Entries Tagged 'Encouragement' ↓

Make a conversation journal with your child

Passed back and forth between parent and child, conversation journals are a non-threatening way for kids to write at their level of ability.

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend. 

After a busy week in the classroom, Friday evenings were a quiet, delightful treat: Delightful because I got to curl up on my living room couch with cookies and tea and read through my students’ journals. Delightful because the brightly colored pocket folders held the written thoughts of my kids, as they experienced classroom life in real time. Delightful because each student and I kept a written, running conversation in the pages of those folders.

Conversation journals, we called them.

Every afternoon, students penned brief summaries of:

  • their observations about each day’s class.
  • what they wanted to remember.
  • what they found difficult.
  • what they would seek assistance on to understand better.
  • what attitudes they had about learning in different subject areas.

They addressed their entries to me, and I responded, thus often beginning written conversations that would last weeks on many topics!

Not only did I gain insight into their struggles with long division, enjoyment of O.Henry’s short stories, or thoughtful concern for environmental issues, but I gained insight into my students’ growth as writers.

Conversation journals are also a handy tool in the homeschooling classroom. Simple spiral notebooks, passed back and forth between parent and child, provide a non-threatening context for kids to write at their own proficiency level. Mom or Dad writes back, modeling appropriate language use, but not correcting children’s language.

Such journals allow opportunities for kids to see growth in their own writing ability. And while a parental response should not result in corrections, an adult can examine a child’s writing for topic initiation, elaboration, variety, use of different genres, expression of interests and attitudes, and awareness of the writing process.

The bonus for a parent: insight into which academic concepts need to be taught to a greater depth, how a child is developing as a writer, and a shared journaling experience. That last item is the most precious of all.

Join the conversation!

Related link: Becoming your child’s pen pal

Passed back and forth between parent and child, conversation journals are a non-threatening way for kids to write at their level of ability.

. . . . .

Janet Wagner is a regular contributor to In Our Write Minds. For over two decades, Janet was an elementary and middle school teacher in two Christian academies, a public district school, and a public charter school. She also had the honor of helping to homeschool her two nieces. Janet and her husband Dean live on the family farm in the Piedmont region of north central North Carolina. Currently, she enjoys a flexible life of homemaking, volunteering, reading, writing, tutoring students and training dogs, and learning how to build websites. You can view her web work-in-progress at www.creative-writing-ideas-and-activities.com.

Why does writing matter? Part 2

Teach kids that writing matters for many future jobs and careers!

By Daniella Dautrich

PARENTS know that writing matters. It allows our children to form ideas, cement their knowledge, and spread their thoughts to others. Still, your kids might wonder if they’ll ever really use writing in their future professions. If so, encourage them that writing is important to many careers. Specifically, help them think about these four fascinating jobs that require communication through the written word!

The Mad Scientist

Students who love math and science are inclined to argue that writing isn’t important. But if one of your kids pursues computer science, chemistry, psychology, or another related field, his research will only be as valuable as his communication skills. There’s no point to scientific inquiry if you never share your work with others. This is why grad students hope to get their papers published in academic journals or conferences.

Academic papers require a broad range of writing skills, including a mastery of vocabulary, the ability to summarize main points for abstracts and related work sections, and an understanding of logical organization.

For a research scientist, writing doesn’t end with a PhD dissertation. More papers—and most likely a grant proposal here and there—are what it takes to share scholarly ideas, experiments, and results with our ever-changing world. 

Passing the Bar

Has one of your children dreamed of becoming a lawyer or legal assistant? It’s not too early to teach the skills she’ll need for technical legal writing. Reinforce her knowledge of grammar and punctuation on a regular basis. Help her identify and fix sentence fragments or dangling modifiers in her own writing and the writing of others.

Legal writing takes many forms, from preparing contracts and wills to writing persuasive briefs for court cases. Ideally, these documents are written with clarity and directness.

