Thursday, August 27, 2009

Writing Curriculum

I posted before needing to use a writing curriculum in my homeschool. I have decided to choose between these options:

Institute for Excellence in Writing Theme Based Writing Lessons

I know that there are other writing curriculums out there, but I've looked into these enough to see that they are promising enough to consider and there is enough information available for me to make a somewhat educated decision.

Time4Writing is an on-line course. This appeals to me so that I do not need to be the person grading my daughter's writing. The classes are run through forums. There is an actual person who will review the work and provide feedback. The teacher interaction is limited to writing back and forth. The student would log on, read the assignment, write the assignment and hand it in. The available classes appeal to my sense of heirarchy. They properly start from grammar, move to sentence construction, up to paragraphs and then into essays. Each step is progressively harder and builds on the previous knowledge. The eight week classes cost $100 per student which I find a reasonable cost. The content includes some creative writing as well as expository. I am most concerned that my children learn expository writing. Creative writing may be fun and nice, but the writing skills that are hardest to develop and the one that will be of the most use in day to day life (unless you are a novelist) is expository or persuasive writing.

BraveWriter has two availabilities. The Writer's Jungle is a binder that will allow a parent to guide their child through the writing process. According to the summary at the website, the 'brave' part of BraveWriter is to allow your child to become comfortable with letting go, putting words on paper unselfconsciously, and finding a 'voice'. The course talks about ensuring a language rich home, communication, exploring objects using all five senses, free-writing, over coming writer's block, and how to help with revision, rewriting, and critiques. This is very parent-intense and requires time for planning, and/or an additional curriculum from which the writing assignments come, or making your own assignments. It does seem to cover content at all. While the course seems tailored made for creative writing, I am hoping that the ideas would also cover non-fiction writing (my highest priority). This program is $100 for the basic binder.

The second option from BraveWriter is an on-line course called Kidswrite Basic. There are other courses, but that course would be what I would chooose. A real, live person would make assignments and provide feedback in a forum setting (again, no real-time contact) to the parents. This follows their Writer's Jungle book in format and even in coaching the parents and having the parents actually be the ones to interact with the students. It is a six week course that costs $175. That is $30 a week. I guess you could rationalize it by saying that it is almost like a course for both the parent and the student, which would actually make the price reasonable in my mind. Plenty of parents are more than willing to pay that high of a fee since the class is already closed out. Considering that the program is designed to allow kids to get words out there without dealing with style (it seems that would come from the other curriculum you would have), I would have a very hard time paying that high of a price.

The Institute for Excellence in Writing seems to be another 'teach the teacher' course. There are a set of 10 hours of DVD instruction which costs $145. They also offer DVDs that will teach the student as well. That combination of both is around $240. It is far more structured than BraveWriter. It may be that this is one of the currriculums you could use BraveWriter with. There is a money-back guarantee. The Student Writing Intensive can get the students started right away while you learn the course yourself. It also includes material for the lessons so the parent probably does not have to do all of the work at first.

The Institute for Excellence in Writing Theme-Based Writing Lessons are complete writing lessons all planned out. Of course you are supposed to watch the Teaching Writing DVDs first. But these are very detailed and include much of the practical information that is needed including excerpts, etc. The Ancient History Teacher and Student books cost $49.

And no, I have not yet decided though I am favoring the Theme-Based Writing Lessons. I am fortunate that I was able to borrow someone's copy to review and see if I think it would be detailed enough for me and Hanover and/or Flurpee. Hanover likes to see A LOT of concrete examples.


Crimson Wife said...

I'm not familiar with the first one, but I've heard good things about the latter 2.

I'm personally leaning towards Stanford EPGY writing courses for when my DD gets old enough. They're very pricey but English is by far her strongest subject and I think she could really benefit from doing the EPGY courses.

Kim said...

Funny you should mention that. Someone in CT set up somehomeschoolers as a school district for EPGY (I think 10 families were needed) and then the school districts courses are highly discounted (only math and english offered for elementary school).

Amy said...

Have you listened to Peter Schwartz's lectures on writing, or Leonard Peikoff's? I'm not sure they could replace a curriculum, but it might help. Also, LP recommends a book called "Writing and Thinking" by Norman Foerster and J. M. Steadman, Jr. Here's a link to the ARB products on writing skills for you or any your readers to check out: