Entries from June 2013 ↓

Patriotic 4th of July Journal Prompts

Independence Day journal topics, patriotic writing prompts, 4th of July journal prompts

OH, say, can you write about Independence Day? Inspire family members young and old to ponder America’s founding with these 4th of July journal prompts.

1. Our Lives, Our Fortunes, & Our Sacred Honor

For more than a century, American colonists governed themselves according to conscience. Finally, in July 1776, fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. Yet, they knew that freedom with self-government could cost their earthly fortunes and even their very lives. Write about a time when you were self-governed and followed your conscience, even though no one else told you the right thing to do.

2. The War for Independence: Eight Long Years

On December 19, 1777, George Washington and his Continental Army arrived at their winter camp site in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The discouraged army now faced a hard winter filled with disease and hunger. Imagine you are a patriot soldier at Valley Forge, with no shoes or blanket to call your own. Write about three reasons you will stay with General Washington instead of deserting the army.

3. No Tyrants Allowed

In 1787, the Framers of the Constitution of the United States instituted a wise system of government: Three branches of government–executive, legislative, and judicial–would ensure that powers remained divided, with a pattern of checks and balances. Compare and contrast a government of divided powers with a government of one absolute ruler.

4. Calling All Architects!

In 1792, Thomas Jefferson announced a design contest for the United States Capitol building. What would your entry have looked like? Draw your most impressive design for a Capitol building, and write a paragraph explaining the style and materials you have chosen.

5. You’re a Grand Old Flag

It’s 1837 and you live on a sprawling farm in the new state of Michigan. Write a letter to a friend and share your excitement over the new U.S. flag with a 26th star for Michigan. The flag will be official on July 4, 1837!

6. E Pluribus Unum

In 1873, an Act of Congress required the Latin phrase “E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One) to appear on all U.S. coins. Only eight years had passed since a devastating Civil War had ended with our nation still united as one. Today, as then, Americans have many differences but much in common. Write about two of these differences, and two things we all share.

7. Wings Like Eagles

The bald eagle has long been an emblem of the United States of America. The eagle can remind us of Isaiah 40:31, which says:

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Do you believe that nations and people who fear God and His laws will have new strength? Why or why not?

Hope you enjoy these 4th of July journal prompts. Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo: Drew Myers, courtesy of Creative Commons.

TEACH AV Homeschool Convention

TeachAV logo

TEACH AV Homeschool Convention 2013 is a BRAND-NEW, one-day event taking place Saturday, June 29th in Lancaster, CA.

The conference will be held at Westside Christian Fellowship. Visit the TEACH AV convention page for information, speaker info, and workshop schedule.

Visit the vendor booth

As you begin looking toward the next school year, it’s also the perfect time to stop by the WriteShop booth to ask questions, see what’s new, or browse through WriteShop books in person.

At the convention you can:

  • See our full line of WriteShop products
  • Purchase the newest WriteShop Primary books.
  • Thumb through the exciting new WriteShop Junior materials.
  • Learn how you can teach a WriteShop co-op class in your area.
  • Receive much-needed encouragement about teaching writing.

Attend Kim Kautzer’s workshops

Kim will be presenting two workshops at the TEACH AV convention.

Saturday, June 29th 

10: 25-11:25 a.m. Inspiring Successful Writers (K-6)

Your kindergartener loves to tell stories but can hardly hold a pencil. Your 9-year-old is producing a novel. And the blank page reduces your 11-year-old to tears. What’s a parent to do? Kim will encourage and equip you to teach each of your children, whether reluctant or advanced, by breaking the writing process into manageable steps. Above all, discover how to infuse teaching time with fun so that your children will find joy in writing.

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Inspiring Successful Writers Part 2 (7-12)

Parents agree—inspiring kids to write well is one of the most intimidating tasks you face. Even if it’s your weakest area, you’ll be relieved to learn that you CAN train your junior high and high schoolers to write. So come discover a fresh approach to teaching composition skills and elements of style. Learn to objectively edit and evaluate writing so you can encourage your struggling, reluctant learner while challenging the one who’s more articulate and motivated.