Of course, the legal profession involves plenty of archaic words and Latin phrases. Prepare your daughter now by instilling a sense of familiarity with these strange, confusing terms. Read aloud from a variety of old books and play memory games to learn Latin roots.

Just the Facts, Sir

When your sons hear “cops and robbers,” they probably imagine police officers with sirens, pistols, and shiny badges. Did they know that police jobs can also include writing? Full-time officers respond to many incidents throughout their shift, and they often end the day by writing police reports.

A police report describes the who, what, where, when, and how of a crime for supervisors and jury members. These narratives should be clear, detailed, and organized. Once the officer has gathered information from victims and witnesses, examined physical evidence, and possibly made an arrest, he must write it all down.

If your students desire careers in law enforcement, help them practice telling stories in chronological order. Encourage them to write with distinct paragraphs for the beginning, middle, and end. Always push them to write in the active, not passive, voice! (“The truck driver swerved and hit the telephone pole” is much more informative than “The telephone pole was hit by a vehicle.”)

The Sales Pitch

Careers in marketing and advertising come in all shapes and sizes, from traditional 9-5 jobs to freelance work-from-home positions. What do these roles share in common? Strong writing skills!

If your daughter is someday hired to develop radio commercial scripts or magazine print ads, she will need to engage her audience with witty, fresh, and memorable writing. No room for dull or vague words here!

Perhaps she’ll work on website development for a clothing company or restaurant chain. Sensory, descriptive writing is often the key that converts clicks into sales! From company slogans to “back-cover copy” (the blurb on the back of a book), writing skills can transform simple products into golden eggs for both employers and employees.

I’m sure you can think of even more real-world jobs that require strong writing skills. Discuss these with your kids over lunch or dinner. We’d love to hear what you come up with!

Photo: Leonid Mamchenkov, courtesy of Creative Commons

Why does writing matter, Mom?

Yes! Writing matters--because the freedom to think and persuade will always matter.

By Daniella Dautrich

DO your efforts to teach writing feel like an ongoing tragedy (or comedy)? Perhaps you slog through the lessons and tell the kids it’s important, when you’ve never cared much for writing yourself. Now they look at you with that awful question on the tip of their tongues:

Why does writing matter, Mom?

If you’re not quite sure how to answer them, it may help to remember this: to teach writing is to set a mind free. When you press on week after week, you help preserve the freedom to think and critique—the liberty to spread ideas and inspire hope.

The goal of education is true understanding. Hearing and reading add up to half of the equation. Writing makes up the other half.

  • Once we’ve heard or read something, writing lets us reflect and respond.
  • Memory drills rehearse facts; writing lets us compare those bits of information, see distinctions, and form judgments.
  • Culture bombards young people with cookie-cutter thoughts; writing helps them form their own ideas, shaping them into something orderly and beautiful.

When you teach your kids to write, you give them the power to share their own experiences and to persuade others. These tools will become invaluable as they step into their adult roles in the world.

Words from the Pulpit

If your son is called into ministry one day, he may find himself speaking to an audience every week. While sermons begin with prayer and study, they take their full shape on paper. The writing skills your kids learn today—such as brainstorming, research, and organization—could have profound impact on future generations. Well-crafted words can live in the minds and hearts of the listener longer than we might imagine.

Blogging with Purpose

When your daughter marries, she may choose to embrace the high calling of stay-at-home-mom. In this role, giving and receiving support from like-minded women is essential! Teach her writing and blogging skills today, and she will carry the ability to connect with other moms (and perhaps earn a side income) wherever she goes.

Proper grammar and spelling, practiced in your homeschool day after day, can become badges of credibility in public forums like blogs. Clear, concise writing can engage new readers in fresh ways through blogs about family life, homemaking, or homeschooling. Take advantage of opportunities today to prepare your daughter for a writing outlet in the future.

Spreading a Message

At some point, your grown children may feel drawn to work or volunteer in the nonprofit sector or political realm. Who knows? Perhaps your one of your kids will run for a local office or start a nonprofit organization!

