“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Apparently teaching English is even more illusive than I thought! Years ago when I ran a large homeschool co-op I would poll parents at the end of each year about courses that they struggled the most with teaching at home, as well as the courses they wanted to see offered at co-op. Inevitably, English was the number one subject area parents felt least prepared to teach and wanted help with. Which is interesting to me for two reasons:
- All states require four years of high school credit in English
- Colleges want to see four high school credits in English
In other words, the area that homeschoolers dread the most is also the area that has the most unrelenting requirements.
What’s a homeschooler to do? First things first. Let’s define what English includes as a subject.
What is English?
English is a broad catch-all category and has to do with all things related to reading and writing, including but not limited to reading, syllabication, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, literature analysis, recitation, genres, Shakespeare, essay and research writing, poetry, tropes and creative writing, plagiarism and essays and probably more.
Including English on Your Transcript
For High School Transcripts it is generally acceptable to write down English I, II, III, IV, each level indicating a full credits worth of “English.” Or you can differentiate between literary genres, such as American, World, Ancient, British Literature, etc. It is also generally understood that each credit of High school English will include literature and writing instruction. Students in high school should master the essay and be so comfortable with it that they don’t even give it a second thought.
High School English
By high school, most students will have a good handle on spelling (or be adept at using Spell Check) as well keyboarding. Vocabulary should be something that students should be working on consistently throughout their academic careers, through either foreign language study, extensive reading or an excellent vocabulary program like Worldly Wise. Students should also know at least rudimentary diagramming skills. While one is clearly capable of writing well without this knowledge, a bit of grammar will take the elementary writing to the next level and the good writer even farther. In other words, by high school, the mechanics of writing should be well established, including how to write a 7 sentence paragraph and a simple 3 paragraph paper.
Students should also be reading widely by High School. For those who struggle with reading or just don’t like to, graphic novels and books on tape are excellent options and ones we utilize even in our home of willing and excellent readers. Simple narration and rudimentary literary analysis should be at least touched upon before high school. Recitation is a fantastic way to learn a piece of literature and truly understand it.
High School English should break down the skill of writing in a way that allows every student to write shorter and then longer essays well, regardless of ability. English is not rocket science and a good English teacher will be able to give their students the tools and skills of writing well. High School English will also include literature and again, a good English teacher will be able to lead great literary discussions that bring the text to life for the student, as well as impart skills so that the student can begin to discern nuanced meanings within the text on their own.
High School English will include not only the structure of how to write a solid essay but will encourage and impart stylistic techniques as well. Poetry and tropes are easily taught, enjoyed by most everyone and a fantastic way to build English copiousness and skill. Simple writing prompts and assignments based on the literature the students are reading often lead to delightful and humorous writing that quickly and easily pushes the student well beyond any writing they’ve done to date.
Happy Sigh. I love writing and I love teaching writing. Last year I taught Shakespeare and poetry and what delightful fun we had! We would have Shakespeare actors write letters to each other, using alliterations, create poetic puns and practice Iambic Pentameter (Shakespeare’s most used rhyme scheme) while incorporating tropes like similes, alliterations and onomatopoeia’s. Epic writing occurred as well as shared laughter!
On-line English Classes
If you are still nervous about teaching English to your homeschoolers, True North Homeschool Academy is here to help! We offer High School Literature and Composition for anyone just starting out in the world of High School writing, or for those ready to go beyond what they thought possible, we are offering Advanced Literary Analysis and Composition that will incorporate American and British Literature and is a great tie in to Latin and our C.S. Lewis Club. Our Writing Club will be less structured but provide students with plenty of opportunity to creatively grow and express themselves and our C.S. Lewis Club will allow students to delve deeply into the writing of the last century’s greatest writers.
Imitable Amber Fonseca and Lisa Nehring will be teaching the writing classes at True North and we are both thrilled to be able to share our love of literature and the joy of writing with you and your students!
Please reach out if you have specific questions about how to teach High school English, or if you have any questions or comments about our English program at True North Homeschool Academy! And don’t forget to join our FaceBook Group, Help Homeschooling High School.