I think one of the biggest things homeschooling Moms worry about is English. Once students reach high school writing research papers becomes a big deal. How do you teach this skill? I know myself, I looked all over the internet for something particular. My criteria was that it be an independent course (I didn't want a full year of grammar, writing and literature because we already had something else for that) just the research paper. I wanted something that was easy for me as the parent to understand and easy for my student to comprehend. It had to take a reasonable amount of time (not a full year) and it couldn't cost an arm and a leg. Most curriculum I found was either incorporated in the entire English year or it cost quite a lot of money.
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Along the way I kept coming back to 7 Sisters Homeschool. It is a group of women who have homeschooled children for many years and even high school. They created their curriculum with specific needs in mind. They kept it simple (no busy work), easy and cost effective. I reached out to them to see if they would like to partner on a review because I hadn't really seen any hype about their curriculum. Having reviewed many different companies I'm always interested to try new things and I have found some of my best loved curriculum has been from independent companies.
My second born son is a senior this year and one of my major goals was to have him complete a research paper. There are many different styles to write but we choose MLA Research Paper Writing Guide to work on. It was easy to print the guide and get started. The guide has clear instructions on what is expected for college prep and honors levels. It also has it broken down into four grade levels: 7th-8th, 9th,10th, 11th-12th. For us it meant a minimum of 10 pages, 30 note cards and 14 in-text citations. There is an entire grading sheet included so parents can easily score their child's work. Also included is a schedule so that you can plan how long you want to work on the papers, this ranges from 4 to 10 weeks. We have opted for the 10 week schedule due to how much time we had to work on the paper daily.
Now, the best part of this curriculum is the guide breaks down what the students are expected to do over the weeks. I have to admit my son was still a bit overwhelmed because he had never done research at the library. I was of little use to him because when I graduated we still used encyclopedias and the card catalog! So, once he picked out his topic a quick trip to the library was in order. Our librarian was awesome! Our library has all the research material online and it is free to access with your library card. She also showed him how to use google docs to write his paper and to use a citation site - Easy Bib - which hooks directly to google docs so the format is already handled. If you have a decent library, I highly suggest you look into the additional services they offer as this made doing the research so much easier. We were able to access all the content at home (but he could have done several trips to the library if that was required.) I also suggest you look into google docs and Easybib.com to make the writing part smooth.
The hardest part of all of this was picking a topic and making sure you could gather enough interesting material to produce a long enough paper. My son choose Medieval Weaponry. At first he struggled because he was having trouble broadening the topic but after a quick discussion we were able think of more areas weaponry applied to. Things like who crafted them, who had weapons, types of weapons and even castle's defenses. Once he got those topics he was on a roll. This curriculum is pretty hands off for parents but I like to be involved in the discussions and encouragement. The major thing I told my son was just get something down and the order of how you want to discuss the various points. Then we can discuss how to expand and transform that into a working research paper. This really helped him. He handed me a rough draft that was about 7 pages long and worked on that draft to fill in the things that rounded out the paper making it a full 9 pages and well written. I decided to accept 9 well written pages instead of 10 because I could see that he covered the topic thoroughly and it was well coordinated.
I loved this curriculum. It was exactly what I was looking for. We treated it like a major project for his senior year. I liked the ease of use, time it took and that it produced results. Having a guide was so beneficial because we both learned how to plan and execute a research paper. I can't imagine if I had to come up with all of that on my own to convey and somehow have my son accomplish. I'm debating having him write a second paper in the second term of school just to cement what he learned and apply it.
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