From candidates to interns, spokespersons to secretaries, the visionaries who staff political offices, think tanks, and charities all rely on writing skills. Proofreading an editorial or article? Fine-tuning a ballot statement? Mass-mailing a fundraising letter? It’s time to roll out your revision toolkit! Self-editing (and editing other people’s writing) is perhaps the most important real-world writing skill.

I hope you’re encouraged as you consider ways your children will write in the future. Next week, we’ll look at more unexpected careers that involve writing!

Photo: Kathleen Franklin, courtesy of Creative Commons

So you feel like a failure? Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom

If you feel like a homeschooling failure, remember that the spiritual battle is already won!

By Daniella Dautrich

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

HOW often we try to measure our homeschooling success by home organization, our outward appearance, or our children’s approval. In truth, the victory that matters is in our hearts, hidden with Christ Jesus.

C.S. Lewis reminded believers that “we battle not against flesh and blood” in his classic The Screwtape Letters. Inspired by his writings, we offer this, the third in a series of Screwtape Letters for the Homeschool Mom. May you be encouraged and blessed on your homeschool journey!

My dear Wormwood,

I was delighted to hear that your patient renewed some desirable acquaintances over the Christmas holidays. Her second cousins are just the sort of people we want her to know—rich, superficial, and skeptical of anything they cannot see with their own eyes. Encourage her to care about what these relatives think. Even if spotless houses and $150 jeans and private schools are not important to her, shame her into hiding her real thoughts and personality.

Has she entered the January doldrums, now that Christmas joy is past? Does she move through the house slowly, in a dull, despondent mood? We must take advantage of the situation. Lose no time making her believe that she is a failure who ought to quit homeschooling altogether.

The Prison of the Senses

Imprison the patient’s mind in the world of the five senses. Let her see her house for what it really is: a dining room table covered with crumbs and playdough, a china cabinet overflowing with bills, and a yard that looks nothing like the tidy school playground down the street.

Take her upstairs, and let her count more children than bedrooms. Let her hear a baby crying; make her watch a preschooler litter the floor with toys and clothes. Whisper to her that it’s her own fault: she never earned a teaching credential or degree in child-rearing. What right has she to trust her own abilities?

Perhaps she feels like giving up now. Perhaps she still hopes to understand and control the situation. In either case, your task is to keep her thoughts and activities in the physical realm. By all possible means, distract her from all invisible aid, and keep her ignorant of the spiritual root of her problems.

Dark Clouds of Guilt

By now, she has probably made a lavishly long list of confident resolutions, of promises to the Enemy and to herself. Encourage this promise-making (for of course she cannot keep them!). When she realizes her failure, overwhelm her with guilt. Let the guilt drive her to more and more busyness.

Guilt is a desirable state, because it may lead the patient to neglect her marriage, her sleep, and even her sanity. Most importantly, a cloud of guilt will make her dread her prayers. Soon, she may open her arms to you, begging for any small distraction to postpone the awful duty of prayer.

Paralyzing Fear

Has the mother allowed you to creep into her thought life with visions of fear? Press your advantage, and remember that gratitude looks to the past and love to the present—but fear looks to the future.

The stronghold of fear is paralyzing. She will never be able to clean her house and purge things, in fear that she may need the stuff in the future. She will be unable to discipline her children during the school day, in fear that they will hate her in the future.

Remember, the Enemy wants her to live in the present: loving her children, keeping them safe, meeting their needs, and training their hearts. We want her to be hag-ridden by the future: haunted by visions of angry, illiterate creatures that she failed to properly raise and educate.

Disguise the Troughs

Continually plant and water the idea that her life is an endless uphill battle. Don’t let her expose herself to the Enemy’s mantra that “the battle is already won.”

You see, Wormwood, as distasteful as it seems to us, the Enemy really does love them. We want to feed upon and consume homeschooling mothers, when He wants to give of Himself and fill them up. He allows them to experience spiritual troughs and peaks, because the troughs help them become the creatures He wants them to be. If they will only attempt to walk through the dark valleys, He is pleased—even with their stumbles.

