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.



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  • Slowly turning over the revision process to my high schoolers. I found a color-coded highlighter analysis of their body paragraphs helped them see the holes in their paper before I point it out. Training wheels, baby!
I explain my three highlighter revision process on my blog. Look under the essay guide series, then the revision post. Blog link in my profile.
  • Mystery Line Monday! I’m cutting it close today, posting late. But! Instead of getting a puppy in late October, I found out today we’re getting one this Saturday. Yay! And eek! Must finish preparing, fast!
So, the quote. It’s a bit dark and I would normally save it for our spooky theme in October. But I’m a bit distracted and busy, and I do live the way this phrase feels on the tongue. Hello, alliteration! You are one of my favorites! Plus we’re reading Hamlet right now, so reinforcing the lines.
  • Who is this person buying puppy supplies? It’s me. Same person who used to say she’d be fine living her entire life without owning a dog. 🤷🏻‍♀️
  • Snip & Pin editing still works wonders with teens! My 16 year old is writing a compare/contrast essay on Ponyo and The Little Mermaid movies. Arranging through snip & pin helped him come up with paragraph topics and if he should group his ideas in a point-by-point paragraph or block format.
Now we’re ready to rewatch the movies for more “evidence” and then expand his commentary. But first I need to restock movie treats. 🍿🍫🍬
  • Mystery Line Monday! I picked this one simply for cultural reference. #mysterylinemonday
  • Finally making my fall bingo card from the Homeschool Alliance intuitive planning session. It comes with a bingo card download, but I’m a washi tape nerd and feel somewhat guilty about ALL the washi tape I own. I now feel justified owning a 3 year supply of fall leaf tape. ☺️
Of course, I refuse to do pumpkin anything before official fall, if not October 1st. Yes, I’m anal like that. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I can’t get in the mood when it’s still 95 degrees and I’m sweating in shorts. Can’t rush Mother Nature! But I did go ahead and plan it last week while I was laid up in bed.
I appreciate the inspiration from the #homeschoolalliance. Such an easy way to have a touchpoint for the #bravewriterlifestyle! For September, we’re digging deeper into connecting and collaborating with our kids, expanding on a talk @juliebravewriter gave at the #bravelearner conference. Can’t wait to dig into the nuances, rewards, and challenges of collaboration!
#bravewriterteens #secularhomeschool #homeschoolhighschool
  • Mystery Line Monday! This one is such a giveaway. But I don’t care! It’s my favorite quote for birthdays, and today is my son’s 19th birthday! #mysterylinemonday
  • Wally and I got our alumni magazine in today. The same day Payton said he wanted to go to Auburn. The same teenager who two days ago still said he didn’t want to go to college. It took seeing just one fisheries research lab to help him cast a new vision for his life. War damn eagle!

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