One of the most frequent questions we hear from parents is how to combine their kids while using WriteShop curriculum. The great news is WriteShop is flexible enough that you can, in many cases, homeschool multiple ages with one WriteShop program.
If you want to skip straight to the steps for choosing the best level for your mix of kids, go here.
Combining Elementary Children with WriteShop Primary and Junior
Because WriteShop spans several grades for each level, you can group elementary kids who are close in age or close in writing ability.
In these K through 7th levels, WriteShop’s Teacher Guides include tips to help you make writing assignments more challenging or less difficult. These are called “Smaller Steps” and “Flying Higher.”
“[WriteShop at the elementary levels] gives us ideas to simplify or challenge a lesson to make it work for multi-age families. I try to do as much as I can combined, so that’s my favorite part of WriteShop.”—Jill, WriteShop user
Combining Tweens and Teens with WriteShop I & II
WriteShop I and II are ideal for most middle and high school ages. Sixth graders who enjoy writing can also use WriteShop I. But reluctant or less-than-motivated writers may find their footing in a level that’s a better fit for 6th grade.
Combining teens in one level may be counterproductive in some cases. If you’re pulling along a younger child who’s not quite ready for his sibling’s more advanced level, you may end up having to reteach the material in future years.
On the other hand, working through WriteShop I or II again in a year or two can be a positive option for many students. Especially when teaching WriteShop II, it’s not uncommon for parents to revisit the essay lessons again and again, switching up topics each time.
Advantages of Combining Children with a Single WriteShop Level
1. Streamlining your teaching
When you don’t have to teach all your children their own individual subjects, you simply sit down with one teacher’s guide and teach a single lesson to two or three together. Then, those who are able can work independently on their writing assignments.
Especially as a new homeschooler, it’s important not to overload yourself. You don’t want to get burned out or lose your steam. Combining kids helps you conserve your energy and time so you can stick with homeschooling over the long haul.
2. Nudging an older but reluctant writer
Combining is particularly effective when the older child is the reluctant writer and the younger child is more eager or motivated. With this combination, siblings are more likely to dovetail together into a single program.
For example, maybe you have a 5th grader who’s working at 3rd or 4th grade level—and you’ve also got a 3rd grader working at a 4th grade level. These two children will be fairly easy to teach together, and neither will have huge gaps in their learning.
This scenario is similar to Melissa’s experience:
“We used WriteShop Junior D last year with my eager third grader and reluctant fifth grader. Such a success. We saw so much progress. What sets it apart is its easy-to-implement lessons for a multi-age group.”— Melissa, WriteShop user
3. Saving money
Obviously, it’s also more cost-effective to combine children in a single level of WriteShop.
- 1 teacher’s edition
- 2 student workbooks or Activity Packs
In fact, many families opt for digital student materials while using print teacher guides. They simply print as they go, making multiple copies for children sharing a level.
4. Letting tagalong siblings join the fun
There may be times when you have a tagalong—a younger child who’s not quite ready for the material but who can still participate in some of the activities.
When you do include a very young tagalong who finds the actual writing too difficult to attempt, it’s not a loss! The games, concepts, pre-writing activities, oral teaching instruction can be done together—and the youngest child still benefits from that exposure.
In fact, you don’t have to do a formal writing curriculum at all with your kindergartner, 1st grader, or even your 2nd grader! It’s perfectly okay to wait till they’re a little older before starting a writing program with them. Meanwhile, they’re still absorbing ideas by joining in with their older siblings.
Challenges when Combining Mixed Ages with WriteShop
1. Will someone get shortchanged?
Sometimes two children just can’t share a program because of a broad age and/or skill gap.
Writing instruction is akin to math; it’s a cognitive skill that grows with the child in a step-by-step fashion. The incremental nature of writing is what can make it challenging to combine ages in one WriteShop level. You may end up missing key steps along the way if you lump kids together.
Just because you can combine some of your kids in a writing level doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best fit for them—especially if their ages are far apart.
🔑 A CAVEAT & WARNING: When combining kids, it’s likely the level you choose won’t be the best fit for somebody.
