Teen Essay Guide Writing

Summer KISS Series: A Teen Essay Reference Guide

I need to start a Summer KISS blog post series. You know, Keep It Simple, Sweetie. Because we’re coming into July, which means prime planning season. Researching & reading Shakespeare resources, novel studies, which essays to plan for which teen and those resources, planning a senior-year rhetoric course, college visits, Shakespeare plays, SATs, driver’s ed, field trips, I have chairs to paint, and, call me crazy, but I’d like to do a few things just for me over the summer too.

Who has time to craft perfect opening hooks or folksy narratives for blog posts? 

I have ideas I want to share with you because I’ve found them helpful at the high school level, and lord knows we need more people talking about homeschooling at this level. But TIME, you guys. Can I do all the things and spend three days crafting one blog post just so?


So here we go. Summer KISS where I simply launch right into to The Thing.

What is The Thing?

An essay writing reference guide for my teens.

I’m making one. 

I’m making one because I want my guys to have a go-to source for essay writing full of methods and tools that work for them.

What helped them get past the block on writing introductory paragraphs? Put it in there. What topics are they interested in? Keep a list in there. How do they start revising their first draft? It’s in there. Oh those pesky paraphrasing skills! Those are in there too.

Look, it’s hard to remember all of the pieces to the essay process and how to do them on top of the other 100 things you gotta do at the high school level. We’ve learned the basic expository essay, but when it comes time to repeat and write more academic essays, we can’t expect our teens (or ourselves) to have committed to long-term memory the details of each step. 

Enter this reference notebook.

I want to be clear about something, though. The goal is not to put the weight of responsibility all on our teen’s shoulders. No. I believe homeschooled students need quality writing coaches. No getting around our responsibility there. 

The goal of this binder is to keep track of the process, of the tips and tools that work well for my teens along the way. Sure, they’ll grow in confidence as they do this, and that confidence will eventually lead to a more self-sufficient writer, someone with the skills to do more on their own. 

But this is not to push all of the responsibility of essay writing onto my teens so that I can go do other stuff. They are still kids who need wise and supportive mentors. If I don’t want to or can’t be that person during their high school years, then I need to pay someone to be that person. 

This guide is written on the premise that you own Brave Writer’s Help for High School and the teen has completed it. They could complete Brave Writer’s equivalent online classes, but there are numerous Help for High School pages referenced in my guide. Key information will be missing if you don’t have a copy. And I doubt the process would make sense if you try to do Help for High School in the bits and pieces referenced instead of going through it in its entirety first. Help for High School teaches the foundational academic essay skills whereas this personal teen guide is more of a reminder of those skills and builds on them.

I’ll post a separate blog post for each section in the binder. Until then, here’s the lowdown:

Topic Selection
Freewriting/Working Thesis/Rough Outline
Refined Thesis Statement
First Draft
Revision & Editing

Resources I know off the top of my head that are referenced in the guide:

Help for High School
The Writer’s Jungle
They Say/I Say
Analyzing Quotes & Facts booklet
Getting Ready to Research graphic organizers
MENSA for Kids Writer’s Toolbox

There may be a few resources I’m forgetting. I’ll link them in that section’s blog post as we go along. 

And now I gotta make a grocery list and hit the stores. Because hungry teen boys. It’s like a plague of locusts wipes out my pantry every 72 hours.

See you guys soon with the topic selection post!


P.S. Oh! I also have a “Teacher’s Guide” version of these notes too. Much of the info is same, but for some there are additional notes and tips for us as a teacher, especially for the revision stage. I’ll post those within the same post as the teen guide. If I can get them edited for errors in time. Eek. Or maybe you guys won’t care much about my typos as long as I just get them up.



what do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Willow’s current favorite game is The Gingerbread Man game. She runs, runs, runs fast as she can. I can’t catch her. Willow wins Gingerbread Man.
  • She’s still stinkin’ cute. I still don’t like dog kisses in the face. 🤷🏻‍♀️ #catperson
  • Frankenweenie family movie night! Everyone I love in the same room together for two hours - a feat with teenagers and a traveling husband! I made dorky movie food. They thought it was cute. That’s a perfect Friday night in my book.
  • Many thanks to my dog-mom friends who have talked me through the WTF did I do, we were crazy to think we could handle a dog moments. Willow is SO FREAKING ADORABLE. She’s already sleeping through the night and has learned “leave it.” But OMG, a puppy, you guys. Going to co-op is now an ordeal, constantly watching for potty break signs, the biting. Sigh.
  • Our guiding question as we work through Frankenstein. Am I the only one who can get analysis overwhelm from some teacher guides? A 100 page teacher guide to Frankenstein? Holy cow! It’s too much. Are we trying to cover ALL THE THINGS in one book? Sure, there are dozens of interesting aspects we could analyze with any book. But I need a limit.
Trying to cover allusion and feminism and patriarchy and the nature of humanity and rights of the living and cloning and the tenets of romanticism and gothic literature and the educational theories of Locke and Rousseau (seriously not making that up) through one book...good grief, it’s exhausting.
What’s a provocative or interesting idea in this story? We still find that question enough of a jumping off point.
  • Breakfast read aloud for our October spooky theme. And when I say breakfast read aloud, I mean it’s October 9th and it’s the first day I’ve gotten my teens to the breakfast table at the same time AND I remembered to get the book out. 🤷🏻‍♀️ It still counts. #secularhomeschool #bravewriterteens #homeschoolhighschool #bravewriterlifestyle
  • Mystery Line Monday! We’re starting our spooky literature month, so the lines in October will come from various spooky works. I may do more than one line a week this month since I have several spooky lines. We’ll see how much crazy baby puppy brings to our life.😜
I’m not highlighting any literary elements in this one. It’s the idea I find intriguing. Something I want my teens to think about as they go out in the wider world and encounter different leadership. Also, we’re starting this book this week.
  • Hi! My name is Willow. I like toy crabs, pine straw and mad dashes in the yard to avoid nap time.

Follow Me!