Teen Essay Guide Writing

Summer KISS Essay Series #9: Pacing Schedule

My Type A side twitches over the fact this series is ending on #9 instead of #10. But no way am I making up an extra blog post just so I can hit 10. I’m not that Type A. Besides, I’m heading to The Brave Learner conference, so I’m very busy processing my introvert anxieties.

What does make my Type A side have all the feels, though, is a fricking schedule. Yes, I said it! SCHEDULE. Even if I ignore the thing. Or only half use it. Even if I look at it, throw it out because I think it’s crazy and then make up my own. I like seeing a schedule, okay?

I’m tired of calling all the shots.

You know what seeing a lesson schedule does for me? It reduces decision fatigue. Someone else has already made decisions on breaking down a complex process. Good! Even if I change it, at least some of the mental work is done for me. I have a built-in jumping off point instead of figuring it out from scratch.

Homeschool mom decision fatigue. It’s a thing. Going into my 10th year as a secular homeschooler, I feeeeeel it. Some may mistakenly think Type A schedules are about control and guarantees. If I follow this, then I’ll certainly get that! Maybe for some people it is about control. But not always.

For others, we just want some help!

Educating children is a monumental task. And here we are doing it on our own, without a weekly staff meeting, without another teacher in the room next door, without a curriculum committee, without a building full of colleagues to bounce ideas and ask advice.

So one way help shows up for us is a lesson schedule from someone with more experience.

So please, my Type A sisters, look at my pacing schedule. Use it. Tweak it. Wad it up, throw it in the trash and call me crazy. Fine by me. This pacing guide makes me feel good, it gives me a sense of direction, I put checkboxes on it…come try to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Heather’s tombstone epitaph: Damn, she could map out a plan. And bake cookies.

You know what else? I’m gonna tell you what else because I’m on a roll about the schedule/no schedule debate. Seeing a schedule frees up some of my mental space for those Type B things. I don’t have to think so much on the how; I have space to think of the treats. I have the reserves to be patient and pay close attention to my kids. I have energy left to think about me too.

If schedules do the same for you, solidarity!

Quietly pushes soapbox back under the desk.

How long does this take?

You’ll notice the pacing schedule looks like it takes four weeks to write an essay. It does. And it doesn’t. We usually take five or six weeks. You’ll see under certain days I note to take additional days as needed. Those could easily add up to two more school weeks.

When we write an essay that doesn’t require research (process essays, opinion essays), we get it done in under a month. But when we include research from multiple sources, it’s more like the five or six weeks.

I don’t try to do those harder essays in three weeks. I did try it; it made my son miserable. It did nothing to foster a love of writing. In fact, it did the opposite. So there’s an example where I used someone else’s schedule and I threw it out. Maybe your teen would hate taking six weeks because it drags on too long. Throw my schedule out! Or speed it up. No hurt feelings on my part.

But don’t operate under the assumption that if your teen can’t write a harder essay in three weeks (or he/she can but it’s stressful and makes learning miserable) that there’s something wrong with them. They will get better at this process as they practice it.

Meet your teen where they are and use this pacing schedule as a guide for breaking up the steps, not as a hard and fast rule of what must get done each day. I wrote it specifically for a persuasive/argumentative essay, but you can adapt it for other essays too. For something like an opinion essay, skip the research days and write a solid thesis the first time instead of doing a refined thesis.

Just look at how the work is chunked and decide if it fits your goal for the essay.

Alright guys, I’m hitting the road to Cincinnati for The Brave Learner conference. If you’re there, come say hi! I’ll be the introvert acting like an extrovert until it all gets to be too much and I go hide in a corner.



what do you think?

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


  • I bought this game and plan to play it first day of school on Monday. I figured I should play around with it beforehand. I rolled these literally the first time. The dice don’t lie. #metaphordice #homeschoolhighschool #secularhomeschool
  • Question! Are all of these buttons the same as the 8 cycle choices on a washing machine? No one ever uses them?
  • Need
  • Front and center in my literature teaching notes. Eudora Welty because we need to remember there are no right or wrong answers to literature. My public school years of multiple choice quizzes marked right or wrong brainwashed me. Welty’s quote un-brainwashes me.
The literature compass because it’s easy to get overwhelmed by ALL THE THINGS the experts say we should teach with literature. “The Close Reading monster asks kids as young as elementary school to use the level of challenging analysis that my daughter faced as a college English major!” (Trees in the Forest pg 14)
I gleaned those four bullet points from the essay “How to Create Nonreaders” by Alfie Kohn. (Give it a google.) Those points spoke truth to me. That WAS what hooked my kids in. I need to remember them when facing the Close Reading monster that pervades our current pedagogy, especially as we start our junior and senior year where time is “running out.”
Steady on, Mom. Keep following your North Star.
#secularhomeschool #rootedinlanguage #homeschoolhighschool
  • I was hoping not to do these again this year. It began to feel more like a chore than fun for me. But my son still loves them, so here I am, gearing up for it. I bought this letter board thing, thinking it might put enough spin on it for me, but now I’m wondering if setting the letters will be a pain. 🤷🏻‍♀️ And now to start collecting literature lines for the year...
  • School supplies rolling it. #secularhomeschool #bravewriterlifestyle #metaphordice
  • Shakespeare planning! The Friendly Shakespeare has been one of my best school purchases, at least for me. We’re tackling three plays first semester. We’ll see how things go. Hamlet is first up! #secularhomeschool #homeschoolhighschool
  • I keep drinking out of this mug because SECULAR curriculum hunting! 🧐 I have spent all afternoon trying to find a quality rhetoric homeschool curriculum at the high school level that’s secular. I’m about to put some vodka in this mug. #secularhomeschool #homeschoolhighschool #secularhomeschooler

Follow Me!