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

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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,


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Photo: edillalo, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Magical clothing writing prompts

Fun creative writing prompts about amazing shoes, magical sunglasses, and more!

YOU’RE never too old to play dress-up (when magical costumes are involved, that is). Invite your kids to flex their creative writing muscles with these fun writing prompts about super-powered clothing.

1. Destination: Foreign Nation

You just discovered a one-of-a-kind hat that allows you to speak any foreign language. Plan a trip for you and your headgear. Where will you go, and why? Who will you meet, and what will you do together? How will the hat make your life easier, and how could it make your trip more complicated?

2. Target Sighted

No one hides from a spy who wears telescopic sunglasses. These cool shades allow Agent Y to see anything in broad daylight up to twenty miles away. Write a secret letter to Agent Y, persuading him (or her) to spy for your country.

3. Once Upon a Time

Slip into your magical overcoat, and you can travel backward or forward in time. Journal about your time-traveling adventure to a castle that was much more than it seemed . . .

4. Clear and Present Danger

Desperate for money, you are forced to sell your most prized possession—a wrist-watch that sounds an alarm when the wearer is in danger. Write a description of this fantastic item for potential buyers on Ebay or Amazon. Include plenty of descriptive adjectives to grab the reader’s attention!

5. Footwear Frenzy

You just flew in to Washington D.C. for a formal dinner at the White House. As you unpack, you realize that you brought the wrong dress shoes—these are the shoes that make the wearer invisible! Your taxi arrives at your hotel in five minutes. You can’t wear the sneakers you wore on the airplane, so what will you do?

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

Photo: Paul Stevenson, courtesy of Creative Commons


Winter personification

How is Winter like a person? Invite your kids to explore personification with a fun winter writing activity!

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

ON frosty days, have you ever referred to winter as “harsh,” “kind,” or even “fickle”? This week, enjoy a winter writing activity with your kids and teach them to personify a season.

Personification ascribes human qualities such as thought, will, and emotion to non-human creatures and inanimate objects. Personification creates great fun for little ones (who hasn’t enjoyed reading about The Little House or The Little Engine That Could?). For teens, personification can be a handy literary device in their poetry or descriptive writing.

Get ready to gather your kids around the table and explore the possibilities of winter personification.

Step 1: Brainstorming

Ask your kids to imagine Winter as a person knocking at the front door.

  • What does she say? (She calls me outside to play. / She warns me to stay inside.)
  • What does she do? (Winter shows me a world of white, cold trees. / Winter builds sharp, dangerous icicles.)
  • What does she want? (She asks me to feed the birds who didn’t fly south. / She wants me to forget sunshine and summer.)

Step 2: Writing

Now that your kids are armed with ideas, it’s time to add details. Help your children write complete sentences with interesting sentence starters, strong nouns and verbs, and vivid adjectives and adverbs. Prompt them with more questions about Winter.

  • How does she talk? (With gentle whispers, she calls me outside to dance in the snow. / Howling from the rooftop eaves, she sends sharp warnings to stay inside.)
  • How does she act? (Winter pushes me playfully down the sparkling street. / Winter rules from a fortress of icicles and frost.)
  • How does she reveal her character or personality? (Together, we spread banquets for rosy cardinal birds. / I see her stern face, and she sends chills down my spine.)
  • How does she “look” human? (Her snowy gown trails behind her as she waltzes through the woods. / Winter wears a white fur coat and a crown of ice crystals.)

Step 3: Publishing Project

Crafty placemats are a fun way to publish your children’s writing at home. To make winter placemats, you’ll need:

  • Large sheets of paper or cardstock  (11” x 17” pieces would work well)
  • Stickers, photos, pictures of winter, plus glue sticks for collages
  • Scissors and white, blue, or silver paper for hand-cut snowflakes

With a pencil and ruler, lightly draw lines on the paper. Now your children can write their final sentences in marker or pen. Allow them to decorate the blank area with paper snowflakes, photo collages, magazine pictures, or sparkly stickers. Be sure to add the date and child’s initials in a front or back corner.

To preserve their finished work, have the placemats laminated at your local office supply store. Now the family can admire these winter personification masterpieces for the rest of the season—and after-meal clean-up will always be a breeze!

WriteShop Blog--In Our Write Minds

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 also blogs at

Photo: Andrew Magill, courtesy of Creative Commons


Printable Writing Prompt ~ January

The third Monday in January we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contribution to our country. In 1963 he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C.  After reading or listening to his speech, have your children write their own “I Have a Dream” paragraph.

Invite kids to write their own "I Have a Dream" paragraph. {Printable Writing Prompt from In Our Write Minds}


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

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

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!

Merry Christmas from WriteShop!

Merry Christmas from WriteShop!

WHEN the familiar tune of “Greensleeves” fills the air at Christmas, our hearts answer with the lyrics that begin, “What child is this….” Written nearly 150 years ago, this carol still reminds us to share our treasures, our love, and our heartfelt songs in honor of the greatest Christmas gift of all:

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him!
The King of Kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him!
Raise, raise the song on high!
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy! joy! for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary!

From all your friends at WriteShop…

Merry Christmas!

Winter picture writing prompts

Kids will love creating stories of winter adventure and mystery with these photo writing prompts!

FROSTY, fanciful, and far-fetched tales delight the child in each of us this time of year. Let your kids create their own seasonal stories with these winter picture writing prompts!

