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Yesterday the main written composition professor at the college where I work made several comments about the quality of writing he is receiving from home schooled students. I thought they were important to share as he is a professor who is very pro-home schooling (his grandchildren are home schooled) and he indicated he was surprised. This professor indicated the home schooled students he has in class have not had research writing experience and were not keeping up with their public school counterparts. In the same conversation, professors were bemoaning the lack of writing skills overall among students and I know this professor expected better of the home schooled students.

 

Based on his comments we are going to look at putting together some writing/research workshops for home school students in our area.

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Yesterday the main written composition professor at the college where I work made several comments about the quality of writing he is receiving from home schooled students. I thought they were important to share as he is a professor who is very pro-home schooling (his grandchildren are home schooled) and he indicated he was surprised. This professor indicated the home schooled students he has in class have not had research writing experience and were not keeping up with their public school counterparts. In the same conversation, professors were bemoaning the lack of writing skills overall among students and I know this professor expected better of the home schooled students.

 

Based on his comments we are going to look at putting together some writing/research workshops for home school students in our area.

 

Is this at a community college?

 

 

Georgia

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I recently attended a workshop by Mr. Stobaugh, and that is basically his mission lately -- bringing up homeschoolers' writing skills. He feels that is an area homeschoolers can ace on the SAT. Also, he feels it's very tied in with reading, since good writing will often bring up literary examples. Definitely the topic is food for though!

 

Julie

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I always wonder about comments like that.

 

I mean there are how many kids who have homeschooled through high school and gone on to college? A thousand? 10 thousand?

 

How many of these students has he encountered?

 

I know of three colleges in my area that all have programs for incoming freshman whose english skills (including writing) are not up to par. I would venture to guess there are maybe 1-2 homeschoolers at most in those groups (not a ton of homeschoolers in my neck of the woods).

 

For me personally comments like that mean nothing.

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It depends very much on the students that are encountered. I've heard professors also comment that homeschool students are much better at research and writing. I know some homeschool students that would impress professors and others that would give us all a bad name - I think it depends on which variety you interact with.

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I think poor writing is endemic in the schools. Considering the percentage of homeschoolers vs others out there I agree that comments like this are not meaningful.

 

I do know some (ok many, lol) homeschoolers who are not up to par in writing but I have known/tutored plenty of ps and private schoolers over the years who were in the same boat.

 

I'm not sure that I would be interested in offerings from a group whose viewpoint was "all homeschoolers are lacking in writing". Clearly, since many homeschoolers get admitted into Tier I schools, get great scores on the SAT writing test, get published, blah, blah, blah etc. this is not the case. I would think coming at it from the viewpoint of "improving writing skills is paramount for everyone" might be a little more palatable.

 

If all homeschoolers who attend your college are lacking in writing then I agree that the school has a problem, but it isn't one my kids will share when they enter college. :001_smile: I think it's admirable to offer such programs but how will it help with your college's problem unless most of the students are local?

 

Georgia (I have a wicked headcold, so maybe I'm just not getting it??)

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This fall, I've been hearing my son's friends talk about their school projects. They all involve research beyond what I've done with my son. Jane in NC's comment this fall about having to go to the library most weekends when she was in high school to do research projects gave me pause, also. And I just watched my older one put off doing a humanities research paper past the deadline because although he had done papers like it at home, he hadn't done enough of them and hadn't used the library enough to be able to do it fast and easily. Something had to give in his hectic schedule and this was it. His public schooled brother's comment was, "Why didn't he come to me? It only takes a couple of hours to write a paper like that." This isn't the first time someone has come back to these boards saying that lack of research experience is something common amongst homeschoolers. I appreciate the warning. I didn't send my older one off to college with no research experience, but obviously, it wasn't enough. As we begin high school with the youngest, I have been resolving to do more with this one. Those group projects that are so maligned here do serve a purpose in ps: they make the whole class go off and do a little research and then pull all the pieces together into a paper or presentation. When it works (I know - everyone doesn't always do their part), it is a pretty efficient way to practise these skills because each person doesn't have to do all the time consuming researching himself allowing you to do more iterations. The projects themselves need to be nicely presented, something that I think it is easy to skimp on if it is just for mum. This mimics the real world fairly well, also. I'm not saying that this is the best way to do it, just trying to point out something that if done well in public schools, works to achieve this purpose. Besides, the orginal poster didn't point out that all homeschoolers couldn't do this or that all psers could. She just was passing along a casual observation from a prof that he had expected the homeschoolers all to be better at this than their ps peers and had been surprised when it turned out not to be true, in case we wanted to take a second look at our writing programs and make sure that when we send our students off to college, they don't land amongst the homeschoolers who don't.

