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Why I Figured Out a Better Way to Teach Writing


But what I really want to told you is why I am so interested in it. I mean today – I guess I’m a successful author of eight of my books published and many of them done quite well. I’ve got five kids who are homeschooled. Three of them collectively have written eight books – I written and published eight books collectively but the two haven’t written eight books curiously both have their essays used as models for other classes in college. That is today. BUT IT WASN’T ALWAYS LIKE THAT…

If you’re finding what I’m sharing to be helpful won’t you please share at facebook, twitter and other places to let others know? Thank you so much! 


10 Reasons Homeschoolers Are Better Writers



Let’s just say it: As it stands, homeschooling will turn out better writers. The reason isn’t as spiritual as it is mechanical. It isn’t necessarily about a writing curriculum, but a writing curriculum that mimics the failed public schooling study-grammar-and-diagramming approach is doomed to fail. The process homeschoolers experience is going to produce a different kind of intellect. They may not be as tech-savvy in the short-term, but homeschool graduates are going to be more powerfully balanced in the long-term. The better balance makes for a better writer, since every fine writer is thinking about living a life rather than tweaking a code. Here are the 10 Reasons I believe you will see a better writer in a homeschool graduate. These are generalizations and represent the larger group, not the disappointing exceptions 🙂


1.  Homeschoolers don’t do busy work

2.  Homeschoolers learn according to interests

3.  Homeschoolers don’t test too soon or too much

4.  Homeschoolers don’t get easily promoted

5.  Homeschoolers don’t see learning as a compartment of life

6.  Homeschoolers are focused on getting ready for life

7.  Homeschoolers are being tutored not taught

8.  Homeschoolers easily get caught cheating

9.  Homeschoolers are learning how to learn

10. Homeschoolers learn to write by writing


1. Homeschoolers don’t do busy work

Busy work is a behavioral strategy that looks like something productive is being done. But, as in the military where you always need to look busy, busy work encourages both manipulation of authorities and a lack of discernment about what’s important. Learning to look busy means that you are learning to focus on giving ‘eye-service’ rather than real service. If busy work is elevated to a level of value, then it takes on its own importance. In the real world, the 80/20 rule is always in play; 80% of what is really valuable comes from 20% of the material. 20% of your skills produce 80% of your results, etc. Face it, “If everything is important, nothing is important.” Moreover, busy work makes most people HATE education/learning, because it seems so pointless.

2. Homeschoolers learn according to interests

George Washington Carver observed that “Anything will reveal its secrets if you love it enough.” There is something powerful about being able to use reading, writing, and math as a bridge to discovering something you are seeking. Everyone does better when they are interested.

3. Homeschoolers don’t test too soon or too much

We shouldn’t have to have proof for the obvious, but it’s available. Labeling a child based on early testing would be fine if the testing was flawless…but really, how dare anyone tell others what they can or can’t do? Besides giving a child false beliefs about herself, testing also forces mass education systems to make learning and education primarily about the test results. Do we want our students to learn or just to learn how to test?

4. Homeschoolers don’t get easily promoted

Any of us who have been in school systems have seen this unfortunate phenomenon. I personally was moved along from 5th to 6th grade without understanding anything about long-division. Really! In homeschooling you have to actually learn the subject to advance, and that’s based on what you KNOW the student can do. Not getting ‘moved along’ in the system means that homeschoolers are going to tend to actually know what they’ve learned. Also, any delays can easily be covered at home over the summer.

5. Homeschoolers don’t see learning as a compartment of life

When you ‘go to school’ and come home ‘from school’, then you can’t help but see school as the place you go to learn / study / think. They used to make up for that with ‘homework’, but even then school was treated as a compartment. It is hard to learn in the thick of life if you think you have to go to a classroom with an expert to grow your knowledge or skills. Homeschoolers get to see that home and school and life are all opportunities to learn.

6. Homeschoolers are focused on getting ready for life

The goal of most mass education systems is to get kids out into the world with some basic learning OR to filter out the elite learners for advanced education. What isn’t really in play (except for a few precious and rebellious teachers) is to see how all learning relates to being equipped to do life well. This is one of the reasons homeschoolers study government and citizenship, they are being prepared for contribution to their nation; it’s part of the mindset.

7. Homeschoolers are being tutored not taught

When a student struggles in mass education settings, the solution is to get a tutor to help him. Tutoring is the ‘fall back’ because (drum roll here please) …IT WORKS. Teaching deals with a large audience receiving the notes in a lecture. Tutoring allows for an awesome student/teacher ratio. It means that the tutor has the time, energy, and insight to work with the student from where he is in any given moment. We are talking targeted and individualized eduction! Face it, the low student-teacher-ratio just naturally gives a huge advantage to the homeschooler.

8. Homeschoolers get caught cheating

It’s just hard to cheat your tutor (and too, with your siblings around you watching all the time). We’ve had two of our homeschoolers try this approach to school. Both were caught, and both had to start the subject over (our goal was to learn math not to merely get through the book).

9. Homeschoolers are learning how to learn

Except when homeschooling mimics the public and private schools, the implicit focus of school is to encourage homeschoolers to learn to teach themselves. Almost no single parent (or both) can know more about every subject then their students. In the course of time they will pass you in a specific area or skill. Our youngest (Brooks Lybrand) is currently a senior in high school and finished calculus when he was 15 years old. He also made a perfect score of 800 in the math section of the SAT. Sorry, that’s just past us! We encouraged the kids (and designed a system for it) to teach themselves and each other. As of today, it seems to be paying off well for all 5 of them.

10. Homeschoolers learn to write by writing

To the point of the article. I hope you realize that writing is the hardest of all subjects. Do you? Honestly, just think of the number of decisions being made in writing a mere paragraph; with word choice, grammar, spelling, punctuation, strategy, sequencing, etc., it’s staggering! Additionally, writing is more self-taught than any subject. One’s own voice and style are individually discovered as we play around with words.

Homeschoolers are going to be better writers because of the previous 9 reasons…better and balanced self-learners make better students of anything. Writing is no exception.

But, there is an even greater reason homeschoolers are going to be better writers: THEY LEARN TO WRITE BY WRITING. Yep, that’s it. Writing is what grows writers, just as working math problems grows mathematicians. Learning about math isn’t learning math. Learning about writing isn’t learning to write. Mass education settings simply do not have students writing much at all. Moreover, the writing they do is grammar obsessed, which only leads to a growing hatred of writing (see Reason 2 above and The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar in The Atlantic Monthly).


If you want a child to grow as a writer:

1. Minimize obsessing on grammar and correctness (please don’t put faith in formal traditional grammar/punctuation curriculum, they mostly hurt your young writer)
2. Have them write some everyday
4. Have them learn grammar, etc., by reading their writing aloud
3. Give them a little feedback about what you liked (especially)
4. Have them share their writing with others (dad, grandma, friends, etc.)

Unless they follow mass education practices, homeschoolers will turn out better writers. Homeschoolers actually have to write, so they naturally have the best shot at improving. As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out, they’ll need to put in their 10,000 hours to become great. Now, what will they do with this skill in the head-to-head competition in life when writing matters? Well, we’ll just have to stay tuned.

Off to learn,

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
Creator: The Writing Course


P.S. Would you do me a favor right now? PLEASE share this online somewhere (tweet / facebook / pinterest / etc.). OR (and) PLEASE post a comment below. Thanks so much!



(c) Fred Ray Lybrand, 2014

Teaching Grammar is Socialism, isn’t it?

Rudolf Flesch once observed that language may be the only truly democratic thing on the planet. What he meant is pretty straightforward; what becomes the common grammar does so because of usage. In other words, we ‘vote’ on what proper grammar is, based on how we use words. http://www.dean.sbc.edu/tamburr.html

It is a strange phenomenon that we could keep insisting that our students learn the ‘proper’ grammar…what a death blow to inventive and creative writing! What a death-blow to language, too!

Should our students write correctly? Of course.

Is our current grammar correct? Nope. But, it’s not incorrect either.

If we historically had taken our current approach to grammar and punctuation in education, then we would have tried to codify (and demand submission to) the Elizabethan standards of the 1600’s. Really? That’s the correct way to write? If it is, then why aren’t we teaching that standard instead of McGuffey (or Roberts, or Dr. Seuss, etc.). If it is not the standard, then why not? Why aren’t we writing like Shakespeare? Who is making this decision for you?

Do we really want everyone to write the same way and sound the same way? Do we really want everyone to use the exact same rules and style in grammar and punctuation? It is a socialistic approach that demands children all be the same; and, of course, language will have none of your socialism. Usage will win, and it will be so cool!

We have an instinct for language, which means simply:

1. You learn to talk

2. Your talking grammar is correct (enough)

3. You learn to read

4. Your reading grammar is correct (enough)

5. [Later in school] you formally study grammar (which you have to already know in order to read) so that you can know what things like subject/predicate/present tense/intransitive/verb/noun/ adjective are all about.

