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The story behind WriteShop, part 1

by | Apr 28, 2008 | WriteShop I & II

Question markAS YOU pick up a grammar program, geography book, or other curriculum from the shelf of your local homeschool store, do you ever wonder how it got there?

Do you perhaps envision a talented team at work in some big-city corporate office building comparing research or collaborating over cover designs?

If so, let me QUICKLY dispell that myth for you! For in truth, many of the most successful and popular homeschool products you use came into existence in the very environment for which they were designed—the homeschool classroom!

So I invite you to come along with me for a peek into the past–to find out how our curriculum—WriteShop—was born.

The Secret Lives of Experts 

Attending homeschool conferences for many years, I became convinced that exhibitors and speakers were somehow superior to me. After all, they were the experts.

Certainly they never hid stacks of schoolwork in the oven when company arrived. I highly doubt they ever locked themselves on the roof while washing windows {true story!}. Surely their kids mastered Latin and read the classics with ease by age ten. And in their homes, nutritious home-cooked meals graced a lovely table without fail every night.

Funny—as it turns out, I discovered these “experts” were as human as I. Like me, they sometimes ran out of year before the math book was finished. Like me, they locked their keys in the car, left the checkbook at home, forgot to throw the wet clothes into the dryer, and ate out of a paper bag a bit more often than they liked. But also like me, these ordinary homeschoolers developed something that worked, whether an educational philosophy, a method of instruction, or a successful curriculum.

For my friend Debbie and me, an idea grew from seed, changing two regular moms into published authors.

How Did All This Happen When We Weren’t Looking?

Ten years ago, if anyone had bothered to ask me what I planned to “do” with my life when I was finished homeschooling, I may have rolled out a long list of unfinished projects I’d finally have time to complete. Perhaps I’d have spoken with longing of the stack of books I meant to read or the conversational Spanish class I yearned to take. Or the desire to venture overseas with my husband on a short-term mission trip. Or the need to overhaul our 24-year-old house.

I would never have said, “I think I’ll write a curriculum for homeschoolers.” Neither would it have crossed my mind to suggest, “I see myself speaking at conventions and equipping parents to teach writing at home.”

My dreams did not transport me to kitchen tables, co-ops, and conferences across the country. They did not allow for the possibility that something I put my hand to would become a topic of conversation on Internet discussion boards and blogs, nor that homeschool retailers would one day stock their shelves with books whose byline read “Kim Kautzer and Debra Oldar.”

The Boys Who Couldn’t Write

As they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” And for Debbie and me, necessity came in the shape of two twelve-year-old boys who simply could not write.

Debbie and I had used unit studies with our families because, while academics came easily to our girls, Ben and Brian struggled terribly. The unit approach was an ideal way for them to explore the world more concretely, offering opportunities to develop their interests through projects, field trips, and literature. From there we bravely entered the co-op scene, teaching California history in a unit study fashion. After a successful semester we taught geography, followed by world history the next year.

As the boys approached seventh grade, Debbie began talking earnestly of a writing class. Believe me, I balked. What did I know about teaching writing? Sure, I considered myself a decent writer, but I had no idea how to communicate that skill to others.

Still, I was desperate to teach my son to write. Finally convinced that enough materials existed in the marketplace to assist us with our task, I gave in. Our writing class launched in September 1997.

A Strong Dose of Reality

Enthusiastic and expectant, we greeted our class that Tuesday morning with their first assignment, a five-sentence paragraph. But our high hopes met reality face-to-face when we sat down with those compositions. “Oh, no! What have we gotten ourselves into?” we squeaked . . .

The Story Continues . . .

Stay tuned to find out what happens! Part 2 continues next week!

Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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