MAY
07
2013

Homeschool Writing Curriculum Forum

Hi everyone! I hope you are enjoying the homeschool curriculum forums we’ve been sharing lately! I know I love to read everyone’s comments, pros, and cons for curriculum! Today we’re continuing on with our forum discussion with the subject of writing.

writing

 

Teaching writing is one of the harder things for me. From encouraging younger students, to grading upper levels, writing is just not my strong suit. Ironic considering I have a blog and all isn’t it? But writing, and teaching writing are two different things!

 

Previously we’ve used WriteShop and it remains one of my favorite programs around! I love the scripted conversations, and my children have benefited greatly from the teacher led brainstorming and step-by-step process. We are finishing up with WriteShop D this year and have enjoyed the program quite a bit. I would highly recommend it to anyone needing more help with teaching writing.

writeshop

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Great for struggling writers

Cons:

  • For younger levels it isn’t as clear on how to grade writing assignments, I would like a little more instruction in this area.

 

Another great program for writing is the Institute for Excellence in Writing program. It is a video led course by instructor Andrew Pudewa. Students are given a lesson, then an assignment. Teachers have easy to read checklists which help immensely in the grading process.

iew

Pros:

  • Video instruction.
  • Clear grading checklist for teachers.

Cons:

  • Videos are a little out-dated
  • Curriculum is expensive unless you can find it used.

So, now comes the fun part!

What are your favorite Writing curriculum, resources, websites, etc? Leave a comment below discussing your choices for this year and why.

Feel free to ask questions or reply to each other too!

It’s my way of doing a forum without actually doing a forum haha!

And hopefully this will help us all as we start the process of researching curriculum, and trying to decide what will be the best fit for our homeschool.

Note: Please keep today’s conversations geared towards WRITING, I will be posting one for each subject separately so we can keep our comments organized.

Click here if you missed my previous Homeschool Curriculum Forum posts!

Disclosure: This was not a sponsored post, I may however be affiliated with one or more products mentioned. The opinions expressed in this post were not influenced by the company. They are products I have used and felt like sharing, cuz’ it’s my blog and I can if I want to.

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Comments

  1. I’ve used more writing curricula than I care to admit but I do love to mix it up since different programmes all have different strengths and weaknessess. Being exposed to a mix lets my kids develop their voice rather than that of one particular curriculum author. My two favourites would be Bravewriter and Writing with Skill. Very different – one is very unstructured and free flowing, the other very structured but they were perfect for my kids at the time we used them. Some of the websites I’ve used for lessons and inspiration include Empowering Writers, Writing Fix, Read Write Think and Corbett Harrison’s Always Write.

  2. Cassie DiStefano says:

    Erica,

    Do you feel you need the teacher’s guide with WriteShop? Also, are you using WriteShop Junior with all the kiddos? I will have a 4th and 2nd grader. Wondering if I could combine?

    Thanks!

  3. I used Winning with Writing last year, which introduced concepts like creating a topic, and adding descriptive sentences. What I liked is that the pace was slow enough for my daughter who has learning challenges. I used it in combination with Growing with Grammar, and they blended nicely.

  4. I still haven’t found a writing program that we like after all these years of homeschooling, and, believe me, we have tried a lot. Basically, kids need to write! I usually require one sentence per grade. So if a child is in fifth grade, they need to write 5 sentences a day or at least 3 times a week. Spelling, grammar, and sentence structure all get worked out during this process.

  5. We will be using Writing With Ease for the first time this coming school year. It has children do copywork as well as read passages from great books and poetry to show them what complete sentences and good writing in general looks like. I think this is important because, like any other skill, good writing needs to be modeled before children are required to generate their own writing. I recommend going to the Peace Hill Press website, clicking on the Language Arts tab, find Writing With Ease, then click on the image. Below you will find the link “Writing With Ease Instructor Text Sample”. Here you can read about the theory behind how she teaches writing. It’s excellent. Even if you choose a different program it will give you a better idea of what to look for.

    • I also use Writing With Ease. This is my first year using it with my 2nd and 3rd grade-age children (we are on Level 2). I personally love that the program incorporates not only reading from mostly-classical literature, but also comprehension skills. The author designed the writing curriculum to work alongside First Language Lessons (the grammar curriculum), which reinforces grammatical concepts — another plus! Some may find the program a little “dry”, but I personally find the curriculum so easy to follow that the “dryness” doesn’t faze me. :)

      Another plus is the cost. If *you* want to choose the literature for copywork/dictation, then I highly suggest buying only the teacher’s guide. It’s less than $20 for Levels 1-4!! Can’t beat that! I only use the teacher’s guide and use writing paper I downloaded (for free) from donnayoung.org.

      If you want all of the work done for you, then I suggest buying the workbooks (one workbook for each level) which are around $35. The workbooks include instructions for teaching the concepts (just like the teacher’s guide) as well as the reading passages, comprehension questions, and writing paper. If you bought one workbook of each level and copied the coypwork/dictation pages (if you have more than one child who uses the program), you would save a great deal of money there, as well.

      Like *any* curriculum, there are going to be pros and cons and things you love and things you hate. I personally love this writing program because of its low price, ease in teaching, and simplicity. I tried a public school writing curriculum for a short time last year and about *died* when I saw all of the materials I supposedly needed to teach one simple lesson. And to top it all off, the confusing curriculum cost $50 — for a huge binder full of junk — in my opinion. :)

      Anyway, there’s my two cents! haha :)

  6. I forgot to mention that she, Susan Wise Bauer, also wrote a Grammar program called First Language Lessons which works well with Writing With Ease. My child will be going into the 3rd grade next year but I purchased levels 1 & 2 for her because writing and grammar, like math, reading and spelling, are foundational skills. You don’t want learning gaps to exist in these areas. It is recommended that you start from the beginning so that you lay a good foundation. I plan to advance her quickly through the lessons as needed.

  7. This You Tube video may be helpful.
    Peace Hill Press Question & Answer Series 1: Part 2

  8. Which program has anyone had success with for a first grader?

    • We used Writing With Ease for first grade (and 2nd and will probably use it for 3rd next year) and we loved it. It does go along with First Language Lessons, but you don’t have to do them together if you already have a grammar curriculum you like. The classical literature excerpts are wonderful and introduced our family to books I had either forgotten about or had never heard of myself. We will be transitioning to Institute for Excellence in Writing in late 3rd to 4th grade. I am not familiar with it myself but I have heard such wonderful things about it and it’s what Classical Conversations uses. FYI WWE has 4 pages/week to do (1 per day), 2 of those pages are self directed which frees up some of your time if you have other children needing your attention.

  9. I teach 3rd grade at a University Model school (homeschool 3 days, classroom 2 days), and we used the Excellence in Writing program this past year. There were only 5 students in the class. It was amazing how much the students’ writing improved throughout the year! The EIW Notebook is an excellent tool for them to refer to when they need a word to “dress up” their writing. We did not have them watch the videos. I watched them and then taught the lessons in a way that would connect with the students. Highly recommend!

  10. Carol S. says:

    IEW! Yes, it’s a little pricey. It’s also worth every single penny. Andrew Pudewa is a master teacher for both students and homeschool teachers alike. Many amazing products on the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) website and magalog. My children have listened to so many of A. Pudewa’s seminar and teaching tapes (for the parents) while riding in the car with me. I wouldn’t be surprised if they use the IEW materials to teach their own kids with someday. Also, IEW has an amazing return policy and the products have a great resale value.

    • I actually found mine for $45 at a used curriculum fair. It looks a little older, but I’m hoping it will still be just as good!

