38 Ways to Teach Writing (that are FUN!)

teaching writing

Writing is an integral part of the language arts classes taught at Sparks Academy. We offer four levels of instruction, each building upon the last, until students are ready to write in any form requested of them – whether at a career or college! But maybe you don’t want a full class….how can you make writing fun at home?

Literature Studies & Living Books

What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool. Scroll down to snag pre-made bundles of novel studies!

Literature Units for Middle School

Virtual Classes
  • My Side of the Mountain & Wilderness Survival
  • Serafina and the Seven Stars & the Biltmore House
  • Serafina and the Black Cloak & Appalachian Folklore
  • Serafina and the Splintered Heart & Writing a Ghost Story
  • The Call of the Wild
  • Alex Rider & Spies
  • Ranger’s Apprentice & Creative Writing
  • Theodore Boone & Understanding the Legal System

Literature Units for High School

  • Oliver Twist & the Industrial Revolution
  • Crime and Punishment & Free Will vs Determinism
  • The Things they Carried & the Vietnam War
  • Five People You Meet in Heaven & Human Impact
  • The Chosen & the Zionist Movement
  • Things Fall Apart & the Colonization of Africa

Online Classes

Another fun option for teaching writing is through the language arts classes Sparks Academy! There are four levels offered currently, including High School 1, High School 2, High School 3, and Level 7. (The last one is for 7th/8th/9th grade, depending on your student’s skills.) This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

Writing Projects & Activities

Writing Units

Writing Activities

Maybe you just need help with writing feedback for your student? We’ve got you covered!! Use the form specifically for the Good & Beautiful or any other curriculum.

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51 Ways to Teach World History with Literature

Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school).  Literature studies, however, are so much more FUN!  As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

world history

What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool.

Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math.  It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! If you’re looking to teach World History through literature, here are 51 units to try….and don’t discount audiobooks, too! They’re a great addition to a busy homeschooling day!

Another fun option for teaching history is the World History class offered through Sparks Academy. This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

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  • Motel of the Mysteries & Archaeology
  • Island Boy & Ancient Hawaii
  • Encounter & the Tainos
  • A Loyal Foe & Wars of the Roses
  • Around the World in 80 Days & International Eats
  • Number the Stars & the Holocaust
  • To Kill a Mockingbird & Racism
  • House of the Seven Gables & Witch Trials
  • The Night Witches & Women in Aviation
  • The Lookout Tree & the Great Acadian Upheaval
  • Animal Farm & the Russian Revolution
  • Breaking Stalin’s Nose & Josef Stalin
  • King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table
  • True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
  • Flashback Four: Pompeii Disaster
  • Someday We Will Fly
  • Zlata’s Diary & the Slavic Wars
  • Treasure Island & Pirates of the Caribbean Sea
  • Farenheit 451 & Types of Government
  • Red Stars & Russia in World War 2
  • The Long List of Impossible Things & Post-War Germany
  • A Tale of Two Cities & French Revolution
  • The World Made New & Early Explorers
  • Kane Chronicles + Egyptian Mythology
  • Percy Jackson + Greek Mythology
  • Heroes of Olympus + Roman Mythology
  • Magnus Chase + Norse Mythology
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream + Celtic Mythology
  • The Golden Bull + Mesopotamian Mythology
  • Call It Courage + Polynesian Mythology
  • Mansa Musa + African Mythology
  • Tristan Strong + African-American Mythology
  • Charlie Hernandez + Hispanic Mythology
  • Aru Shah + Hindu Mythology
  • The Storm Runner + Mayan Mythology
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon + Chinese Mythology
  • The Dragon Pearl + Korean Mythology
  • Coyote’s Daughter + Native American Mythology
  • Race to the Sun + Navajo Mythology
  • We Were There with Byrd at the South Pole
  • We Were There at the Normandy Invasion
  • We Were There at the Battle for Bataan
  • We Were There with Richard the Lionhearted in the Crusades
  • We Were There with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea
  • We Were There at the Battle of Britain
  • We Were There with Cortes and Montezuma
  • We Were There with Caesar’s Legions
  • We Were There with Charles Darwin on H.M.S. Beagle
  • We Were There with the Lafayette Escadrille
  • We Were There at the Battle of the Bulge
  • We Were There on the Nautilus
  • The King’s Fifth
  • Red Falcons of Tremoine
  • Golden Hawks of Genghis Khan
  • Red Hugh of Ireland
  • Calico Captive
  • The Story of Eli Whitney
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • The Lost Kingdom
  • The Secret Garden
  • Heidi
  • Girl of the Limberlost
  • The Winged Watchman
  • When the Dikes Broke

Charlotte Mason History

If you’re more of a simply-Charlotte-Mason style family, check out the Homeschool Garden sessions. These easy to implement sessions are planned out and ready for you to place in your schedule wherever it fits best.  I could spend several hours trying to dig up resources, but they have already done the work for me (and really, who has that kind of time anymore?).  They have a variety of subject sessions, plus five different Advent studies, and you’re sure to find a few that intrigue your family.  One of the best parts about these units is that everything is included – there are no other purchases required. See inside a sample session here.

Want to give it a go? Use code FRIENDSANDFAMILY to take 50% off any one session (not bundles) at The Homeschool Garden.  Where it asks, be sure to tell them Yvie sent ya!  😊

You can find all of the above novel studies in the five unit bundles below! (Sample units are in blue.) Enjoy the journey, and remember….DO THE VOICES!!!

18 Ways to Teach Science through Literature

science nature homeschool

Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school).  Literature studies, however, are so much more FUN!  As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool.

Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math.  It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! If you’re looking to teach science through literature, here are 18 units to try….

science literature pin
  • Fever 1793 + Epidemics in World History
  • Willa of the Wood + Basic Foraging
  • Shouting at the Rain + Severe Weather
  • Nick & Tesla + Nikola Tesla / Electricity
  • N&T Robot Army Rampage + Introductory Robotics
  • N&T Secret Agent Gadget Battle + Spy Gadgets
  • N&T Super Cyborg Gadget Glove + Robotics
  • N&T Special Effects Spectacular + Making Special Effects
  • N&T Solar Powered Showdown + Solar Energy
  • Misty of Chincoteague & Horses
  • Hugo Cabret & Clocks / Time
  • Caroline’s Comet & Astronomy
  • Fuzzy Mud & Microbiology
  • Hatchet & Outdoor Skills
  • Legacy of Flight & Airplanes / Flight
  • The Science of Breakable Things & the Scientific Method
  • Frankenstein & Human Anatomy
  • Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation & Albert Einstein

Another fun option for teaching science is the Physical Science class offered through Sparks Academy! This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

Using Living Books to Homeschool

When you were a kid, did you learn more from textbooks or from reading books just for fun? I definitely learned a lot more from historical fiction than from any history textbook!

Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school). But, by using living books in your homeschool, coupled with family-style learning, it can be so much more FUN and rewarding.  Plus, when you use living books in your homeschool, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

What is a Living Book?

Living books are reading material that pull you into a subject and get you emotionally involved with the characters (a la chapter books), so it’s easier to remember the events and facts.  These books literally bring the event(s) they are talking about to life with storylines and imagination! When is the last time a textbook made you feel alive and invested in what was being studied? Probably never.

Living Books….

  • Allow the reader to visit another era and experience the culture or history.  During the ‘Rona, one of the books we read together was Fever 1793. We like to take our read-alouds and turn them into learning units, like this one, to reinforce concepts learned in the story.
    • TIP: If you’re using read-alouds as a base for school, it’s helpful to read multiple books about the same event. Having different perspectives helps students to learn critical thinking skills.
  • Put the reader into the book.  This allows your children to experience different cultures and places that they may not otherwise see. The more detailed the descriptions, the more vividly your child will relate, and it is through learning about and relating to other cultures that we break down barriers. 
    • TIP: Cultural literacy is learning about other perspectives, including across genders, world regions, and historic eras. It is helpful if you have some background knowledge to incorporate the protagonist’s perspective — so if you are going to read a book set during the Civil War, do a bit of research on the Civil War before reading the novel. It will help bring the story to life!

Benefits of Family-Style Reading

Reading together as a family helps to encourage a lifelong love of reading and literature. Whether you begin when your child is a newborn or as a teen, there are so many positive effects!  

Note to parent: If you do not start reading aloud until your child is a teen, there will be a transitional time as they become accustomed. Do not give up!

Tips for Using Living Books as Read-Alouds

1. Do the voices

Sure, you might feel goofy at first, but nothing gets children engaged in a story faster than having a different voice for each character! Through the years, we’ve had many a good laugh as mom tried to pull off several accents, with varying degrees of success. But you know what? They remember the stories!

