Where are they now?

A Success Story

I love hearing from students who have found success in school and life. Recently, I received an announcement in the mail from one of my former WriteShop I students (also a homeschool grad), who graduated summa cum laude from Gordon College.

Along with the announcement, Kaeli included a copy of an essay she had written for a grad school application—an essay limited to just 300 words. The irony of this little requirement didn’t escape either of us, for brevity was never her forte, and was in fact the very fly in her WriteShop ointment.

Back in our WriteShop days, restricting this enthusiastic writer to a single five- to seven-sentence paragraph was practically the same as torture. More than once she pleaded for eight sentences. More than once she made a passionate case for those extra adjectives. Much to her dismay, I always stood my ground.

Not that it’s a crime to write a ten-sentence paragraph or use a string of four perfect adjectives. Rather, it was all about a skill we were trying to develop in our young writers: conciseness.

Teaching conciseness is a foreign concept for many of you—you’re just happy to see a complete sentence materialize on your child’s paper! But we discovered that the same limits on paragraph length allowed parents to teach one simple WriteShop lesson to both struggling and eager writers.

The result? The reluctant child sees a doable goal (“I only have to write five sentences”), and the enthusiastic student learns to hone her writing and avoid rabbit trails and unnecessary verbiage.

Kaeli fit the latter profile. Bursting with ideas, she wanted to say it all. But her year in WriteShop taught her instead how to say it best.

Where Are They Now?

It was good to hear from Kaeli. From time to time I think of my former students and wonder, “Where are they now?” Deb and I haven’t taught a class in several years, but it’s really rewarding to see how successful many of these homeschoolers have become:

  • Pastors and missionaries
  • Military men and women
  • College graduates in a wide variety of majors including journalism, English, sociology, criminal justice, Middle Eastern studies, photography, communications, art, music, and theater
  • MA and PhD candidates in English, economics, political science, philosophy, psychology, and theology

In most cases, it’s been eight or more years since I’ve edited their fledgling writing attempts. But I’ve also read some of their recent writing. And what I see now reflects what I saw in my own son as the post-WriteShop years passed: maturity, knowledge, wisdom, growth. They express themselves in different ways, but they have all moved well beyond those WriteShop days.

Laying a Foundation

Some of you are just beginning your journey. You can’t even begin to imagine that one day your child will write an articulate, coherent thought. Others of you have taught WriteShop to several children who are now young adults succeeding in college and the workplace.

We “veterans” have learned that WriteShop served as a launching place, a training ground for instilling the basics of writing, including concreteness, conciseness, clarity, and sentence variety—skills that many incoming college freshmen lack.

Take heart. You’re teaching your children that writing is more than random thoughts tossed onto paper. You’re helping them learn to use important tools that lay a foundation for future writing—writing that will take shape and mature as their knowledge, life experiences, vocabulary, and thinking skills develop.

My girls were intuitive writers, easy to guide and easy to teach. But I didn’t have much faith that my reluctant 12-year-old son (the WriteShop guinea pig) would be able to write. Our journey was hard, and we experienced more than our share of frustration. But diligence paid off. He’s now a 25-year-old PhD candidate whose writing has actually become his work.

Your child may not become a scholar . . . and that’s okay. But good writing skills will take him far in the workplace and in life. So stay the course, and be encouraged that a great deal can—and will—happen between now and adulthood.

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4 comments ↓

#1 JoJo Tabares on 07.12.10 at 9:36 am

Congratulations on so many years of hard work with WriteShop that is showing so much fruit! My dd was one of those Wordy Wendies who had to learn brevity especially in the college application process. Many of her fellow college students cringe when given a long essay or report but my dd just smiles. But now she also smiles when given a short assignment because she knows she can do it.

#2 Kim on 07.12.10 at 9:47 am

JoJo: For many, the short assignments are often the most challenging. Students really have to stay on track and choose their words carefully.

Thanks for sharing about your daughter. Sounds like she’s learned to navigate the waters of both long and short essays and papers. That’s a testimony to her hard work and your parental diligence!

#3 Betty-Ann Heggie on 07.12.10 at 8:37 pm

Its intimidating writing a comment on a blog about good writing skills- but here goes! I used to be a corporate executive and I can’t tell you how many college grads I hired from good universities that couldn’t put their thoughts down on paper. They had good ideas that weren’t heard as we were a global company with people spread all over the globe and we had to communicate by email. You are providing a real service.

#4 Kim on 07.12.10 at 9:12 pm

Betty-Ann: Way to go! I’m glad you stomped all over intimidation, because you left a really valuable comment. You’re not the first person to share about the lack of writing skills among college students—and graduates.

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