6. Eventually, you give up and either learn to write by your instinct, or quit writing except when you have to

There is a whole new world of writing just ahead…and a whole new world you’ll give to the reader…if you will do the following for yourself or your student:

* Write a lot

* Write in our own voice (unique approach)

* Stay teachable and learn to change what doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense in your writing

* Keep reminding yourself that Shakespeare couldn’t have told you much at all about the formal names of the grammatical components he used

Write on,

Fred Ray Lybrand

The Writing Course Works

How to Help Your Students Get Over Being Defensive About Their Writing

How to Help Your Students Get Over Being Defensive About Their Writing?

When we try to teach kids how to write, you and I have both seen it dozens of times. We simply offer some helpful advice (or worse yet, we point out a mistake) and our child goes ballistic [ballistic is a simple term concerning motion and balls…but has come to mean suddenly angry!]. All we are trying to do is teach kids how to write.

Homeschool Child Not Listening

In teaching kids how to write, we’ve learned that we have to unravel their fears about the quality of their writing so they can receive some helpful input for their improvement. After all, writing is basically about trying, getting help, and doing a little better. Here’s what we’ve seen work with countless writing students over the years:

Show Him the Three Stages of Writing

The stages of writing are OK…GET HELP…MAKE IT GREAT

The goal is to stress that you don’t want a perfect paper, story, or sentence. All you want is something that is OK. In fact, ask them if they can write something OK. OK is where everything begins; you can’t start with perfect. The next step is to get help. When you are giving feedback to a writing student, just ask him, “Does this sound better?” When you share your idea he might say it does or he might have his own great idea. This is a powerful habit. Help him to settle into writing in 3 stages; OK, GET HELP, then MAKE IT GREAT.

Help Her Realize She is Not What She Writes

The idea here may seem a little esoteric, but it is really practical. Your student needs to realize that she is not what she writes. Her writing will live long after she is gone (if it is kept or published), so we already know she isn’t her writing. What she writes will have a life of its own and touch people even when she is asleep or not in the room. This is rather vital for a student to grasp. If she is what she writes, then she must write something that is ‘good enough’ to justify keeping. She’s thinking that if her paper isn’t good, she isn’t good. They call this an issue of identification. She actually thinks the paper says something about her…and it does, somewhat…it says that she is learning!

Once a student begins to grasp that she isn’t her paper (she was there before the paper was written), she is freed to look at it honestly. We call this the Principle of Separation (kudos to Robert Fritz). And, once a student begins to grasp that there isn’t a good way to start out perfect, she can start writing in 3 stages; OK, GET HELP, and MAKE IT GREAT.

Blessings to you,

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
This Blog was first posted at homeschool.com as a guest blog: http://www.homeschool.com/blog/index.php/tag/dr-fred-lybrand/


Welcome: How to Teach Kids to Write

Hey Educator,

Glad you dropped by! If you own The Writing Course, or are just thinking about it, this is our way to connect a little, share some information about our homeschool writing curriculum, and answer your questions. We had a forum, which was good…but it is a little too tedious for most of us to quickly use (but please go survey it…lots of good stuff there). We’ll move some of the forum material over here and produce more blogs for your benefit. PLEASE comment and interact…it makes a big difference for everyone!

Here’s the one question most folks have in teaching kids to write with The Writing Course



In our experience, going through the homeschool writing curriculum material yearly (at least) is key to comprehensive learning. Each time through the student is at a different “place” in the learning process as a writer.

The Writing Course turns out to be unique here because each time through you print a new workbook. Also, the exercises are open-ended, which means they will be ‘fresh’ each time. Try this with any other curriculum :-) and see if your students don’t revolt from the tedium!

So (after investing in your own copy of The Writing Course)

1. Print the workbook
2. Have them listen to the audio lesson and use the workbook (one lesson a day..should take about a month)
3. Discuss together what they are learning (daily)
4. Complete the course and start having them write daily (about 20 to 30 minutes at least).
5. Give feedback (see our video instruction under Video Extras) as we suggest
6. Get wowed!

On a side note, The Essay Course, as part of our homeschool writing curriculum, is probably better suited for 14 year olds and up. Of course, you can decide. I don’t think we started any of our children on it until they were 15. Frankly, high-level argumentation is a function of a more mature brain. The most important thing is to learn to master the sentence / paragraph.

Fred Ray Lybrand