  11. I don’t know if anyone has high school aged children, but for High school, we have been so happy with Epi Kardia for essay writing. It is written to the student and has step by step instructions on writing the four basic essay styles. They also have an excellent course on writing the research essay (MLA format.). It is simple, thorough and covers areas such as voice, when to edit, etc. it still allows for your child’s particular style to shine.

    • Kimberly Moore says:

      Thank you Donna for your input on High school aged kids. I struggle sometimes finding information for that age range.

  12. Elisabeth says:

    Having been a new homeschooler last fall, I went a little overboard in this area with my first grader. Using the Random House Big Book of Children’s poetry and rhymes, I would write small selections on the board for him to copy. God Bless him he was doing way too much for his age level 6-8 sentences per day. But you know now he can sit down and write out a 1.5 to 2 page story without stopping. I also used Evan Moor Daily Trait 6 with him, it was ok and gave him the general ideas of how to write, but I worry I didn’t teach it very well. I believe he gained much more from the copywork and it was fun to do funny poems and stories. He always asked to illustrate them and we need to bind them all in a book this month. I also have him summarizing small science books from the library (currently working thru various bug books). He reads them them 3 days in a row, then on the fourth day he writes a summary of it. I put the more difficult vocab words on the board for him. He asks to do this everyday. I’ve looked into both Write Shop a bit and IEW since I’ve kind of been doing WWE type of tasks myself this past year. I will have a 1st and 2nd grader to teach come fall. Are these materials ok for those grade levels? I want to buy something I will definitely USE instead of listing it on eBay when it doesn’t quite workout lol. Thanks for any advise of those who have used these on what grade to start them. I’ll be watching these posts and will check out the other resources shared with enthusiasm! Thanks ladies!

  13. Elisabeth says:

    Erica,
    There is a great book an Amazon of how to grade/score their writing. There is one for each grade level. A great resource with actual examples and scoring.

    http://www.amazon.com/Using-Rubrics-Improve-Student-Writing/dp/0872077721/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    Check it out!

  14. Christine says:

    I bought Writeshop for my 4th and 1st grader. I do not like either of them. I do not feel they are grade level for NJ or for my kids. I dropped Writeshop for my 4th grader in October and bought BJU Press language arts for 4th grade and I like that a lot. There is some spiral learning but not enough in my opinion and they do not give you ANY guidance on how to grade the writing assignments.

    Though I like BJU language and do not feel there is enough repetition of concepts so I am going to try Saxon Language 5 when my 4th grader advances to 5th grade. The constant repetition in math has worked well for my 4th grader so I think the spiral concept will work well for Saxon Language.

    I am finishing Writeshop with my 1st grader but will not buy it again. I will by BJU language when he starts 2nd grade. If Saxon comes out with a 3rd grade language program I will by that one otherwise will stick with BJU until my 1st grader advances into 4th grade.

    • if you are thinking of selling your copy of write shop D, i would be interested. :) stewandbeth @gmail.com

  15. Jenny Keown says:

    This past year was my first experience in homeschooling. I have a excelled first grader and dyslexic extremely wonderful third grader. It has been such an exciting time fine tuning their education to meet their individual needs. The kids and I have gone through many different types of curriculum before I came upon Write Source. I love this curriculum! Both writing and grammar are taught together in one program. It meets the needs for both children and can be taught side by side most days. I loved the breakdown of different writing styles and techniques. My children loved the color and examples of writing to give inspiration. This curriculum teaches the same styles of writing to both grade levels but goes more in debt as the grade level permits. Now that I found Write Source I have already bought their books for next year.

    • I was looking into Write Source for my first grader. I am curious though if I need to add in a grammar/phonics/reading type of program with it? This is the subject that is confusing me so much on what is needed. Any help would be greatly appreciated. My son is good with sounding out words but hates reading. I plan to take him this year to get his own library card and let him pick out books on his level that he is interested in hoping this will take care of the not wanting to read problem. He always says reading is boring, so hopefully, the library with him getting to choose will help.

