Thursday, June 30, 2005


There’s a wealth of assistance available on the market for parents to fill in the cracks and blanks often left by a public school curriculum that can’t be all things to all people. It’s important to supplement in key areas, including writing, if your child is college-bound.

That’s because increasingly, public schools are focusing on the bottom 50% and “back-burnering” the top echelon. Yet those are the students who desire and deserve more academic polish.

You know what they say: if you want something done right, you do it yourself.

In response to yesterday’s column about greatly lowered expectations for student writing assignments, here’s something you can do with your child to improve those crucial writing skills.


Homeschooling a Young Report Writer

Q. If it’s true that public schools aren’t developing children’s expository writing skills very well any more, how can I help my son, who is now in fifth grade? Is there tutoring available so that, by the time he needs to write good college admission essays and score well on the SAT essay, he’ll have good report writing skills?

There’s always the old-fashioned way – do it yourself! There are many good guides that parents can use to homeschool or “after-school” their children in the kinds of traditional, academic skills that they know their children should have. One of the basics of these is how to plan, research and write a term paper.

It doesn’t sound very much like summer fun, but if you help your child pick a “fun” topic – how roller coasters were invented and what principles of physics are employed in their design . . . different kinds of tornadoes . . . the chemistry of swimming pools – helping him or her write a solid term paper can be a very worthwhile summer vacation activity.

Education activist Kathy Schrock and colleagues have written a good guide for this purpose, aimed at helping children in Grades 4 – 8. It’s updated for computer-based writing, which is what the kids like today, and with proper guidance, can be an outstanding way to prepare a solid report.

The book is called “Writing and Research on the Computer,” by Kathy Schrock, Mary Watkins, and Jan Wahlers. It comes with a CD-ROM as well as PDF versions of all the handouts, sample databases, and additional information.

The 96-page book includes chapters entitled:

Introduction to Research
Choosing a Topic
Documenting Information
Collecting Information
Searching for Information
Evaluating the Information
Using the People on the Internet
Information Retrieval Skills System
Research Investigations Lesson

The book is available for $18.95 plus $4.50 shipping and handling.

Homework: Order the book and browse the rest of Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators site at

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