2. Let them be active

Legos, play-do, and coloring books are great quiet activities to keep hands occupied while ears are listening. It never hurts to pause and ask a few questions, but you’ll probably find that they are more engaged than you think.

3. Read from many genres

Mix it up, with historical fiction from multiple eras, contemporary fiction, and the occasional non-fiction.

4. Keep a home library

Yard sales, Facebook groups, and consignment stores are a great place to scout used books. Even if your child is a toddler, when you find a classic piece for a few years down the road, go ahead and snag it. A good home library will encompass many different topics and genres, including both fiction and non-fiction books.

5. Read every day

Whether you read for five minutes or an hour, set aside some time each and every day to read.  We get it…busy days mean shorter reading times.  But it’s too easy to get out of the habit, so make it a priority!  If necessary, use an audiobook to do the reading in the car.

6. Pass the book

If your children are old enough, take turns reading. Keep it age-level appropriate and for short lengths of time. When my children started reading aloud with the family, they read one paragraph at a time, then a page, and then a full chapter.

7. Read at level AND below level

As an adult, do you only read collegiate-level and above books? Neither do I. Sometimes it’s nice to settle in with a fun book, regardless of the target age range. For struggling readers, this can help them feel more successful, too, as they build those skills.

8. Use picture books.

In the non-fiction realm, picture books are an excellent way to help illustrate and explain difficult concepts… I’m looking at you, science! But also understand that not every book needs pictures. Not having pictures in a book allows children to stretch their imaginations and come up with those mental images.

Choosing Quality Books

As with everything in life, there is yin and yang. When choosing living books for read-alouds, or as a base for studies, keep in mind that not all books are “good” books.  “Good” books…

  • Have realistic characters. They are flawed. They live in the real world. But they often learn to overcome their flaws during the story.
  • Teach a moral lesson. Whether through acceptance or overcoming, the protagonist learns some sort of character lesson in the story.
  • Are engaging. These are not dry reads, but intriguing plots full of details that will keep the reader hooked and involved.

“Bad” books…

  • Are not real world. In these books, everything is awesome. Or horrible. There are no real-life events. Or they are overly moralistic.
  • Are poorly written. With poor grammar and speech (we’re not talking about the use of dialects, which can add to the authenticity), these books do more harm than good for your student’s mastery of language arts.
  • Have poor characters. They are boring, self-absorbed, and do not learn anything through the story.

Using Living Books to Study Core Subjects

Sparks Academy

The language arts classes at Sparks Academy utilize five to six novels each year to teach history, geography, character, and literary concepts. Each of the four levels builds upon the last, until students are ready to write in any form requested of them – whether at a career or college!  There are four levels offered currently, including High School 1High School 2High School 3, and Level 7(The last one is for 7th/8th/9th grade, depending on your student’s skills.) This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

Homeschool Planning for Parents & Teens

Homeschooling is a big job!  If you’re trying to be mom, wife, housekeeper, chauffeur, and teacher…you’re going to tucker out quickly.  Homeschool planning can help you start off on the right foot! 

Remember this, you can be flexible and creative with your schedule.  There are as many different ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families.  Also, your home is not a school, and you don’t have to re-create school, so don’t be afraid to do what works for you!

Homeschool Planning: Getting Started

You’ve heard the phrase, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  Some folks may think they don’t need a planner (I’m guessing these folks are under 40), and truthfully, failing to plan may not be quite that bad, but it does mean forgetting important things.  Maybe you’re a tech person, or maybe you prefer pen and ink, but find a planning method that works for you!

Start by outlining the year.  Make a note in each month of birthdays, holidays, vacations, and any planned time off.  This could include upcoming moves, pregnancy due dates, or other big events.  After noting these, make sure you have the minimum number of required school days for your state (usually 180). 

While you’re planning, include some field trips.  If you like routine, maybe plan a specific day each month (eg, third Friday), or you can just wing it!  Also be sure to leave some blank spaces – days for catching up, following bunny trails, and for those #LifeHappens moments.

Homeschool Planning: Choosing a Groove

Now that you have an idea of what your calendar year looks like, decide what rhythm you want the school year to have. 

