Entries from June 2014 ↓

4 Independence Day activities for middle school kids

Independence Day activities for middle school kids include focusing on our freedoms, writing an adventure, making family flags and planning a party

July 4th is just around the corner! For holiday fun, here are four simple Independence Day activities for middle school kids. (There’s a good chance your other children will enjoy them too!) This week, why not try one or two on for size?

1. Make a “Freedoms” Chain

In many countries, people don’t enjoy the same liberties as most Americans. This activity will help you reflect on the many freedoms and choices you have as a citizen of the United States.

  1. Cut red, white, and blue construction paper into strips approximately 1” x 8”. On each strip, write one freedom you’re thankful for, such as: I’m free to read books of my choice.
  2. Roll one strip of paper into a circle and tape or staple the ends together.
  3. Loop the next strip of paper through the circle to form the next link in your chain.
  4. Keep going until your chain is as long as you want. (If you want a longer chain, but you’ve run out of word strips, you may add plain paper strips to your chain.)
  5. Hang up your chain. Each day, read one of your freedoms—and be thankful!

2. Write Your Own Adventure

Write a story about an unexpected 4th of July adventure. Use at least six of the following words:

baseball, home run, disappeared, fireworks, hot dog, foul ball, surprise, famous, explosion, stadium, mistake, sister

3. Design a Family Flag

Did you know that flag colors have special meanings?

Red can mean courage, change, strength, or heroism
Yellow can represent honor, loyalty, or humility
Green can be symbolic of hope, growth, or fruitfulness
Blue can mean freedom, justice, wisdom, good fortune, or patriotism
Black can mean determination, grief, or sorrow
White often represents peace, purity, harmony, or faith
Purple isn’t often found in national flags, but it is known as the color of royalty or sacrifice

Take some time to learn about the meaning of the colors and symbols in the American flag, and then make a flag of your own!

  1. On a sheet of white paper, design and color a flag that represents your family.
  2. Include shapes and images that have special meaning. You can use traditional shapes such as a cross, stars, or stripes; objects from nature such as leaves, trees, or mountains; animals; vehicles; outline of your state; or other symbols.
  3. Using separate lined paper, explain what each symbol and color says about your family.

4. Plan a Celebration!

For many families, July 4th means celebrating our nation’s independence at backyard barbecues, patriotic parades, or picnics at the lake. Some gather on front lawns at dusk to eat homemade ice cream and twirl sparklers, while others take in baseball games and fireworks shows.

If it were up to you to plan this year’s Independence Day festivities, where would you have your party? Whom would you invite? What foods would you eat? Would you plan activities?

Either jot your ideas in list form or write a one-page sensory description of your holiday celebration. This Independence Day word bank will help!

Writing prompts about books

Using books as a springboard, kids can discuss characters' personality traits, describe a main character, and persuade a friend to read a book.

This article contains affiliate links for books we think your family will love!

From wordless books to favorite novels, your kids’ reading can provide a springboard to book-themed writing activities. This week, let them take journaling inspiration from literature with these writing prompts about books.

1. You Have to Read This Book!

Some books are like best pals: we never get tired of spending time with them! Think of such a book—one you love to read again and again. Then, persuade a friend to read this book by making a list of 6-10 reasons why it’s so appealing.

2. No Words

Find a wordless book—one that has mostly pictures and no (or very few) words—and write a story to go along with each page in the book. It will help to ask yourself what is happening in the picture, how each character might feel, and what might happen next. Feel free to give the characters names!

Encourage kids to write a story that goes along with a wordless book such as Chalk.
If you have younger siblings, you probably have some wordless books lying around, such as ChalkGood Night, Gorilla, or The Red Book. If not, visit the library and look for one of the shorter books on this list of 10 wordless books

3. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In fiction, the protagonist is often called the “good guy,” while the antagonist—the character who opposes the protagonist—is known as the “bad guy.”