Visit the TEACH AV website for more information. Will you be there?


7 reasons I love short sentences

7 Reasons I Love Short Sentences - a tongue-in-cheek look at the value of short sentences in writing

Daniella Dautrich joins us today with a tongue-in-cheek look at short sentences.

I HAVE a problem. You see, I find short sentences irksome. Five to seven words are never enough! Perhaps you can relate. Perhaps you too adore long sentences. Long sentences beguile us with unending possibilities. They tantalize us writers. You can be the next Faulkner. You can be the next James Joyce. You can be a Charles Dickens!

Yet, I do notice a trend. When words flow ceaselessly, readers grow weary. Is it possible I have been deceived? Was I close-minded, stubborn, prejudiced? It’s not too late for me. I can open my heart to change. Monday, June 24th is a new day . . .

So today, I am making a statement. Proudly, boldly, I am taking my stand. I shall defend the short sentence. Truly, it transcends subject-verb construction limits. Oh! It reaches beyond the scope of interjections. Short sentences are, in short, wonders untold.

Seven Reasons to Love Short Sentences

1. They break up long strings of text.

Paragraphs will pop.

2. They omit needless words.

Thank you, Strunk & White!

3. Your Facebook friends will love you.

Who reads posts with run-on sentences?

4. Your Twitter followers will understand you.

Abbreviations and hashtags could never compare.

5. Your emails will receive replies.

He who finds your question answers it.

6. Your children will learn from your example.

None will taunt them, “What’s your point?”

7. Your legacy of brevity will forever shine.

All will admire your acuteness and wit.

Are you out there, reading and agreeing? Let me know (leave a comment below). Please, show your support for short sentences. Together, we can make a point. Five to seven words are always enough.

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.

This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy.

Photo: tanakawho, courtesy of Creative Commons.


High school cause and effect essay prompts

cause and effect essay topics, high school writing prompts

WHEN high school students are confronted with information or current events, they should be able to independently analyze the data or situations. These cause and effect essay prompts will help your teen draw conclusions about underlying causes and intended (or unintended) effects. A family discussion may help your high schooler brainstorm and organize ideas before he starts writing.

1. He Who Fights with Monsters

Violent video games and toys are pervasive in our society. Could this be caused by malicious, money-hungry marketers, or is it simply a reflection of human nature? Do toy guns and first person shooter games lead to more crimes, or do they actually prepare young people for better self-defense?

2. Daddy’s Home

Sadly, it has become ever more common to see broken homes and absent fathers. What do you think has caused this breakdown of marriage, and what are the effects on children who grow up without a male role model in the home?

3. Give Me Liberty

Gun control is a divisive topic. From your experience or research, why are guns withheld from law-abiding citizens? What happens to freedom when a citizen can no longer own and carry a weapon? What happens to crime rates?

4. Some Things Money Can’t Buy

In our nation, personal debt has skyrocketed over the last century. What has caused the massive growth of school loans, credit card debt, and thirty-year mortgages? What is the effect on an individual, family, or country when debt is entered into so freely?

5. Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

Have you heard that boys statistically get more attention than girls in a classroom? What do you think has caused the integration of young men and young women in educational settings, from high schools to youth groups to summer camps? What are some of the positive effects of this social policy, and what have been some of the negative or unintended effects?

If you enjoyed these cause and effect essay topics, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays! Once a month, we feature topics especially suited for high schoolers.

Photo: Alexandra Tengco, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Let’s write family stories!

 writing family stories, writing your family history

SUMMER IS a time of family get-togethers. After graduations and Father’s Day, we look forward to barbecues, beach days, and birthday parties. From camping trips with the cousins to week-long visits with grandparents, your kids will find plenty of opportunities to ask relatives about their childhoods and life experiences. Now is the perfect time to start writing family stories down!

Most kids don’t have the desire (or stamina!) to compile a thick notebook of family history. Instead, try these three strategies to gather a few gold nuggets of Grandma’s storytelling—without overtiring your young writers!