-Nan

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As I tried to emphasize in my op, this professor is very pro-homeschooling which is why I took note of his comments and thought they would be helpful to share. I would guess that at least 10-20% of our incoming freshman each year have been home schooled through high school. Yes, poor writing is endemic in the schools and we offer a remedial writing class for those who need it.

 

Our viewpoint is not that "all home schoolers are lacking in writing" but that many have not had exposure to research writing. For example, I had a student who self-identifed herself as being home schooled who had never done a bibliography. Our thought was to offer a workshop along the lines of "Everything you need to know to be a successful college writer".

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She just was passing along a casual observation from a prof that he had expected the homeschoolers all to be better at this than their ps peers and had been surprised when it turned out not to be true, in case we wanted to take a second look at our writing programs and make sure that when we send our students off to college, they don't land amongst the homeschoolers who don't.

-Nan

 

I agree, Nan. And this kind of heads-up was useful for my public schooled son, too. My oldest son enjoyed good grades in high school, but quite a few teachers reminded him that he could be at the top of the heap in high school and at the bottom in college, especially in a competitive college. His competition would no longer be a general range of students, but instead a large group of those students would fall away and he'd find himself among top students from top high schools -- and sometimes even from other countries especially in his engineering field. I know some of those top high schoolers from my tutoring job, and they are doing more than my son (or I) ever did in high school, and doing a lot of it in college level courses (not to mention the outside tutoring). There is some competition when you get towards the end of high school, and I am glad for the reminders & the current experiences you both shared.

 

Julie

Edited by Julie in MN
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I always wonder about comments like that.

 

I mean there are how many kids who have homeschooled through high school and gone on to college? A thousand? 10 thousand?

 

How many of these students has he encountered?

 

I know of three colleges in my area that all have programs for incoming freshman whose english skills (including writing) are not up to par. I would venture to guess there are maybe 1-2 homeschoolers at most in those groups (not a ton of homeschoolers in my neck of the woods).

 

For me personally comments like that mean nothing.

 

Tad harsh? Rather than dismissing this professor's POV to the side -- why not take the constructive criticism and learn from it? He may have a point.

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This fall, I've been hearing my son's friends talk about their school projects. They all involve research beyond what I've done with my son. Jane in NC's comment this fall about having to go to the library most weekends when she was in high school to do research projects gave me pause, also. And I just watched my older one put off doing a humanities research paper past the deadline because although he had done papers like it at home, he hadn't done enough of them and hadn't used the library enough to be able to do it fast and easily. Something had to give in his hectic schedule and this was it. His public schooled brother's comment was, "Why didn't he come to me? It only takes a couple of hours to write a paper like that." This isn't the first time someone has come back to these boards saying that lack of research experience is something common amongst homeschoolers. I appreciate the warning. I didn't send my older one off to college with no research experience, but obviously, it wasn't enough. As we begin high school with the youngest, I have been resolving to do more with this one. Those group projects that are so maligned here do serve a purpose in ps: they make the whole class go off and do a little research and then pull all the pieces together into a paper or presentation. When it works (I know - everyone doesn't always do their part), it is a pretty efficient way to practise these skills because each person doesn't have to do all the time consuming researching himself allowing you to do more iterations. The projects themselves need to be nicely presented, something that I think it is easy to skimp on if it is just for mum. This mimics the real world fairly well, also. I'm not saying that this is the best way to do it, just trying to point out something that if done well in public schools, works to achieve this purpose. Besides, the orginal poster didn't point out that all homeschoolers couldn't do this or that all psers could. She just was passing along a casual observation from a prof that he had expected the homeschoolers all to be better at this than their ps peers and had been surprised when it turned out not to be true, in case we wanted to take a second look at our writing programs and make sure that when we send our students off to college, they don't land amongst the homeschoolers who don't.

-Nan

 

:iagree:

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I have a lot of random thoughts on this subject because I've been involved in teaching writing for several years. The homeschool co-op I organize is specifically a "writing" co-op.

 

Writing is one of those subjects that is so big that it is like a mountain. You can't see the top nor the sides of the mountain. At the beginning, you don't even know how or where to begin climbing the mountain. Some people stay at the bottom for a long time, thinking they are climbing, when in reality they are not. In fact the climb is long and (almost) nobody makes it to the top by the end of high school. It is the (sing with me) mountain that never ends.....yes it goes on and on my friends......