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for instance, Aslan is the protagonist and the evil White Witch is the antagonist. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the protagonist, of course, is Alice, who finds herself at odds with the cruel Queen of Hearts.

Choose a protagonist from a favorite book and explain how this character’s behavior and positive character qualities inspire respect or admiration. Then, think of an antagonist (from the same book or a different one) and explain what makes this character unlikable.

4. She’s Got Personality

Have you ever thought about writing a novel? If so, you probably already have ideas about the characters you might include!

Write a paragraph that describes your main character. Include details about this character’s appearance, personality traits, likes or dislikes, and a surprising or interesting fact about his or her background. If you get stuck thinking of words, you can find some ideas here and here.

Did you enjoy these writing ideas? If so, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo Credit: Kozzi

Dream vacation writing prompts for kids

Let’s face it. When you tell your kids you’re going on vacation, it usually means a road trip to visit Grandpa and Grandma!

Sure, you might spend a week at the beach—or even blow a wad at Disney World—but it’s pretty unlikely that most homeschooling families can afford to take the children to faraway places around the globe.

Dream vacation writing prompts let kids dream about exotic trips to places they may never get to visit, such as an English castle or African savanna.

That’s what I love about today’s dream vacation writing prompts: they let your kids dream about exotic trips to places they may never otherwise get to visit. So, what are you waiting for? Pull out the atlas and set the kids free to do some armchair traveling!

1. Hakuna Matata

You just found out your family is going on an African safari! Write about four things you will do at your exciting destination.

2. How I Spent My Summer Vacation

What if your restful summer vacation turned into an unexpected adventure? Write a story about this crazy experience using at least five words from this list: roof, jewels, thief, trap door, popcorn stand, tourist, speedboat, bookstore, escape, camera.

3. Where in the World?

If you could travel anywhere in the world for a two-week vacation, where would you go? Write a letter convincing your parents to take you there.

4. Distinctive Digs

Imagine spending the summer in Great Britain! For your holiday accommodations, would you rather:

  • Lodge at a restored English castle?
  • Explore the Devonshire countryside from a thatched-roof cottage?
  • Stay in a lighthouse on the rugged coast of Scotland?
  • Sleep in a fancy hotel in the heart of London?

Explain the reasons for your choice.

5. Horsin’ Around

Your aunt and uncle have just invited you to spend a week at a dude ranch in Colorado. Make a list of 10 things you’ll want to pack in your suitcase.

Did you enjoy these writing ideas? If so, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

. . . . .

Photo Credits: “Eiffel Tower” by Lauren ManningAn Interesting Animal” by Justin Jensen, “A girl and her Canon” by John Benson, “Bodiam Castle” by Phillip Capperused under CC BY

How to edit and grade writing | Editing high school papers

Tips for homeschool parents who need help learning how to edit and grade writing, esp. their high school students' compositions and essays.

Homeschooling middle and high school kids carries an extra weight that isn’t nearly as evident when we’re teaching our younger ones: the older the kids get, it seems, the more intimidating it becomes to homeschool them.

Moms confess to me that writing is one of the most challenging subjects for them to teach. And when it comes to editing and grading that writing, they feel like they’re all adrift.

Do you feel that way too? Take heart! If you’re just starting to teach writing to your teens, don’t expect to know everything at the beginning! It’s a learning process, and I hope these editing and grading tips will give you more confidence.

Today we’ll look at editing your students’ compositions with the intent of helping them write stronger final drafts. Then next time, we’ll talk about how to actually grade those finished papers.

Begin with Self-Editing  

After your teen writes a rough draft, have him use a writing checklist to look for errors in his own writing. (Some programs, such as WriteShop I and II, include checklists—and they’re invaluable to both student and parent.)

Once he has self-edited his rough draft and written a revision, it’s time for you to review it and make suggestions before he writes a final draft.

Use a Teacher Writing Checklist  

A well-written checklist will remind you of the lesson’s expectations so you don’t have to make guesses about what that composition or essay should include. This is the key to being objective and consistent. Using a checklist keeps you focused and fair because you’re not making stabs in the dark. Instead, you know just what you’re looking for as you edit the text.

Your child has had a chance to self-edit and revise already; this is your opportunity to catch and comment on anything that still needs attention. Typically, the more suggestions you give during editing, the better his final drafts will become. As you edit, do your best to identify the errors your student has missed during his own self-editing. Otherwise, he won’t even realize he made those mistakes—and they’ll go uncorrected in the final draft.

Is It Laziness?

Your role is to help your teens spot errors he just doesn’t see—those subjective details such as “strong topic sentence” or “communicated clearly.” He may think he’s done those things, but if you believe differently, you can then steer him in the right direction.

On the other hand, if he’s clearly being lazy about self-editing, and he’s not catching obvious things (such as “to be” verbs, repeated or weak words, or missing sentence variations), return the paper to him and tell him you will edit his paper once he has done his job.

Try These Editing Tips

Not only are the following ideas helpful for parent editing, they’re great tips to share with your teen when he does his own self-editing.

SEARCH FOR ONE KIND OF PROBLEM AT A TIME. Read through the paper several times. As you do, watch for something specific each time, such as strong word choice, sentence variety, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, etc.

1. Content

Check the paper’s content. Did your teen fulfill the lesson expectations? Are there areas where he needs  to add more details, facts, or explanation? Are any parts of the text unclear?

2. Organization

Is the writing organized and easy to follow? Does it flow well from one point to the next? Does he use transition words and phrases to connect ideas?

3. Clarity

Is the paper’s tone appropriate for the audience? Does your student need to restructure any awkward or wordy sentences to make sure his writing is clear and readable?

4. Mechanics and Word Choice

Look for misspelled words and grammatical errors. Check sentence structure, word choice, and punctuation. Again, you’re more likely to catch errors if you look for one of these details each time you make a pass through the paper.

BE POSITIVE. Note things your student did well. Finding every error should not be your primary goal. Yes, it’s important and necessary to identify mistakes. Otherwise, your teen’s writing will never get better! Just remember to edit with grace and kindness so your suggestions are more well-received.

An Analogy

Learn how editing a writing assignment is like making chicken stockSuppose you’ve just made a big pot of chicken soup. You ask your teenager to take out the large chunks of vegetables, meat, and bones—anything he can scoop out with a large slotted spoon. This is just like self-editing, where he catches obvious errors in content, style, and mechanics himself.

When he has finished removing the big pieces, you then strain the broth to catch whatever he missed—those soggy celery leaves or pieces of onion skin that still remain. This is like parent editing, where you find the errors that are less evident to him—as well as the occasional bigger mistakes that went unnoticed the first time.

Even after straining the stock, you may find a few bits that never got caught—and that’s okay! It won’t ruin the soup. Likewise, neither you nor your teen will always spot every writing error. That, too, is okay.

In truth, even if you only catch half the mistakes in his writing, his revision will be greatly improved over the first draft. So relax and do your best, dear homeschooling mom, knowing that your encouraging input is making a difference.

Photos: woodleywonderworks and SaucyGlo, courtesy of Creative Commons

Father’s Day writing prompts

This week, let’s celebrate Dad! With these engaging Father’s Day writing prompts, kids will jump at the chance to design a robotic assistant, craft a special award, plan a dream date with Dad, or make a Father’s Day card.

Inspirational Father's Day writing prompts have kids describing an ideal day with Dad, devising a "chore robot," and listing Dad's top 10 attributes!

1. Father’s Little Helper

For a Father’s Day gift, you’re debating between giving your dad a robot that does outside chores or one that fixes broken things around the house. Which one do you think he’d rather have? Describe five chores this new robot will perform.

2. That’s My Dad!

Make a greeting card listing 10 reasons your dad is the greatest father in the world. Illustrate your creation with photos, clipart, or drawings. Seal it in an envelope and present it to him on Father’s Day.

3. Dad’s Dream Day

If you could surprise your dad with a special day, what would the two of you do together? Would you go fishing, hiking, or sky diving? Visit an amusement park or air museum? Race go-karts, play miniature golf, or try bungee jumping? Read and watch movies together? Think of something he would really love to do, and describe your ideal day. Don’t forget to include the pizza, burgers, or ice cream!

4. Best Man

Using a blank sheet of paper and colored pencils or markers, design an award to give your dad for Father’s Day. Include a motto or slogan such as: Superhero to one wife and four kids since 1998 or Best Pancake Maker and Paper Airplane Flyer. For added fun, fill in and print an “official” certificate for free from 123Certificates.com.

Note: Be smart! Always use the Internet with parent supervision.

Did your children enjoy these prompts? Check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo Credits: Sneaker Dog (feet), Kelly Sikkema (reading), courtesy of Creative Commons

June Homeschool Conventions

WriteShop will be out west this month! If you are in the area, we’d love to see you there!

WriteShop Homeschool Conventions in June

June 12- 14

Great Homeschool Convention
Ontario, CA

Kim Kautzer’s workshops at GHC:

  • Teaching the Timed Essay
  • Growing Your Child’s Writing Vocabulary

June 13-14

WHO Convention – Washington Homeschool Organization
Puyallup, WA

Debbie Oldar’s workshop at WHO:

  • Teaching Writing Has Never Been Easier!

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 our full line of WriteShop products in person.

WriteShop Products

  • WriteShop Junior Book EThumb through the exciting new WriteShop Junior Book E materials –>
  • Learn how you can teach a WriteShop co-op class in your area
  • Receive much-needed encouragement about teaching writing

We’re looking forward to meeting you!

3 ways to keep kids writing this summer

Keep kids writing this summer! Set them loose to journal about favorite books, write to a pen pal, or use imaginative story starters!

This article contains affiliate links for products we’re  confident your family will love!

Whether you school year-round or take a long break over the summer, it’s always a good idea to include activities that involve writing. Consider an out-of-the-box book report, dabble in writing across the curriculum, or try one of the following ways to keep kids writing during these hot and sultry months.

1. Book Journals

Since reading and writing go hand-in-hand, I hope reading activities are on your family’s list of summertime priorities! From time to time, invite your kids to reflect on a book (or chapter) they just read. This activity isn’t meant to be a book report. Rather, encourage them to choose one of these book journal prompts and run with it!

  • I can’t believe ­­­­­­­­­______ (character) ­­­­­­­­­______ (did what). I think that was a ­­­­­­­­­______ idea because …
  • When ­­­­­­­­­______ happened, it made me feel ­­­­­­­­­______ because …
  • My favorite character is ­­­­­­­­­______ because …
  • I have three questions about what I just read. First, I wonder why ­­­­­­­­­______ .
  • I would / wouldn’t like to visit the setting where this book takes place because …
  • I would / would not recommend this book to ­­­­­­­­­______ (name of friend) because …
  • My favorite part of the story happened when …
  • I didn’t like the part where ­­­­­­­­­______ because …

2. Pen Pals

Help keep those letter-writing skills sharp with real-life pen pal practice! If your kids can’t think of someone to correspond with, consider these ideas:

  • Does your child have cousins or grandparents who live in another state or country? Encourage them to develop a stronger relationship through letter-writing.
  • Homesick soldiers love to receive and send mail! Do you know a family whose son or daughter is deployed overseas?
  • Does your family sponsor a child through an organization like Compassion or World Vision? These sponsored children may not be able to write back often, but nothing brings them more joy than getting a letter from your kids!
  • Does your church support a missionary family? Their kids would love to hear from home.
  • Are you friends online with a homeschooling family in another part of the country? Find out if her children would be interested in becoming pen pals.

