An Effortless Homeschool Writing Curriculum
Today we’re going to talk about homeschool writing curriculum.
I have used many writing programs over the years and for the last 4 years, I’ve been using Well Trained Mind’s Complete Writer homeschool writing curriculum.
Being a writer, I thought this would be a subject that would be easy to teach. But no, that has not been the case. So much of my writing is by feel or things I just know and that’s been a struggle to pass that on to my children. Most of them also do not like to write, which I cannot relate to, so that adds another layer, as well.
The main reason my kids are good writers is reading. Most of my children love to read and devour books faster than we can get them. After a while, they just start being good writers and knowing what elements go into a good story because they have read so many stories.
By junior high, they are writing pretty well on their own and in high school are able to write papers.
Having said that, I think having a curriculum to give some structure and grammar is important, so I do use a curriculum.
I have really liked The Well Trained Mind’s writing program.
I have used it with only one child, my youngest. We started in 2nd grade and she is now in 6th grade.
We both like it.
It is engaging and jam packed with material, but only takes a few minutes to teach. It is truly an open and go homeschool writing curriculum.
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How it's laid out
There are 2 levels to this curriculum: elementary and jr/high school.
In the elementary level there are 4 books and in the upper grades there are 3 books.
In Writing With Ease (WE, as we called it), the focus is on learning skills such as narration, dictation, listening and organizing story lines.
We started in the second book because she was in second grade. Although the books do not necessarily line up with the grades, that’s how it worked out for us based on the diagnostics information and the recommendations on her website (scroll down to the bottom to access these).
Each level has a teacher book and a student book. You will definitely need both.
In each book, across all levels, there are 4 lessons per week. It is 100% scripted for you. You just do the lesson as prescribed on each day and as you progress through the books, you watch your child become a better writer. It really did happen like that for us!
Each lesson takes about 15 minutes. When my daughter was younger, she would fuss sometimes and didn’t like it, but we would get through it and now, as maturity as set in, she really enjoys it. She asks to do writing more than any other subject.
Lessons--Writing with Ease (Elementary)
In the Writing With Ease series, there are four days to each week, which I love!
You can either keep going and get done early, or you can do 4 days per week of writing. This is especially handy if you do coops or have ongoing doctor appointments and such.
The lessons are quick, we are usually done in 15-20 minutes. They consist of narration and dictation exercises. The parent reads a passage to the child and the child narrates it back.
In the earlier books the focus is more on narration and in the later books, the focus is more on dictation. Each lesson has a different concept being learned, such as adjectives, using dashes, remembering lengthy sentences, paragraphs, etc.
The curriculum literally holds your hand and leads you through the lessons, even given possible answers. That’s it! It really is very simple!
In the back of my books there are student pages. You can take out the student page for your child to do their dictations on. The passages that you read to them are also in the back.
On their website I noticed they are selling the student pages separately, but the description says the book includes all you need. I am not entirely sure how they are doing it now, but as long as the reading passages are included in the main book, you do not need to purchase the student pages separately. You can just give your child lined notebook paper or writing paper, which you can even download for free!
example student pages
lessons--writing with skill (jr high/high school)
We are half way through the first book in the Writing with Skill series, which includes 2 books, one for the teacher and one for the student. You do need both of these books to complete the curriculum.
The approach is similar: you read the passage and the child works with that passage, completing 4 lessons in one week. The lessons are a bit more advanced, however, and my child reads the passages on her own now.
There is no narration. Instead the child is outlining the passage and learning how to work with outlines.
Just like in the elementary series, the lessons are all the same in approach (read a passage and narrate/dictate) but the concepts being learned are different.
We have learned about chronological narratives, how to identify and write them, science narratives, descriptions and the like. We will be moving on to characters biographical sketches, research and poetry next.
My daughter is really enjoying this curriculum. She likes how the student book is written for her and while the passages can get a little long to read, she is able to stay with them and not give up. Sometimes I’ll read a little with her to keep her motivated.
She is also able to write fairly decently for a 6th grader. She is very good at understanding how to move stories forward, how to use descriptive words and dialogue to show action.
She enjoys writing and this curriculum doesn’t make her hate to write, as some tend to do. For me, that’s a huge win because I do not want my kids to hate writing, even if they don’t love it.
It’s necessary in our world and I want them to be eloquent communicators with writing and speaking, as well. This curriculum has definitely helped us in those goals.
If you are coming into this curriculum in jr high or high school and have not completed the elementary series, you will not have a problem with this curriculum.
Your children should be able to pick this up and go. It is very gentle and is still scripted for you, so there should not be too many gaps.
Narration is not a necessary skill to have to complete the Writing With Skill series, even though it was a foundation laid in the earlier years.
If you’re looking to put your child in this who is 7th grade and above with no writing whatsoever, I think they would be successful in this curriculum.
example lesson pages
I am not sure how classical this curriculum is.
The Well Trained Mind and Susan Wise Bauer are very well known in the homeschooling world for providing a classical curriculum program. Story of the World is also written by the same author.
While she makes an argument on her blog about why she is classical—dividing up the developmental stages into the grammar, logic, rhetoric stages, doing history chronologically—the approach is not necessarily classical.
There is no recitation or memorizing of facts, there is no mastering of information before moving on and there is not a lot of classical literature being used, although she does use original sources quite a bit.
Narration is a Charlotte Mason approach and it is used almost extensively in the elementary series of her writing program.
While this does not diminish from the quality of the curriculum, if you are looking for a very strict classical approach, you may be disappointed in this.
However, even if you are looking for that, my opinion is that you will not be disappointed with this homeschool writing curriculum. Writing can be a difficult skill to teach, and this curriculum does it effortlessly.
Other than that, I can find no other drawbacks. This really is an excellent curriculum!
Side note: I do not use her grammar program or any other of her curricula, other than SOTW.
Please go look at her blog and store. She has a host of products, information and other tid bits and goodies. Susan Wise Bauer has been around longer than I have been homeschooling and I have appreciated what she brings to the homeschooling community.
If you’re interested in learning more about classical education, definitely get her book, The Well Trained Mind. It is a very good introduction to this method of teaching.
As always, thank you for being here! I appreciate you all very much!