Entries from March 2013 ↓

The heart of Easter: 4 meaningful writing prompts

Easter Writing Prompts, Easter Journal Prompts

THIS WEEK, we hope you and your students will take time to reflect on the true meaning and joy of the season. Have a blessed Easter!

1. The First Easter

Imagine you have traveled back in time to the day Jesus rose from the grave. Describe what you might observe, experience, and feel. You may use your Bible to help you remember parts of the Easter story.

2. A New Commandment

In His life and death, Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Write about three ways you could show love to someone who hurts you or treats you wrongly.

3. Winter is Past

Signs of new life are everywhere in springtime! Describe something in nature that reminds you of Christ’s resurrection. A butterfly emerging from a cocoon, new leaves unfolding on a tree, and animals coming out of hibernation are possible ideas.

4. It’s a Miracle

Miracles and stories of hope are all around us. Do you remember Easter Sunday in 2009, when a ship captain was rescued from pirates who had held him hostage? Write about a miracle you hope to see this Easter, or a miracle your family has experienced in the past.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo: Jim & Rachel McArthur, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Help your child get published in a magazine

Children's Magazine, kids publishing

DO YOU have a child who loves to write? Encourage your creative son or daughter to learn more about the real-world publishing process. Submitting original work to an editor just might be the perfect spring project!

The magazines below—most listed in the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market guide—make a great place to get started.

Stone Soup 

Bimonthly magazine

  • Website: StoneSoup.com
  • Who they publish: Children ages 8-13
  • What they’re looking for: “Writing and art based on real-life experiences. We have a strong preference for writing on subjects that mean a lot to the author. Stories should have good descriptions, realistic dialogue, and a point to make.” Free verse poetry accepted.
  • Submission Guidelines

New Moon 

Bi-monthly magazine for girls ages 8-14, edited by girls aged 8-14

  • Website: NewMoon.com
  • Who they publish: Girls and women
  • What they’re looking for: Girl-centered fiction, and non-fiction stories about “real girls doing real things written by girls. These can be about anything the girl has done personally, or she can write about something she’s studied.”
  • Submission Guidelines

Amazing Kids! Magazine

Kid-created, award-winning monthly online magazine

  • Website: Mag.Amazing-Kids.org
  • Who they publish: Children ages 5-18
  • What they’re looking for: Kid-friendly, age-appropriate original creative works done by kids and teens, including recipes, travel stories, science and technology, poetry, art, photography, and videos.
  • Submission Guidelines

Skipping Stones

Bi-monthly award-winning, nonprofit magazine designed to promote cooperation, creativity and celebration of cultural and ecological richness

  • Website: SkippingStones.org
  • Who they publish: “We encourage submissions by children of color, minorities, and under-represented populations.” Poetry accepted from youth under age 18 only.
  • What they’re looking for: Contemporary, meaningful, or humorous fiction for middle readers or young adults. Non-fiction with multicultural, nature, or cross-cultural themes. Wants “material that gives insight to cultural celebrations, lifestyle, customs and traditions, glimpse of daily life in other countries and cultures.”
  • Submission Guidelines
Copyright 2013 © by Kim Kautzer


WriteShop’s 2013 homeschool conference schedule

WriteShop 2013 homeschool convention and conference schedule

WRITESHOP will be exhibiting at a number of homeschool conventions around the country this spring and summer. Will you be attending any of these events? If you’ll be there in person, please stop by our booth in the exhibit hall and say hello!

April 5-6
MPE – MidWest Parent Educators Conference
Kansas City, MO

April 25-27
SHEM – Southwest Home Education Ministry
Springfield, MO
Workshop: Inspiring Successful Writers

April 25-27
Worcester, MA
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker:
* Inspiring Successful Writers, Part 1 (K-6)
* Inspiring Successful Writers, Part 2 (7-12)
* Effective Tips for Teaching Timed Essays
* Growing Your Child’s Writing Vocabulary
* Writing Strategies for Special Needs Kids

May 2-4
Teach Them Diligently
Spartanburg, SC
Workshops: Building Dynamic Essays in Middle and High School, Secrets to Making Writing Fun!

May 10-11
Home School Book Fair
Arlington, TX

May 16-18
Teach Them Diligently
Nashville, TN
Workshops: Building Dynamic Essays in Middle and High School, Secrets to Making Writing Fun!

