know that one of the keys to good writing is choosing rich words. The words that pack a punch, that mean a lot in that one word, as opposed to having to string it out into five words to say what you want to say. So, yeah, I would agree that that vocabulary is important. And I think they get a lot of that from reading, but in our house, we have funny times because you read these words and you develop the pronunciation in your head for reading, but then when you say it, you’re pronouncing it completely wrong.
2 (7m 17s):
My 18-year-old and I had; I forget what the word was now, I wish I could remember, but we had an incident like that just the other day where she said something. And I just had to be like, that’s actually said this way because she had only ever read it and not ever actually used it in speaking. Just kind of funny,
1 (7m 33s):
A little tip, I love Quizlet or any of those online applications. If you want to give your kids vocabulary quizzes and things like that, it’s really great. You can put the words up, they can hear how they’re pronounced. That’s what made me think of that. They can match the word, or they can type in the definition to the word. There’s a lot of things you can do about something like that. So Quizlet is a good little tool to use technology and vocabulary.
2 (8m 6s):
Love it, love it, love it. Great. So here’s the thing. Most homeschool families who homeschool through high school are hoping, maybe not expecting maybe not saying this is the only way, but they’re hoping that their kid will want to go onto college. Or at the very least, they want their kid to be prepared for college if that’s where the kid wants to go. I’ve done polls on this, it’s like way over 90% of parents as they’re homeschooling high school, that’s one of the things they want to do; is prepare their kid for college, regardless of whether the kid ends up there or not, they want to make sure the kid is prepared.
2 (8m 46s):
So, but when you think about writing in college, it gets a little scary. It just does because I for one, know that every single kid has to get through freshmen comp class, right? Because every single college requires a kid to take freshmen comp. I’ve never met a college that doesn’t, but also, beyond that, especially depending upon which type of field they’re going into, there will be writing all the time. So what are your tips for helping us lose that intimidation and knowing that we’re doing enough?
0 (9m 21s):
Hey everyone, just want to let you know that this episode is sponsored by CTC Math. Are you looking for a new math curriculum? CTC Math specializes in providing online video tutorials that take a multi-sensory approach to learning. Favorably reviewed in Cathy Duffy’s 102 top picks and in the Old School House Crew Review. The lessons are short and concise to help your children break down concepts and appreciate math in a whole new way. The lessons are taught the traditional way. Not to a test. Each one of the video tutorials is taught by an internationally acclaimed teacher. Pat Murray, who is renowned for teaching math concepts in a simple, easy-to-understand way.
0 (10m 2s):
And in only a few minutes at a time using a multisensory approach, having the combination of effective graphics and animation synchronized with the voice of a friendly teacher together with a practical assessment, this three-pronged attack makes learning so much easier and more effective. Even students who struggled with math are getting fantastic results and ones who were doing okay before are now doing brilliantly. Visit ctcmath.com today to start your free trial. And I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. We’ve used CTC Math personally. It got my daughter through algebra finally after trying a couple of other curricula. I tell you what the price cannot be beat.
0 (10m 44s):
So definitely visit ctcmath.com and take a look.
1 (10m 48s):
I think it’s a really good idea as a homeschool parent, to prepare your kids for college, whether or not they go there. Because if they don’t go there, you’ve lost nothing. But if they do go there and you haven’t prepared them, then they’re going to fumble. And the first step of getting them prepared for college writing is to be able to take the entrance exam, to get into the college. So that is probably a good place to start. And for those entrance exams, I’ve helped kids through many of them through all different kinds of colleges around the country. And mostly there, the kids have to be able to see grammar and punctuation mistakes.
1 (11m 28s):
So they’re generally multiple choice they’re online and they have to click on what’s wrong with this sentence. So it’s kind of like an SAT test in that case, which also is a lot of grammar and punctuation. So it’s always good to practice that. And there is some online stuff that you can get online quizzes and things like that. The Blue Book of Grammar is an excellent little resource to choose from, which you can buy on the Write Shop website by the way. Those are good, good little resources to have the kids practice and see where the punctuation and grammar mistakes are in a sentence beyond that.
