The Homeschool Minute

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TOS February 2012

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TOS February 2012

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Writer's Block  


Helping the Reluctant Writer

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We (the whole family) just love reading The Homeschool Minute 

While we always love and value what the ladies have to say on the various topics, we just LOVE what Familyman Todd Wilson has to say about "keeping it real". He's always very refreshing and keeps us in stitches. Please pass along the thanks to him!
Homeschooling for 11 years and loving it. 

--The Szymanski Family 





I'm bawling this morning. I know lack of sleep is part of it. But this Homeschool Minute is great. I have to confess to you that I nearly didn't open it. The last time the Homeschool Minute addressed this issue, it made me feel inadequate and then just angry. I know I should have written to you then . . . .This issue is phenomenal. Thank you for addressing struggling readers in such an understanding way.

--Debra Brinkman, Yoder, CO




This was JUST what I needed today. I'm sitting here crying over the first and last articles . . . I'm not sure I got past the tears in my eyes for the ones in between. (Okay, I just looked back, and they were advertisements I'd already had a chance to see the video of before, etc.).  

Just had to touch base with you and say thank you. They usually don't tug at my heart quite this much, but these have somehow struck a chord with me today. I appreciate your  

sending them.


Thank you so much. How timely! . . . You all work so hard year round to make our world such a better place! Thank you!! :))

--Beth Lilly, Bristol, PA



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The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine


February 22, 2012

Getting Ready for College Writing


Deborah's  Picture
Deborah Wuehler and family



We had a homeschool mom write in recently about how to get her high school boys ready for college writing. What a great question! I didn't have time to write a decent answer right away, so I asked my trusty friend and absolutely brilliant assistant, Andrea Newitt. Here is her response:


Good for you for asking about preparing boys for writing college papers. John Mark Reynolds, the director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, commented at a homeschool seminar many years ago that homeschoolers are not any better at writing than public schoolers. They just aren't able to write a 10-page paper when they enter college. Keep in mind that he is a big proponent of homeschooling, and he sees top-notch students; it is a fairly prevalent problem.

Here are some ideas on teaching high school boys how to write long papers. First of all, I would suggest having them write on a subject they are interested in and develop the paper over a period of time, using smaller papers that they put together. They essentially will be writing a super paper, on a particular subject of interest. Their main subject will be divided into three smaller subjects, and each of those subjects will be broken down into three topics, each with interesting facts to know and tell!

We have used IEW's writing program for years, and I love it. Writing a five-paragraph paper using their format that relies on a key-word outline is quite simple, and I would suggest having the boys write three five-paragraph papers, then put them together with a well-written introduction and a conclusion, making sure they have good transitions. This format also worked well for us when we took part in a Toastmaster Youth Leadership Program for a couple of years. Think of three things you want to tell your audience, then introduce those three subjects, tell them the three things, and remind them of the three things you just told them.

Before they start writing their super paper, a good outline will help them organize their thoughts and help ensure they have enough to work with.

A basic five-paragraph paper, which will be the building block of the longer paper, looks like this:

Topic 1
    3 to 5 interesting facts
Topic 2
    3 to 5 interesting facts
Topic 3
    3 to 5 interesting facts

Make sure that their introduction grabs the reader's attention and that the conclusion reminds the reader of the most important fact(s) from their paper. In the introduction, be sure that they include the three topics they will be discussing, and make sure the paper, especially the last sentence, comes to a good, strong conclusion. 

Each of the three body paragraphs needs to have a good, clear topic sentence. The reader needs to know what each of those paragraphs is about, and it is a good practice to always look at that first sentence and make sure that everything in the paragraph has to do with that topic sentence. If not, the reader will have difficulty following the train of thought and the paper will not be successful.

Transitions are the key to a flowing paper. Deborah Wuehler happens to be the Queen of Transitions; she is gifted in that area. I relied more on a small, inexpensive book called The Lively Art of Writing to learn and to teach my children how to write good transitions. It also helped us in our struggles with writing good conclusions that don't sound repetitive. Just make sure your boys pick up a word, a phrase, or an idea from the previous paragraph and incorporate it into the next paragraph, and they will be on their way to becoming Kings of Transitions.

