There is no shortage of tips, tricks, and resources to help your homeschool student prepare for college writing. Conferences and curricula abound, and in fact, “preparing for college writing” is such a buzz phrase that in .19 seconds 3,710,000 results about this topic can be produced with a simple Google search. Now, the majority of these results can be questionable at best, but the search results demonstrate the question many home educators are asking: “How do I prepare my student for college writing?” 

No single formula can fit every shape and kind of student writer. When it comes to strategies or systems, personal preference often reigns supreme for homeschoolers. In addition to spelling, grammar, mechanics, and other matters of creativity and style, students should dive deep into matters of worldview and argument in order to navigate the daunting waters of college-level writing.

What & Why

In his essay, “The Liberal Arts: What and Why?” Arthur F. Holmes1 suggested the greater purpose of education is not to train for an occupation but to cultivate a lifelong learner. Writing is an integral part of learning, an extension of human interaction, a way to understand ideas and connect with others.

Holmes noted: “To write is to become articulate, to express what I feel and explain why I feel as I do, to expound, to argue, to offer good reasons, to explore relationships, to have a sense of the whole, to see things in total context” (389). Students who are insecure about their writing (or parents who are insecure about teaching writing) may view composition as a means to an end (such as a high GPA or soaring scores on entrance exams or graduate exams) rather than a necessary skill with spiritual purpose.

Expound an Argument

If to write is to expound, as Holmes states, then good writing will provide the reader with enough evidence to effectively support his claim(s). We can apply this truth to academic assignments as easily as we can apply it to evangelistic outreaches. Clear, engaging writing will naturally reflect on the writer, and as believers we are called to reflect the Lord in all we do. In 1 Peter 3:15,2 believers are urged to“sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

Being ready to give an answer implies having the information available to give in the first place. A humble student, one who is willing to read and is ready to improve his writing, will better offer good reasons of hope in any situation he encounters.

Reasons & Relationships

Whether sharing the good news of Jesus with an unbelieving friend or tackling a topic in an English assignment, one should be prepared with good reasons. As Holmes noted in his essay, “To write . . . is to offer good reasons.” The verse cited earlier from 1 Peter reinforces this idea as well. Notice “having all the answers” is not noted but rather a genuine seeking for information peppered with humility.

Furthermore, engaging the culture with gentleness and respect is a calling for every Christian, and once a student can consider each assignment or exercise as an opportunity to know God more and to love others better, all of our communication and connection with one other—whether spoken, written, or otherwise—takes on eternal significance.

Sense of the Whole/Total Context

A worldview with the Creator God at the center will naturally link math with science with history with English, and so on. Writing makes room for this interconnectedness by allowing one to think broadly and deeply. After all, as homeschooling mother and classical educator Leigh Bortins aptly noted in her book on classical education, The Core,3 “Writing is thinking on paper.”