Many approaches to learning to write well place reading in front of the learners. There’s nothing wrong with reading, I recommend it heartily. The problem is that reading ideas about writing or even reading great writers does not teach anyone to write well. How then will your home-schooled teenager learn to write? There are three distinct things I am convinced are essential to any writing course.
Copy Great Writers:
To help your students learn to write well, have them copy great writers. Typically, those who read well do usually write better than those who read little. However, sitting down and actually copying great writers word for word implants the flow of word choice and sentence structure deep into the subconscious mind. Do not be concerned over your teens “sounding like someone else.” They each will develop their own voice, drawing from many influences from many directions. Having them copy a variety of different writing styles, however, means they will create their own more unique and personal style.
Copying great writers lifts us above the mediocre level of writing we might presently know and gives much larger avenues of expression.
Write Freely – then Re-Write:
Having your children writing and re-writing their own words and ideas must follow their copying of great writers. It’s a great idea to go back and forth between copying a short passage from some accomplished writer and then writing a short piece in a similar style. But as your child writes and writes, expressing his or her own thoughts and ideas, then using the best words and flow of sentences will come more readily. Have them write often about every topic they enjoy.
However, any first draft your teen may write on any topic will not be what people will read. They must re-write and re-write until it is their very best. The essential thing, however, for improving any draft is to have a clear outline or rubric showing the changes that must be made.
Lean into Your Editor
Finally, to learn to write well requires the eye and ear of a person who knows good writing and how to edit the not-so-good. You child cannot know what any reader might think in response to what he or she has written. What sounds okay to the writer may make no sense to the reader. None of us can see our own mistakes – or even know what those mistakes are.
As a teacher of writing, I find that the more I reject mediocre writing, marking and requiring my students to come back with something well-written, the more they realize the need to dig in and do it. When they deal with the changes I require, they internalize their own voice. The most amazing thing happens: they come back with really great papers. There is no better teacher than the free-flowing pen of a good critic.
Our world today is filled with writing; only the best your teen can produce will impact readers. Have them copy a number of different examples of well-written English. Encourage them to re-work their papers, following clearly outlined rubrics. And find a good editor, someone who understands student writing and knows how to guide them in crafting their papers. Not everyone becomes a great writer, but anyone can learn to write well.