It happens to every middle schooler. Just when they think they’ve got this whole “school thing” down, their parents up and tell them that it is time to write an essay. “An essay??!!” they cry. “What is an essay??!!”
Just the sound of it can bring a quick chill down the spine. Sentences they get. Paragraphs - - no problem. Even the occasional short story doesn’t cause a full flop sweat. But an essay? It sounds difficult, boring, and long. So what can a homeschooling parent do to bring their child around (aside from smelling salts)?
The main thing is to make sure that the child’s first efforts with an essay are on a subject of their own choosing. You might like your son or daughter to start with the societal implications of the Civil Rights Movement, but it is going to be hard to get John or Sara to sign on to that type of essay at first. The key to keeping essay anxiety at bay is to allow them to write about what they love - - sports, shopping, their favorite video game - - the topic isn’t important as much as helping them overcome their anti-essay bias.
Modeling is also very important when introducing essay writing. Find good examples of essays that your child can read and appreciate. Holt and Rinehart have some excellent examples of student essays on their Elements of Literature website. Seeing what other students their age can accomplish with an essay is an immediate confidence booster.
To ensure your child’s success in essay writing, you will want to take the instruction slowly and build upon their sequential learning. The Time4Writing “Welcome to the Essay” course is a wonderful choice for helping middle schoolers build essay-writing skills. Each of the units in the course builds upon previous instruction to provide a comprehensive overview of essays from expository paragraphs all the way to full narrative and expository essays. A certified teacher guides students through the entire course, giving direction and feedback each step of the way.
Even if your middle schooler recoils in horror at the idea of writing an essay, you can help him or her not only overcome their fears but become confident, successful young writers. To find out more about Time4Writing’s “Welcome To Essays”, or one of their other homeschool writing classes, head over to their website.