3. Writing Prompts and Story Starters

Summer is a great time for writing lighthearted, imaginative stories you may not get to during the traditional school year. When children have a terrific writing prompt, or the basic story elements are in place—such as character, setting, and some sort of storyline or plot—they’ll enthusiastically jump right in!


WriteShop StoryBuilders are perfect for this! The printable cards make great writing prompts and set kids off on a story-writing adventure with humorous or inspiring ideas like these:

  • A reluctant moose travels deep into the jungle in a time machine.
  • Everything goes wrong for the competitive gymnast on the miniature golf course.
  • Disaster strikes while a nervous explorer is in a cave.

This should be a low-pressure writing experience for most children, but younger or reluctant writers may get stressed at the thought of “all that writing.” To keep things relaxing and enjoyable, let them dictate their stories to you as you write or type.

Round Robins

Story starters are even more fun when you write round-robin style! You can use any writing prompt, or you can try a different kind of round robin by downloading this free Round Robin Adventure printable.

How do you write a round robin? Start by giving each child his or her own prompt and set the timer. Every three minutes, everyone passes papers to the left and continues adding to the story in front of them.

When you think they’ve had enough time, announce the last round and have them wrap up the story they’re holding. Take turns reading the stories aloud and laughing over the silly plot twists each one takes!

Story Cubes

Not every writing activity needs to involve physical writing! My granddaughters and I love creating oral stories using Rory’s Story Cubes. This activity encourages storytelling skills and artistic expression—and keeps everyone laughing as the plot takes silly turns. Voyages Story Cubes is a fun variation, and the Actions Story Cubes set adds 54 everyday verbs to the mix.

A bonus? Story Cubes are small and portable, making them perfect to tote along on vacation—and are especially ideal for occupying children on airplanes, where space is at a premium.

Writing Prompt Ideas

Finally, don’t forget that every week, on Writing Prompt Wednesday, we add another set of clever journaling and writing prompts for kids. You’ll find loads of fresh story ideas just waiting for summer picking!

Photo Credits: João Pedro (letter from pen pal), Marin (writing), myaccountnice (girl and girls reading), courtesy of Creative Commons

June Free Printable | Round robin writing prompt

This month’s free printable prompt involves the whole family! In a round-robin writing style, use these words to help your family create an exciting, silly, or funny adventure story!

You’ll also find a printable page for younger students to create their own adventure. Invite them to pick 2-3 words from the list and write a story on the blank lines. When finished, they can draw a picture about their story at the top of the page!

Free Printable Writing Prompt for June: Round Robin Adventure

Click the image above to download the “Round Robin Adventure” free writing printable. If you would like to share this round robin writing 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, but please do not sell or host these files anywhere else.

Summer Acrostic Poem

You might also like our printable Summer acrostic poem

Have you visited our huge archive of writing prompts? New prompts added every Wednesday!

WriteShop Junior Book E is here at last!

WriteShop Junior Book E is officially launched! You'll love this stellar upper-elementary homeschool writing program!

Quotation Marks“WriteShop Junior is the most complete, fun and effective writing program we have found, and it makes teaching writing ‘do-able’ for me!” –Shyla, British Columbia

WriteShop Junior Book E

At long last, please join us in welcoming the newest baby to the WriteShop family! Even though WriteShop Junior Book E, our top-notch upper-elementary homeschool writing program, made its secret debut in our store over the weekend, today we’re sharing the news of its official release. Are you as excited as we are?  

(Scroll to the bottom for our Intro Special)

Book E is recommended for 4th and 5th grade, but many of our test families used it successfully with 6th and 7th graders as well.

Moms and kids alike love Book E!

Quotation Marks - gray

“I used to feel so unprepared to teach writing and was frustrated when my son didn’t get it. With the tools offered in Book E, he’s now equipped to take on many kinds of writing.” –Krystin, Kentucky

“After using WriteShop Junior, my children no longer fear the ‘Great White Blank Paper.’ What was once overwhelming has become a manageable, step by step process.” –Hanlie, Michigan

About WriteShop Junior

Four components make up the WriteShop Junior Book E program. Two are required and two are optional.