Questions and Answers

Before a family gathering, ask your child to write down five to ten questions for an uncle, aunt, or grandparent. Tote this list to the gathering on a clipboard or in a notebook so your child can easily record the family member’s answers in person.

For added fun, make it a group activity!

  • Pair off participants, assigning one older family member to a younger one.
  • Supply younger members with a list of questions and let the interviews begin!

Questions can be silly or serious, long or short. When writing family stories, the most important thing is to write down a relative’s thoughts and memories now, before time and distance present too many challenges.

Questions could include:

  • Where were you born?
  • What did you do for fun as a child?
  • When did you get your first car?
  • Can you describe your favorite jobs over the years?
  • How did you meet your husband or wife?

These childhood memories writing prompts will give you even more ideas.

Ready, Set, Record

If your family is fortunate enough to enjoy an extended visit with an older relative this summer, don’t lose this golden opportunity! Using any digital recorder (perhaps your phone or iPod), record their voice as they reminisce about the “good old days.” Later, ask your child to transcribe (listen to and write down) one or two paragraphs from the recording. This is an excellent way for your child to learn about inserting punctuation and deleting “filler” words such as um, uh, and hmm.

If your interviewee runs short of things to talk about, try prompting them with questions like these:

  • How was the world different when you were a child / young adult / college student?
  • What was it like growing up on the farm / in Italy / in a house with eight siblings?
  • Are there things in your life that you wish you’ d done differently?

Tell Me a Story

Have you ever told your children a story about your early life? Has anyone ever written this story down? Stories are a powerful way to link generations, understand world history, and pass down moral truths. This summer, make time to tell your child a story, and ask her to write it down. She doesn’t need to write more than a paragraph; just make sure it includes a beginning, middle, and end.

Kids want to hear all kinds of stories from Mom and Dad:

  • Tell me about your first trip on an airplane / bus / train.
  • Were you ever punished for something you did wrong? Were you ever punished for something you didn’t do?
  • Tell me about the first time you were home alone / spent a night away from home.
  • Why do you believe in God?

I hope you and your family enjoy drawing closer through stories this summer. Remind your children that writing family stories can keep the voices of loved ones alive . . . for years and years and years to come.

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: Diane Gregg, courtesy of Creative Commons.

7 Father’s Day journal prompts

Father's Day, journal prompts, writing prompts

Whether writing the inside of a card for Dad, or journaling about the special man in their life, your kids are sure to find inspiration with these Father’s Day journal prompts. From our family to yours, happy Father’s Day!

1. Remember When?

What is your earliest memory of your dad? Use your five senses to describe the people and items in the scene.

2. Ask Dad

What was the best piece of advice your father ever gave you? Write about the effect his words and example have had on your life.

3. Perfect Fit

Choose one item to describe your dad. Is it a saxophone? Mechanical pencil? Bicycle? Hammer? Camp stove? Write about why you chose this item to represent him.

4. Shh! It’s a Surprise!

If you could plan a surprise vacation for Dad, what would it be like? Who would go on this trip, and where would they go? Describe the kind of hotel (or tent) your dad would stay in and the activities he would do.

5. Way, Way Back, Many Centuries Ago…

Do you have a photo of your dad when he was  your age? Describe his appearance in the photo, including his clothing styles and facial expression. Explain the action he was doing when someone clicked the camera.

6. Any Dream Will Do

What is your father’s vision for his family? What are his goals for his marriage and his dreams for his children? If you’re not sure, sit down and ask him. Write down his answers and ways your family can work together to make these dreams a reality.

7. Thank You

Write about why you are grateful to have a father in your life. Include at least three reasons you’re thankful for him!

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

Photo: Chris Parfitt, courtesy of Creative Commons.

WHO & AFHE Homeschool Conventions

WriteShop will be exhibiting at two homeschool conventions this week. We hope to meet many of you there! June 14-15 will find us at the Washington Homeschool Convention (WHO) in Puyallup, WA,  and Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) in Phoenix, AZ.

WriteShop at Homeschool Conventions

Washington Homeschool Convention (WHO) – June 14-15

WriteShop author Debbie Oldar will be answering your writing questions and manning the booth at the WHO conference in Puyallup, WA.  In addition, she’ll be presenting a workshop called Inspiring Successful Writers.

Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) – June 14-15

Speaker and author Kim Kautzer will be greeting you at the WriteShop booth in Arizona. If you have a reluctant writer, join her at her workshop, Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing, for encouragement and ideas.

At BOTH homeschool conventions you can:

WriteShop Writing Curriculum

  • See our full line of WriteShop products
  • Purchase WriteShop materials.
  • Learn how you can teach a WriteShop co-op class in your area.
  • Receive much-needed encouragement about teaching writing.

Whichever homeschool conventions you attend, it’s a great time to stop by our booth to ask questions. Come see what’s new or browse through WriteShop books in person. Visit the convention sites for workshop schedules, exhibit hall hours, and directions to the conferences. We look forward to seeing you there!

Summer writing activities to keep skills sharp

Summer Writing Activities, birthday cards, pen-pal letters

If you don’t school year-round, what sorts of summer writing activities will you do to keep your kids’ skills sharp? This time of year, many moms are wondering just that.

For one, you don’t want to plan too much formal writing. After all, summer vacation should feel like a break. But you don’t want to throw writing to the wind, either; that could doom you and your children to repeating last year’s lessons in September!

You can try some fun incentives from the blog archives to keep kids writing, like getting published in a magazine or winning prizes from a contest. Or if your family wants to write time capsule letters, summer is a great time to start hiding those buried treasures!

But today, let’s look at some fresh summer writing activities to motivate and inspire your children and hone their writing skills at the same time.

Design Birthday Cards

Will your children be invited to birthday parties this summer? Plan ahead and gather supplies so they can write and decorate homemade birthday cards.

Younger children need little more than construction paper, markers, and your encouragement to write a sentence or two. Older children who prefer pens and cardstock can be challenged to write a paragraph about why the birthday kid is such a special friend. Or, help them use their imagination to write about “My Birthday Wish for You.”

Write a Play

When I think of childhood summers, I remember long play dates that never seemed to end. These all-day get-togethers were the perfect opportunity for creative activities.

One year, when two sisters came to visit, I decided to write a silly play—and what fun we had! A short play can be a non-threatening writing activity, because the pieces of dialogue are usually just one or two sentences. If you have three children, they might enjoy working together.

Have each child choose a character name (“King,” “Court Jester,” “Royal Pet Parrot”), and let someone decide on a corresponding story line. Then, they can take turns writing the lines for their characters. Younger children may prefer to dictate to you or an older child. When the script is finished, make copies for each child and let the play-acting begin!

Mail Pen-Pal Letters

My younger brother and I both experienced the fun of sending and receiving pen-pal letters. I spent hours in our shady backyard, writing to my heart’s content on colorful Lisa Frank stationary. I don’t think my brother enjoyed writing for its own sake, but the hope of getting his very own mail spurred him to keep sending letters. Neither of us realized that out-of-state pen-pal friends were helping us sharpen our language skills. We were just having fun, and isn’t that what summer is all about?

You have more contacts and acquaintances than your children do, so don’t be afraid to suggest a pen-pal.

  • Remember the bridesmaid who moved cross-country? She might have kids just the right age!
  • Do you have a blogging friend or Facebook pal who lives in another state or country? Maybe her children would enjoy exchanging letters with yours.
  • If someone in your family sponsors an international child through World Vision or Compassion International, perhaps one of your children can start writing to that faraway boy or girl.

A Note about Email

Every family has a different policy on email privileges. I personally did not have a web account until I was fifteen years old, and by then my habit of letter writing was firmly established. If you do allow your children to use email, I suggest you set writing guidelines and read their correspondence from time to time. One-line, “texting style” messages will not sharpen your child’s writing skills. One- to two-paragraph “letter style” emails will!

