I want my child to be known as a thinker. What about you for yours? It takes more than hoping for that to happen though. Like with anything else as we homeschool, we need to be intentional about teaching our children how to think. To be sure, the brain is constantly processing information as it inputs and outputs data. But we all know that that doesn’t mean that thought has gone into what is said before it leaves the mouth or is penned. Yet, when we consider the great writers, we’re amazed at how expressive their works are. And secretly, we hope that our children will be able to express thoughts as clearly as they. So here are three keys to practicing the habits of great writers. It might surprise you that it begins with classic rhetoric and persuasive writing.
3 Keys to Practicing the Habits of Great Writers
As shocking as it may seem, all of the great writers prior to being great writers did these: write, read, and think. While these may seem like obvious steps, I think that we can see evidence in our society today that these skills are sorely lacking.
If we consider the cause to effect in what we observe in today’s culture, we can see why it’s so different for our youth. For instance, most teens gather information from snippets here and there, primarily in social media. As such, many of them don’t have much to consider about any given topic. The result is ignorance due to a lack of ideas to mull over and consider.
In order for us to tackle this topic of practicing the habits of great writers, we need to make sure we hash out some terms. So let’s take a moment to see how Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines these three keys.
Key 1 is to Write
While it may seem ridiculous to take time to define this word. I believe it will help us have a cohesive picture among the great writers.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines write :
1. To perform the act of forming characters, letters or figures, as representatives of sounds or ideas. Learn to write when young. 3. To play the author; as he thinks, he speaks, he writes, he sings. 7. To compose; to frame or combine ideas and express them in words.
As can be seen, writing is more than penning letters or figures that represent sounds or ideas. Indeed, it allows our students to play the author. If our students consider themselves playing the role of the author, they become more engaged in their writing.
Key 2 is to Read
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines read as:
1. Counsel. 2. To inspect and understand words or characters; to peruse silently; 4. To learn by observation; 5. To know fully.
If this doesn’t shed new light on the idea of reading, I don’t know what does. As our students read, they’re getting counsel from those written words. Indeed, they’re receiving counsel on many topics by ideas that are presented to them. And they make observations about what is being said about a matter. Plus, reading helps them to know a subject more fully, especially if they are reading more than clips of information from any given source.
After all, there’s something to this quote by Harry Truman, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” As leaders receive counsel, make observations, and know a subject fully, they can more wisely lead.
Key 3 is to Think
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines think as:
1. To have the mind occupied on some subject; to have ideas, or to revolve ideas in the mind. 2. To judge; to conclude; to hold as a settled opinion. 5. To muse; to meditate.7. To consider; to deliberate.
While we catch a quick little something on a topic, it isn’t enough to get the mind occupied on the subject. Obviously, it’s enough to get the brain juices flowing. But in order to really have our mind occupied in this sense, we need to read. And reasoning it through needs to be a part of the process.
As Christians, we understand the importance of reading God’s Word as a part of our counsel. In order for our children to think principally, we need to direct our children in seeking the counsel of God. In effect, this gives our children a full picture of whether or not a matter fits into a Biblical worldview. Needless to say, this then equips them to form an opinion. And historically speaking, this is what America’s form of education includes.
How to Incorporate These 3 Keys into Your Homeschool
Generally speaking, you can research great writers and expose your children to their writings. And then ask them questions about what the writers express on various topics. As has been noted, you also want them to read in the Bible on the topics. Of course, the next step is to have them think it through and come write their conclusions. However, if this sounds a bit daunting, I have an excellent resource to point you to.
Introducing Persuasive Writing and Classic Rhetoric
Last fall, I attended a blogging conference where I met a lovely couple, Joshua and Jill Hummer, who had recently launched a new company called Silverdale Press. Silverdale Press aims to:
Teach the ways of great leaders, writers, thinkers, and citizens.
They publish homeschool unit studies and curriculum on history, social studies, and writing. Their latest offering is called Persuasive Writing and Classic Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers.