1. Teacher’s Guide

WriteShop Junior Book E | Teacher's Guide The Book E Teacher’s Guide holds your hand as you lead your kids through the writing process. Each lesson follows a consistent format, but the varied and interesting activities mean your children will look forward to each day’s work.

Helpful schedules break the writing process into bite-size chunks that are easy for you to teach and easy for your kids to understand and master. Whether you have reluctant or motivated writers, this program offers flexible options so they can work at their own level.

Book E has 10 lessons (chapters). Most homeschoolers prefer the schedule that spreads each lesson over three weeks. Working three days per week, you’ll complete Book E in one school year. Here’s a peek at the Table of Contents:

  1. Fables (Character and Voice)
  2. Humor (Humor and Dialogue)
  3. Adventure (Scene and Setting)
  4. Science Fiction (Blending Fiction with Scientific Fact)
  5. Mystery (Elements of a Mystery)
  6. Concrete Poetry (Creating a Shape Poem)
  7. Personal Narrative (Intro to 5-Paragraph Writing)
  8. Descriptive Narrative (Describing Three Items or Events)
  9. Book Report (Responding to Literature)
  10. Nonfiction Report (Collecting Facts)

2. Activity Pack

WriteShop Junior Book E | Activity PackAn essential part of WriteShop Junior Book E, the Activity Pack is actually two workbooks in one! It contains both the Student Worksheets and the Level 2 Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack:

  • Student Worksheet Pack: Includes 87 activity pages your child will use to complete portions of each lesson. Games, word banks, worksheets, and graphic organizers introduce children to lifelong writing skills such as brainstorming and self-editing.
  • Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack: Make 10 grammar and writing guides, each devoted to a different skill. Simple rules, engaging examples, and practice exercises make learning or reviewing grammar fun!

3. Time-Saver Pack (Optional)

WriteShop Junior Book E | Time-Saver PackInstead of creating and assembling your own game cards, spinners, and other tools to teach creative writing, busy moms like you will appreciate the Time-Saver Pack’s durable, ready-made props for many Book E activities.

The print version contains 20 sturdy pages printed on white and colored cardstock. Instructions for using each page may be found in the Book E Teacher’s Guide.

The Time-Saver Pack is completely optional; if you prefer to make your own props and cards, you’ll find instructions in the Teacher’s Guide as well. 

4. Junior Writer’s Notebook 1: Fun with Story Planning (Optional)

A writer’s notebook helps young writers develop stronger, more interesting stories and reports.

This special notebook is often called a “seed bed of ideas.” Some of these “seeds” will sprout and grow to become stories. Others will remain ideas that your child might explore and develop at another time. Junior Writer's Notebook 1 | Fun with Story Planning

WriteShop’s Junior Writer’s Notebook pages not only help improve writing skills, they make writing even more fun! These printable worksheets may be used:

  • Alongside any writing program to enhance the writing experience
  • As an optional resource that specifically coordinates with lessons in WriteShop Junior Book E


I just wanted to take a moment to thank you. “My son is very challenging to homeschool so I am very surprised by his response to this curriculum. He LOVES it! The creativity WriteShop adds to each lesson is a plus for our family. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!” –Michelle M., Florida

“Love, love WriteShop. I think it ‘fits’ every child … even my high-functioning special needs boys. Excellent product!” –Deborah, Texas

Value Pack

WriteShop Junior Book E Value PackWe’ve assembled a Book E Value Pack for easy shopping! It contains all four components of WriteShop Junior Book E and is available in both PRINT and DIGITAL (PDF) formats.

Download a sample lesson from WriteShop Junior Book E

If you would like to share this lesson sample 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 this file anywhere else. 

Do you have younger children? Check out WriteShop Primary (K-3rd) and WriteShop Junior Book D (3rd-4th).

Related Posts with Thumbnails