1 (12m 13s):
I think it’s important to not get the cart before the horse. I have had some parents over the years say to me my daughter wrote a novel. She has 200 pages. Will you read it? I always, oh gosh, I’m going to die. Generally speaking, if you have a child that just throws up on a page, I call it; that child really needs to work on being concise because in college, they are going to have word counts and they have to know what they’re going to say in a small amount of time.
1 (12m 54s):
On the other hand, if you have a child who says you’re supposed to describe a chair and they say the chair is gray, and that’s all they’re going to say. They need to work on how to use descriptive vocabulary to paint a word picture. So both sides of that coin have to come to the middle. There has to be some middle ground. So I think the most important thing is to not get the cart before the horse and make sure that your kids know how to write complete sentences and have a structured paragraph before they move on to bigger essays. And it doesn’t do any good for the kid to write a novel or to write essays or a big research paper until they can write sentences and paragraphs that are appropriately structured.
1 (13m 44s):
2 (13m 45s):
love that, but I feel like maybe listeners are thinking, but it’s high school and you want me to spend time on sentences and paragraphs.
1 (13m 56s):
Yeah. But just like math, you can’t teach your kids calculus until they know how to add and subtract. You can’t teach fractions until they know how to multiply and divide. It’s funny because we would always teach maths sequentially, right? We don’t jump and go, okay my kid’s a genius, so I’m going to put my kid at 13 in calculus or whatever. We teach it sequentially. But in writing a lot of times they think they’ll just catch on. And so I think we have to take a step back and go it’s okay, I’d rather my kid be successful and have this foundation.
1 (14m 38s):
You have to have the foundation of the house before you remodel. You have to have the blueprint. You have to have the 2x4s and the drywall and all of that before you paint the house. So I think it’s important for parents to just kind of slow down and say, do my kids know how to write complete sentences? Do my kids know how to write complete paragraphs with a topic sentence and a closing sentence and maybe some sentence openers in between and some detail and just description. So that’s important.
1 (15m 19s):
I also think it’s important to realize that creative writing is not the same as descriptive writing. Creative writing isn’t that useful for college writing, to be honest. That’s like the whole narratives, the novels that people may be writing. But descriptive writing is just using those concrete adjectives, no matter what you’re writing. If you’re writing an essay or if you’re writing an informative paper, or you’re writing a blog article, that is descriptive writing.
1 (15m 59s):
And so it’s important to have your kids know how to write descriptive writing and not just jump into long novels or stories. So that’s important. I think another tip in having your kids prepare for college writing, and this is a major one for homeschoolers and I think you’ve talked about it on other podcasts. And that is to have a schedule to be on time, have them be accountable. So I get the whole unschooling thing. I did not test my kids until they were in junior high.
1 (16m 40s):
We read books and had fun and did things. But at some point, the kids have to know that someone is going to ask of them to have an assignment done at a certain time. And so as a homeschooling parent, it has to be our job to say, your rough draft is due on this day. If it’s not done, and I know we don’t want to give our kids bad grades, but if it’s not done then this is the consequence. Or you have to turn your final in here and if it’s not turned in, or if it’s not turned in well, you really are going to get that grade.
1 (17m 22s):
And it may mean that you have to repeat those. I’m a firm believer as a homeschool parent, I did not let my kids get below, I didn’t let them get even a C. I figured that I was there to teach them mastery of something and if they didn’t get it, then we had to repeat it. My daughter took algebra three times. I will be the first one to admit, the first time she took it, I thought she was doing great. I found out she was using a program, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say, but she was using a program and watching the videos and putting the answers down. The second time she took it, she got a C and that wasn’t good enough for me.
1 (18m 6s):
So I had her take it with the tutor the next time around and she ended up getting an A. And so as she was a sophomore, she took algebra and geometry at the same time because she was getting behind in math and I wanted to make sure she had that mastery. and I think we have to do that with writing as well, hold their feet to the fire. And however you do that, that’s up to you. But it’s important that they learn to be on time and how to do things electronically. College writing is all done electronically now. Even before COVID, even if you’re sitting in a classroom, papers are always turned in online. And so the kids need to know how to turn things into PDFs.
