Homeschooled students learn lessons in writing

7 years ago

On the morning of Friday, Jan. 12, seven students ranging from elementary to middle-school age were seated in Room 411 at Presque Isle High School’s Adult and Community Education Center, ready to write. Instructor Robin Thurston chatted excitedly with them, outlining one of the most important parts of the writing process. 

“We’re all part of a community of learners and we’re going to help each other make our writing better,” Thurston said.

Thurston maintained that theme throughout the Writing for Homeschoolers class, the fourth such class she has taught since joining Adult and Community Education faculty two years ago.  She got the idea for the sessions from a colleague who suggested reaching out to the local homeschool community.  

“I approached our director at Adult and Community Education, LeRae Kinney, and she immediately said, ‘Let’s do it,’” said Thurston, who is also director of the Robert A. Frost Memorial Library in Limestone.  “Writing is a necessary skill for students whether they go to college or enter the workforce after high school, because it gives them the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they need to succeed.”

Thurston wants to make students more comfortable with writing and sharing their work and expose them to different styles, such as journaling, poetry, monologues, how-to lists, advertisements and essays.  She reached out to homeschooled students in an effort to give those children opportunities to interact with their peers in another learning environment.

“The homeschoolers’ curriculum is very impressive and classes like this give them a chance to expand upon what they already know about writing and and learn in the type of traditional classroom that they’ll be in during college,” Thurston said.  “And the more teachers they learn from, the more perspectives they’ll be exposed to.”

Every semester Thurston teaches a five-week session of Writing for Homeschoolers, with this semester’s session lasting from Jan. 12 to Friday, Feb. 9, from 9 to 11 a.m.  During class, she gives students assignments based on their skills and how many sessions they’ve taken.

Most of this semester’s students have previously taken Writing for Homeschoolers and were given Take 2 or Take 3 assignments.  Take 2 students worked on concept webs to generate narrative writing ideas, while Take 3 students analyzed a favorite advertisement before writing their own.  Students with Take 1 assignments created “How To” lists that ranged from “How to buy a PlayStation 4” to “How to Cook Eggs.”

As students shared their written advertisements, they often giggled at each other’s unique inventions but also learned how to give constructive feedback.  James Bennett, 9, of Caribou, had many ideas for his advertised product.

“It’s an iPad that brushes your teeth,” Bennett said.  “But it could also do anything you want it to do.”

“Maybe it can make my bed and clean my room,” his twin sister, Ella Bennett, said, laughing.

Kristen Cox created a concept web based on the topic “hobbies,” but explained that she had to rethink her original idea before arriving at the sentence and paragraph stages of the assignment.

“I found a topic I liked, but I didn’t like what I wrote for sentences so I had to redo my web,” she said.

Thurston used Cox’s example to teach about the importance of writing many drafts and revising.

“Sometimes when we start writing, our original intentions don’t work out the way we thought they would, and that’s OK,” Thurston said.

The class has proved popular with many of the students who have returned for multiple sessions.

“I like the class because it’s fun and I learn different things about writing,” Ella Bennett said.

“I thought that this course would be a nice addition to their curriculum at home,” the twins’ mother, Jennifer Bennett, said.    

Regardless of where their enthusiasm for writing takes them, Thurston hopes that all the students gain extra skills that they can bring to their homeschool lessons and into their futures.

“I hope that they learn to love writing if they don’t already and become more confident in themselves,” Thurston said.  “Writing is a great way to build that confidence and it gives them a network of students who support each other.”

More information about Adult and Community Education courses can be found at