 

The problem with writing is often we "don't know what we don't know." I suppose writing is made up of conventions (grammar and such), critical thinking (logic and such), humility, writing stamina and creativity. Families that neglect any of these major skill sets often find that they are missing something essential within writing instruction. I've read student's writing that is so plagued by convention problems, I can't understand what they are trying to convey. I've read other papers where the logic is so faulty, the paper is meaningless. I've also met students so unable to take advice/criticism, that writing instruction is virtually meaningless to them. That's where the humility must come it.

 

No writing program (even IEW) will teach you how to spot logical errors in your paper. You have to get in there and read each sentence closely asking yourself, "What did I really just write-precisely? Does my sentence make sense? Does it make sense within the totality of the paper?" It is this close reading that teaches students to be better, more precise writers.

 

It is with a huge amount of struggle and challenge that I have watched the families in my writing group make progress. We have all learned together. As I have said on many occasions, if we meet and don't have questions and challenges, then we need to stop meeting. I've told my students the same thing. If they are not getting papers back with lots of markings, they will need to go somewhere else to be challenged.

 

Humility is the other component of writing that I think is often neglected. My students learn that they will never get 100%. It is not a subject like math where you can "ace" it. I try to encourage my students to look at every suggestion as something precious. They will learn from that suggestion whether they agree with it or not. They will learn how others look at writing. And audience is everything, is it not? We write for others! Otherwise, what's the point?

 

In terms of research writing, I think that once a student has mastered writing conventions (especially understanding what plagiarism is/is not), logical thought, writing stamina, humility and creativity, they should not have problems with the research paper.

 

Rambling thoughts........

Holly

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Depending on the circumstances they can serve as a wake-up call or, OTOH, give some assurance that you're taking care of the important stuff. Also, I think the OP's plans are great. Our writing co-op was a great experience. My son needed outside accountability.

 

People who homeschool through high school using classical methods are a sort of "triple minority". So, whatever information is available out there as a guide to help us set goals is necessarily going to be anecdotal. That said, you need more than just a general statement in order to know whether or not the situation described applies to your own case.

 

The questions I'd be asking would be specifics about how much and what type of writing these students had done. Also, does this college offer a writing lab or a tutorial center, and if so were the students taking advantage of that? Were they attending & participating in class regularly and discussing their projects with their professors and meeting intermediate deadlines? Were they lacking basic academic skills, or was this a time-management issue?

 

Holly wrote: In terms of research writing, I think that once a student has mastered writing conventions (especially understanding what plagiarism is/is not), logical thought, writing stamina, humility and creativity, they should not have problems with the research paper.

 

My son's experience supports Holly's observation; he did not have time to do a full-blown research paper in high school, but he has had no problems and received excellent grades and comments on the two he's completed this semester. He's well on the way to successfully completing his third. The one thing he has struggled with is juggling multiple deadlines and major exams, but I think that's fairly normal for any first semester college student. So far, he has not needed the tutorial center.

 

I sat on a committee for a couple of years evaluating scholarship application essays. ITA that writing skills in general could stand improvement, but honestly can't say that any one group was better than any other. Public, private, and home school essays were varied, and ranged from well done to deplorable. The most consistently well written essays we read came from one charter school whose stated aim is college prep for all students, but those tended to be formulaic and predictable after awhile.

 

One other thing regarding preparation is that in order to thwart the use of "essay mills" many of ds' assignments have been crafted in such a way that he's not yet been asked to write in any format that can easily be categorized. That's where using classical methods has paid off; he's been able to get past the unfamiliar format.

Edited by Martha in NM
clarity
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One other thing regarding preparation is that in order to thwart the use of "essay mills" many of ds' assignments have been crafted in such a way that he's not yet been asked to write in any format that can easily be categorized. That's where using classical methods has paid off; he's been able to get past the unfamiliar format.

 

Would you be willing to elaborate on this? I'm finding it hard to catagorize any sort of essay, never having been taught to write. Sigh.

