Writing - When to begin essays & reports?

Copywork, Cursive, Dictation, Grammar, Handwriting, Letter Writing, Memory Work, Narration, Read-Alouds, Spelling, Vocabulary, & Writing (many of these topics apply to other subjects such as Bible, History, and Science)
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Julie in MN
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Writing - When to begin essays & reports?

Unread post by Julie in MN »

Jenn in NC wrote:We've been doing MFW recommendations for LA and I feel so... I want to say, so peaceful about the way LL and LL are teaching my kids. These books are without question the best approach to LA I have used with my kids. And a big plus is that my kids are loving it. So we're good there.

BUT -- I am getting a little concerned that oldest should be learning something a little more formal, for example, essay writing and reports and the like. (Read: cold feet.) My nephew is a grade lower than oldest and he is in PS. He is doing all-out reports, perfect five paragraph essays.

Anyway, all you wise women, do I need to add something for formal writing? We are doing WS too. So far lots of solid teaching on creative writing, and that is good. But my ds wouldn't have the first clue how to write a report. I have a very BJUP background (this probably accounts for my misgivings), so I know how to do it myself, but no idea how/when to teach it. Any thoughts?
Hi Jenn,
Is your oldest in the 5th grade section of LL? That section begins to cover outlining your writing. I think spending a lot of time on that in 5th & 6th grade is a good foundation for future writing. Kids younger than that seem to look at writing as just random thoughts on a page :o)

MFW also assigns a state report at the end of EX1850, and country reports for students doing ECC in 7th or 8th grade. They provide easy little books for guidance.

I personally think of our notebooking as "report writing," and am just starting to expect my 6th grader to "plan" it out a little, per his recent LL lessons on listing the topics he plans to cover. For ancient China yesterday, we listed all the topics we had learned about and then I helped him group them (inventions, dynasties & emperors, etc.), so today he can write a few semi-organized paragraphs. I am comfortable that this is going to produce a solid foundation.

Last edited by Julie in MN on Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post by ChristyH »

I have to say that my oldest is ten also. We are doing the fourth grade level of LL and level 3 of WS. When I was using Ambleside Online the way it was explained to me made sense. Before they are 13 they just need to get used to writing and have something to say. Somewhere around 13 or maturity is reached, so to speak then you start with the structure of writing. The key is, now they know about writing and should be comfortable with it so you can introduce form.

I must admit I was worried about using CM's way of teaching writing and I am thinking MFW's recommendations are a nice middle road. My dd is writing more then ever before. We even write out many LL lessons. I think WS is just right for getting them introduced to structured writing. Consistently using the MFW recommendations I think will produce competent writers, although I am not familiar with the high school levels.

Just my thoughts
Married Scott, 1992
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Unread post by cbollin »

just agreeing with Julie about the notebooking and Christy about the overall approach. I like that MFW holds off a little longer with the more formal writing instruction. Julie mentioned lots of great things in MFW.

Just to give everyone a preview into the MFW years to come.... in EX1850, the students will have opportunity for learning how to research a topic (your own state history), take notes and make a several page report from those notes.

In 1850-MOD, you will learn quite a bit about how to take notes in outline form with history readings, and then writing from an outline. It is a major component of the history section of SOTW student pages. You spend the first part of the year learning to make the outlines and then in the second part of the year you will write from those outlines. I'm almost to that part of the year with the writing. But looking ahead, it was nice to see that Marie put in the TM some examples of her own daughter's writing. It's great because they include some real life sample work of various students who worked at different levels. Very encouraging to see those differences.

Also there is a lot of flexibility in making a science information notebook from the readings.

Different educational philosophies will time things differently, but I like that with MFW we get to wait until a bit older to do more formal writing. It gives more time in the foundational years to work on basic skills and then pull it together to make the more formal reports.

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Unread post by kellybell »

I like the MFW approach. I guess it is the same approach I had to ... potty training. You know, you can put a 9 mo. old infant on a potty and faithfully work on his skills every day and voila! he's trained by the time he's three. Or, you can put a 35 mo. on the potty and voila! he's trained by the time he's three. Either way, the kid is trained at 3.

The same with report writing. You can start teaching it to a 6 year old and he'll get it by the time he's 14. Or you can start with your 13 year old and he'll get it at 14.

The question is... how much effort do you want to put into report writing? Years and years? Or, just one good year when he's ready.

The advantage of waiting is that it's much easier on both mom and child.