      • Amanda have you tried All About Reading? My first grader hated reading while in public school. We started AAR level 1 this year and now he loves to read. The lessons are completely planned out, no work on your part. And you can do as much or as little has he is comfortable with. It has been my saving grace. Still looking for a writing curriculum though. Good luck!

  16. For writing, I’m just using a workshop approach. I bought “Workshops Work!” by Patricia Zaballos and read her blog for even more ideas and instruction. My kids will be entering 5th, 4th and 2nd grade next year, so they’re still on the younger end of schooling. The older two write daily (what they write is up to them – and I don’t read it unless they want me to). I let the youngest one dictate to me weekly, and she also makes picture books and tells stories with shadow puppets on her own. A couple times a month we go to a coffee shop and they share a work-in-progress. We all give positive feedback, then I give them a writing exercise to stretch their abilities or introduce them to a new technique or method. They don’t share the exercise unless they want to (that would be like publishing an unedited rough draft). We also started a blog so they could publish their works for family and friends.

    I’m hoping to develop writers, and as I introduce them to different genres I’m hoping they pick up the styles more organically. At some point we’ll do a formal curriculum for the 5-paragraph essay and other common forms of writing – just not yet!

    We’ll probably use a more formal approach in late middle school or (at the latest) in high school. I personally don’t see a need for younger kids to use a structured writing curriculum – although I realize I may be in the minority on that view :) That said, I’m glad to read the reviews because I have a daughter who will probably be asking for a curriculum before I would add it in on my own. There seem to be some great options!

  17. I have never used a textbook for writing. The best way to teach writing is to show them good writing through reading. I have used 6+1 traits of Writing as a resource. It has suggested books at times and guides you to focus in on 1 of the 6 traits of writing at a time. That way they are writing either way but honing in on one specific trait of writing at a time. Other good resources Craft Lessons and Writing Workshop both by Fletcher.

  18. I am planning on using the Institute for Excellence in Writing program this year with my 3rd grader. Specifically, I would be purchasing Student Writing Intensive Level A which contains:
    • Structure & Style Overview DVD for parents and teachers
    • Four instructional DVDs for the student
    • Three-ring binder with dividers
    • Student packet containing scope & sequence, teacher’s notes, and student handouts for one student instructional DVD’s and workbook
    How necessary is it to purchase the “Structure & Style DVD Seminar with Seminar Workbook” that IEW highly recommends for training homeschool teachers how to teach writing?

    • Kristen Rendall says:

      I purchased both and started watching the Structure and Style Dvds, but never actually finished them. I am a person who is comfortable with writing ( I’m strong in Language Arts, just don’t ask me for help with math!!) and I found that it was enough to just watch the Dvd’s with my kids, then let them outline, write and help them edit from that point. If you are nervous about the writing component, purchasing the Structure and Style piece might be helpful.

      • Thanks, Kristen! That’s what I’m afraid would happen with me if I purchased the teacher training materials–I would start it but never complete it and what a waste of money that would be!

    • I didn’t get he videos the first year. We got Student Writing Intensive C for my high schoolers. I was able to pick up the basic concepts without the Teachers Instruction.
      I also did the Rockets, Radars and Robots lessons with my 8th grader and he enjoyed that. They follow the same basic lesson plans for all of the theme books and they are a lot less expensive that the DVD programs. I didn’t have as good of results using the All things Fun and Fascinating with my 3rd and 5th graders this year. They did fine until after Christmas and then they didn’t want to do it at all. Writing is my nemesis when it comes to homeschooling.

  19. Angela O says:

    Writing with Ease! This is our second year using it, and I cannot say enough great things about it! As a former high school English teacher, I saw a lot of bad writing, and the conclusion I came to was that good readers make good writers and this is the philosophy on which WWE is based. My boys are not naturally given to writing, but I love that they are being exposed to good writing through good literature, dictation, and narration. Since writing is not just a one-step process, children need to learn how to organize their words and sentences before they have the ability to write them down (with good grammar, mechanics, skill, etc.). WWE does just that! Next year we will transition into the Essentials program of Classical Conversations which uses IEW, and I believe that transition will be so much easier having used WWE for two years. I have also seen many IEW students’ writing pieces and was blown away comparing these 4th- 6th graders to the high school seniors I used to teach!

    • Angela,
      Where would you recommend I start WWE with my 7 yo? We are finishing up 1st grade right now and I did not love the writing program we used. I did use First Lang. Lessons for grammar and we just finished our 2nd year of CC Foundations.
      Thanks!
      Karen

      • Karen, I began WWE 1 with my 2nd grader. We are finishing WWE 2 this year and he will begin Essentials next year. I think he could have used one more year of WWE, but I think Essentials will quickly cover any gaps. WWE 1 is really easy and you could even do it this summer and plan to cover 2 days’ worth of lessons in one (day 1 and 3 is copy work, day 2 is listening and narration, and day 4 is listening, narration, and copy work). It would take about 20 minutes/day tops!

        Blessing,
        Angela

  20. I am going to try Essentials in Writing this year. It looks like a GREAT video program, and it is VERY affordable. The cost is $40, and you have the option to print the work sheets for free, or you can purchase it for $20.

    • This is what we did this year and it was great, my son is no longer fighting writing! It is very straight forward and easy to use! We are going to keep using it!

  21. Here is my question. I will have 5th grade and 6th grade boys next fall. We have never done any formal grammar or writing at all. Where to start with older children who now have the capacity to learn the basics quickly but hate to even pick up a pencil and write, let alone form a coherent sentence or even know what one looks like. I don’t know grammar very well as I was never taught it well in school and missed it due to changing schools many times. I feel so lost as to where to begin! Any thoughts?

    • I am not sure what to suggest specifically for grammar, however we have been using Jump In: A Workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers from Apologia. We have used this curriculum for grades 3-8. Apologia suggests this curriculum to be used for the middle grades however we have found the curriculum to be very beneficial for the grade 3 student. I try to teach to the masses when I can! The grade 8 student finished the curriculum this year. The teacher’s guide gives evaluation forms for marking, it covers persuasion, exposition, narration and some poetry. It covers proof-reading and referencing. The teachers manual does make some grammar resource suggestions to accompany the workbook, so they may help you on the grammar side of writing. This is an affordable curriculum and we have found it to be a great way to get your students writing!

    • Alicia MacRae says:

      Look into how My Father’s World introduces grammar. I haven’t done it, but they wait until the students are older intentionally and use a couple affordable methods…Writing Strands for writing and a grammar book that escapes me. I’ve heard good reviews.

    • My daughter is the same way. She knows HOW to write, but won’t. She acts like just writing a word will kill her. She’ll be in 4th grade next year and she has yet to write a single sentence on her own.

      • Hi Jenny, We homeschool – two boys. (It’s my daughter and I – their father passed). What we did was just have them copy different types of work. They got to choose once a week (could be from the Lego book they love or Captain Underpants). After a while they just wrote on their own – because they’d become comfortable with writing. They also learn proper spelling that way. Good Luck.

  22. Bekki4, you should check out Michael Clay Thompson’s Language Art’s Curriculum. I am not very good at grammar and have learned right along with my daughter. These books explain and teach it like I have never seen before. It all makes better sense to me now. We started this year with Level 1, so we don’t get any gaps in our language/grammar. Take some time to read the downloadable curriculum guide that helps tell when you start each item. Your boys could both do the same level too.

    http://www.rfwp.com/pages/michael-clay-thompson/

  23. Teri Yover says:

    We have used Writing with Ease for the last two years. My daughter will be in 3rd grade and we are going to try Writing Tales. It looks really good.
    http://writing-tales.com/

  24. My favorite writing program is Wordsmith. It is inexpensive and the best I have found. I also have IEW and Writeshop and I think they are very good, but they can be very time intensive. Wordsmith is concise and to the point with short lessons that review how to use different grammar concepts to build better sentences.
    Also, we have always required our children to keep a daily journal from the beginning. This is for writing development and their enjoyment. They now look back at journals from years past and enjoy seeing what they were doing at the time. We never used the journals to correct grammar. They were merely for the joy of writing and expressing.

  25. Does anyone use Shurley English? I have a second grade and fourth grader who have never had formal language arts; but they are strong readers.

    • Ann, I started my second grader on shurley English level 2 last fall at the beginning of the school year. We had not used a formal curriculum before and I wanted something thorough and structured. However, we did not like it. It way way too much work for his level/age. I’m either going to completely change curriculums, or try it at third grade. The 20-45 minutes they say it takes daily almost never happened with us. It usually took that much time just to teach it, plus he still had work to do after the lesson. Specifically, the Question & Answer Flow was ineffective (he could answer, but didn’t really understand), the jingles were somewhat fun, but he had a hard time actually applying the song to the concepts on paper, the dictionary work was way too advanced for my 7-yr old (alphabetizing beyond the second or third letter). I found it to be too time-consuming, and too overwhelming for my little one. I think it could be good for some students, but it wasn’t for us. I hope this helps!

      • Ann, I know that this is a very tardy response, but perhaps my answer might be helpful still to you, or at least to someone else.

        Shurley Language was great for my boys! It did take a little investment of my time to get onto it; some teachers just laugh and walk away before really understanding the program. I loved that it was systematic and thorough and repetitive. The jingles are great for auditory learners – or any kid that loves rhythm and rhyme. My grown boys still run through the preposition jingle if they are wondering, “Is this word a preposition?” I did dispense with some jingles introduced in the later grades (maybe 6th and 7th?), which were more difficult to learn than the grammatical elements being introduced. Nothing was lost to my boys by omitting those particular jingles. They just didn’t need them in order to learn the new elements. Although they probably made B’s or C’s in Shurley (due to their failure to attend the worksheets with the necessary care), Shurley Language definitely helped my boys, who are not exactly naturals when it comes to editing and attention to detail, find their way into AP English classes and very substantial college scholarships.

        I would recommend, however, that while you are teaching Shurley language or any other grammar program you should also be helping the students to apply it in all of their writing. You may or may not choose to require grammatically correct writing in science or social studies, for example; but at least you could point out a sentence now and then and ask, “Does this sentence follow the rules of Shurley Language?” And especially if you see an error on a menu or in a book or newspaper, you should assist your student in the application of Shurley Language techniques to analyze the writing and pinpoint the error. Grammar is not a stand-alone science, and sometimes students seem to see it that way. They may need help learning to integrate this learning into everyday reading and writing.

  26. My name is Melissa and I have a 10 year old and a 4 year old. I started homeschooling my 10 year old last year. He started with an online Christian school. This year we are doing it without a structured program. He is a little mature for his age, and has add. He also seems like he has dyslexia. Anyway I am trying to find a program for writing. I have tried Writing Strands in the past with other kids but I did not like it. Can you recommend a writing program? We are using Winston Grammar.

  27. I am looking for a new writing curriculum for my upcoming 5th grader, so I don’t have a curriculum to suggest. However, for those of you that have students that simply hate to write, it may not be the curriculum. My oldest son struggled with dysgraphia, and once I stopped having him doing the physical writing, he grew into an amazing writer. I would suggest having your children dictate to you or do their writing on the computer, and see if writing goes a little smoother. I apologize if this is considered “off topic”, but hope it is helpful.

  28. My daugher did the Young Ladies Study Course for Proper Writing last year and really really enjoyed it and learned a lot!
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/aag/main/ref=olp_merch_name_3?ie=UTF8&asin=1934554634&isAmazonFulfilled=0&seller=A23QNR3EF7NTGW

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