Do not let your patient suspect any of this. Convince her that the trough is permanent, that Heaven is silent, and that her stumbles can never be wiped clean or forgotten.

Your affectionate uncle,


Related Posts

Photo: edillalo, courtesy of Creative Commons.

New Year’s resolutions for writers

Resolve to build and reinforce writing skills with hands-on activities for each of the four seasons.

JANUARY is the perfect time to set goals for learning and growing with our families. If your journey in 2014 will include writing lessons with any age, then this list of New Year’s resolutions for writers is for you.

Inspired by common metaphors and figures of speech, our playful list includes a lesson to be learned in each of the four seasons. Let the hands-on adventures in writing begin!

Spring: Resolve to Polish Your Writing

Spring cleaning rituals remind us to notice details, from closet doorknobs to dusty cabinets. When we take time to scrub, buff, and polish our belongings, we learn to appreciate each part of our home—and we begin to understand how all the parts work together.

Invite your children to help you polish wood furniture, hardwood floors, or heirloom silver. Ask them to describe the difference before and after their efforts. Then, the next time they turn in a dull piece of writing, remind them why we need to edit: if you polish your writing, you’ll make it shine!

Summer: Resolve Not To Cherry-Pick Facts and Examples

The summer months offer opportunities for enjoying hand-picked fruit. If possible, arrange for your teens to spend an afternoon picking cherries, strawberries, or other delicate fruits. Do they choose only the best and ripest specimens? Explain to them that while a basket of smooth, plump fruit is the most appealing, it doesn’t accurately represent the whole tree (or crop).

Through high school and college, your teen will likely write research papers on a variety of topics. Although it’s tempting to cherry-pick examples—to include only the most convenient evidence—it’s important to present both sides of the picture. A paper about a well-known author should discuss both the fans and the critics. A paper on historic events should weigh opposing, contradictory sources. Help your teen remember: When you cherry-pick examples, your readers lose sight of the whole tree.

Fall: Resolve to Encourage Late Bloomers

When the showy flowers of summer fade, fall gardens burst into new and beautiful colors. Pink and purple asters, warm heleniums, and goldenrod are just a few of the late bloomers that delight autumn gardeners and attract migrating butterflies on their journey south.

Mom of late bloomers, you might be tempted to give up when it comes to teaching writing. But don’t lose hope! Encourage your child by reading aloud, letting him dictate assignments, and trying different writing programs, such as WriteShop. Your child might be a late bloomer, but he will brighten the world in his own special time.

Winter: Resolve to Celebrate the Snowball Effect

Rolling down a white winter hillside, a little snowball can quickly gain mass and momentum. At the journey’s beginning, that fluffy snowball won’t have much to brag about. When it reaches the end of the long white slope, however, the snowball is really something to see and admire!

Look back on the past year and recognize the snowball effect in your child’s writing skills. Each lesson learned, no matter how small, builds on the last until progress is overwhelmingly clear. Celebrate the small successes and tiny achievements. Each one is building your child into an independent, well-equipped writer.

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna who adores all four seasons.

Photo: Ann, courtesy of Creative Commons

Top posts to pin from 2013

These 2013 Top Posts include writing tips, journal prompts, essay topics, & help for reluctant writers

LOOKING back on 2013, we were hard pressed to pick only twelve favorite blog posts. Our final list of most shared and most memorable articles includes teaching ideas and writing tips, journal prompts and essay topics, and timeless encouragement that never goes out of season.

Which one is calling your Pinterest board’s name?


It used to be acceptable to type a double space after periods. Why did the rules change?

Double Space after Periods? Just Say No!


Encouraging your reluctant child to brainstorm with graphic organizers, lists, and mindmaps

How to Brainstorm with Reluctant Children


 high school essay writing, college prep essays, direct quotes, quotations

Essay Writing: Using Direct Quotes


Creative journal prompts help you write about childhood memories and childhood secrets!

22 Writing Prompts that Jog Childhood Memories


compare and contrast essay, high school writing prompts

6 Compare and Contrast Essay Topics


writing family stories, writing your family history

Let’s Write Family Stories!


travel journal ideas, travel journals, travel writing ideas

Travel Journal Ideas


How to Write a Standout College Application Essay @writeshop

How to Write a Standout College Application Essay


Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom @writeshop

Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom


Are you using gracious writing in emails, blogs, & social media? Learn simple ways to bless your online community with kind, caring words.

Writing with Grace


Play this fun game to introduce children to writing a descriptive narrative using 5 paragraphs.

 What’s in my Bag? Intro to Writing a Descriptive Narrative


Gifts for grammar geeks, writers, and literary buffs! From dining room to game room, there's something clever for everyone on your list.

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

We hope you enjoyed our top blog posts of 2013! (Which was your favorite? Leave a comment and let us know!)

And, of course… Happy New Year!

You Can’t Teach Writing: Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom

Why read the latest "Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom"? Because we have an enemy who likes to remind us of our fears and failures.

By Daniella Dautrich

PERHAPS you’ve heard whispers of lies such as this one: “You can’t teach writing.” Doubts about your schedule, curriculum, ability to grade, or your own writing background might tempt you to believe these problems are the measure of your homeschooling abilities. This loss of perspective can quickly take a homeschool mom captive.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis If “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), remember that your adversary will stop at nothing to blind you from the truth. In his classic The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis imaginatively portrays this epic battle.

I hope you find encouragement in this Screwtape Letter for today’s homeschool mom, adapted from the fifth, sixth, and seventh letters in Lewis’s book.

My dear Wormwood, 

Your last letter gives me much cause for disappointment, except where you mention the patient’s frustrations with teaching writing. This brings to mind all sorts of possibilities. In this unbalanced era of homeschooling, intense feelings about curriculum and extreme self-consciousness (or self-righteousness!) about writing abilities have often produced desirable results.

If She Lacks the Time…

If your patient is the type who loves writing, but has “no time to teach writing,” you will find your task quite amusing. Build the most unrealistic expectations in her head about the perfect writing lesson. Let her believe that her child’s peers in conventional schools spend hours each day on brilliant essay compositions. Prey on her dreams of perfectionism, and you will paralyze her greatest talents.

Let her believe that she will never have enough time, so she dare not even try. Do not let it occur to her that vocabulary skills can be taught in the kitchen while she fixes dinner, or that sentence building can become a game in the family car. Keep her in this state of ignorance, and you may enjoy the hilarious spectacle of a mother who loves writing, yet whose children hate words!

If She Lacks the Patience…

If you are going to tell me that your patient won’t teach writing because she “lacks the patience,” I know very well what state of mind you’re in. You take credit for an emotional crisis in the middle of a school day, do you? You have tasted the intoxicating anguish and bewilderment of a human soul. But remember, Wormwood, that duty comes before pleasure.

Do not allow your temporary excitement to distract you from the real business of undermining her faith. This tired mother has doubtless heard the Enemy’s adage that “patience is a virtue.” By no means let this saying—or any other Proverb or Beatitude—enter her mind.

You must guard against the attitude which treats homeschooling as a means for obedience to the Enemy. Never let your patient suspect that unpleasant writing lessons with her reluctant little ones might actually please Him. You want her to feel like a lamb at the slaughter—never like a willing servant offering up her time and talents.

If She Can’t Write…

If, on the other hand, your patient suffers from an actual oversight in her own early education and believes that she “cannot write,” your strategy will somewhat differ.

We want her to remain in the maximum uncertainty and confusion about how to teach writing and how to grade it. Fear and self-deprecation must immobilize her. Let her belittle herself.

Let her thoughts overflow with contradictory pictures of online tutorials and workbook exercises, long handwritten essays and oral narrations, letter grades and point systems. Lead her to think she should do it all, and that each one must find room in her daily homeschooling routine.