The main disadvantage (and the only disadvantae really) is that you feel a bit inadequate that your neighbor's younger child is much more able to churn out a report.

But do we really need 8 year old essayists?

Okay, stepping off my soapbox.

Most homeschoolers can really wait until middle school to really work on these skills. However, there are reasons you might want to teach essay or report writing before that. Perhaps you see your children entering public school soon for whatever reason or perhaps dh says "that kid needs to be able to write a report" or grandma is breathing down your neck comparing your sweet child to her other grandkid who can write a five-paragraph essay with his eyes shut...

If you feel the need to teach essays a bit younger, I really like the Four Square Writing program. It really IS geared to teachers in schools, BUT it is inexpensive and straightforward. You could spend a semester or two (put aside WS for a bit, don't double up) working through this method and your child will be able to write a decent essay, like his peers.

As for me, my 13 year old just now is getting to the stage where she can really organize her thoughts in a meaningful way for writing. Now, we're attempting reports, etc.

Just my opinion...
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Unread post by Poohbee »

This really hit home with me. I am not working on writing with my dd, but like you, I sometimes find myself comparing what we are doing in our homeschool with what her friends are learning in public school.

My dd's little friend shows me her folder of work that she has been doing in 1st. When I saw her most recent math test, I thought, "Oh dear, they are already working on addition and subtraction. We haven't started working on that yet." Then I have to catch myself and remember that 1) we may be working on things in a different order than they are in PS; 2) we will eventually get to those things; and 3) my dd may be learning things that they aren't learning yet in PS.

One thing that was very encouraging to me was when my dd's friend asked me, "Do you get to learn about Jesus in your school?" I told her, yes, we learn about Jesus every day. She is a little girl who just loves Jesus, and I could hear the longing in her voice, wishing she could learn about Jesus in school, too. It reminded me that regardless of the academic training my daughter is receiving (and I feel that the MFW curriculum is helping me to provide excellent academic training for her), but regardless of academics, we are learning about Jesus every day, and that is something she definitely would not get in PS.

So, be encouraged as you teach your children the things that really, truly matter most!
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Jenn in NC
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Unread post by Jenn in NC »

The potty training comparison is exactly right. Come to think of it, teaching reading to my boys has been the same way. With the last one I actually waited until I felt he was ready and it is going so much more smoothly.

And you would think I would know by now not to compare myself to public school. I am not trying to copy them anyway. My bookshelf is full of Ruth Beechick and Susan Shaeffer Macaulay and Charlotte Mason. So really I should know better...

So maybe this is less about being comfortable with this approach to teaching and more about being able to explain why I am comfortable with it, even if just to myself...

And isn't outlining what Benjamin Franklin did (someone correct me here if I am confusing my historical figures) -- he outlined the works of authors he respected, and then worked up re-writes from his outline and did comparisons? A couple of you have mentioned outlining. My ds will be starting that soon in LL.

I also needed to be reminded about what is important. The ps system where I live is so bad that a lot of people here hs for academic reasons alone. Which is all fine and good, but it does tend to put my family in an atmosphere where education becomes a little deified, imo. What I truly want for my kids is so much more than a great education.

And you hit the nail on the head -- being able to teach and talk about Jesus everyday is worth every bit of it. I have a postcard on my schoolroom wall with a quote from Yale College's early 1700's Primary Goal for their college: "Every student shall consider the main end of his study... to know God in Jesus Christ, and answerably to lead a Godly, sober life." I think that is what you are saying too. Thank you for providing some needed clarity.

You guys are great. Thank you so much for all your thoughts/advice. (Where else can you go where people actually want you to go on and on about your opinion?!) And seeing what is coming up down the road in later years with MFW is so helpful... just knowing they will cover it at some point reduces my worries tremendously.

So, I feel much better, and I promise not to try to make my poor son write a report just so he can look like his cousin. :)

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Unread post by MJP »

Also, remember, an essay is much more intimidating-sounding than the result. If the child can write a paragraph, which they do for notebooking all the time, they can write an essay (if you wish).