1 (18m 45s):
How to turn them into a certain place, even if that’s just emailing you as a homeschool parent. A copy of their final draft before 11:59 on a Sunday night, they have to have a deadline. These things are due because in college writing the websites are set to accept papers until generally 11:59 on a certain day. And I mean, if the kids try to turn their paper in at 12:01, it’s not available
2 (19m 16s):
to do it anymore. That happened with my son, he was able to squeak by. We’re central time here and he had a paper due the weekend of my daughter’s wedding. So we were all at the wedding location, which was Eastern time, he’s like, yes, I get another hour to work on my paper. And he was able to, so it was one o’clock our time, but it was still not midnight Eastern time. And he was able to get it turned in. But yeah, very good points and I agree with you wholeheartedly. There needs to, at some point we need to teach our kids to be accountable, that there does need to be first-time results.
2 (19m 58s):
That we can’t just have them; I mean repeating all of Algebra I until she gets it right, that’s not the circumstance I’m talking about, but any given assignment, right? So they didn’t spend the time to work on it, they turned in something that’s awful, but we’re like, oh, that’s okay because you can redo it or whatever. When will they learn that that’s not how this is, that they’re not going to get away with that when they go to college, and why not have them fail in a safe place. You now have the opportunity to learn this in the safe place of homeschool. A) we’re not spending thousands and tens of thousands of dollars for this experience and for them to just get a bad grade.
2 (20m 40s):
And B) if they do fail, we’re here to come alongside them, which depending upon the school, depending upon the professor, they or may not have that somebody to help them out like that when they get to college, they’re pretty much on their own. One thing back to scheduling too and this is about Write Shop. What I have liked about Write Shop I & II, is the schedule is really pretty flexible. It’s not like you’re cramming everything in. There are what I loved, was there was an entire day where mom is looking over the rough draft. So the teen doesn’t even have to be working on anything that day.
2 (21m 22s):
And the thing that’s nice about that is it gives you a little bit more buffer so that you’re not just cramming day after day and trying to get stuff done. Okay, if mom has a whole day to grade, but Hey, I’m not quite ready for it yet. Then the teen has some time to work and then mom can maybe grade in the evening or whatever. It’s flexible, there’s some buffer in there. Yet there’s still that sense of, okay, we are on a schedule and there does need to be some accountability as far as when this is due. And I liked that about Write Shop a lot. It wasn’t as pressure-filled as some other writing programs out there. So that is really cool.
1 (21m 58s):
What else? More isn’t always better.
2 (21m 60s):
Yes. Yes. So true. Especially because there is some of that aspect of let’s get the sentence structure, right? Let’s get the paragraph structure, right. And those are the building blocks that we’ll need for the larger things. Love it.
1 (22m 15s):
One more thing I’d like to say about college writing is I, this was a funny story and I’ll tell on myself. When I was teaching in my homeschool organization, I was very structured and I made sure that the kids knew how to write well. And I had a college professor come back to me, she was a friend of mine. She’d actually worked for us at some point. And she came back to me and she said, Misti, I always know the kids that come out of your class, they’re the best writers in this college, they’re the best writers. And they’re always the leader of impact. They know how to write essays; because five-paragraph essays are typically what you’re going to write in college.
1 (22m 58s):
And that’s what I taught five paragraph essays to these kids. And then she proceeded to say, but I can hardly stand to read them. I said, why they’re brilliant. She said they have no life. They’re all the same. They’re like little robots. They all, have exactly the right, everything’s perfect, but there’s no personality. College professors want to see personality. They want to see voice. After she told me that I started including writing with humor into some of my assignments and how to keep, I really, really pushed the kids to keep their personality, their wording.
1 (23m 45s):
It doesn’t have to be so formal. It doesn’t have to be using great big vocabulary words. It has to be them on a piece of paper. And so, now as I’m teaching college, I see that that the kids need to keep their personality in their writing. And so teaching them to write with humor and teaching them to write for different audiences is important. What you would say to a five-year-old is not what I would say to you. And it’s not what I would say to my grandma. I actually have the kids do a little exercise of pulling out an audience out of a jar and saying, okay, how would you say, “I ate your peanut butter sandwich”
1 (24m 26s):
to a five-year-old? Well, how would you say that to your 95 year old grandma? So it’s important that the kids learn how to write to certain audiences, different audiences, and it’s important that they learn to keep their personality in their writing. And so that we’re not just building little robots and that kind of have exactly perfect writing, but it’s no fun. Hmm.
