Outsourcing Homeschool Writing: IF and WHEN to hire a writing tutor or join a writing class

Outsourcing Homeschool Writing
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When is it time to consider outsourcing homeschool writing instruction? How do you know whether or not to hire a tutor or join a writing class, and how do you pick the right writing teacher? And is there ever a time when it’s just not worth it to outsource homeschool writing?

outsourcing homeschool writing

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I love words. Big words. Small words. Scintillating words. Words in lists. Words in poems. Words in syllogisms. Please give me all the words.

Loving words like I do, I assumed teaching writing to my own children would be no trouble at all. At first, it seemed to be working out just as I had planned. In the elementary years we set a solid foundation with important skills like copywork and narration, simple reading journals, and freewriting. We have also found the Writing and Rhetoric series from Classical Academic Press to be a fabulous guide to expanding our writing skills.

But. It hasn’t always been easy. 

When people ask about the writing classes my middle school and high school student currently enjoy, I sometimes jokingly oversimplify and say that we’re outsourcing homeschool writing for the sake of relationship. Both of my older children are competent (indeed, in my {ahem} unbiased opinion, elegant) writers. I feel relatively confident in my ability to edit their papers well. But somehow the process of editing and revising and improving their writing tended to become more about our emotions than about the words on the page.

It is important to me that my children learn to write well. It’s even more important to me that we still like each other when they graduate from our homeschool. For that reason, among others, it has been a good fit for our family to outsource upper level writing instruction for the past few years.

Have you wondered if it might be helpful to seek outside writing instruction in your homeschool? Let me share a few reasons why outsourcing homeschool writing might be a good fit for your family, as well as a few reasons why you might not need to outsource at all!

But don’t just take my word for it. I’ve also interviewed 2 veteran homeschool moms, including one who teaches writing classes to other students as well as their own. They each have unique experiences and perspective on this question, which I hope encourages all of us that there is not just one right way to approach homeschool writing.

outsourcing homeschool writing

You should consider outsourcing homeschool writing when:

You aren’t confident in your ability to teach writing well

Do you feel confident when it comes to writing? None of us want to pass along our weaknesses to our children. Many homeschool moms did not receive quality writing training during their own education, and now feel ill-equipped to teach the art of writing to their children.

Sometimes, confidence levels may even change over time. The mom for whom facilitating writing in the early years came easily may suddenly find herself getting nervous when it comes to teaching high school essays.

There are many fantastic homeschool curriculums that will take you by the hand and lead you step by step through the process. (Writing and Rhetoric and WriteShop are two to consider) You may just end up learning alongside your children and becoming a better writer yourself!

But if the thought of homeschooling writing is truly causing you stress and anxiety, it is reassuring to know that you can hire a local or online writing teacher to give your child quality writing instruction.

It’s not enough, after all, to just tell your child to write and then get frustrated when they don’t do it or don’t do it well.

Penny Smelcer successfully homeschooled her own son in middle school and high school. In addition, she holds numerous professional degrees, honors, and awards and is a professional writing teacher with over 35 years of experience. She’s also one of my children’s favorite instructors. Penny puts it this way:

“Students develop negative feelings toward a subject over time when it is not taught in a way they can understand it and successfully apply it. Over the years, I have observed how often writing prompts are thrown at students without any helpful instruction. It’s no wonder kids have learned to dread writing! If a calculus problem were thrust in front of me without any instruction on working it, I’d be frustrated, too, and I’d probably say things like, “Why do I have to do this?” “This is stupid,” and “I hate this.” These complaints are kid-code for “I don’t understand how to do this.”

If you don’t feel prepared for this level of engagement in the writing process, outsourcing homeschool writing may be a good option.

Preserving relationship becomes more important than maintaining the primary role of writing teacher

I mentioned this reason in the introduction. Personalities often seem to clash more strongly over writing than other subjects in my homeschool, and I’ve heard a similar experience from other moms. Writing is an intimate expression of our thoughts and experiences, and it takes great humility to accept the correction necessary to edit, revise, and improve our writing. In our family, my pre-teens and teens tend to find it much easier to accept this criticism and feedback from someone who is not also their mom.

