High School Writing Requirements: An Authoritative Guide

Another post in the suite of Authoritative Guides for homeschooling high school: High School Writing Requirements: An Authoritative Guide.

High School Writing Requirements: An Authoritative Guide

High School Writing Requirements: An Authoritative Guide

When my youngest son headed off to college (he started out at our local community college), one of his first courses he had to take was Freshman Composition. After the first writing assignment was graded, his instructor asked him to stay after class for a second. This, of course, was a bit anxiety inducing…was he in trouble for something?

But no, he was not in trouble. Instead, his instructor asked him, “What high school did you go to? This is one of the best papers I’ve ever seen from a freshman.”

My son was able to proudly share that he was homeschooled and learned to write by lots of practice. (He did not mention that the curriculum that he used was 7Sisters! In fact, over the high school years, He completed every single writing guide that we had constructed!

Anyway, the point of the story is that writing matters.

For college-bound teens, it is vital that homeschool high schoolers head to college well prepared to do lots of quality writing. For non-college bound teens, writing is a life skill that will be needed for lots of practical needs.

Because writing matters, it is an important part of every English/Language Arts credit (as you know, homeschooling high schoolers need four ELA credits for graduation). The components of an English/Language Arts credit include:

Writing develops important thinking and communication skills

In this Authoritative Guide we will discuss the writing component of homeschool ELA credits

We will cover the following topics:

  • What kinds of writing should be covered for homeschool ELA credits?
  • Where is the best curriculum for my teen?
  • How:
    • many papers should my teen write each year?
    • do I grade papers?
    • can I motivate my teen for writing projects?
    • do I find resources to help my struggling writer?
    • can I teach the writing requirements in homeschool co-op classes?

High school writing requirements: What kinds of writing should be covered for homeschool ELA credits?

To be clear, there’s not ONE right way to look at writing requirements, so you do what is best for your homeschool high schoolers and your family. However, in our years of advising homeschool teens and working with colleges and employers, we have found that there are some writing components that are:

  • Good yearly requirements
  • Some that should be covered at least once before graduation

    Introductory Guide to High School Essay Writing is a no-busywork, step-by-step, day-by-day writing guide for homeschool high schoolers.
    Click image for full description.

Yearly writing requirements include:

  • Essays

    • Essay writing is important because it trains teens to own their own thoughts and ideas, synthesize them, capture them and defend them. This is the exact process that writing essays takes teens through. It trains their minds on this kind of critical thinking skills and helps them learn to communicate accurately.
    • This genre of writing can sometimes feel like boring busywork to teens, but when they understand that essay writing is like going to the gym and building muscles (only they are going to the essay-gym for their brains and building their critical thinking and communication skills) it helps the hard work feel purposeful.
    • All 7Sisters essay writing guides include writing prompts, but here are some more prompts that might be relevant to your teens
    • For more on critical thinking skills check out this post on critical thinking and this post on thinking well.
  • Research Papers

    • Research papers are important for the same reasons as essays are important in building critical thinking and communication skills. On top of that, research papers are vital tools in teaching teens to research:
      • Dig for information
      • Learn valid information versus bad information (learn to look for good sources of information)
      • Hone communication skills like:
        • Recognizing and avoiding plagiarism

          APA Style Research Paper Writing Guide
          Click image for full descripton.
        • Citing sources of information
      • Owning and/or finding their own curiosities
    • If you get confused (it’s easy to get confused, we know) on the difference between essays, reports and research papers, here’s an explanation.
  • Short Stories

    • Sometimes homeschool parents shy away from short story writing because it does not feel like serious academics, but believe me, creative writing is important. Short story writing trains teens to:
      • Have fun with a project (and sometimes this kind of fun builds confidence in writing skills which generalizes to other types of writing
      • Exercises the creative part of the brain, which in turn activates other parts of the brain to work better. Creativity is part of a healthy lifestyle (that’s why we include some creativity advice in the health curriculum).
    • There are many kinds of short stories what teens can write. We recommend writing one story per year (honors students or Creative Writing credit students will write more) using a skill-building process, where each year there is a new (and building) skill. For instance, Years:
      • One: Family Narrative (where teens learn character development, conversation, storyline)
      • Two: Tall Tale (where teens have a blast getting creative with characters, conversation and storyline)
      • Three: Myth-Fantasy (where teens learn the basics of fantasy writing used by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis to write a short story)

        Introductory Guide to Poetry Writing
        Click image for full description.
  • Poetry

    • Poetry is so very useful for homeschool high schoolers. Because poetry says a lot in relatively few words, it teaches teens how to use words powerfully. It teaches teens to think about the best way or most impactful way to say things. (My teens have told me that their poetry writing gave them word-usage skills that have helped them write more interesting papers in college. More interesting papers get better grades.)
    • This genre of writing is also a creative avenue for expression and healing.
    • Because many pre-high school writing curriculum include little poetry writing (or get SO serious that it takes the fun out of poetry), 7Sisters recommends starting from scratch in high school (which is what our Introductory Guide to High School Poetry Writing does). Going back to basics in high school gives a chance for poetry to be fun and memorable.

Occasional requirements (those that should be covered at least once before graduation) include:

For more specific details, check out these posts about the kinds of writing that should be done by:

Where is the best curriculum for my teen?

That’s a trick question!

No, really. There’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school and there’s not ONE right curriculum that is best. However, there are writing curricula and courses out there for just about any need. For instance:

  • 7Sisters Writing Curriculum: Essays, Research Papers, Short Stories, Poetry, Professional Writing, Creative Writing…all with the classic 7Sisters NO busywork, adjustable to different levels of rigor, don’t overdo it, style.
  • Online courses. There are SO many to choose from but here are a several of our friends’ schools with online courses:
  • Dreaming Spires Home Learning
  • Heavy duty, college prep programs like Institute for Excellence in Writing.
  • More traditional courses (lots of grammar) like Time4Writing, Abeka, Bob Jones.

You do what is best for you and your teen!

High school writing requirements: How many papers should my teen write each year?

As you know there’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school, so there’s not ONE right number of papers to write each year. Every family and teen have different needs and goals, so paper writing will vary.

We have found that we can expect that each year:

  • More and longer papers from a tenth grader than a ninth grader
  • A bit more and longer papers from an eleventh grader than a tenth grader
  • And then more and longer papers from a twelfth grader than an eleventh grader

We also have found that writing needs differs by the level of rigor that a student needs:

  • Remedial students needs for support, types and lengths of papers will vary by student. (Check the section below on suggestions for special needs students.)
  • Average (non-college-bound students) do not need to waste their time on extremely long papers. They should definitely write to increase their critical thinking, communication and creative skills, but there is no need to overdo it.
  • College-bound teens need to do lots of writing and gradually longer writing projects.

If you want a in-depth, year-by-year, leveled breakdown of how many papers we have found work best for the homeschool families we have advised over the years, check out this post: How many papers should my teen write.

How do I grade papers?

We have found over the years, that we have grown to love rubrics. You can easily find one you can adapt on the internet or use our guidelines in this freebie: Tips for Grading Writing.

Also, many writing curriculums, including 7Sisters Writing Guides, include grading rubrics with each guide.

There are more guidelines for grading particular writing projects in these posts:


Tips for Grading Writing freebie
Click image for full description.

How can I motivate my teen for writing projects?

There are lots of things you can do to motivate your teen for their writing projects:

  • Start with a growth mindset, teens need to:

    • know that learning to write skillfully takes practice. The more they practice, the easier and more natural writing becomes.
    • talk resiliently. Instead of saying, “I’m bad at writing,” try, “I’m learning to be a good writer.”
    • think hopefully. Their brains need to know that they will keep working on their writing in order to improve. Talking hopefully makes a difference in the way the brain works. For more growth mindset ideas, check this post
  • Take a giant step back

    • Remember, you are homeschooling your teens in order to do what is best for them. You get to choose the educational goals. So if you are setting your teens’ goals, then do not pressure yourself to have “grade appropriate” writing to start with. Take a step back:
  • Make assignments short

  • Keep them simple

Here’s a post with more practical tips for helping reluctant writers with essays (sometimes this is the writing project that most intimidates young writers).

For teens with struggling with writing because of special needs:

  • Feel free to make the compensations they need:
  • Dictate writing assignments for first drafts to mom or using Dragon Dictation or other dictation app. (We are not affiliates, btw.)
  • Do journaling daily or weekly where students can free write with no need to be graded. This can be done by hand, dictation or dictation app.
  • Create a verbal progressive story (instructions in YouTube below)
  • Check out SPED Homeschool’s website or Facebook group for lots of ideas and support
  • Adapt curriculum to your teens’ needs. Do lessons together, dictated and then grow into eventually working independently

How can I teach the writing requirements in co-op classes?

If you are teaching writing high school homeschool co-op classes, you can have SO much fun! We have done some of the work for you, so read these posts then create some plans and a syllabus for your teens.

Don’t forget we have co-op discounts on 7Sisters curriculum! (And feel free to contact us with questions at info@7SistersHomeschool.com or even more fun, throw questions out to the 7SistersHomeschool Facebook group and get lots of ideas from your many 7th Sisters!)

Do you have teens who are homeschooling high school or are planning to homeschool high school soon? Check out 7Sisters Authoritative Guide post on planning high school.

Your homeschool high schoolers can love their writing experiences. High school writing: You CAN teach this!

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High School Writing Requirements: An Authoritative Guide

Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

2 Replies to “High School Writing Requirements: An Authoritative Guide”

  1. Hi Christina,
    Welcome to homeschooling high school. These are the best years yet!
    All 7Sisters curriculum are pdf downloads. When you complete a purchase, the screen will show you links to download the curriculum (be sure to remember where you save it- maybe start a “high school” file). You will also receive an email with the links.

  2. I am very interested in this writing curriculum for my daughter and so do I get it in my email and then print it? My daughter is going into ninth grade. Of course I know I need to pay for it. Thanks. . Thanks much.

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