  • Do you want to follow a traditional school schedule, mimicking the public school calendar of August through June, with similar breaks?  This might be a good option if your children have cousins or friends that they want to see on school breaks.
  • Do you want to school year-round, spreading out the work at a relaxed pace and taking time off regularly?
  • Do you want to have a four-day school week, leaving one day each week free for field trips, appointments, and playdates?  This can be a good option if you need to schedule regular appointments, as you’ll know you always have this day of the week free.

When you’re making your plan for the year, you’ll want to put in scheduled appointments and schedule out the first few weeks of school work, but don’t plan too far in advance.  Why?  Because life happens.  You might need to adjust the class work load, adding more or relaxing it, depending on your student’s progress.  No need for you to waste time planning every single day of school when it will change.

Each month, reevaluate where your student is and plan out schoolwork for the next month around the appointments, field trips, and blank spaces.  Oh ya.  And write in pencil.  Because things change.  When it comes to planning, we follow the Robinson’s advice with curriculum lessons and just, “Keep Moving Forward.” 

For older students – in middle and high school – it’s never too early to help them start their own planning as well.  This teaches personal responsibility and time management.  Check out the Five Best Planners for Teens to find an option perfect for your teen. 

Homeschool Planning: Ages & Stages

Depending on the age of your student, you’ll need to plan a little more or a little less.  In general, the younger the child, the laxer you can be.

Birth to Age 3

This age is about learning through play.  Life skills, motor skills, and language development are the primary goals.

Preschool and Kindergarten

While children should still be focusing on learning through play, there can be a slight switch to academic goals.  Learning letters, numbers, sounds, how to print their name are the primary goals.

Elementary School

There is still some learning through play, but more focus on academic goals.  This is the time to decide what type of curriculum you want to use – classical, traditional, unit studies, Charlotte Mason, etc – and be sure to cover reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as introductory science and social studies.  Follow your student’s interests and curiosities!

Learn more about types of curriculum here 

Middle School

This is when students really begin to buckle down in academics, becoming more intentional about learning.  Classes become more difficult, electives are added into the day, and students begin to think about career options for down the road.  Students become more independent and start taking more responsibility for their learning at this age, too.

High School

Start with the end in sight.  Have an idea of what your child might like to do after graduation, and plan courses around this.  Classes are divided into core subjects (science, math, language arts, history) and elective classes.  Don’t forget to plan for standardized testing if college is a possibility.  Internships, hands-on projects, and volunteer hours should all be recorded, too.

Find more specialized advice and inspiration for a variety of lifestyles and challenges in the Homeschooling the Upper Grades series.  If you are confused, overwhelmed, or frustrated by the thought of tackling homeschool planning in the high school years, Sparks Academy offers academic advising and college planning assistance.

Homeschool Planning: Outside of School

Meal Planning

You may not consider meal planning part of homeschooling planning, but it’s really important!  Without having a plan in place for dinner, it’s suddenly five o’clock and you have nothing thawed out.  This leads to a lot of take out, going out to eat, and stressed, hungry family members.

Consider your weekly schedule when meal planning.  If Tuesdays are a full, busy day with evening activities, plan a freezer meal.  Or make a large meal on Monday and serve the leftovers the next day.  Save those time-consuming family favorites for days that are more flexible.

Freezer meals and slow cooking are two easy methods for getting healthy dinners on the table every night AND doing so while saving money.  Try these simple meal ideas to help you get started!

Take a Deep Breath

You have everything in place to have a wonderful homeschool year!  But don’t forget to attend to yourself, too.  Homeschool moms are notorious for wearing twenty hats at once!  We go and go and go and go until we just can’t do it anymore…it’s called burnout. 

Plan a few ‘blank spaces’ and Moms’ Night Outs in that yearly calendar.  Pick up an encouraging book specifically for homeschooling mamas.

homeschool coffee

Must-Have Supplies for Homeschooling Moms!

This is sure to be the most-unusual back-to-school season in our lives…  How will it work?  Where will we school (for those families who outsource some or all of the school day)?  What will we need?  Will masks be a school day requirement?

Seasoned homeschool moms will attest to this list. We welcome new homeschool moms into our fold…..no denim jumper required! Here are fourteen must-have supplies for moms homeschooling middle and high school…

Food / snacks

The number one most-under-projected purchase is the amount of food you’ll need to keep on hand for any one day of school. These are teens…and they’re home ALL DAY….and don’t forget about Second Breakfast!