Penny has noticed this phenomenon as well:

” Teaching writing skills is often out of the comfort zone of many parents, even though they may be excellent writers themselves.  Writing is a more subjective subject in comparison to right-or-wrong subjects like mathematics and science. Consequently, it also becomes more personal and emotional.  Some students become defensive about their compositions when a parent tries to critique or edit their work. On the other hand, when I edit their papers, students rarely take my corrections and suggestions as personal attacks because, as their writing teacher, they recognize that it’s my job to edit and grade their work.”

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A real challenge for every homeschool mom is that we are always the corrector, whether it’s reminding our child to finish their chores, marking down their math problems, or asking them to brush their teeth. The role of parent/teacher is all mixed up because education is just intertwined so fully with our family life. I’ve found it extremely beneficial to the relationships in our home to purposefully find some areas where I can step out of the authority role and just take on the encouraging support role. Outsourcing writing in your homeschool may be a good place to try that in your own family.

Your child is eager for the opportunity

Outsourcing writing isn’t just good for Mom. Some children are motivated by the idea of having a broader audience for their writing. If you’re looking for an opportunity to build community and discussion in your homeschool life, participating in a writing class may be a good fit for you.

If audience and/or the interchange of ideas are your driving motivation, you may not even need a full writing class. Instead, schedule a weekly or biweekly time for several families to gather together in your living room. Each student can bring a writing sample of their choice and read it aloud to the group. You’ll have the same benefits of listening and learning from other writers without the expense of an outside class or the necessity for fitting into someone else’s curriculum.

You need to streamline your responsibilities as a mom of many

As our family makes decisions about what classes to outsource each year, if any, the reality of life as a mom of many definitely plays into our choices. There is only one of me, and I am not skilled enough to juggle all the plates without several of them falling to the floor, scattering metaphorical spaghetti all over the place.

There are several subjects I love too much or am too opinionated about to relinquish the joy of teaching them in our own home. But while I love writing and enjoy teaching it to my children, getting help for the upper years has provided tremendous relief to my schedule and to my emotional load as homeschool mom.

Do you have several children, or a child whose learning challenges take up a lot of your time? Outsourcing writing (or some other subject) may give you space to breathe and free you up to delve deeply into the subjects that bring you the most joy. (Because as I’ve said elsewhere, Mom’s enthusiasm is an important foundation for sparking our children’s joy of learning!)

Outsourcing Homeschool Writing

How to choose an outside writing class or teacher

When choosing a writing teacher, look for someone who:

  • Is well qualified
    Don’t just examine their official credentials, although those are valuable. Read something they have written themselves. Do you enjoy reading their writing? Would you want your children to write like they do?
  • Is firm, but kind
    You want a teacher who will hold your children to a high standard, edit their papers thoroughly, and not accept shoddy work. You also want a teacher who understands that children, even older kids, are still learning. You want someone who will make writing enjoyable and delightful.
  • Is recommended by friends you trust
    Look for someone who has connected well with varying styles of family and with children from a range of writing abilities.

What do writing teachers say themselves?

Penny Smelcer gives this advice:

“As far as I’m concerned, parents have the only qualification needed for teaching their own children.  They’re yours!  However, I would not personally teach other people’s children on a tuition basis, especially on the high-school level, without being degreed in my field.  Additionally, parents should look for a teacher who doesn’t just tell students to write but teaches them how to write.  A writing teacher should also teach self-editing skills but also be willing to spend the enormous amount of time it takes to edit student compositions.  Students need to be shown what to fix, how to fix it, and why it needs to be fixed. Finally, personality is another consideration. Will this teacher or tutor’s personality and teaching style engage, nurture, and respect my child and his/her individuality?   Does the teacher have an appropriate sense of humor? Will my child look forward to attending (or at least not dread) this teacher’s class?”

Is outsourcing homeschool writing necessary? No!

I would like to share the perspective of my friend, Nola Summerville. Nola has been homeschooling for 20 years, and her children currently range in age from 11 to 26. I knew that Nola has never outsourced writing, so I asked her to share her experience as a veteran homeschool mom:

“I must admit that teaching writing is not my favorite subject.  I am a math and science teacher by preference and profession. However, I was faithful to do what the Lord called me to do. My favorite part of teaching my children writing was when all four of my older children got A’s in freshman English in college.  I had often wondered was I doing enough writing in our home school and would they be prepared, so I was overjoyed when they all experienced great success in their college writing classes.