Most importantly, watch for any signs that your patient is willing to bear her daily cross. It doesn’t matter if this burden is relearning grammar late at night, or preparing from a teacher’s manual early each morning. If she overcomes her distaste or insecurity about these things for the sake of her child, we will lose valuable ground.

That is why you must always encourage a shadowy, overwhelming terror of something they call “teaching writing.” This vague notion will make her lose sight of any small, achievable goals in her own education or that of her children.

If She Prefers Math and Science…

In the final case, your patient may simply excel in math and science. By her Enemy-bestowed nature, she craves that which is measurable and quantifiable. She hesitates about writing because she perceives the subject is too fluid to teach and too subjective to grade. Prey upon this! Remind her often that teaching and evaluating writing rely too much upon guesswork

She may say she “hates writing,” but the results of such a melodramatic hatred are often most disappointing. Redirect the abstract malice in her soul toward proficient writers in her own social circle. The Enemy desires your patient to appreciate the talents of other homeschool moms. Whenever possible, He wants her to offer her talents in return. In this way the humans participate in a disgusting allegory of “the Body.” I have often witnessed this irritating arrangement in homeschool co-ops.

You may even lead the patient to believe that math and science are the only really important subjects—that writing nowadays has no worth at allThis will lead to a great deal of pride. Your patient will feel not only superior, but fashionably modern. 

Finally, whatever your patient’s particular strengths and struggles may be, you must not forget our ultimate goal. We want these dear little homeschooling mothers to downplay or ignore the written word, until they finally learn to reject the incarnate Word Himself.

Your affectionate uncle,


Read the original Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom.


This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy

Photo: Elne (Neighya), courtesy of Creative Commons.

Writing with grace

Are you using gracious writing in emails, blogs, & social media? Learn simple ways to bless your online community with kind, caring words.

AS WIVES and mothers, daughters and sisters, teachers and friends, our words have immeasurable, long-lasting impact. Yet in our fast-paced world of texts and tweets, how much time do we spend choosing these words?

I remember my old cursive workbook called Writing with Grace. My girlish idea of “grace” evoked images of poised ballet dancers, tea parties where no one slurps or spills, and well-manicured ladies who never say the wrong thing. And that’s certainly one facet of grace.

But true grace is an internal quality. If a woman’s spirit is critical, her words will be harsh and her home uninviting. If her spirit is loving, her words will be gracious and her home (clean or not!) will be a welcoming place.

For most of us, online communication is a daily habit. Together, can we take some time this week to examine our words and practice filling our writing with grace?

Emails Have Wings

“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all….” ~2 Timothy 2:24 (KJV)

It’s good to remember this simple but important truth: Emails can be forwarded–-either intentionally or by accident. With the click of a mouse, your cousins in Texas can read the letter you wrote to a nephew in Idaho. Criticisms of a ministry leader or business colleague can be forwarded tomorrow, creating awkwardness, bad feelings, or embarrassment for all involved.

Harsh judgments and flippant comments have little place in conversation, but even less so in email. It’s always best to review emails for a gentle tone and clear meaning before hitting “send.” Gracious words today can save hours of grief and back-pedaling later.

Do Blogs Have Staying Power?

We don’t know the future of online businesses. Blogspot and WordPress could disappear two years from now (taking our blog posts down into oblivion with them). On the other hand, these forums may thrive another ten, fifteen, or twenty years. By then, our toddlers will be high school graduates, and our teens may be homeschooling parents themselves. Grown children will likely do a little digging, and rediscover the blog archives from 2013.

Will your kids someday realize you wrote humorous posts at a loved one’s expense? Will they see their every youthful flaw exposed, merely so Mom could gain sympathy from acquaintances and strangers? Or, will they find words that make them laugh and cry and stories that bring all the best life lessons and memories flooding back?

Wisdom and discretion are rare jewels in the public journals we know as “blogs.” As women of faith, let’s set an example and leave legacies our children can be proud of. Whether or not we refer to husbands and kids with anonymous nicknames, we can never afford to become complacent as bloggers. Our closest relationships are at stake.