May 23-25
NCHE – North Carolinians for Home Education
Winston-Salem, NC

May 30-June 1
Teach Them Diligently
Omaha, NE
Workshops: Writing Games, Tips and Ideas to Motivate Young Writers

June 14-15
WHO – Washington Homeschool Organization
Puyallup, WA
Workshop: Inspiring Successful Writers

June 14-15
AFHE – Arizona Families for Home Education
Phoenix, AZ
Workshop: Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing

June 29
TEACH AV – Antelope Valley
Lancaster, CA
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker.
* Inspiring Successful Writers, Part 1 (K-6)
* Inspiring Successful Writers, Part 2 (7-12)

July 16-17
H.I.N.T.S. Book Fair
Charlotte, NC
Workshops: Building Dynamic Essays in Middle and High School, Secrets to Making Writing Fun!

Fresh spring writing prompts your kids will love

writing prompts, journal prompts, flowers, rain, picnics

TODAY IS the first day of spring … and it’s the perfect time for children to fill their writing notebooks with the sights, smells, and sounds of the season!

1. If I Were a Daisy…

Choose any flower to describe yourself. Which did you choose and why?

2. Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Write about three things you could do on a rainy day.

3. A Bug’s Life

Imagine that your family has planned a picnic in the park. Describe this picnic from an insect’s point of view.

4. Hope Is the Thing with Feathers

It’s time to put your storytelling skills to work! Write a story using at least three of the following words: hen, egg, chick, airplane, goggles, parachute, hang glider, seeds.

5. Begin Again

Spring is a time of new beginnings. What advice would you give to a friend who has made mistakes in the past but wants to start fresh in life?

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Review & Giveaway: Little Pilgrim’s Progress

Little Pilgrim's Progress Adventure Guide - Moody Press

I started reading the book Little Pilgrim’s Progress when I was a lot younger. In fact, you could say it was far back enough that my parents had to read it to me! Honestly, it was one of my favorite books of all time. For a reason unknown, eventually the paperback volume was left on a shelf, unfinished. It wasn’t until many years later that I finally picked it out, dusted it off, and started again from scratch.

Little Pilgrim’s Progress is a beautifully written book, and although the theme could steer some away, it has everything you’d want in today’s fiction or fantasy. Being one of the most compelling and imaginative books I’ve read, the pages are full of morals and fantastic hidden meanings. It’s filled with unreal scenarios and wonderful characters, although the main aspect of Christianity is just so perfectly placed. It’s easily one of the novels that you can get completely lost in.

But that’s enough about the feel; it’s time to get straight to the book itself!

Little Pilgrim's Progress Adventure Guide

The book centers on a young boy named little Christian, living in the faraway town of Destruction. He has lived there all his life, never leaving, never drifting away. He has always heard the loveliest stories about the world outside Destruction, how there are beautiful kingdoms ruled by a King who loves the children of the world.

After hearing enough stories, little Christian embarks on his own journey, seeking the promised land of the Celestial City. His quest brings him down many paths, both pleasant or treacherous, and he meets many people—friends and enemies alike.

Sixty years after John Bunyan’s classic was first published comes the new Anniversary Edition from Moody Press. It is complete with lovely illustrations, along with a redefined Adventure Guide by Deanna Conrad.

Combined with the book, this extra booklet can really help the younger audience understand Little Pilgrim’s Progress, pointing out unseen implications and simply adding some fun to the process. Nonetheless, whether young or old, pilgrims of all sizes are sure to enjoy Helen Taylor’s novel from cover to cover.

~Jessica Stilwell

From a Mom’s Point of View

I just love the Little Pilgrim’s Progress Adventure Guide that accompanies the book! The Guide is divided into six “sessions,” each containing:

  • Vocabulary list to complete
  • In-depth questions about the story
  • Short chart to fill in allegorical concepts
  • Questions about the setting
  • Biblical application
  • Character chart with character matching (matching a description to a character)

This little Guide is so packed with information, it could easily be used as a language arts program over six weeks. For the younger child,  a lot of parent interaction will be needed as some of the terminology will probably be over their heads. I do think most older elementary students, as well as middle schoolers, would enjoy the process of going through the book and Guide on their own.

Little Pilgrim’s Progress would be a wonderful book club pick for children! For a church group, it would make a great small group or Bible study.

~Kelly Stilwell

Jessica Stilwell is a 13-year-old who loves art and gaming. She attends a virtual school for most of her classes. Her favorite class is media/animation. Jessica plans to be a video game designer.

Kelly Stilwell (Jessica’s mom) is a stay-at-home mom of teens blogging about family life in the fast lane at Virtually Yours. Kelly writes about food, travel, education, and hosts a lot of giveaways! You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter too.


We are happy to be giving away both the Little Pilgrim’s Progress book and Adventure Guide!

Enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter widget below.