This challenging curriculum teaches students, grades 9-12, how to practice the habits of great writers with the three steps of writing, reading, and thinking in a 36-week curriculum.
Lest you think it’s one more thing for you to do, parents actually don’t have to do much instruction with this curriculum. Until day four, you don’t do anything. And on day four the authors recommend that you give feedback to your students.
The curriculum package includes all of the following, in a digital format:
- Lesson Book
- Answer Key
How it Flows During the Week
Day 1. Read lesson and do the review questions for day one.
Day 2. Read text written by a writer and answer the corresponding questions. Students will read classic works by Patrick Henry, Daniel Webster, Rachel Carson, William Wilberforce, Antonin Scalia, Ida Tarbell, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Dorothy Sayers, Thomas Clarkson, William Strunk, Jane Austen, Augustine, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, John Locke, and others.
Day 3. Complete the Find Rhetoric Exercise
Day 4. Write a 500-word persuasive essay based on the writing prompt that is given.
Generally speaking, parents may give feedback on day four. But if you find that you can better make time on the day five of your school week, you can do that. All of this is leading up to the final assignment where your student will polish, pitch, and submit their final persuasive writing for publication.
What is Covered in the Curriculum
In short, you’ll appreciate that this is written by professional authors who also have experience with persuasive writing, especially if you don’t know the following or have personal time constraints.
- Section 1. Introduction to Persuasive Writing and Classical Rhetoric. Also, they cover Habits of Great Writers.
- Section 2. Invention. Introduction to Invention; The Subject; Sources; Interlude for Research and Taking Notes; Statis Theory; The Claim; Inartistic Appeals; Logical Appeals and Deductive Reasoning; Logical Appeals and Inductive Reasoning; Emotional Appeals Parts 1 and 2; Ethical Appeals.
- Section 3. Arrangement. Introduction to Arrangement; The Introduction; Statement of Facts; Confirmation; Refutation; The Conclusion; Interlude for Writing.
- Section 4. Style. Introduction to Style; Correctness in Words and Sentences; Correctness in Punctuation; Clarity in Characters and Actions; Clarity and Zapping Clutter; Ornamentation; Propriety.
- Section 5. Conclusion. Your Audience is You; What Real Writers Do; Moving Past Rejection; Pitching Your Work; Following Up and Fostering Habits for Life.
Payoffs With Using Classic Rhetoric and Persuasive Writing
Eventually, homeschooling parents reach a point where they need to teach subject matter like this. But some of the common problems that parents run into which interfere are:
- Time constraints. You’re already busy managing a home, teaching maybe more than one child, and have errands to run.
- You have a life. And it can’t be all about homeschooling all the time. For certain, you need to have time for self-care.
- You’re friends miss you. As busy as we all are, we need time with our friends who get us. After all, we’re one of the most important support systems we have for each other.
Oh, you wanted to know the payoffs for your student? Silly me. How about this:
It is also imperative that as our children grow up, they grow into independence, both in life and in homeschooling. Imagine handing over this marvelous curriculum, that isn’t busy work, to your student. The instructions are clear enough and written directly to them, so now you’re encouraging that independent learning your student needs, along with the gift of inspiration from some of the greatest writers, with a little help from Silverdale Press, of course. While you’re being productive elsewhere, your student is not only practicing independence, he is getting a top-notch education in writing (as well as reading comprehension and critical thinking). It’s a win-win situation for everyone concerned and likely one of the most valuable courses your student will take during his high school career. The payoff is a shift from sound bites to deeper thinking. The payoff is an introduction to works of writing they may have missed otherwise. The payoff is a step-by-step challenge to do more, be more, think more . . . and ultimately engage more.
To learn more about Silverdale Press and Classic Rhetoric and Persuasive Writing, visit their website. You can also download the first lesson from all 4 books to get an in-depth look at this curriculum.