Frozen in Our Tracks

Four sheep were enjoying a stroll through the meadow until a dark figure blocked their path. What does the  stranger say? Can he be trusted? Will the sheep help him find the one thing he is looking for?

Sheep in Snow

A Chilly Cavern

You and a friend have stumbled across a mysterious cave. The path inside has led to you to a frozen waterfall and a strange, rainbow-colored lake. Who lives here, and why have they allowed you to discover their world?

Frozen Waterfall

Brightly Shining

Every year on Christmas Eve, a light shines from the frozen lighthouse. Write a story about this mystery using at least four of these words: abandoned, compass, flag, reindeer, captain, pickaxe, baked beans.

Frozen Lighthouse

Photos: Matt Belton, Jedimentat44, and wsilver, courtesy of Creative Commons.

How to write Christmas shape poems

Help kids practice free verse poetry with holiday alliteration, contrast, and onomatopoeia!

CHRISTMAS themes make writing activities a whole lot merrier! If you’re looking for a poetry lesson with a holiday twist, then gather the kids for an hour of writing Christmas shape poems.

Last month we spotlighted rhyming poetry activities. Today we’re excited about writing free verse poetry. Free verse has no set requirements for the number of lines, syllables, or rhymes. Instead, free verse relies on lyrical phrases that trip lightly off the tongue when read aloud.

Christmas Shapes

For your child’s free verse poem, choose a simple Christmas shape such as a tree, star, or snowman. This will determine the shape of the poem. A strong-willed writer will need few guidelines to build her poem into a recognizable shape. If your child prefers specific directions, however, you should draw an outline on a blank sheet of paper. Use a ruler to fill in the outline with 8-10 straight lines. When these blank lines are filled, the poem is finished.

Help your child brainstorm different aspects of his Christmas shape. If your son chose the snowman, he might think of cold weather, colorful mittens, and imaginary friends. Now he has three possible topics for his Christmas shape poem. Using our winter word bank, he could expand with words like cozy hat, snow bank, or bare branches.

For poems with a specific Christmas theme, direct your children toward two different word banks, one focused on Jesus’ birth and the meaning of Christmas, and the other filled with words about Old St. Nick, holiday feasts, and trimming the tree.

Example: “A Mountain of Pine”




So tall

Strung with lights

Branches sag

Ornaments dance

A mountain of pine needles

Fills our home with forest fragrance

Children gaze at the angel above

Cats snuggle in piles of presents below


Poetic Devices

Without relying on rhymes, writers can enhance their free verse poems using a few other tricks of the trade. Help your child understand and apply the three poetic devices below:


Ask your kids to include at least one or two instances of alliteration in their shape poems. Adjacent nouns can create alliteration (“piles of presents”), or a noun and an adjective can achieve a similar effect (“forest fragrance”). If a completed poem contains no alliteration, help your child go back and find alliterative synonyms for existing words.


Through careful word choices, free verse poetry can leave strong impressions on the reader. Help young writers create a memorable poem with careful contrast:

  • Contrast light and dark colors (flaming star / ebony sky)
  • Contrast small and large items (pea-sized button / floppy felt hat)
  • Contrast opposite actions (sag / dance; gaze above / snuggle below)


Sound words can make any piece of writing come alive! Encourage your children to insert onomatopoeia into their free verse poems whenever possible. When it comes to a snowy gust of wind, a shy forest animal, or a melting icicle, sound words are a wonderful way to “show—don’t tell.”

I hope you and your children enjoy creating your Christmas shape poems! Who knows … maybe one will end up on next year’s family Christmas card.

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 also blogs at

Photo: Dan McKay, courtesy of Creative Commons

Christmas music writing prompts

Children will enjoy writing stories, creating their own carols, and more using these fun Christmas music writing prompts!

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

THE joyful sounds of Christmas swirl through streets and homes each December. Church choirs, car radios, piano recitals, and holiday musicals will surely inspire your children as they respond to these music writing prompts!

1. All I Want for Christmas

Gregory E. Turbine wants only one thing for Christmas: a song. Where does Gregory live, and what does he look like? Why does he want a song, and who will bring it to him on Christmas morning?

2. The Little Drummer Boy

Imagine you are the little drummer boy who played a special song for baby Jesus. Write a letter to an old friend, describing your feelings as you approached the stable and met the Christ child for the first time.

3. Christmas Bells

Write a story about a silver bell named Jingle. Begin with this sentence: After five years in a stuffy old box, Jingle knew this Christmas would be different.

4. Write Your Own Carol

You have been invited to enter the “Create Your Own Christmas Carol” contest. The rules are simple: Choose a favorite Christmas carol tune and write new lyrics. If you need help thinking of words that rhyme, try RhymeZone, a free online rhyming dictionary. When you are finished, invite others to sing this new carol with you.

5. The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Miss Patsy Sweetwater has just received a remarkable delivery from her true love: twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords-a-leaping, and nine ladies dancing. Write the speech Miss Patsy will give to her new holiday helpers, expressing her delight and her grand expectations.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays, and check out our Holiday and Seasonal Ideas for more Christmas-themed writing activities.

Photos: Mike (bell), Carlos Madrigal (drum), David Skinner (youth orchestra), and Prayitno Photography (Southern belle), courtesy of Creative Commons
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