 

-Nan

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Hello Nan,

 

Sorry I didn't elaborate in my first post. It was late, and I was tired! We used several different resources for composition and all of them taught basic forms such as standard 5-paragraph essays, compare/contrast, persuasive, opinion, etc. Several years back I found an online study guide for History of Art for Young People, and printed off some of that prof's discussion questions and writing assignments. The assignments were a lot like those I remember from my own college days which were, I freely admit, a long time ago. The essay assignments were fairly straightforward; compare/contrast Romanesque/Gothic art. Some assignments asked for a detailed description/definition of one particular thing, and others were more subjective asking why a student did/did not like a particular style, building, work of art etc. I also took similar writing assignments from the outline discussion section at the beginning of Spielvogel's Western Civ. chapters.

 

The point is that most of those essay prompts fit neatly into the various essay outlines, templates, and arrangements we'd encountered in the different curricula we used over the years with only occasional minor tweaking.

 

The catch has been that while those templates have been useful for in-class writing such as essay questions on exams, so far none of them has been particularly useful for any out of class writing assignments. At first I thought it was due to the fact that the semester projects were quite a bit longer and subject-specific, but the same was true for shorter papers as well.

 

Ds and I had a conversation this weekend about how MLA citations blend into the text more smoothly than those used in other fields. We also talked about how Internet research had changed the research process. (In my college days it was the sole province of faculty in depts. with deep pockets.) He casually mentioned how to narrow the search process in order to avoid getting a list of what he calls "essay mills" instead of scholarly papers.

 

I couldn't resist having a look. Many of those sites sell essays written off specific templates. I suspect that one reason the out-of-class assignments appear to be blended versions of different essay types is intentional and is done to thwart plagiarism.

 

We used both Classical Writing and Lost Tools of Writing, and that has helped ds better understand how to do out of class assignments. Some of his classmates who learned to write from specific templates w/o understanding some of the theory are having trouble.

 

Martha

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A friend of mine is an admissions director and very respectful and admiring of those families who choose to hs.

 

She had said that she does not see hs'd students, in general, as being more or less prepared than schooled students-- she says they both run the gamut. Some are great and some aren't. Some hs'd students are outstanding just as some schooled students are. She said she has looked at incomplete or poor applications of both and said "Are they kidding me?" She says hs'd students are like everyone else...lol...a mix.

 

Of course there are fewer hs'd students, but in general simply represent the same broad spectrum that traditionally school students do. She says all students need to have solid global type classes (English, maths,history, languages etc). One area she does feel hs'd students could work on is getting more science classes into their portfolios.

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Would you be willing to elaborate on this? I'm finding it hard to catagorize any sort of essay, never having been taught to write. Sigh.

 

-Nan

 

I'll comment on this, too. A typical cheat website might have an essay available on the topic of "Enlightened Despots." In order to keep students from using this essay, a history prof might instead assign an essay where students compare and contrast the behavior of Peter the Great to their current university president. In this case, you are still using a traditional compare/contrast template. However, you must integrate current events with Russian history.

 

I think the worst trend to come out of the "beat the cheaters" movement is that many professors are making students compare/contrast everything to their own personal lives. While some self-reflection is valuable, I think it is being taken to a ridiculous extreme in many current classrooms. Here's a literature prompt students might be asked to deal with, "What character do you most identify with in To Kill a Mockingbird. What specific instances have you dealt with in your life that most resemble the struggles of the TKaM character. etc. etc."

 

I personally try to avoid these types of prompts. Most of my students don't have the life experiences to sincerely answer these questions with any depth. And yet, I've been including a few for my kids yearly because they will have to figure out how to conquer these types of prompts because they are being assigned more and more. I think that professors don't think you can buy this type of thing off the web-although you actually can.

 

Nan, I think the best type of essay to master is the compare/contrast essay and the personal reflection essay. I think they are both challenging and used widely. I also think that the stranger prompts that profs are coming up with are hybrids of these two basic types.

Holly

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Hello Nan,

 

Sorry I didn't elaborate in my first post. It was late, and I was tired! We used several different resources for composition and all of them taught basic forms such as standard 5-paragraph essays, compare/contrast, persuasive, opinion, etc. Several years back I found an online study guide for History of Art for Young People, and printed off some of that prof's discussion questions and writing assignments. The assignments were a lot like those I remember from my own college days which were, I freely admit, a long time ago. The essay assignments were fairly straightforward; compare/contrast Romanesque/Gothic art. Some assignments asked for a detailed description/definition of one particular thing, and others were more subjective asking why a student did/did not like a particular style, building, work of art etc. I also took similar writing assignments from the outline discussion section at the beginning of Spielvogel's Western Civ. chapters.