2 (24m 54s):
Yeah. That is great. I’m not going to lie that sounds a little intimidating to me. It’s a lot easier to follow kind of something that’s wrote, than to say, oh, you are allowed to put some of your own voice in there. How do we know when they’ve gone too far?
1 (25m 12s):
That may be when we get into what does a mom need to do? Or how involved does the mom need to be? But the short answer to that is checklists are vital. And I think that that’s why a curriculum like Write Shop works so well because the checklist or the rubrics are done for you. And then you don’t have to wonder about that. And Write Shop teaches writing with humor and that’s important. If you’re not using a set curriculum, go Google and find rubrics online that you’re able to download that have those components. And a lot of times the rubrics will say does the writer keep his or her voice?
1 (25m 59s):
Is it written appropriately because you want them to keep their voice, but still write with correct grammar, sentence structure, and all of that. Because it is an academic paper, I think rubrics are the answer there so that you know how far to go or how far to pull back.
2 (26m 17s):
And I will just be right out front here and say, that is my favorite thing about Write Shop is the rubrics are all right there. Write Shop does so much for mom. Provides so many resources and the rubrics are my favorite part. And before trying Write Shop, we had used another writing program and there was absolutely no guidance for grading, except there might’ve been like a sentence or two for you in one of the first pages of the text or whatever. And I ended up actually emailing the author and saying, Hey, I’m not sure what you mean by this, she’s like, well, you could create a rubric and I’m like, what? I don’t even know what that is, nor would I know what to put on there.
2 (27m 0s):
That’s so large of a task, especially when you don’t feel confident already. So the fact that Write Shop provides that and I don’t have to try to come up with that and even understand what it is, love, love, love. So, good stuff. Yes, let’s keep moving. This may take longer. Let’s see if you can do it in 30 seconds or less. Okay. Maybe a minute or less. Forget writing, let’s just talk about homeschooling high school. What is your best tip?
1 (27m 30s):
My best tip is to focus on the relationship, not the academics. Oh,
2 (27m 36s):
that’s perfect. That is perfect. I’m just going to leave that one there. You definitely probably did that one in under 10 seconds. Love it. Love it. Love it. I say that all the time. I agree with you, wholeheartedly. Love, love, love. Okay. Let’s wrap up this session Misti, and I’ll be back to talk some more. You guys get to hear this one a week from whenever you’re hearing the one you’re hearing now, and we’ll be back. Thanks so much for being here. Thank you.
0 (28m 10s):
This conversation with Misti was so fun. As I’m listening to it while I’m editing it, I’m reminded of how much fun we had that day and how much wisdom she really has. So I hope you are encouraged and learning and feeling empowered about getting your kid ready for college writing. It doesn’t have to be that hard. Hey, if you’re enjoying yourself, please subscribe to whatever platform you’re listening to this podcast on and tell your friends about it. If they are homeschooling high school or thinking about it so that they can also share in the encouragement and the easing of any intimidation that they might have.
0 (28m 52s):
Also, you’re going to want the show notes for this they’re going to be linked on there, including that Blue Book of Grammar that she talked about. I’ll for sure link to that, as well as other resources that are going to help you on this topic of preparing your teen for college writing. All of those will be on my website, annieandeverything.com. Look for the podcast item in the top menu, click there. Then look for episode 52, click on that and you’ll be at the show notes. And while you’re there on my website that is, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter, you can do that on the sidebar. And there are going to be a few other places where you can find that if you’re browsing around, put your email address in, get on the email list.
0 (29m 34s):
I’ve been sending out weekly emails about anything under the sun. Just my way of encouraging you, and getting a little more personal about my own experiences with you so that you can know that you are not alone and that you can totally do this thing. I do have confidence in you, y’all don’t ever forget that. Remember homeschooling high school may not always be easy; I acknowledge that I own it. I’m there with you, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. So I’ll see you again next time.