Essential Conversations

This blog is devoted to all aspects of writing, literature, and teaching. We are excited to partner with you on your homeschool journey and provide you with helpful and quality content in our blog posts.

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Danielle Nettleton
By: Danielle Nettleton
February 22, 2019

MLA Format: Top Ten Do/Don’t Tips

MLA Format: Top Ten Do/Don’t Tips

As a scorer for Essentials in Writing, I grade compositions according to the guidelines of MLA: the Modern Language Association, also known as the group that discerns what is and is not permissible in written compositions. Along with the other scorers, I grade according to this standard not only because it provides consistency but also because it is the standard by which the average college professor grades written assignments (depending, of course, on the department and the class). …

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Athena Lester
By: Athena Lester
February 7, 2019

When Your Smart Homeschool Student Struggles with Writing

When Your Smart Homeschool Student Struggles with Writing

When Your Smart Homeschool Student Struggles with Writing Although I have no children of my own, I do have a thirteen-year-old brother. My mother is homeschooling him, and the kid is very bright. He whistles instrumental movie soundtracks after hearing them once. He designs and builds complex Lego creations, complete with moving parts and intricate backstories. He watches scientific debates on YouTube in his free time. And the boy will not capitalize the first words in his sentences …

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Danielle Nettleton
By: Danielle Nettleton
June 7, 2018

The Homeschool Student’s Convenient Guide to Commas

The Homeschool Student’s Convenient Guide to Commas

As a scorer for Essentials in Writing’s homeschool writing curricula, I frequently see just how much trouble commas can cause for students, and as a member of Curriculum Development for Essentials in Writing, I’m often reminded just how many ways commas can be used, so it’s no wonder that students are often confused! When I am scoring, most of the grammatical errors I see in students’ papers include commas or the lack of them, even more so than …

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Athena Lester
By: Athena Lester
May 14, 2018

How Should a Homeschool Student Approach Academic Writing and Personal Topics?

How Should a Homeschool Student Approach Academic Writing and Personal Topics?

Isn’t it wonderful when you can write an essay focusing on something you actually care about? Let’s face it—not everyone is thoroughly invested in preparing a persuasive essay for living in the country or the city, or comparing and contrasting heat and cold. Sometimes, however, you are given the opportunity to write about something that personally applies to your life, and it’s thrilling! At the same time, this can be a tricky issue to handle in academic circles. …

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Hope Tolbert
By: Hope Tolbert
May 11, 2018

Discovering Your Taste in Literature

Discovering Your Taste in Literature

Reluctant Reader?   Here’s a secret: I hate Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Cue the gasps. I read it for the first time as a high school freshman, and I promptly fell asleep every time I read a page. I had to set syncopated alarms on my phone just to get through it. The whole thing was a terrible struggle, but I managed. Here’s another secret: I can’t stand Charlotte Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Cue even …

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Melanie Ross
By: Melanie Ross
May 3, 2018

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

As the year winds down, I want to share a word of encouragement with you! I’m a homeschool mom, too! If you are like me, you want the first part of the school year to fly by so that we can get to all the holidays and the break from school that comes with it.  I long for our schedule to be free of the daily schoolwork, co-ops, field trips, and sports schedules that rule over us during …

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Danielle Nettleton
By: Danielle Nettleton
March 2, 2018

For the Homeschooling Student Who “Just Doesn’t Get” Literature

For the Homeschooling Student Who “Just Doesn’t Get” Literature

What can I do for my homeschool student who struggles with understanding literature and who “just doesn’t get it”?   Somewhat recently, a friend and I were discussing some short stories assigned in her Introduction to Literature class. “I’ve read some of them before in seventh grade,” she told me, “but it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t understand them then, and I don’t understand them now.”   She was partially joking, but that conversation stuck with me. The …

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Athena Lester
By: Athena Lester
February 28, 2018

Homeschool, Literature, and Writing: What to Do with Poor Responses

Homeschool, Literature, and Writing: What to Do with Poor Responses

“My homeschool student’s literature response is poorly written! How do I grade the response and help my student write better?” This is an issue that every educator deals with. Some people might be tempted to slap a D or an F on the assignment and move forward, but that won’t help the student in future compositions, so what can we do? Even though the concept of a “wrong answer” should not really apply to literature, written responses can …

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Hope Tolbert
By: Hope Tolbert
February 23, 2018

The Importance of Personal Writing

The Importance of Personal Writing

For some of us, writing is something to check off the to-do list.  Writing may simply seem like a necessary evil. However, I think every homeschool student has the potential to love writing.  How? By writing even more. Let me explain. My mom was determined that all eight of her kids would be creative. When I was a baby, she would give me a pile of crayons and tape paper to my highchair. As a result, I learned …

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Danielle Nettleton
By: Danielle Nettleton
January 26, 2018

Transforming Better into Best: Homeschool Writing and Proofreading

Transforming Better into Best: Homeschool Writing and Proofreading

Why is proofreading an important part of the homeschool writing process?   Proofreading, to many students, is a dirty word. Visions of poring over endless lines of text dance in their heads, trapping them until the composition is “good enough”—and even then, mistakes may have slipped through, causing them to wonder in frustration why they even bother proofreading if mistakes persist anyway. Proofreading, however, is a vital tool for the writer regardless of experience or age. A fact …