 

The point is that most of those essay prompts fit neatly into the various essay outlines, templates, and arrangements we'd encountered in the different curricula we used over the years with only occasional minor tweaking.

 

The catch has been that while those templates have been useful for in-class writing such as essay questions on exams, so far none of them has been particularly useful for any out of class writing assignments. At first I thought it was due to the fact that the semester projects were quite a bit longer and subject-specific, but the same was true for shorter papers as well.

 

Ds and I had a conversation this weekend about how MLA citations blend into the text more smoothly than those used in other fields. We also talked about how Internet research had changed the research process. (In my college days it was the sole province of faculty in depts. with deep pockets.) He casually mentioned how to narrow the search process in order to avoid getting a list of what he calls "essay mills" instead of scholarly papers.

 

I couldn't resist having a look. Many of those sites sell essays written off specific templates. I suspect that one reason the out-of-class assignments appear to be blended versions of different essay types is intentional and is done to thwart plagiarism.

 

We used both Classical Writing and Lost Tools of Writing, and that has helped ds better understand how to do out of class assignments. Some of his classmates who learned to write from specific templates w/o understanding some of the theory are having trouble.

 

Martha

 

What they do in the local community college to thwart plagerism is to require that papers be handed in on a disc. They then run it through software which searches the internet for matches.

 

They are incredibly picky about plagerism these days. Even unintentional plagerism (simply forgetting to cite one thing) will get you an F on a paper.

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We used both Classical Writing and Lost Tools of Writing, and that has helped ds better understand how to do out of class assignments. Some of his classmates who learned to write from specific templates w/o understanding some of the theory are having trouble.

 

Martha

 

Slight thread hijack... I'm always looking for a reason to buy LTOW. Do you have time to elaborate on how this helps with "theory"?

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Jenn in CA wrote: Slight thread hijack... I'm always looking for a reason to buy LTOW. Do you have time to elaborate on how this helps with "theory"?

 

I was thinking mostly about the Q&A process that's referred to as the "Didactic Mode" in LTOW. That's especially true of the invention/discovery modules. There is an "advanced" worksheet which looks at Aristotle's four causes and two appendices containing topics listed by Aristotle and Cicero. The modules on definition and comparison make up at least 8 modules so that you get quite a bit of detail. The modules on Authority help students begin to understand some of the basics of choosing, evaluating, and citing sources. So, while he has not yet been asked to write a specifically persuasive or compare/contrast essay this semester, he has used all of the invention modules to one extent or another.

 

Some of you are well aware that I'm an enthusiastic fan of Classical Writing. My son is still using a lot of what he learned from completing Aesop through Diogenes Maxim and Poetry for Beginners, especially the close reading, summary & paraphrasing skills, that six-sentence shuffle, and precis writing skills. His English instructor this semester appreciates a good essay title, and being able to write a precis helps with that.

 

At the point ds began to run ahead of the CW publishing schedule I looked at LTOW specifically because of their invention modules since that's the part of writing which tends to give ds the most trouble. I wasn't eager to change at the time, but now I'm glad we had an opportunity to try LTOW. The approaches are different, but IME the two work together beautifully.

 

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Holly,

 

I love your post. Your comparison of writing as a mountain is a great picture. To tell you the truth, teaching writing in a co-op scares me. It's just so much work. It's hard enough with my own kids. And I don't have to justify my goals, curriculum, grading, etc. But I've seen my kids grow by leaps and bounds when witing with a group. Thanks for stirring up my thoughts on this. Back to read this thread when I have some time later today.

 

Lisa

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What they do in the local community college to thwart plagerism is to require that papers be handed in on a disc. They then run it through software which searches the internet for matches.

 

Yikes! Ds' English instructor assigns in-class exercises, compares the writing to student essays, and tells the students that she will notice if the writing style differs widely between the two. She also reads first drafts and can spot lack of time spent on refining the finished product!;)

 

I don't know if the whole class thinks this way, but ds is convinced that she would spot plagiarism right away. He'd never plagiarize intentionally, but has such a healthy fear of an unintentional gaffe that he double-checks his papers voluntarily.

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Thank you for sharing this. This is good to know. Just this weekend I was looking for resources on writing research papers. We are using Write Shop I this year, but I would like for my son to do one good research paper this year using a variety of sources, following a structural outline, and including a bibliography. Any recommendations for teaching resources along these lines would be very much appreciated. I found only one book at the library on writing research papers, but I am interested to know what others have found useful.

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