The number one academic concern I hear among other homeschooling parents is the frustration in teaching writing skills to their children. Sure, they can teach their children to read and spell and have nice handwriting, but how does a person go about teaching writing?
SAT Essays, job applications, scholarship essays, and more are on the minds of parents who educate their children at home.
I used to be a public school teacher, back in my pre-parenting days. I'm ashamed to admit that in my school district, at least for the elementary school, we didn't have a writing curriculum for our students. There were occasional bits and pieces woven in amongst our language arts curriculum, but a systematic methodology of teaching writing wasn't present.
Since writing came easier to me than some other academic subjects, and I hadn't been trained as a teacher how to teach writing skills, I felt lacking in this academic pursuit as well. Fortunately, I have had a number of years' experience in assisting with grading state writing assessments for the public schools, and the guidelines that are provided for that assessment can actually be used as a curriculum for teachers.
Even with that, however, I have felt inadequate to teach writing to my children. I've looked at a couple of writing programs, and one seemed far too complicated, too "structural" or formulaic, or too expensive. Another writing program appeals to me but is also expensive (for my own personal budget).
When I received The Write Foundation's curriculum to use with my children and review as a part of the TOS Crew, I was excited to see what TWF had to offer.
First, I corresponded with the author, Rebecca Celsor, at www.TheWriteFoundation.org. She helped me determine at which level to place my daughters, based on some writing samples of theirs which I emailed to her.
Even though my children could write in paragraph form, and they were capable of getting mostly correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar, she recommended that we use and review Level 2: Paragraphs.
Here are The Write Foundation's recommended age levels based on their own curriculum, with some additional information from their website:
*Suggested Age Levels
Level 1: Sentence to Paragraph Writing Ages 11 – 13
Level 2: Paragraph Writing Ages 12 – 15
Level 3: Essay Writing Ages 14 – 17
*Proper placement depends on the student’s maturity, writing experience, and interest in writing.
Start at the Sentence to Paragraph Writing Level 1:
*A common mistake is to assume that your child is a more accomplished writer than he really is, since he can write a paragraph(s) without run ons or incomplete sentences. Just because she can write a multi paragraph paper does not mean that she is a good writer.
The result is choosing a level of curriculum that is too difficult. Mastering the fundamental writing skills and techniques results in a more competent, confident writer who enjoys composition and does not shrink from later, more difficult assignments.
*Each level can easily be adapted to a 2 year format.
I want to share with you how this curriculum worked for our family, and then I'll provide some additional links for you if you would like to learn more about this curriculum.
First, The Write Foundation's curriculum has been used in a variety of home schooling co-ops, taught by the author, her daughter, and several other homeschooling parents. Thus, the wording and formatting of this is based more on a co-op setting rather than from a home educating family's point of view. This isn't a negative concern of mine, but there were a few aspects of the wording of the directions and setting up of a child's 3-ring binder that were more appropriate for a co-op or classroom setting than for an individual homeschooling family.
The introduction to the curriculum was lengthy, with a lot of details and information presented all at once. There weren't any visuals or diagrams to explain some of the concepts, so it was necessary for me to take extra time to read through this slowly to begin to gain a grasp on how the program worked. I finally chose to just dive in and start with it, even though I wasn't sure I understood everything in the directions. I've had more than one curriculum over the years that has been like this, and I find that it's just easier for me to jump in and begin, and then ask the author or others for advice if needed later on. The interesting thing is that with some of these curricula which have taken a little bit more brain power for me to learn, they have had the best results for my children! Because of that, I don't mind spending a bit more time learning a curriculum and working through its nuances.
Now that I've used this curriculum for a few weeks, any slowness I had with the introduction has disappeared (it may not have helped that I was fairly tired when initially reading through the Introduction late at night.) The author is merely providing the teacher or parent with a variety of excellent suggestions and resources all at once, to help the parent become a more thorough writing teacher to his or her children.
A helpful 5-day or 10-day schedule per lesson is provided, depending on the pace the parent wishes to work through the writing lessons. I found this to be very helpful.
The first lesson has children organizing their notebooks. A few of the notebook divider headings weren't absolutely necessary for home educating families, but the blessing of homeschooling is that we, as parents who know our children well, can adapt all curriculum to meet our own needs.
Level 2: Paragraphs encourages the use of an additional resource called Mind Benders, by Critical Thinking Company. I chose not to purchase Mind Benders for this review, because I already owned some Critical Thinking resources that are similar in nature.
The Write Foundation provides helpful checklists for the students. I liked these. Some examples of checklists I gave to my girls to use so far have been the "Paragraph Writing Checklist", which they add to week by week with each lesson, and the "No List", which contains a list of items they are not allowed to place in their writing during particular lessons. Children don't usually like "No Lists", but we found this to work well. My girls knew exactly what was expected; in the early lessons of Level 2: Paragraphs, they weren't to use quotations, exclamation points, colons, and a few other things. While my children are adequately able to use those items in their writing, not all children at their ages are, so this made sense to me.
We haven't been able to work through the entire book yet this year, as I've only had this curriculum for about six weeks. However, my girls have been enthusiastic about the lessons. They have enjoyed using a variety of colored highlighter pens to highlight different concepts and sentences on worksheets and in their own double-spaced, typed writing assignments. This has helped cement the main concepts into their framework of thinking about writing.
Brittany, my active, hands-on learner, told me this week, "Mom, do you know what I like best about The Write Foundation? It has some boring sentences and paragraphs, and we get to dress them up and make them sound really great!" Keep in mind that the "boring" sentences and paragraphs have been selected on purpose, so the students can embellish them.
While some of the beginning lessons in the material seemed like it would be too easy for my daughters, they still enjoyed them very much. Sure, they were already familiar with selecting descriptive adjectives when writing thank you notes or other writing, but they appreciated the lesson notes on writing poetry using descriptive adjectives, and they have enjoyed every piece of each lesson. I have been pleasantly surprised!
Though I won't be able to know for certain whether my children's writing will become formulaic until we work through this entire level of curriculum, I am hopeful that it won't. There seems to be quite the variety of lesson assignments and work to provide practice with the new concepts, and so far, my children's creativity hasn't been stifled. I also like the way that poetry and other writing forms are included and woven into The Write Foundation.
There has been one concern of mine in using Level 2: Paragraphs. Some of the directions aren't as clear to me with the lessons. Sometimes, I find that I am having difficulty figuring out which worksheet or teacher page to use with the girls, or where their finished pages should go in the divisions of their three-ringed binder. At other times, the girls haven't done an assignment exactly as it should have been done, because I couldn't easily tell from the directions exactly what the author meant.
To provide you with an example, in one assignment the girls were to write a block outline of how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The author was teaching the children how to write step-by-step directions in paragraph form. However, the worksheet used for this (at least the worksheet I thought we were supposed to use) didn't mention writing in block outline form, and it also assumed that I knew exactly what a block outline was. Since any instruction I had on writing block outlines goes back almost thirty years, and no example was provided, my girls wrote out complete and descriptive sentences for each line on the page. It turns out that they were supposed to write out very simple statements that were basic outlines. This would lead to teaching them about how to write something in outline form. However, I couldn't tell this from the directions until after the girls had completed this assignment. When I turned the page of the teacher's guide, it was there that I noticed that the girls had provided far too much information on their worksheet. Ah! Now I saw what they were supposed to do!
I've had several helpful conversations with the author of this program, and she didn't realize that the directions in a few places might not be as clear to the parent. She is very open to taking suggestions and answering people's questions.
In fact, to assist with this, she has recently started a brand new Yahoo group for her curriculum. While it is a young group, she is the moderator, and she is willing to answer people's questions. If you would like to chat with her via that group, to find out if this curriculum would be a good fit for your family, or to ask questions if you already own this curriculum, you may find the Yahoo group and join it at:
The Write Foundation Yahoo Group
or at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thewritefoundation/
Overall, I do like this curriculum. I enjoy hearing and seeing my children's reactions from the assignments; enthusiasm is always a great thing when it comes to teaching writing skills! We are planning to work through the remainder of the lessons in Level 2 this school year. If I like the results I see at the end of the level, which I suspect that I will, we'll go ahead and order Level 3: Essays for either next year or in a couple of years.
Below, you will find some links to helpful information on The Write Foundation's website:
PDF Introduction to The Write Foundation
Samples of The Write Foundation lessons
If you need to order additional worksheet packets for a co-op situation, they can be ordered separately here.
Order or preview prices for Level 1: Sentences here.
Order or preview prices for Level 2: Paragraphs here.
Order or preview prices for Level 3: Essays here.
You may also want to read other reviews about The Write Foundation's curriculum at the TOS Crew website. Click on the "TOS Homeschool Crew" button, below, for the specific link to this curriculum review:
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, The Write Foundation provided me with Level 2: Paragraphs free of charge for the purpose of using this in our home and providing them with a review. No other compensation was provided.
Hi! I'm Julieanne!
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