When we returned from family camp, I had the children write three separate paragraphs about three memorable moments from camp (over three days). Then I just showed them how to write a simple starting paragraph introducing those three moments, how to use transitional words to introduce the three paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. Thus, an easy essay. They were also motivated because we put them in their scrapbooks.
Wife of 1 for 18 yrs. Mom of 7--ages 1-15--1st, 2nd, 5th, 8th and 9th grades & (one on the way)
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Jenn in NC
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Unread post by Jenn in NC »

Melissa, that makes it sound so much more simple and doable than what I had been thinking of... It could even be done on different days and so on, and then on the last day, bring it all together. Maybe it isn't so "scary" as I had been imagining. :) Thank you!
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Unread post by Lucy »


If you are using Writing Strands it will lead you through having your kids write a complete story with topic sentences. This is one of the reasons that MFW does like this resource because it breaks writing down into very bite size pieces and over time you do build a finished product. I think that it is very important to first just learn to get your thoughts on paper but once that has happened you can begin the process of teaching them what a paragraph is.

From my own experience I have found that I had to work on being too critical and expecting a finished product that would look like mine LOL.

When teaching writing there are so many goals and so it has to be broken down into little expectations, adding new ones as they procede in the year and from year to year.

Like Julie mentioned, I also used the history summaries as a time to teach about topic sentence(s) and help my kids to organize information in an outline form. I began doing this when my oldest was in 6th grade. My younger son, 4th, did fine with this but my expectations were different for him. We would do this together on a white board after narration of that days reading.

Also like Julie, we used the LL writing assignments which were very productive.

I hope some of this helps you think out how you may go about this.
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At what point does MFW teach...

Unread post by Tina »

sandi wrote:My oldest is in 5th grade and doing LL. We love this. At what point does MFW teach how to make an outline or write a book report? I know that LL has outlines in it but I am not sure the right form of things like this and for book reports. English is my weak subject.

Also when he does the language books recommended in the older grades will he go back and review where to put quotation marks, commas, and things like this?

Thanks for the help!
Posted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 1:52 pm
Sandi: I will try to help a little by giving you what I am doing and how I have handled some of this. My dd is also 5th grade this year.

There are outline forms in LL. We used the format of outlining listed in there when we did outlines. I would have to go back and look for the lessons--but I know that we, at times, put things in outline form several times with LL.

I think some of the questions you are asking will be worked thru with a writing curriculum and using LL together. For example, all throughout LL it gives instructions for punctuation, quotations, periods, etc. These are things I think that we keep teaching and reminding as we go along. When LL gives instructions to do a composition, we must make sure that the rules learned so far are followed. For example, after learning about direct and indirect quotations and divided quotations (Lessons 103-106) the student was then to write a composition including the use of these quotations. We are to make sure that they did that, and help them in the writing to follow the basic rules learned so far. I hope that makes some sense.

Okay, to continue on. As far as a writing curriculum goes, we used WS 3 last year and I thought my dd did a good job with this, but she didn't like it. However, her end product using WS was always good. She really did some of her best writing with WS. I think what happened was I expected too much from her while using WS as a writing teacher, not a tool. I would expect every direction given to be followed exactly as the author said, and I would have her go back. She did not like this. My dd is very creative in her writing, could write forever, sloppy, no punctuation, but awesome content and creativity, and she really dislikes re-writing anything. This is still a struggle with her.

So, I wasn't too sure what to do for writing this year either. On this forum, I got some good ideas from others about WS and other things to use if that doesn't work. I really feel with LL alone she does a lot of composition work, however, sometimes I could also use some guidance when it comes to the rules of writing a book report, writing essays, doing outlines and other things. This is where I think that the writing curriculum comes in to help us, and also going back to where it was taught in LL.
Julie in MN
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Unread post by Julie in MN »

Posted: Tue Nov 14, 2006
As you have noticed, LL spends almost all of the beginning of 5th grade on outlining. Many assignments model how to outline, ask the student to write from an outline, and then ask the student to create their own outlines. I think with LL, your child should get a firm foundation in outlining.

Book reports are mostly used for public school teachers to figure out whether the student actually read the book LOL! Homeschool teachers can just have a simple conversation with the child to get the same results.

However, you can add book reports if you like. I posted on the ECC other ideas board that I used Pizza Hut's Book-It that year & enjoyed their quick little printable book reports, so we could remember all the great books. There are more extensive book report forms online in many places, including LoveToLearnPlace.com

Punctuation is covered periodically throughout LL. If you are worried about remembering the rules you learn, you could have your kids start an English notebook, where they copy any English rules they learn in LL. Then every so often, you can assign review of their notebooks.

The 6th or 7th grade grammar book used by MFW does have a unit on punctuation also.

If you ever have any specific grammar questions, just post them here & someone is sure to have some ideas!

HTH, Julie

Unread post by cbollin »

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:08 pm
WS does cover writing from an outline in level 3 with developing a paragraph. And all of those lessons where you organize a list of things on the Pre-Writing day. Isn’t that a form of learning to make an outline? Or maybe we’re dealing with very different definitions of an outline.

We write from organized list (outlines) in WS. What WS doesn’t cover in outlining (at least as far as I have done) is to learn to take notes from a chapter in a history text.

That style of making an outline is coming from the SOTW student pages in year 5. I hope that distinction makes some sense. We’ve done 2 of the Writing from the SOTW outlines. So far my oldest needs an extra prompt to get started. She can’t seem to get an opening sentence. That’s ok for now. That’s been the hardest part for her. Once she is given an opening first sentence then writing several sentences after that is going ok.

The way the Writing from the Outline is set up so far --- on the writing day, the student has an already filled in outline in the student pages. It comes from the reading for that day. Then they are to write paragraphs from it. On the other days, the Completing the Outline comes from the readings in the chapter. You are taking notes. Unlike IEW, you can use more than 3 words in the outline because you are outlining ideas not individual sentences.

We are struggling a bit with getting the informal conversation tone out of her formal writing.

Husband suffered because he had not done reports

Unread post by cbollin »

Mississippi Jenni wrote:My dh did not do any type of term paper, no creative writing, or research papers at all in high school. He suffered in college because he was required to do papers and reports. He had no idea how to do this. Dh does not want the kids in the same position.
Posted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 8:48 am
The MFW high school program is full of writing assignments. It is designed for college prep for reading, writing, being able to learn independently, working hard, etc. The earlier programs will help to prepare for it all. Each year the expectations build.

Read through Paige's post on this link. She has photos shown of what her 3rd grade son and 1st grade age daughter did this year in writing.

I just finished year 5 (1850MOD) so that is the most fresh year in my mind. We did a LOT of writing this year. My 6th grader was doing multiple paragraph outlines several times each week and then needing to write from them.

Even if all of dh's questions weren't answered at convention, it's ok to call the MFW office and talk with them about a lot of it now that he has more specific questions.

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Unread post by Lucy »

Posted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:10 am
Hi Jen,
I am glad that you are taking some time to think through it with your dh. The Lord will surely show you both what is best and give you a peace as to which direction to go.

I just want to say that my kids are now 10th grade and 8th grade and we have almost exclusively used MFW for Lang. Arts. I only wished I had found them early for the wonderful early writing that is given in MFW 1.

Crystal is right that if they do MFW high school they will be doing plenty of writing. But I think what is important is that they are prepared before that and I think that the MFW curriculum alongside the Lang. Arts recommendations has prepared my kids well.

I would like to emphasize here the Lang. Arts that is in the curriculum such as keeping a history notebook with summaries and copy work as well as vocabulary building. All of these have been an important part of helping to develop my kids' writing.

Remember this is the last frontier of communication and it does take years to develop. I think my mistake early on was expecting my kids to write like they had been doing it for years. Just like learning to talk or walk, it takes time to learn to think and develop writing skills. So I have liked the gentle approach that MFW has chosen. I like that more formal writing instruction is not started until 4th grade (Writing Strands). This does not mean they are not writing but that before this point the focus in on getting thoughts on paper not grammar or mechanics so much (that kind of stuff is being taught as they do copy work so that hopefully it will overflow one day into their writing). I like that there were plenty of opportunities for writing. I know there are different camps on this and I think different kids are also able to begin some self editing after writing something earlier than others. But the goal early on is not a final revision but steps toward making sentences and thoughts a reality on paper.

I hope my thoughts and experience are helpful to you. My only caution with using any Language Arts program in the early years is to make sure it is not over taking you school time. Kids can only do so much in a day and shorter lessons are usually more effective than longer ones. Again this is from my experience early on with my first child(those poor first children:) ). I like that MFW K and 1st meet these goals while at the same time help children to begin to write.

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Unread post by HSmommi2mine »

Posted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 6:06 am
That is understandable. I was considered a good writer in school. I got good writing grades, did well in a private university exc. I didn't write a formal paragraph until the 6th grade.

Copywork and narration are great ways to start your kids writing. Read them a book and then let them tell you about their favorite part. Type it up, leaving the top half of the paper blank. Let them draw a picture and mount it on constructions paper. Then they can present this to Daddy. They may be too young for reports as we remember them but you can still show him that you take his concerns seriously.

Narration like that is an old stand by and a wonderful teaching tool for later writing assignments.
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