For example, in most cases, there is no happy medium for a 6th grader and a 2nd grader. You’re going to end up putting them in a book that’s not age-appropriate for either: too hard for the younger one or too easy for the older sibling. In this case, it’s best for each child to work on an individual level.
2. Will worksheet artwork create a stumbling block?
WriteShop Primary and Junior Activity Packs contain illustrated worksheets for added fun. The graphics in each book (as well as the writing games and activities) are aimed at that level’s target age. In particular, placing 5th or 6th graders in a level that feels too young for them socially and emotionally can backfire and make them less willing to write.
3. Do your children work well together?
Some siblings simply don’t mesh well. You know those kids! They bicker, argue, talk over each other, fight for who’s going to have the last word, etc. If you’re spending so much time refereeing, it may be easier to teach them individually.
Along that same line, consider your quiet or introverted kids who might get lost in the shuffle, drowned out by a more verbal or enthusiastic sibling. Make sure to give them a voice when you’re all working together.
Choosing the Best Program for Combining Your Children: 4 Steps
You want to take care not to go too far back or too far ahead when you choose a level for combining.
Younger children may get frustrated when assignments are too advanced. They may not get the necessary skills or age-appropriate writing assignments. On the other hand, older kids may not be challenged enough if the level is too young.
✨ CHOOSE CAREFULLY: If the gap between ages is too big, someone’s going to get shortchanged.
Here’s how to choose the best WriteShop level for combining two children.
STEP 1: Take the WriteShop Placement Quiz
Start with the placement tool and take it twice, once for each child you want to combine.
STEP 2: Look for the sweet spot
Compare the two levels. Is there an obvious middle ground between the two suggested levels that would work for both children?
SCENARIO: If your younger child places in book D and your older child places in book F, there’s a good chance you can do book E together with both of them.
STEP 3: Dig into your options
RELATED >> How to Choose a WriteShop Level
With these extra details (and the hints in the advantages and challenges sections above), you can determine, “Oh, no, this would be way too simple for my X child. And this would be way too easy for my Y child. As much as I’d love to teach them together, I can see it’s not going to not going to work.”
Or you might just say, “Wow, I see lots of ways we could tailor this and make it work for both kids. Yes! I think this will be an awesome solution!”
STEP 4: Consider your flexibility for adjusting up or down
Since the instruction in each book is geared for a particular age level, you’ll need to modify activities to fit younger or older kids. You can always challenge children with a higher level writing assignment when they are using a younger book. And the curriculum does include tips (Smaller Steps & Flying Higher) for doing this very thing. But you’ll need to make those adjustments as you work through the program.
Doing so may make your writing lessons a little less open-and-go than if you were using WriteShop with the recommended age. Are you okay with this?
Smaller Steps & Flying Higher
Primary (A, B, C) and Junior (D, E, F) books provide suggestions for adapting the writing assignments. Smaller Steps offer ways to make the task easier or less intimidating. Flying Higher suggestions bump up the challenge for a child who is ready for more.
You Will Still Do One-on-One Teaching
Even when you streamline your writing lessons with a single level of WriteShop, you still need to plan for some one-on-one teaching with each child.
You can teach your kids together and do the broad assignment as a group, but there are parts of the lessons, especially at the elementary levels (not so much at the teen levels), where you’ll need to work individually with each child as you do the brainstorming and student writing assignment.
WriteShop relies on parent participation and input—that’s the way the program is built. Independent work is gradually introduced in Junior Books E and F. But even then, your kids will still need you for individual instruction.
Using the Video Course to Combine Several Teens
When teaching teens with WriteShop I, the Video Course is another resource for your toolkit! For example, Bethany is using WriteShop 1 with three teens and an 11-year-old. They’re all at completely different levels—and they’re all at an age where they don’t want to work together.
In her case, the Video Course has worked perfectly because her kids each watch the video on their own and then do their work independently. She’s able to combine them with a single program without forcing them to learn together.
Need help teaching mixed ages with WriteShop?
Homeschooling kids of different ages with one level of WriteShop can be the cat’s pajamas! But there are also hurdles you may have to overcome.
Recognizing the limitations of sharing a writing program—and leaning on the Smaller Steps and Flying Higher suggestions—will give you a leg up in this process.
If you still have questions about placement, you can find help in a couple of ways: