My eldest son, now 12, has been desperate for me to teach him to write for a while. I’m very passionate about writing because it hits pretty close to home for me. But truthfully I’ve never been huge on non-fiction writing. It’s not that I can’t do it or that I don’t like doing it, it’s just that I don’t prefer it.
Here’s the thing though, writing papers, not stories, is far more important. It’s a skill I want my children to know how to do, and to do it well. I’m not overly passionate about a lot of things, but when I think of teaching my kids how to write I have that end vision of my child’s paper being that paper. You know the one. The one that the professor reads and is struck by the fact that someone in his class is not only paying attention but knows how to formulate thoughts into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into an essay. One that flows smoothly, reads well, and is worth his/her effort to read.
Having this goal made it a little easier in regards to selecting a curriculum that would meet my needs. I looked at a lot of writing curriculum. A lot. Most of it made my eyes glaze over because I knew I was capable of teaching my child how to write and meeting my goals. What I was concerned about was doing a boring job of it. Ever been so passionate about something you find it difficult to keep calm while your student learns the ins and outs? That’s what I was afraid might happen if I attempted to teach my child to write without a few guidelines.
When I stumbled upon Writing With Skill (WWS) however, I was hooked from the start. It was one of those moments where you are grinning like the Cheshire Cat and have no idea. It’s not until you start nodding your head yes while laughing manically and your husband asks if you’re okay that you realize what you’re doing. Needless to say I purchased WWS for our writing program this year.
How I Use It:
The curriculum is written to the student, for the student, but I’m not gonna kid you here. I do it with my son. Which doesn’t mean I do it for my son. I simply sit down and read the lesson with him, then we go over what he’s suppose to do.
From there we go about the actual writing lesson. The book is very gradual in how it starts out, so a child familiar with Writing With Ease may find the first weeks worth of lessons very familiar to them with simply reading, narrating, and writing summaries.
After that they start getting into the good stuff. Learning to take notes, write essays with word counts, chronological narratives, and using a thesaurus. Each week builds so that you go just a little bit deeper.
My son keeps a notebook, as described in the Teacher’s Manual that goes with the student book. He files each thing under the correct tab, which is often told in the lesson.
What I love About it:
- I love that each lesson is simple and straight forward. There’s no monkey business, no guessing, no wondering. I have the Teacher’s Manual, but thus far I haven’t really needed it.
- I love that the lessons are gentle, but very thorough. Let’s face it, he needs to know how to take notes and write essays with word counts or page counts, but it can be pretty intimidating to sit in front of a blank piece of paper. Writing With Skill sets him to succeed without leaving any room for humming or hawing.
- I love that each lesson is quick and simple. I’m not talking five minutes. I’m talking 15-20 or so minutes. Mind you we aren’t towards some of the lessons that are spread out over a longer period of time yet, but still I’ve yet to have a lesson take more then a half hour if even that.
- I love that it’s pretty open and go. For now, he only needs the book and his prepared notebook to write his reports. We might pull out the thesaurus to add to it or change a word or two around, we might type things up on the computer but it’s not needed.
- I love that there are word limits on some of his essays. While normally in a homeschooling setting I might not find this needed, I think it’s a lovely practice to get into. To get use to extending or summarizing his words to meet the requirements without panic is a good habit to get into.
- I love that the lessons are set up for only four days per week. This is perfect for our family and just what we needed. It allows us to spend our 5th day doing other things or working on non-fiction writing. The choice is ours.
- I love that I can get this from a variety of sources. I know that might seem minor, but living overseas this is great bonus for me. It means I can purchase it from Book Depository & not have to worry about paying any shipping on the item! Win-Win.
What I Don’t Like:
- There is very little complaint for me about this book, so my two “off beat” comments below are nitpicking & easily dealt with, as I’ve shared, in other ways.
- I had really hoped to reuse this with my next student, but I was unaware that my first one would be marking in the book. Now, that’s a very minor complaint and it is called a student text for a reason. Having said that one could avoid this situation entirely and buy the ebook version.
It’s not a true dislike, but I will say that I do wish the book was spiral bound. Now, it’d be pretty easy to take it down to a local shop and have that done for you. I actually did intend to do this, but just haven’t yet.
What My Son Thinks:
Because I purchased this program for my son and his desire to write I felt it only fair to include his own opinion of this curriculum. Upon asking him what he thought about it his responses were:
“I actually really like it. It’s fun to write the essays & print them out. I just wish it had more creative writing in it. That’s what I really want to do, but I do like this book too!”
Any writing curriculum that makes me smile and my son considers fun is a winner in this house. It’s as simple as that.
If you want to see how we’ve set up our writing notebook, check out the things we’ve written about using WWS, or just peek at what craziness is happening around our place this week hop on over to our blog.