  • See my complete giveaway rules
  • No purchase necessary.
  • All giveaways are void where prohibited.
  • Open to all age 18 and older.
  • Winners are chosen randomly by Rafflecopter.
  • Unless otherwise stated, winners have 72 hours from the close of the giveaway to claim their prize. If the prize is not claimed within 72 hours, an alternate winner will be selected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What’s your viewpoint? 5 writing prompts for opinion essays

Motivate high school students to write by allowing them to express their viewpoints on hot topics using these writing prompts for opinion essays!

Motivate your high school students to write by allowing them to express their own opinions! These writing prompts for opinion essays will give them five hot topics to get their wheels turning.

1. Not So Fast

Nothing can ruin a vacation as quickly as a speeding ticket on a wide-open highway. Do you think speed limits are a good idea, or do they hurt more people than they help?

2. A Book by Its Cover

Everywhere you look, false advertising is rampant. Misleading words and images sell political candidates, beauty products, convenience foods, tobacco, and alcohol. Do you think we should allow (or require) the government to regulate advertising media? Or, does false advertising simply come down to freedom of speech?

3. Lights, Camera, Distraction!

Safety, communication, developing interpersonal skills—all are issues to consider when deciding whether children should use cell phones and social media. What’s your opinion?

4. Reduce, Reuse, or Recycle?

Every human being is a steward of Earth’s resources. Do you believe that society should encourage more recycling? Or, should we learn to use less stuff in the first place?

5. The Golden Egg

What is the most important key to success? How much do staying in school, learning a foreign language, and earning a college degree factor into your idea of success? Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays! Once a month, we try to feature writing prompts especially for high school students.

Photo: David Lofink, courtesy of Creative Commons

How to use direct quotes in essays

Are your high schoolers ready for college-level writing? Make sure they know how to use direct quotes in essays and research reports.

Are your high schoolers ready for college-level writing?

One test is whether they know how to use direct quotes in essays and term papers. I’m not talking about tossing one or two overused, ancient proverbs or a boring dictionary definition in the intro paragraph. I’m talking about the big “R” – research!

What’s So Important?

As elementary children, we learn to write summaries. We absorb information and spill it back on paper in our own words. In high school, we meet new expectations. Now we must study source texts and create our own unique opinion (a thesis statement). Every point in a thesis statement must be defended by evidence.

Consider a headline news article. A journalist may make strong assertions, such as:

The police department will take drastic measures to prevent future incidents.

We are much more likely to believe this statement if it is followed by a quote from someone with authority:

Police chief Jason Roberts says, “I will not allow anyone in my department to wear their uniform off duty until further notice.”

Now the writer has offered evidence.

High school and college essays require evidence. If your daughter is writing about Jane Austen’s heroine Elizabeth Bennet, she must include words from the author’s (or the character’s) own mouth. If your son is writing about Northern attitudes toward slavery during the Civil War, he should avoid generalizations by including quotes from different people of that era.

Comma or Colon?

The following sentences are punctuated correctly. Can your student guess why?

  • Elizabeth calmly replies, “Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing.”
  • “Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing,” Elizabeth replies.
  • Elizabeth Bennet holds her tongue about her awkward suitor: “Mr. Collins might never make the offer, and, till he did, it was useless to quarrel about him.”
  • Elizabeth wisely understands that her cousin “might never make the offer, and, till he did, it was useless to quarrel about him.”

In the first two examples, the quotation is set off by a comma. Grammar rules tell us to always use a comma after a verb such as said, asked, or replied when it appears just before a quote.

In the third example, the sentence would convey a complete thought even without the quotation. Rule of thumb: never use a colon unless there are at least seven words before the quotation.

In the fourth example, the quote needs no commas or colons to set it off because of the little word that. When you use that, you can start the quotation mid-sentence, without ellipses or a capital letter.

A Note about Tense

The Block Quote

A block quotation is set apart with a special indent and no quotation marks. Use the block-quotation format to quote several consecutive sentences – or one especially long and complex sentence. Rule of thumb: use a block quote when the quotation is five lines or longer.

In the blogosphere, block quotes often appear in political or religious commentaries. In high school English essays, block quotes are effectively used to write about drama and poetry. Block quotes are like dessert; they should be used carefully. Too many can give the impression that a writer is lazy, trying to fill the page with words that are not his own.

Consider this block quotation from Robert Frost’s poem “Birches”:

It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.

Block Quote or Quotation Marks?

If ellipses were used to shorten the above sentence, it would work nicely with quotation marks: “It’s when I’m weary of considerations, / And life is too much like a pathless wood / Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs / Broken across it….”

Give Credit Where Credit’s Due

Plagiarism is a growing concern in colleges and universities across the nation. Prepare your high school student by teaching him to be above-board as a writer. If he uses someone else’s idea, he must quote their words or mention their name to avoid plagiarizing. If he references someone else’s book, article, or webpage, he must include that source in a “Bibliography” or “Works Cited” page.