Putting three of those five-paragraph papers together for the super paper would look like this:

    Introduce Subject 1
        Topic 1
        Topic 2
        Topic 3
   Introduce Subject 2
        Topic 1
        Topic 2
        Topic 3
    Introduce Subject 3
        Topic 1
        Topic 2
        Topic 3

For a time frame, you could spend a day or two brainstorming ideas and developing the outlines. Then they will need time to research. When it comes to writing the papers, two weeks for each five-paragraph paper works well. If they don't particularly like writing by hand, encourage them to do their work on the computer. Give them another two weeks to put the super paper together. Remind them that rewriting is the key to good writing. They need to think how they can say something in the clearest, most concise way (by the way, that is from The Elements of Style, which is another small, inexpensive resource to have on hand).

So, that would be something like nine weeks to complete their first super paper. After that, the process should be much easier and could go more quickly. You could do it once and know that you have prepared them to write a long paper, or you could do it a few times so that it becomes more second nature to them. It all depends on how much time and effort you want to put into it and how prepared you want them to be as they enter college.

I hope these ideas help. Please write back with any questions. We are here to help!



(Deborah: See, I told you she was brilliant!)





Creation Revolution 


When you envision whale hunters, what do you imagine? Do you visualize someone on a boat in the middle of the ocean with a harpoon?


Though whale hunters typically hunt for whales in the sea, there are some people who have been hunting whales in the world's deserts for years. Read Whale Hunting in the Desert to learn how and why whale hunts also take place in deserts 





TOS has entered the digital age with gusto! Now you can not only read the magazine on your desktop, laptop, and Android-based smartphone or Apple mobile devices, but now you can connect with TOS on many social networking sites. Choose one or all of these ways to get homeschool advice, encouragement, and support from TOS:

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 E-Book: President's Day 2012 Special Bundle 


President's Day is around the corner--do you need materials to teach about U.S. presidents in an interesting and fun way? Then purchase Presidents of the Past and A Copybook of the United States Presidents: Words from our Leaders


Want to get this E-Book bundle FREE? Normally $17.94, for a limited time, this bundle is free with any $25 purchase from the Schoolhouse Store--compliments of The Old Schoolhouse® and Proverbs 22:6 Academy.


To find out how to get these E-Books FREE, click here


But hurry, offer ends February 26. 




Hey from Gena 

Gena Suarez
Gena Suarez

Gena Suarez, Publisher of TOS     


Gena is taking a break to concentrate on magazine business. Veteran homeschool parents will be filling in for her from time to time. This week's article is by Janice Campbell. Janice  is the graduated homeschool mom of four sons and the author of Excellence in Literature, a self-directed literature and writing curriculum for grades 8 through 12. Visit her website at for more articles on teaching literature and writing.




Janice Campbell
Janice Campbell

Getting Ready for College Writing


Learning to write is a process, and to be honest, none of it is easy to a student who is doing it all for the first time. One of the most effective and time-tested ways of learning to write well is to work with models and to learn while doing. Most students are ready to begin this once they've mastered basic skills, either through the Charlotte Mason sequence of copying (penmanship), narration (mental organization, sequencing, word choice), and dictation (spelling, punctuation, proofreading), or another method.     Working with models and learning by doing are both pretty straightforward processes, and neither requires a large investment. When you choose to learn by doing, you will practice writing skills in the process of doing literature, history, science, and other written assignments, rather than taking up school time with separate writing lessons. Writing skills grow sharper when students write about important ideas and try to convey meaningful information rather than just write essays based on random writing prompts.     You can learn how to effectively use models for any kind of paper by following the process outlined in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. After his father pointed out his lack of "elegance of expression," Franklin devised the following method to teach himself to write well:     "About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator -- I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, try'd to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the full sentences and compleat the paper. This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts. By comparing my work afterwards with the original, I discovered many faults and amended them; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying that, in certain particulars of small import, I had been lucky enough to improve the method or the language."     Franklin apparently worked on his writing during his early teen years, and this is a reasonable age for students to begin working with college-prep assignments. Writing for college may not be easy, but using models and learning while doing will help your student learn to do it well.  


~Janice Campbell 


The Familyman
Todd Wilson
Todd WIlson

Todd Wilson, Familyman Ministries  




Getting Ready for College Writing


Cue The Brady Bunch '70s theme:


Here's a story about a man named Toddy . . .


A long time ago, I went to a public high school filled with professionals in the schooling department. I graduated near the top of my class and then went to a large university, where I majored in landscape architecture. I'm not sure that I had an official writing class in all my time there, but I'm sure I had to write . . . although I did skip a lot of classes and might have missed something.


I graduated and went to seminary, where I had to write a bunch of papers. For most of them, I was ill-prepared and hadn't a clue about form or rules. In fact, I couldn't even type, so I had to pay someone else to type my papers. I graduated, became a pastor . . . and boom-now I'm a writer.


Here's my point. I made it through high school, college, and seminary, and now I make my living by writing . . . and I still don't know how to WRITE.


You're right; I'm cynical about all the hoo-hah about "You need to be able to write if you're going to make it in college . . . they're not going to spoon-feed you in college . . . blah blah blah blah blah."


Here's a news flash for you: When your kids need to write, they'll write. It may not be perfect, and they may struggle through it. But they'll get it and do just fine. And you don't need to sweat it. Take it from me, a writer who doesn't know how to write. Let those who like to write, write and those who don't . . . write when they have to. Who knows? It might be the non-writers who become tomorrow's writers.


Be real,



P.S. Still haven't picked up your 99-cent e-version of my novel The Injection? There's still time! Here's what others have said who just read it:


"My reading time had been dry for almost a year until I read the first two paragraphs of The Injection. I was hooked . . . couldn't put it down. I kept thinking, 'How could someone create a story line like this one?' The author is not only creative, but his writing style makes for easy reading and the desire to not put the book down. I became close to each character. I was there with them. I cried. I laughed. I remembered similar times in my life. This is a must for fathers, yet everyone would glean much. This is one of the best books I've ever read!" ~ Deb Short


"Excellent, excellent, excellent. I couldn't put it down and didn't until I finished it. Shame on me. Very well written." ~ Ruth


Get it on Kindle and Nook.

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Contest Corner 

For the month of February, 2012  


The Crossmaker


This DVD features a grandfather telling his grandchildren stories about Jesus. The backdrop for the stories is a marvelous artist doing chalk drawings of Jesus and scenes from the stories. There are two stories: The Crossmaker and Jesus Loves the Children. The Crossmaker is about a little boy whose family makes crosses. He delivers the one to be used for Jesus and witnesses the crucifixion. He is crushed by guilt for his part but he meets the resurrected Jesus on the road and finds forgiveness and love. Jesus Loves the Children is the familiar Bible story about the disciples telling the children to leave Jesus alone, but Jesus tells them to let the children come to Him.


The background music is wonderful, and the chalk illustrations are spectacular. But there is much more on this DVD! There are more chalk drawing demonstrations and even a teaching session showing children step-by-step how to make their own chalk drawings. (...)


Read the rest of the review here.


Win this resource for your family!



Email Deb with your name, mailing address, and phone number for contact purposes, with the subject line, "Crossmaker" for a chance to win* this great resource!

2011-12 Schoolhouse Planners  

*Disclaimer and Legal Notice:
The Old Schoolhouse
® Magazine, LLC ("Company") is sponsoring the February Contest Corner contest running from February 1, 2012, to February 29, 2012. You must be 18 years of age or older and follow all rules to participate. Entering the contest constitutes full and complete acceptance of, and a warranty that the entrant has read, understands and agrees to, all contest terms and conditions, including without limitation all of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC Contest Rules ("Official Rules") and The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine Writer Guidelines and Terms and Conditions for Submitting Queries. All Official Rules apply. Entry also constitutes full consent and unlimited permission for Company to print, publish, broadcast and use all intellectual property and personal information submitted as part of the Contest entry on the Internet and in any and all Company publications in accordance with the Rules. Entries become the sole property of Company and will not be returned. Employees and independent contractors of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, Contest sponsors, individuals or entities furnishing Contest prizes and their family members may not participate in this contest. Company reserves the sole, discretionary right to determine contest winners and to cancel, terminate, modify, or suspend the contest or the Rules at any time with or without notice or cause, subject to applicable law. See Official Rules for details.

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.

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