I chose to teach writing without the benefit of outside classes simply because we could not afford to pay for them. It was a great opportunity to trust the Lord. If He called me to home school, He would help me do it within our missionary budget.

My goal in the elementary grades was to get my children comfortable getting their thoughts on paper.  I had them do a daily writing journal. Sometimes they wrote about what they were reading.  Sometimes I gave them a topic.  Sometimes they chose a topic. During the middle school grades I used Write Shop for two years to give them more formal instruction on the writing process.  I followed that up with a short writing curriculum by Robin Finley of Analytical Grammar fame. She has since expanded her writing curriculum substantially.  After I felt like my children had a good grasp of the writing process, I used the writing prompts given in the Sonlight language arts curriculum.”

Will she be outsourcing writing with her final child at home? Nola says, “I will probably not hire a writing teacher for our remaining home schooled child because I am much more comfortable about teaching writing now. I have the benefit of really knowing what is expected in a freshman college writing class. I also have a wonderful helpmate who is an excellent writer. I loved the times when my husband gave our children a writing assignment because the feedback he gave them was from a different perspective than mine.”

There are many good reasons to continue teaching writing independently at home, even through high school.

  • Cost is a factor for many homeschool families. If you have to go into debt or strap yourself financially in order to take an outside writing class, skip it.
  • Do you love teaching writing and feel confident in your ability to do it well? Stick with it!
  • Don’t second-guess yourself if you know that what you’re doing is working well for your family. Change for the sake of change (or outsourcing for the sake of outsourcing) is not only unnecessary, it’s probably unhelpful.

In addition to these reasons, it’s important to also consider a student’s other commitments, their academic struggles, and their willingness to submit to the writing teacher.

Penny observes:

“…most of the students who come to class unprepared tell me that they were just too busy with other classes and activities to complete their homework.  Next, parents should consider whether or not their child is ready for a writing class. If a child has not yet learned to read independently, he/she is not ready for a writing class.  Likewise, if a child is dealing with a severe learning disability, a tutor would probably be more capable of meeting that child’s needs than a class. Finally, students need to willingly come to class.  Now I know that most kids wouldn’t sign up for a writing class if they were given the choice, but students who adamantly oppose their parents and outsourced teachers need to first learn how to overcome their defiance.  I once had a student who refused to get out of the car to come into my class and another student who sat in class with his eyes closed and arms crossed the entire hour. Personally, I do not drag students out of cars, and I do not attempt to engage a disrespectful, obstinate student at the expense of other students who desire to improve their writing skills.

Final Thoughts on Teaching Writing in the Homeschool

Teaching writing can sometimes feel overwhelming to the homeschool mom. So there was one final thing I wondered, and I knew my experienced friend Nola would be the one to ask: If she could go back in time and talk to her new-homeschool-mom self, what would she tell her about teaching writing? 

Nola’s reply was so wise and reassuring, and deserves the last word:

“Relax. Don’t push formal writing too early. Don’t take the joy out of writing by expecting too much too soon.” 

Have you used a writing tutor or writing class in your homeschool? Share your experience in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “Outsourcing Homeschool Writing: IF and WHEN to hire a writing tutor or join a writing class”

  1. There is no shame in outsourcing! We need to get rid of any mom guilt we feel in this area!

    I felt much the same way about teaching my kids to read as you describe about teaching your kids to write.

    I’m an avid reader, and I assumed it would rub off on my kids. Long story short: it didn’t. But that’s ok. They can read, they just don’t choose to read for pleasure. They have other gifts and favorite activities.

  2. I want to outsource writing with every fiber of my being. I have 3 and the youngest is just turning 2 and that means I don’t have the one – on – one time I need to confidently teach writing while also trying to confidently teach phonics to the middle child. The oldest I know would do well on her own in class but I can’t find one to save my life… anywhere…. So I’m over here trying to figure that out.

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