Every teacher and professor may have slightly different guidelines, but MLA citation format is a good place to start. A good reference can be found here: MLA Citation Examples.

With thoughtful research, well-chosen quotations and careful citations, your student’s writing will be ready for the college campus… and beyond.

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.

Photo: Elliott Brown courtesy of Creative Commons

Printable writing prompt for March

We’re doing something new on the blog: Writing Prompt Wednesday! Every Wednesday, you’ll find a post sharing different journaling topics, prompts, and challenges to help get your students writing. On the first Wednesday of every month, we’ll have a special printable prompt you can download for free.

Writing Prompt Wednesday

This month’s printable prompt is based on our StoryBuilders series. Have your student choose an item from each box and create a story. It can be serious or fun-filled and whimsical! Please share how you used the printable in the comments below or on our Facebook page. We’d love to see your children’s creativity in action!

March Printable Writing Prompt:WriteShop

Click the image above to download the prompt. If you would like to share this prompt with others, link to this post. Do not link directly to the PDF file. Feel free to print this PDF file for your own personal use. Please do not sell or host these files anywhere else.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

5 fabulous ways to close letters and emails

old-fashioned letter closings

MORE THAN once, I’ve experienced writer’s block at the end of an email. Yes, I have a few fall-back phrases (Love, Hugs, or See you soon) for notes to the family and close friends, but other email recipients leave me stumped.

How should I close a letter to a magazine editor, a volunteer coordinator, or the church secretary?  Sometimes, the old stand-by (Sincerely) simply falls too stale and flat.

If you’ve ever shared this dilemma, fear not! Famous writers, entertainers, and politicians offer us a wealth of ideas in their published letters. I present to you (tongue-in-cheek, of course) these nifty phrases in five fabulous categories!

1. Rename Yourself

Ask yourself, “Who am I in relation to the reader?” If you’re an adoring fan or a steadfast subscriber, don’t be shy—say so! To get your wheels turning, ponder these samples:

  • Your Affectionate Aunt, (Jane Austen)
  • Yours truly, (George Bernard Shaw)
  • Yours ever, (Margaret Thatcher)
  • I trust you will find this reply satisfactory, and remain yours faithfully, (J. R. R. Tolkien)
  • I am your fellow man, but not your slave, (Frederick Douglass)

2. The Present Participle

What could leave a better final impression than an active –ing verb? In the following examples, the writer included either a copy of his book or a synopsis of his story (a nail-biting experience for any author!).

If hitting “send” leaves you in agonizing suspense too, consider something like this:

  • Hoping that you may like it believe me / Very truly yours, (Sir Henry Rider Haggard)
  • Waiting to know your judgment, I am, / Yours very truly and devoted, (Roberto Rossellini)
  • And my own variation: Wondering when you’ll write again, (Daniella Dautrich)

3. Prepositional Phrase

The sign-off options are virtually endless when you choose the prepositional phrase. Are you “in a great hurry” or “on top of the world”? Perhaps you’re feeling “beyond grateful” or “down with the flu.” You might even try one of these on for size:

  • With the greatest esteem and respect, I am, dear Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant, (Benjamin Franklin)
  • With friendly thanks and best wishes, / Yours, (Albert Einstein)
  • With kindest regards, I remain, / Sincerely yours, (Fred Astaire)

4. All about Adverbs

At last, we have discovered the perfect solution to writer’s block: ask your child to make a list of –ly adverbs. Choose one and insert into your letter. Voilà!

These famous figures found a variety of adverbial solutions to letter closings:

  • Affectionately your brother, (Abraham Lincoln)
  • Respectfully yours, (Jackie Robinson)
  • Truly Yours, (Edgar Allan Poe)
  • Cordially, (Philip K. Dick)
  • Always your friend, (Ernest Hemingway)
  • And, my personal favorite: Scientifically yours, (Dr. Bunsen Honeydew PhD Esq.)

5. Short and Sweet

These final selections are tried and true. Note the second-to-last for letters filled with mirth and goodwill, and the last for letters full of annoyance.

  • Cheers, (Kurt Vonnegut)
  • Regards, (Owen Chamberlain)
  • Adieu, adieu, adieu! (Mark Twain)
  • All the best, (Dr. Seuss)
  • All best otherwise, (Harlan Ellison)

I hope you enjoyed learning about different—and often over-the-top—ways notable figures have signed their letters. If you’re on the hunt for more practical, modern-day letter closings, Chloë Ernst offers many creative suggestions for “proper goodbyes.”

What is your favorite way to sign off?

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.

 Photo of Thomas Eakins [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
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