Do I really need a writing curriculum?

Do I Really Need a Writing Curriculum? | Use This Helpful Homeschool Checklist

If you’re a few months into the new school year, by now you have a pretty good idea of whether writing is humming along nicely or stubbornly dragging its heels. Now is a good time to evaluate this often-neglected subject and decide if you need to make any mid-course corrections.

It may help to ask yourself: Do I really need a formal writing program? Surprisingly, you may not. Here are some things to consider.

Do You Need a Writing Curriculum?

No, you may not need a writing curriculum if you . . .

  • Are a self-starter.
  • Provide your kids with a variety of writing activities and projects.
  • Feel comfortable taking your children through the steps of the writing process.
  • Include writing as part of history, science, or unit studies.
  • Regularly tie in writing across the curriculum.
  • Enjoy thinking up writing lessons for your children.
  • Are good about having them write several times a week.
  • Don’t worry too much about whether you’re missing something.

Yes, you may need a writing curriculum if you . . .

  • Tend to push writing to the back burner.
  • Feel uncertain about what to teach and when.
  • Worry about not doing enough writing with your children.
  • Prefer a bit more structure.
  • Like a more systematic approach to teaching.
  • Are more comfortable following a schedule.
  • Need help teaching certain writing genres.
  • Feel overwhelmed at the thought of coming up with writing assignments or creating your own lesson plans.
  • Have teens who are ready to learn essay skills.

Did You Answer Yes? Read On!

What to look for in a writing program

  • Clear teaching directions.
  • Step-by-step student instructions.
  • Creative, engaging ideas for prewriting, brainstorming, and publishing.
  • Ungraded materials that allow you to teach several children.
  • Materials that will encourage a reluctant writer, yet challenge a stronger or more eager writer.
  • An approach that appeals to different learning styles.
  • A program that builds the writing process into the lessons.
  • Lessons that offer models or examples.
  • A program that teaches self-editing.

What to avoid when choosing a writing program

  • Materials that just tell children to write rather than teach them HOW to write.
  • Rigid lessons with very specific writing topics and little room for flexibility.
  • Comprehensive programs that attempt to fully teach both writing and grammar.
  • Generic grading rubrics that require too much guesswork on your part.

It’s not always easy to know if you need a writing curriculum. Perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle! If that describes you, maybe using a formal writing program every few years will give you the sense of peace to know you’re not omitting any big chunks from your children’s writing diets.

. . . . .

WriteShop Junior - All BooksWhen you’re comparing writing programs, WriteShop is a good place to start. Whether you’re teaching elementary children, middle grades, or teens, WriteShop products meet many of the above recommendations for a solid, parent-friendly writing program. Check out these handy charts to compare writing skills by level to help you decide if you even need a writing curriculum.

. . . . .

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  • Posted November 29, 2010


    Kim, these are excellent bullet points you’ve listed on whether or not a formal program is needed, as well as what to look for! Thank you! This is a thoughtful, thorough list I will forward on to homeschooling parents in our local cooperative! Have a blessed day! 🙂

  • Posted November 29, 2010


    Thanks, Janet!

  • Posted November 29, 2010


    I think you and I are kindred spirits, Jimmie. We did tons of unit studies in my kids’ elementary and junior high years, and I too had a knack for integrating most subjects (except math!) into our days, and rarely used a formal writing program.

    But eventually, I found myself on the “yes” side. Teaching my girls to write was a breeze. And then along came my son. Though he was a whiz at dictating stories, journals, and even short reports, he couldn’t communicate those ideas in his own hand. He needed more purposeful structure and incremental help, and that’s how this “no writing curriculum” mom (oh, the irony) ended up developing a writing curriculum. 🙂

    I suppose I should have added to the article that one’s answer could even be both “no” and “yes,” depending on the children’s needs.

    Thanks for the suggestion to send this on to the CM blog carnival. I’ll check it out!

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