What Homeschooling Taught Me About Being a Writer. . .

26 Dec

photo by Renata Osinska at

I recently returned to homeschooling my daughter after taking a couple of years off to write full time. As I studied “teaching tips” from various homeschool groups, I realized that much of their advice would be helpful to writers trying to increase their word count or improve their craft.

Here are a few homeschool tips I found useful in my writing life:

You get more done if you start out with a plan.  I’m not talking about boring outlines or the dreaded synopsis here. In writing, I have always been a pantser. But it helps to start off the day with a realistic idea of what can be accomplished and the determination to reach that goal.

The same thing can be said for writing a scene. Writers often seem to write several unnecessary paragraphs “warming up” or setting the stage before they get to the heart of a scene. Since those paragraphs are almost always cut in editing, it’s worth taking a moment to think about scene goals before writing.

They’ll remember what stands out from the ordinary. It’s better to do hands-on research than to read a textbook. Take a field trip. Meet an expert. When writing, go for the big scenes, but pay attention to the telling details.

Tackle the important topics first. Things that are scheduled for late in the day don’t always get finished. Start with what’s hard or important, and save the easier tasks for when your brain is fried.

Persistence pays. Just as no new student learns an entire year’s curriculum in one day, no writer becomes a published author overnight. It’s recommended that homeschool students put in 900 hours per year. The average writer needs to make a similar time commitment in order to learn their craft.

Exercise is important. Get up. Run around. Go outside. You’ll feel energized and get more done.

Sometimes you need to take a reading day.  In writing, as in homeschooling, there are days when the plan just won’t work. Maybe the words aren’t flowing or you’re not feeling 100%. Don’t feel bad if all you can manage is a reading day. We all need down time to process what we’ve learned. Just make sure you get back to work as soon as you’re recharged.

Snuggle often. The joys of homeschooling and writing are remarkably similar. What other jobs can you do in your pajamas with your loved ones close at hand? As writers, it’s easy to get caught up in the work and neglect family time. Don’t miss out on the greatest perk in our chosen career, staying home with out families.

Keep in touch with your friends. Homeschoolers know the importance of avoiding social isolation. Buried under our manuscripts and rejections letters, writers need support too. A weekly coffee date with friends can be the perfect way to jumpstart your writing.

Does your day job teach you anything about writing? I would love to hear your stories of writing lessons learned in unexpected places.


Posted by on December 26, 2011 in writers, writing, writing craft


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18 responses to “What Homeschooling Taught Me About Being a Writer. . .

  1. Janis

    December 26, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    My day job teaches me how to manage deadlines. It’s also a forum for human behavior, so I’d say that’s important. I like your tips on writing. Thanks.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      December 26, 2011 at 4:41 PM

      Janis, Your job sounds like a fantastic place to get story ideas. Thanks for commenting:)

  2. Katie

    December 26, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    These are great tips! We homeschool our two boys, ages 12 and 7. Our oldest has found an interest in creative writing, but he’s just starting with it and really trying to find his footing. He’s 12, so carving out time and pre-planning are as foreign to him as annual tax returns, lol, but I think these tips will help him get on the right track. Going to direct him here now. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Homeschooling mom of two boys who’s ecstatic to have found my budding writer an online writing tutor that’s not ME! 🙂

    • Clarissa Southwick

      December 26, 2011 at 4:42 PM

      Hi Katie, I love hearing about your budding writer. Good luck to him in his writing career 🙂

  3. Liz Fredericks

    December 26, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    Another great post, Clarissa! Hmmm, my day job teaches me about managing large scale projects and the many ways human beings sabotage themselves – perfect for writers!

    • Clarissa Southwick

      December 26, 2011 at 4:44 PM

      Liz, I love stories where characters sabotage themselves and I can’t wait to read yours. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  4. Judith Keim

    December 26, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    Love this Clarissa! Your daughter is lucky to have you for a teacher!

    • Clarissa Southwick

      December 26, 2011 at 4:45 PM

      Thanks, Judy. I bet your kids have learned a lot from you too. I know I have 🙂

  5. Megan Hutchins (@mkhutchins)

    December 26, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    I’m mostly at home with two little kids, so a lot of things I’d say are similar to what you listed! One big thing they’ve taught me is to hit the ground running when I find some writing time. I never know if I’ll have an hour or five minutes, so I can’t waste those first five minutes of sitting down to stare at a blank page anymore. Reading awesome blogs (like this one!) get tucked at the end of writing time, which has made me a lot more productive.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      December 26, 2011 at 4:46 PM

      Thanks for some great advice. I find myself plotting out scenes as I clean house, so when I get a moment at the computer, I’m ready to write. Good luck getting those pages done with little ones at home.

  6. Mary Vine

    December 26, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Lately, at work, I’ve learned more about denotations/conotations because it is vocabulary work our high school students need to pass state testing. Good stuff. Thanks for another great post.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      December 26, 2011 at 4:47 PM

      Sounds like another great blog, Mary. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Peggy Staggs

    December 26, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    What great tips. I always have a plan, unfortunately the rest of the world (read husband) always has a different one. I’ve got great plans for the new year.

  8. Barbara Witek

    December 27, 2011 at 5:14 AM

    Great post and great tips! I, too, am a pantser when I’m writing. I will plot and outline myself into a corner if I try to be “linear” so to speak. BUT..I’m learning to find some kind of happy medium. It’s taken me awhile, though. I work at a University where I listen carefully to our grad students talk about their course loads, planning, and still trying to retain some sort of social life. Kind of like we writers do when trying to balance writing, family, “me time”, oh and in some cases the day job. It can be done, but you have to focus on that goal. I’ve figured out how many pages I can write in 1 hour, and make that my daily goal (sunday night through Friday afternoon). This is my minimum page count, if I do more that’s good. But for the most part I’m only going to get 1-2 hrs of writing time at the end of the day so I need to make the most of it. THIS is my new schedule for the new year. I need to stick to my plan. 🙂

  9. Diana Layne

    December 27, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    Oh, yay, another homeschooling writer!

  10. Donna Cummings

    December 27, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Great post, Clarissa. I like the “reading day” suggestion. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to keep trying to plug along when the story is digging in its heels. Reading can really free up the brain, and it doesn’t make you feel guilty for taking time off from writing. 🙂

  11. Marilyn

    December 29, 2011 at 5:55 AM

    Interesting analogies–enjoyed this.



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