Category Archives for "Teaching Writing"

How About Waiting for Essay Writing Until Around 14 Years Old?

I get this question a lot about our Essay Course: When should they start?

Well, it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you want to rush ahead and demonstrate how great you are doing in schooling your child…or…you want to rush ahead and show how naturally gifted your child is, then I’d start in about 3rd grade!

However, there is another way to think about it. Why not grow a child who has two attributes in life (?):

1. Skills

2. Confidence

It is really tough to get a child to be confident at something before he/she is ready. Just imagine insisting that a child should be able to dunk a basketball before puberty. No matter the effort, the ability ‘ain’t there’ to really compete at that level.

Well, essay writing is much the same. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS, but basically most kids don’t have a fully developed cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is kind of necessary for more abstract thought. Frankly, Einstein figured out his basic theories at around age 16. Could he have pulled it off at 14? I’m guessing, “NO.” It’s just necessary to have the brain to do certain kinds of brain-work.

So, what about essay writing? Well, most kids aren’t ready to write formal 5-paragraph essays when they are 11, 12, and even, 13 years old. So, if you try to ‘make’ them write formal essays when their brain isn’t ready, what chance do they have of BUILDING CONFIDENCE? I say, “None, zero, zippo.”

Why not wait for The Essay Course (with The Writing Course ) until they are more ‘ready’ for it?

Instead, try this—

Start writing informal opinion papers. Have them write a paper on WHAT and WHY?

What – Do you believe about _________?
Why – Do you believe it?

Don’t worry about the exact 5-paragraph form, topic sentences, perfect review of the points…blah, blah, blah.

Just get them growing in their confidence! Your young child is probably not going to be a great essayist just yet (defending their opinion on profound matters). Why not just get them ready until the brain kicks in? If you’ll wait a bit, then they will be ready to write essays and excel in the process. Start too soon, take your chances.

You’ll be happier, they’ll be happier, and in some indirect cosmic sense, I’ll be happier too! 🙂

Off to learn,


Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

Your Copy of the Writing Course is waiting!

How to Make Writing Easy for Your Homeschooler

Why is writing so hard? Is it even fixable?

Honestly, the greatest hindrance to growing as a writer (or growing our children as writers) is the simple theory out there that writing really is something you can’t learn— you either can or you can’t write, that’s it! Of course, this is about as big a bunch of baloney as you find at any sandwich shop in any major northern city.

Writing is about language. One of the main ways we use language is by talking. No one seems to think that talking is un-learnable. We learn to talk by talking. We learn to write by writing.

Now, I’m not saying it isn’t hard to learn to write better. Writing is easily the most difficult subject out there. In a simple paragraph you can have hundreds of decisions to make in word choice, punctuation, grammar, etc. Writing also needs to happen at a dizzying speed. Yet, our design as humans means we have been made for it; we have an ‘Instinct for Writing’ (see Pinker).

The challenge is to recognize that learning anything isn’t easy (at first). In fact, the way I like to say it is


In our approach we teach folks to start with writing how they speak. This isn’t the end of the process, but it does tap into your child’s innate ability to work with language. We don’t want to write like we speak, BUT it is a great way to start. Once those words are down on paper it’s just a matter of going back through them and making a few improvements.

Almost anyone can do this, but they simply must keep in mind that learning almost always involves frustration. Get over it. The frustration doesn’t last as the skill develops. Your student’s frustration is a sign she needs to learn, not a sign that she can’t.

I have a free gift that might help a lot. Get it by clicking Endless Writing Prompts. You are on a good course…the more they actually write and then tweak, the faster they will learn and succeed.

Does it really go without saying that we need some better writers in this world?

Off to learn,


Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand