How to choose the best homeschool writing curriculum

by | Nov 2, 2020 | Teaching Homeschool Writing

Parents often confess that writing is the scariest or most intimidating subject to teach. Do you feel that way too? With so many options, it can be overwhelming to choose the best homeschool writing curriculum for your children. 

  • What kind of writing program will I like? What will my child or teen like?
  • Do I want a parent-guided writing program or one my child can work on independently?
  • I don’t know what I’m doing. Are there teacher’s guides that hold my hand?
  • How do I know if a program is age and grade appropriate?
  • How rigorous should it be? 
  • Will this program prepare my teen for college writing?

It’s great to ask questions like these! Let’s walk through how to choose a writing curriculum that accommodates both your child’s learning style and your teaching style!

Features of the Best Homeschool Writing Curriculum

Not all writing programs are created equal. As you search for the best homeschool writing program for your family, consider key features that satisfy your goals and make teaching writing doable.

1. The best writing curriculum has flexible schedules and adaptable lessons.

No homeschool parent wants to be a slave to her curriculum. So look for one with built-in flexibility! When you have scheduling options, you’re not boxed in by a rigid daily writing grind. Instead, you can spread writing assignments over several days or weeks. When the schedule includes some days off, you have breathing room to accommodate the unexpected.

Your homeschool child’s progress happens on its own timetable. I learned this lesson with my son, whose academic struggles meant he didn’t hit reading, writing, spelling, or math milestones as quickly as his older sisters. So we had to adapt.

When you have kids of similar ages working at different levels, the best writing program will suggest ways to tweak activities to make them more or less challenging. With this kind of flexibility, you can teach kids from the same book, even if they’re a year or two apart in age or grade. Winner, winner!

2. The best writing curriculum helps you teach and grade writing with confidence.

The best writing curriculum shows you how to teach your child to write. That’s because most children don’t learn to write on their own. To become successful writers, they need your presence, your guidance, and your feedback.

A stress-free teacher’s guide (especially when designed with the homeschool parent in mind) is the backbone of a good writing program. You’ll feel equipped and prepared when you have schedules and step-by-step lesson plans to direct you. In addition, a great teacher’s manual may also include scripted dialogues, teaching ideas, student examples, and troubleshooting tips. 

Finally, no writing program is complete unless it teaches the steps of the writing process:

  • Prewriting
  • Brainstorming
  • Rough draft
  • Editing and revising
  • Final draft

Does the thought of evaluating that final draft stir up doubt and anxiety? Never fear! A top homeschool writing program will provide guidelines, checklists, and rubrics to help you objectively edit and grade your kids’ writing. 

3. The best homeschool writing curriculum includes fun and variety.

INTERESTING, ENGAGING ACTIVITIES

It’s pretty common for children to say they hate writing—which is why the best homeschool writing programs include kid- or teen-friendly lessons, fun warm-ups or prewriting games, and creative ways to publish final drafts. 

A VARIETY OF WRITING TYPES AND GENRES

Book reports and essays have their place, but students of all ages should learn to write in other ways, too. So in addition to engaging activities, a solid writing curriculum will offer a variety of age-appropriate writing experiences.

A well-rounded writing curriculum teaches many different writing types. The most common kinds of writing are descriptive, informative (also called expository), narrative, and persuasive. Your children will also jump at the chance to write creative fiction, nursery rhymes, folk tales, letters, or poems.

Within these broader genres, a good curriculum gives them freedom to choose their own writing topics to make the assignment more relevant and interesting.

Beginning in upper elementary and continuing through middle and high school, a solid program will also teach five-paragraph essays and short reports. But even the best homeschool writing curriculum won’t always include longer, meatier high school research papers. That’s okay! You can teach older teens to write research papers using a separate curriculum designed for that purpose.

Bottom line: the best homeschool writing curriculum mixes things up so your kids won’t have a steady diet of ho-hum topics and boring worksheets.

Consider these factors before deciding on the best homeschool writing curriculum for your family.

How to Choose the Best Homeschool Writing Curriculum

Now that you know what to look for in the homeschool writing curriculum itself, consider other factors such as your child’s unique learning needs, your teaching style, and your method or style of homeschooling.

1. What are your children’s learning needs?

UNDERSTAND YOUR CHILD’S TRUE COGNITIVE LEVEL

It’s tempting to place struggling writers in an earlier level of a writing program simply because you’re afraid they’ve missed something along the way.

Even if they haven’t done much formal writing, resist the impulse to drop back several levels. Using a level meant for much younger children can jeopardize an older student’s willingness to write if the assignments and illustrations feel beneath them.

Instead, jump in at the level that best fits your child’s thinking skills, not his spelling, grammar, or handwriting skills. If he struggles in one of these areas, don’t dumb down–slow down!

For example, did you know it’s okay to let your kids dictate to you as you write their words? Children and young teens who hate writing by hand—but whose brains are bursting with ideas—need a writing curriculum that challenges their creative thought process, even if their handwriting skills are still weak.

So whether they’re 6 or 16, it’s in their best interest to use a writing program that meets their thinking skills. Placement tools can be incredibly helpful when you’re just not sure.

placement quiz WriteShop writing curriculum

Do you have a child who learns with difficulty? Seek out a writing curriculum that has a solid track record with special needs learners. Among other things, they’ll need lessons with bite-size assignments, plenty of repetition, and multisensory activities.

>> 6 Ways to Help your Special Needs Child with Homeschool Writing

CONSIDER THE VARIETY OF LEARNING STYLES

Traditionally, the three most common learning styles are kinesthetic, auditory, and visual. In reality, using a variety of modalities helps all children learn! That’s why the best homeschool writing curriculum will incorporate a range of activities.

  • Kinesthetic and tactile activities give kids a break from traditional fill-in-the-blank workbooks. Hands-on experiences help their brains make important learning connections. A great writing curriculum will let them move about, play games, manipulate cards, and create craft-based published writing projects.
  • Auditory activities encourage conversation and draw students in with questions and discussion. A writing curriculum might incorporate learning games that rely on verbal responses or suggest publishing ideas kids can present orally. For teens, a video program can provide yet another auditory experience.
  • Visual activities at the elementary level can include picture books, illustrated worksheets, and crafty or artistic publishing ideas. But students of all ages profit from using word banks to help them choose strong words or using colored pencils or stickers to help them self-edit. From kindergarten through high school, every child benefits when writing lessons involve them in discussion while you model and teach at a whiteboard. And a video course option that has lots of visuals is also a winner!

Even if one particular style of learning dominates, all kids thrive when activities are multisensory.  

2. Research all a writing curriculum has to offer.

When searching for a recommended homeschool writing curriculum, read blog reviews (or watch video reviews). Learning about other homeschoolers’ experiences with a writing program can confirm your decision. 

Spend time on the publishers’ websites. Most provide detailed descriptions, testimonials, lesson samples, scope and sequence charts, or other tools to help gauge whether their materials will work for your family.  

Pay attention to the curriculum’s layout and style. No matter what writing program you settle on, it needs to work for both you and your child.

  • Does it align with your homeschool teaching method (classical, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, etc.)
  • Does it cover the kinds of writing you want your kids to learn?
  • Is it worksheet-based or hands-on?
  • Is it open and go? If not, how much prep time is required?
  • Do you like the layout, lessons, and teaching activities?
  • Can you teach several children at once?
  • Does it offer schedule options?
  • Are activities adaptable for different ages or levels?
  • Will this be fun or engaging for your child?
  • Will you need to supplement with grammar or spelling?

3. Try before you buy.

Does the publisher’s website offer free lesson samples? It’s one of the biggest perks you could take advantage of! Download the sample and use it with your students. If they need something more or less challenging, try out a sample from a different level. Use the lesson as intended to get an accurate feel of what it will be like for you and your child. 

Chart of skills taught in WriteShop

WriteShop provides both a scope and sequence and sample lesson for every book, as well as a chart of skills covered at each Primary, Junior, or WriteShop I & II level. These show you the format of the lessons and give an overview of what your child will be learning.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a strong writer, you know it’s important to invest in your children’s writing. With a solid writing program as your guide, you’ll feel much more confident to teach and evaluate writing.

Ready to begin your search for the best homeschool writing curriculum?

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