The holidays are upon us, so I thought it might be nice to write a…
Homeschool Writing Curriculum Review: Well Trained Mind
Today we’re going to talk about homeschool writing curriculum. You may be wondering what the best homeschool writing curriculum is, which is why you’re here.
I am going to be honest with you. I have learned over the years that homeschool writing curriculum is very subjective. It’s a lot like math in that way. People either love it or hate it, it seems. So when parents try to teach their children writing in their homeschool, without the right curriculum for the homeschooling parent, it can be tricky.
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.
So, you can see that it’s difficult to say which curriculum is the best homeschooling writing curriculum. There are many good ones out there and we’ve used several of them. You will have to look at them and see which ones you prefer and probably will have to buy a few and use them for a few weeks or months and then decide.
So much of homeschool curriculum is just trying it out and seeing what you like.
Want to learn more about how to choose the right curriculum?
I have used many homeschool writing programs over the years and for the last several years, I’ve been using Well Trained Mind’s Complete Writer homeschool writing curriculum.
The main reason my kids are good writers is that they are strong readers. 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 this particular homeschool writing curriculum with only one child, my youngest. We started in 2nd grade and she is now in 7th 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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The Complete Writer Series Tour
There are 2 levels to this homeschool writing curriculum: elementary and middle/high school.
In the elementary level, there are 4 books and in the upper grades, there are 3 books.
In Writing With Ease, 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 the Well Trained Mind’s website.
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 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 has set in, she really enjoys it. She asks to do writing more than any other subject.
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 giving possible answers. That’s it! It really is very simple!
In the back of the book, 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 Lesson from Writing with Ease
Student Pages From Writing With Ease
Writing With Skill Tour (Middle/High school)
We are halfway 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 was 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. Some of this was from all of her reading, as I mentioned earlier. But I will give credit to this writing curriculum. She spent her entire elementary years narrating stories, using descriptive words and such in a structured setting that this curriculum provides.
I know she is a better writer because of this curriculum.
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 writing curriculum in middle 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.
Lesson Pages From Writing With Skill
(zoom in to see better)
Update: Homeschool Writing Curriculum We’re Using Now (7th grade)
At the end of 6th grade, my daughter was asking for something different for writing. I always want my kids to take ownership of their learning.
So when she asks for something different or is able to express her needs and goals, I listen.
Homeschooling is not about adults (parents) dictating to our children what they need to learn. While there is some of that, the ultimate goal is for our kids to be lifelong learners and to understand that learning is a part of life, it’s not just “school.” Anyway, she asked for something more creative and less technical.
I don’t blame her, because she’s been so focused on the technical for her entire school life.
Thankfully, Well Trained Mind also has a creative writing series called, The Creative Writer. We are now at the end of 7th grade and are finishing up the first book in that series, Level 1.
We have both really enjoyed it!
This homeschool writing curriculum is all about the creative process of writing. We have learned how to describe objects, people, places, and settings. She has learned how to use dialogue to move a story forward, and how to craft characters and plots.
There is a section on poetry, which we haven’t gotten to yet, but we’re excited for that!
The format for this book is a little different than the above books I mentioned. It is not scripted at all for the teacher. There is no teacher book or student book, there is just one book.
It is written to the child and is meant to be read by the child and completed on their own. After they do the assignment, they show their parent or writing mentor as the book calls it, and then you can give feedback.
There is no rubric or grading in this book, as it is very sensitive to the writing process and wants to encourage young writers. I don’t give grades at all in my homeschool until high school, so this was not an issue for me. I encourage you to skip the grading for this book if you want to instill a love (or even “like”) for writing.
I love this book and how it encourages and guides the child. You can feel through the pages that the author really wants kids to like writing and he respects the process, the child, and their writing.
As a writer, it can be very scary to share your writing with others, especially if it’s a creative writing project. You put your heart out there and it can be hard. If your child has never done any creative writing, this may be difficult for them.
Just keep encouraging them, don’t judge their writing, and don’t grade it. You want them to like writing, so help guide them toward that goal, gently.
Lesson Pages From Creative Writer
What I Don’t Like About This Homeschool Writing Curriculum
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 to writing 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 this homeschool 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 a purely classical writing curriculum, 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.
This isn’t an explicitly Christian homeschool writing curriculum. Even though I am a Christian, I do not have an issue with this. I don’t need my homeschool curriculum to express my Christian faith. I want something to teach my children about writing and I can teach my faith to my kids separately.
However, some people do prefer this and that’s obviously fine, too. If you’re looking for an obvious Christian writing homeschool program, you won’t find it here.
If you are a secular homeschooler, you will like this curriculum. It is faith neutral, not teaching anything, either way. You won’t get evolutionary concepts and such, but again, there aren’t Bible verses on every page, either (or at all).
I just wanted to point this out, as some people want different things concerning this area.
Other than that, I can find no other drawbacks. This really is an excellent curriculum!
Interested in learning more about classical education?
Interested in learning more about the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling?
As always, thank you for being here! I appreciate you all very much!
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