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“Write from the Heart” Expands with Senior High Classes
Denise Botsford, 4/3/2011

Editor's Note from Susan Richman: Denise Botsford, a homeschooling mother from Indiana PA, has been offering online writing classes to junior high students in her Write from the Heart program -- and has now expanded into the senior high years as she's collaborated with another teacher. I've personally evaluated students who've taken Denise's classes, and they all feel very positive about all they have learned from this engaging format for honing real writing skills. Denise wrote an article for our print newsletter several years ago about her unique approach in her online classes-- and it's great to get an update now! I hope you each take a look at Denise's excellent website at www.denisebotsford.com -- even if you might not sign up for one of her courses, you can still gain much by checking out the page Students in the Spotlight. This is where Denise has published work by her students (to protect privacy, no last names of students are used) that subsequently won awards in various writing competitions-- these might be great models for your kids to read and enjoy. And I'd highly recommend also taking a look at the Multi-Genre Research Projects from past students-- these are really inspiring and will let you see a whole new side to 'writing a research paper'. 

During these past six years I’ve often felt like the groom in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”  The unsuspecting Ian simply wanted to be united with his beloved Toula.  He didn’t anticipate the far-reaching effects his wedding announcement would have, or the velocity with which his plans would accelerate.  When I started Write from the Heart in 2005, I merely wanted an online writing audience for my own beloved children; I thought that along the way I could help out some other families as well. I never expected the speed with which Write from the Heart would spread from a small class of 17 students to an audience of national—and now multi-national—appeal. But, just as Ian adjusted to his loud, new relatives and took pleasure in their flamboyancy, I too have adjusted to and taken pleasure in the many twists and turns along the way!

The first surprise I experienced occurred halfway through the first year when I realized how short-sighted my original plans were.  Write from the Heart initially provided online writing instruction for homeschooled students in the junior high grades (i.e. 6th-9th).  I wrote the Basic Composition program using a “team approach” in which students worked with one another as well as with a writing coach to revise their papers from the rough draft stage to the final copy.  Students were instructed in a number of very practical revision techniques that helped their writing improve.  They were also introduced to a wide variety of genres so they would be well equipped in many different types of writing.  All of that was very good, but the question I started asking myself was, “What are these families going to do once their children finish all four years of the Basic Composition program?  Where will they go from here?”

In the meantime, a second and very fun surprise I experienced was seeing many students begin to win awards and publishing opportunities.   Each year a number of students won both regional and national awards with contests such as Scholastic and Letters about Literature; some were also published in magazines and received cash and gift prizes.  By now Write from the Heart had the interest and support of many parents and the recognition from prestigious organizations, but I still lacked provision for continued instruction once a student finished my program.

That’s when the next surprise happened.  I reconnected with a young woman, Dorah Rice, whom I had known from years before; she had returned to my area to raise her family and, to my delight, was an English instructor.  I explained to her how I had developed Write from the Heart and was looking for someone to extend the program by creating classes for 10th through 12th grade—would she be interested.  Without hesitation she said yes.  The result has been a repertoire of four Advanced Composition classes, all of which help students understand an author's worldview through the lens of a Christian worldview.

The first class, Literature I, introduces literary techniques and exposes students to Shakespeare.  It additionally covers literary movements such as Metaphysical, Cavalier, and Augustan poets, the Romantic movement, and the Gothic movement.

The second class, Literature II, builds off the former one by teaching even more literary techniques and a continued study in Shakespeare. It is considered "pre-AP," or college-prep.  It covers the Victorian movement, Realism, and Modernism.

The next class Dorah Rice developed was an Advanced Placement English class -- you can read more about this at my website. 

The most recent class Dorah created is called Customized Independent Study.   As the name implies, the student works with Dorah to design a plan of study that combines writing instruction with another subject of the student’s choice.  The result is that the student is able to satisfy two diploma credits at the same time while pursuing a specialized course of study based on his interests.  Other subjects that easily lend themselves to being combined with writing are History, Philosophy, Social Sciences, Humanities, Business, Health, Consumer Sciences, and Fine Arts.

Because Dorah implemented the same central tenets used in the Basic Composition program, such as the workshop approach of interacting with classmates, conferencing with a writing coach, and writing for real-life audiences, students found the transition from Basic Composition to any of the Advanced Composition classes to be very seamless. Moreover, Advanced Composition students enjoyed similar-type successes to the younger students by winning publishing opportunities and regional and national awards through the Scholastic writing contest.

My desire to provide homeschool families with quality writing instruction from grades 6 to 12 has been realized.  The reward for me has been having former students, including my own children, express their gratitude for the instruction they received in both the Basic and the Advanced Composition classes.  The success Write from the Heart alumni are now experiencing in college is not only in writing, but in being able to maturely and critically think.  They now look at everything in life much more analytically:  books, movies, ads, politics, adult conversations.

In all aspects, adding Dorah Rice’s Advanced Composition classes to the Basic Composition program has been serendipitous.  Sure, the process wasn’t the quiet, simple wedding I was originally planning, but the marriage of instruction has produced some very intellectual children!

For more information on classes offered through Write from the Heart, please go to www.denisebotsford.com.   Registration for the ’11-’12 school year opens April 4th. 


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