In Love with Literature

Reading from the classics is one of the best ways to develop strong vocabularies. It’s not enough to constantly nag your twelve-year-old, “Stop saying like.” Inevitably, she will keep mimicking the girls in youth group until she finds a better role model (Jane Austen marathon, anyone?).

My family loved read-aloud time, and the summer I was eight years old was no exception. My cousin spent her vacation with us, and my mom had planned a surprise. Each of us girls received a bright spiral notebook with our name on the cover. Every afternoon, Mom would read aloud from Marguerite Henry’s Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin. The next morning, we opened our notebooks and wrote a paragraph summarizing the chapter from the day before. Sometimes, we were told to illustrate our summaries with the aid of freshly sharpened colored pencils.

Wait, you might be thinking. This sounds like summer school! Perhaps so, but it didn’t require much time, effort, or planning. It gave us a reason to stick with a schedule of reading aloud. It also gave two energetic little girls something to do in the morning while Mom enjoyed quiet time or started on the day’s chores.

The Right Focus

No matter what activities you plan this summer, remember that you set the tone for attitudes about writing. If your kids only hear you talk about reading and writing as “schoolwork,” they will learn to see these activities as burdens and chores. If, on the other hand, a love of words is built into your way of life, your children will be comfortable with books, pens, and paper for the rest of their lives.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to play some word games, and let the summer begin!

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: Alan Sung, courtesy of Creative Commons.


Printable Writing Prompt for June

Slip in some summer writing by having your children create an acrostic poem! Each line can be one word, a phrase, or a sentence. See how creative you can be! Afterwards, illustrate your acrostics or decorate the page with photos cut from a magazine.

Summer Writing Prompt

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.

Here’s a link to May’s printable writing prompt, and be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Summer writing contests for kids

summer writing contests, writing contests for kids

THEY’VE MASTERED new grammar concepts and sharpened their editing skills. They’ve learned brainstorming and outlining tricks of the trade. Since last September, your kids have become more confident writers. Motivate them to keep learning through writing contests for kids!

Although some of these contest deadlines are much later in the year, your kids might prefer writing during the long days of summer vacation.

If you’re looking for more writing contests, check your local library. Libraries such as those in Phoenicia, New York or Berkshire County, Massachusetts offer exciting prizes for young writers of many ages!

Writing Competitions 2013

No cash prizes, but winners will receive a detailed, five-page writing assessment

  • Website:  writingclassesforkids.com
  • Who is eligible: Ages 8-18
  • What they’re looking for: A piece of fiction that demonstrates character, conflict, and action in 500 words or less
  • Deadlines: June 30, 2013 (fiction set in the real world) and November 30, 2013 (fantasy, science fiction, etc.)

A Book That Shaped Me

The Library of Congress summer writing contest for the Mid-Atlantic region

  • Website: loc.gov/bookfest/
  • Who is eligible: Rising 5th and 6th graders in participating library districts
  • What they’re looking for: A one-page essay about a book that made an impact on your life
  • Deadline: August 12, 2013
  • Entry Form

Patriot’s Pen

Cash prizes awarded by the Veterans of Foreign Wars

  • Website: vfw.org/Community/
  • Who is eligible: Grades 6-8 (as of November 2013)
  • What they’re looking for: 300-400 word essay on “What Patriotism Means to Me”
  • Deadline: November 1, 2013
  • Entry Form

Voice of Democracy

College scholarships sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars

  • Website: vfw.com/Community/
  • Who is eligible: Grades 9-12
  • What they’re looking for: 3-5 minute speech on “Why I’m Optimistic About our Nation’s Future”
  • Deadline: November 1, 2013
  • Entry Form

Totem Head’s Story Contest

Encouraging kids to write adventure stories in 1500 words or less

  • Website: adventurewrite.com
  • Who is eligible: Ages 5-18
  • What they’re looking for: Mysterious or suspenseful adventure stories that begin with the phrase, “So there I was”
  • Deadline: December 31, 2013
  • Entry Form
Photo © Karah Fredricks. Used by permission.
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