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
March 28, 2019

What’s the Main Idea Here? Homeschool Students & the Importance of Theme in Narratives

What’s the Main Idea Here? Homeschool Students & the Importance of Theme in Narratives

Narratives, as Mr. Stephens often points out in his videos and curriculum, are fun to write and fun to read. Whether personal or imaginative, they tend to allow for more expression and creativity than compositions such as essays or research papers.   Writing the narrative can be easier as well, for the homeschool student is usually describing a series of events (hopefully not unfortunate) in the order that they occurred. The writing is fun; the construction is simple. …

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Athena Lester
By: Athena Lester
March 22, 2019

Why Should I Care about Writing Well?: Help for the Homeschool Parent and Student

Why Should I Care about Writing Well?: Help for the Homeschool Parent and Student

I have an acquaintance who will text me once in a while, and her texts always leave me in confusion. She writes like she is picking up in the middle of a conversation we never had. It’s lengthy; it references things that I don’t understand; and when I reach the end of the message, I’m not sure what she was contacting me about in the first place. It’s only a text message, but it’s written very poorly. Now, …

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Danielle Nettleton
By: Danielle Nettleton
March 14, 2019

Focusing on One Thing at a Time: Homeschool Students & The Writing Process

Focusing on One Thing at a Time: Homeschool Students & The Writing Process

The Setup   The year is 2016; the month is May. I have just turned in to my professor a ten-page paper discussing Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, a paper that will eventually be submitted and accepted by the Sigma Tau Delta Review. This paper utilized many sources, seven of which were cited. It also followed MLA guidelines and has been formatted precisely. Did I write this paper in one sitting, in order, with perfect grammar and formatting?   Of …

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Hope Tolbert
By: Hope Tolbert
March 7, 2019

When to Correct Someone’s Writing and When to Hold Back

When to Correct Someone’s Writing and When to Hold Back

Last week, I posted a picture to Instagram. Immediately after I clicked “Share,” my phone started buzzing in my hands. “Hey, Hope! It’s Jenna!” “Oh, hey! What’s up?” “Well, I’m actually at lunch with some friends, so I can’t really talk, but you made a spelling error in the caption under that picture you just posted. It’s super cute and everything, but you spelled a word wrong.” “Oh… Thank you?” “Yeah, absolutely! Well I’m with people, so I …

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Athena Lester
By: Athena Lester
March 1, 2019

Writing Well, the Reading Way: Help for Homeschool Moms About Why Reading Affects Writing

Writing Well, the Reading Way: Help for Homeschool Moms About Why Reading Affects Writing

Want to know one of the secrets of writing well? Read. This may seem strange and even counterintuitive. If you want to be a better writer, then you should read more? If you want to be an artist, should you frequent museums? If you want to be a professional sports player, do you watch as many games as you can? As a matter of fact, yes! You do! Exposure to an ideal is instructive. If you want to …

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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

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 no matter how many times his mother reminds …

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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 …