Library Card

Each December, our library spits out a little piece of paper showing us how much we’ve saved that year by using the library instead of purchasing the items we checked out. Without fail, that number has been over $25K every year! And it’s only grown as the kids have gotten older and their materials have gotten pricier. That’s not to say we don’t buy curriculum, because we definitely do, but those subject-specific books (like “The Real Fighting Stuff“) can be really expensive…thank heavens for the library!

3 hole punch

One of the most underappreciated members of the secretarial lot, the 3-hole punch allows you to take a chaotic mess of papers and organize them into binders. There is not beauty in the chaos when you have three kids’ papers scattered all over the kitchen….punch them, put them in binders, and put them on the shelf until you need grades.

Coffee / wine

Whether it’s 6 am or 6 pm, one of these is always going to be appropriate. Which end of the day you choose to put them is entirely up to you…. Just don’t let your stock dwindle. That could be a bad day.

Shortcut to ST on desktop

We can’t say enough about SchoolhouseTeachers, which basically lets you sign the kids on and then teaches them all their classes. Video-based, downloadable, interactive…pick your poison. Each student’s desktop needs a shortcut directly to their SchoolhouseTeachers dashboard so you can turn over the algebra headache instruction… What is ST?

Favorite chocolate hidden in a tampon box

You made cookies and didn’t get any. You bought your favorite candy and only found empty wrappers. We’ve been there. Solution? Get your favorite chocolate, and hide it in an empty tampon box! No one will steal it now…

Stapler

This one seems like an easy oversight, but every home office needs a stapler. ‘Nuff said.

Desktop / laptop

Whether you choose cumbersome or portable – and they each have their benefits – it’s good to have an actual computer on hand, rather than just tablets and cell phones. There are so many things that require all the functions of an honest-to-pete computer, both online and offline.

Printer & ink

Did you buy digital curriculum? What about that nifty five-page freebie you just had to have? Are you really going to pay someone to print out eight pages of flashcards for you?

Computer paper

See above. Seriously… Must. Have.

Sense of humor

None of us got out of high school unscathed…so why would we think we can get out of teaching high school unscathed? Some days are going to be better than others. Pull on your big girl panties, try to keep it light, and remember what Annie said…. ‘You’re never fully dressed without a smile!

Quiet place / lock on bathroom door

Hmmm. Those days when our toddlers would just barge into the bathroom? They’re not gone. The kids just stand behind the door now talking to you. I like to keep the tap running…for an hour…so that I can’t hear them…while I read quietly in the bathroom.

Laminator

Everyone thinks they don’t need a laminator. Until they do. And you do. Need one. That is if you don’t already have one. Flashcards, printable games, and dry-erase worksheets are all vastly improved and gain an extended life with a laminator. We also like to make booklets, like the Memorization Book, which will last kid after kid after kid…

Plan / goals

Um, yeah. Your kid is in high school. Which means that s/he is about to leave the nest (hopefully). Do y’all have a plan? College, votech, career? This is the time to make goals and help your student move ever closer to the edge of the nest…get those wings ready!

Dry Erase Pouches

Not just for elementary school parents! These dry erase pouches are fantastic for reusing with things such as graph paper, mapwork, and geometry graphics. Students who need a little extra practice on math facts and handwriting can put them to use as well.

Noise Cancelling Headphones

If your older student has younger siblings who are doing schoolwork or playing, it can be distracting and frustrating trying to concentrate on schoolwork. Noise cancelling headphones help your student tune out the pitter and tune in to classwork.

Coil binder

You might think you don’t need a coil binder. If you have a great printer – such as Family Nest Printing – you might not. But you’ll want to ask them to bind your printed books for you. This allows you to buy digital curriculum once, print a book for each kid (as it’s needed), and bind it up like printed textbooks!

Pre-Planned Goodies

Remember that analogy about putting on your own mask on an airplane before putting one on your children?  Homeschooling moms can easily fall into the trap of forgetting to take care of themselves, too… Schedule a monthly reminder to step back and regularly take care of yourself! See our Seven Ways to Pamper Mom!

Want to know what’s on your kids’ back-to-school checklist? Check our the Must-Have Supplies for Homeschooling Teens!


Secure your entire 2021–22 curriculum by purchasing a family membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com. Every subject. Every grade. Every student.