Writing ideas for the unstructured homeschool classroom

profondeur des champs / depth of fields

WHENEVER I talk to parents who homeschool, I’m surprised at how many still treat the experience as if their children were in a traditional, structured classroom.

As a homeschooled child myself, I remember my folks being pretty adamant about making the process one of fairly unstructured personal and academic discovery. In terms of writing, my mother took full advantage of the fact that we didn’t have to be glued to our desks while attending class!

No matter your homeschool style, try these four dynamic writing prompts to inspire your kids as they learn the basics of writing and expressing themselves in a perhaps less-than-traditional way:

Have your child pretend she’s a reporter by interviewing people in the community.

It’s important for children to learn early on that the process of writing is deeply connected not just with their own thoughts, but with the opinions of other people. The best way to learn this is by talking to others about a specific topic or issue.

For example, ask your students to interview older neighbors about what life was like when they were children, or talk with a community worker about his or her job, and them compile these interviews into an article, story, or essay.

Go on an outdoor adventure, and then have children write a descriptive essay about what they saw and felt.

Inexperienced writers can forget to include descriptions of scene and setting in their work, often because they’re stuck indoors where they must rely on their own imagination.

To ameliorate this problem, consider taking them to a local park, zoo, or wildlife sanctuary. Have them take notes about their surroundings, and then later write a short essay or story containing details about what they saw, smell, heard, and felt.

Allow kids to choose their own books and write reports or reviews about them.

Too often, kids become disenchanted with writing because they can’t really pick what they’d like to write about. The same goes for reading. While most standard reading curricula are well intentioned, they can’t account for young readers’ diverse tastes.

Qiqi EGR Public Library December 31, 20097Put the ball in their court by encouraging them to pick their own books and write summaries, reviews, or book reports about their selections. If a particular child needs boundaries, you might give him three books from which to choose the one he wants.

Invite children to write a short play and perform it together.

Whether they’re young or old, it can be very difficult for writers to master an ear for spoken language. To improve this specific skill in a fun way, have your kids write and act out a short, five- or ten-minute play.

When they can hear out loud what they’ve written on paper, they start to understand how to make their writing sound more natural and conversational. It’s a great way to improve your students’ speaking abilities as well.

When you aren’t stuck in a traditional classroom, the sky is the limit as far as learning goes. Take advantage of the opportunities afforded by homeschooling, and think of as many different, off-the-beaten-path learning methods as you can!

This guest post is contributed by Barbara Jolie, who enjoys writing about trends in the academic world. Even when she’s not blogging, Barbara is always contemplating and considering issues concerning education and modern society. You can reach her at barbara.jolie876@gmail.com.

Photos: Olivier Bacquet and Steven Depolo, courtesy of Creative Commons.


  • Posted August 6, 2012

    Forrest Lybrand

    I think this post is great. I was a homeschooler growing up, and we wrote and put on plays often with friends of ours, about pirates and rescues and the like. I remember writing one in particular, sitting at my dad’s computer and working on it all on my own. And then seeing my friends act out what I had written sparked my desire to write even more. I think implementing this type of thing as a homeschool project is a great idea.

    -Forrest Lybrand

    • Posted August 6, 2012


      Thanks for sharing your experience, Forrest! You just never know what will ignite that small spark.

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