Taming Social Media

“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” James 3: 4 (NIV)

What’s a little Facebook status? Or 140 characters on Twitter—what harm could that do? Let’s be honest. We’ve all made mistakes on social media: An insensitive comment. An announcement too soon. News shared out-of-turn.

Words shared on social media spread faster than emails. Short bursts of text are more likely to be read than long, rambling blog posts. Yet, how quickly we lose sight of their power to build or tear down! Our words are the sparks that can light a warming fire… but they can just as easily set a forest ablaze.

Etiquette experts may never agree on the rules for “what not to post.” In most cases, our instincts and conscience are better guides, anyway. With a little time and effort, we can use social media to encourage—not to boast. We can spread words of hope and healing and grace.

The words we write can spell JOY in our lives—Jesus first, others second, yourself last.

WriteShop Blog--In Our Write MindsDaniella 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.com.

Photo: Evan, courtesy of Creative Commons


Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom

Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom @writeshop

By Daniella Dautrich

YOUR calling as a homeschooling mom flows out of your calling to live a life hidden in Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:3). If you experience homeschool doubts at some point this school year, don’t try to overcome them on your own strength, feelings, or goodness. Recognize the spiritual battle that is being waged for your child’s soul, get on your knees, and pray!

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis wrote about our sometimes-invisible but ever-present struggle in his classic The Screwtape Letters. Thirty-one fictional letters from the elder demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood describe the process of tempting human “patients” and foiling their efforts to live the Christian life.

If you are unfamiliar with this literary gem, find a copy and read it for yourself! Until then, enjoy this modern-day “Screwtape Letter” for the homeschool mom, adapted from the second, third, and fourth letters in Lewis’s book.

I leave you with Lewis’s own caution from his preface:

“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle.”

My dear Wormwood,

I see with great displeasure that your patient has become a homeschooler. There is no need to despair; hundreds of these well-meaning mothers have been recovered after just a few months of school. Meanwhile, we must make the best of the situation.

Our greatest ally at the present moment is the homeschooled child itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the high-achieving youngsters your patient reads about in magazines, or the eager, tidy, and respectful children raised by her veteran homeschool friends. 

I mean her real child, that stubborn and noisy human being who worries and interrupts his mother at every waking hour. When your patient corrects a lesson, she finds deliciously scribbled and misspelled words. When she begins to teach, the child cries and argues. Take advantage of this by leaning heavily on those foolish mistakes and childish tears.  

Bait Her with Perfection

At this stage, you see, your patient holds to an ideal of “homeschooling” that she believes to be practical but which, in fact, is merely a fabrication. Look no further than Pinterest if you have any doubts on this useful subject of comparison traps.

I get positively giddy when other homeschool moms make her feel badThe patient’s mind entertains visions of a violin prodigy, picture-perfect schoolroom, and future college scholarships. The fact that her awkward, left-handed child can’t read or write yet is a real—though not verbally acknowledged—difficulty to her.

Here lies our opportunity. Work hard on the cloud of disappointment which will certainly descend on your patient. This anticlimax will fuel her homeschool doubts.

Keep Her Mind on Academics

Always keep the patient’s mind on her flashcards and worksheets. Remind her to dwell on multiplication tables and spelling tests. She thinks homeschooling is something “academic,” and her attention is therefore focused on lesson plans and physical curriculum. (If the textbooks were expensive, so much the better.)

Keep her mind off the most elementary teaching tools—conversation and parent modeling—and direct her mind to the more prestigious academic duties of the homeschool mother. Fill her day with such busyness that there is no time to reflect on the Enemy. If home life becomes strained, let her think that her talents are unappreciated and could be put to more profitable use elsewhere.

Distract and Mislead Her

Do not forget that the best thing, whenever possible, is to keep the patient from serious prayer. Whenever she listens to the Enemy Himself, we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing this. Simply turn her gaze away from Him towards herself.

When she kneels to pray for wisdom or gentleness, let her really try to reassure herself that she is wise compared to other parents, and far more gentle than her misbehaving child deserves.

Train her to estimate the value of a prayer by its success in producing these desired feelings. By no means let her suspect that this kind of success will often depend on whether she is well or ill, fresh or tired, at that particular moment. This is where you want her.

Your affectionate uncle,


Related Post – You Can’t Write: Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom


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

Photo: Ian.Kobylanski, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Finding a voice

Eudora Welty, fiction writing, perspective

WHEN we are young, our own voice seems loudest and most important. Then, we grow older and something happens. The world is no longer a show for our benefit, but rather a stage where each of us has a part to play. Finding a voice is the process of discovering that unique part.

For author Eudora Welty, finding a voice required all her courage and honesty as a freshly-minted college graduate in the heart of the Great Depression.

Aware of the World

At sixteen, Eudora entered a Mississippi women’s state college. Overcrowded, underfunded, and bursting with old traditions, the school offered her a firsthand look at a lively variety of personalities and backgrounds. Her longing for somewhere distant led her to the University of Wisconsin in her junior year. After attending grad school at Columbia University, it was time for Eudora to come home; her father had died, and the Great Depression hung over the nation like a gray cloud.

Working at her first full-time job, Eudora canvassed her home state with paper, pencil, and camera as a junior publicity agent for the Works Progress Administration. Noisy girls in a college dorm had been a mere taste of life compared to the people she now met in their local communities and on their native land. Storing scenes and descriptions in her memory—and saving each spare dollar for trips to New York City—Eudora dreamed of the day when an editor would publish her stories.

On those trips to New York, Eudora slowly became conscious of a change time had wrought within her. As a child in a sleeper car with her father, she had listened to the sounds of the night from a bunk enfolded by thick green curtains. She had peered out the window at distant houses with light in the doorways, never considering that those continued to exist when she and her train car had passed. Now, as an adult, her perspective had shifted. In the tumultuous years of World War II, a quiet soldier stepped off her train into the sunset of a Tennessee valley. Eudora recalls, “I felt us going out of sight for him, diminishing and soon to be forgotten.”

Perhaps your son or daughter will begin college this fall, with opportunities abounding to interact with new cultures or serve in new neighborhoods. The coming school year might bring a first job, first mission trip, or first time traveling alone by plane. Each step lets your child discover a wider world, where self grows smaller and others matter more.

Finding a Voice

Eudora Welty found her passion for writing in college, but spent years developing her voice. She wanted to write fiction, something her mother adored and her father had questioned. He represented the critic who claims fiction must be a waste of time because it is not true. Developing her craft, Eudora found that fiction can hold truths of human life, even if the details and chronology are not historically true. Having gained perspective into the wider world, she endowed her characters with the truth of human feelings, experiences, and relationships she had observed.

Working behind a camera, Eudora learned that we must always be ready: “Life doesn’t hold still.” Writing allowed her to capture some of that transience, and it helped her see connections between young and old, past and present, reality and perception. Each time she began a new story, her respect for the complexity of human beings—and for the threads that bind us together—grew deeper.

After years of patiently fine-tuning her skills, Miss Welty found an enthusiastic editor. Your children, likewise, are learning skills today that will help them move forward in the world tomorrow. Don’t let them get discouraged if they can’t see the end goal. Someday, they’ll look back and appreciate the preparation.

Daring to Live

Concluding her memoir of a sheltered life, Eudora Welty sums up her experience:

“Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way of becoming a part of it.”

From a toddler’s first steps to a college freshman’s orientation week, the journeys your children take will continually mold their view of the world and their sense of mission in it. They may find a voice someday through teaching, architecture, culinary arts, or any other avenue. In the meantime, love them. Encourage them. Through bittersweet changes, through the heartache of parting, your children will remember your unwavering support—and they will know that love is the strongest force in the world.

Part 1: How Listening Can Inspire a Love of Words

Part 2: Learning to See

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.com.

Photo: Vestman, courtesy of Creative Commons.
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