Do you ever wonder about the circumstances that have inspired your favorite homeschool products? It’s likely the authors first created those materials to meet their own children’s needs.
And you know what? That’s exactly how WriteShop was born! We’re Kim Kautzer and Debbie Oldar, founders of WriteShop. Welcome to our story!
The Boys Who Couldn’t Write
Academics came easily to our daughters, but our sons really struggled. We were desperate to teach our boys to write, so in the fall of 1997, as they were entering 7th grade, we offered a writing class for a small group of homeschooled middle schoolers. As our core curriculum, we used bits and pieces from established writing programs; it wasn’t even on our radar to write a program of our own! While each program had its strengths, we also discovered holes we wanted to fill.
We knew it was important to help our students develop a strong writing foundation. Most parents had enrolled their kids in our class because of their own admitted weakness in this area. While most writing programs were great about encouraging kids to “get their ideas onto paper,” they often failed to help parents teach, guide, and evaluate in a simple way.
We longed for a curriculum where lesson built upon lesson and concepts become firmly rooted through practice.
Our Wishlist for Teaching Writing
We put together a wishlist for our ideal writing class. We wanted:
- Prewriting games and brainstorming tools to stimulate creativity.
- A way to introduce and help students develop new skills.
- Creative, varied writing exercises with clearly defined expectations.
- Incremental lessons that built upon previously learned material.
- Writing checklists to help students edit their own work.
- A simple evaluation tool to help us objectively grade final drafts.
WriteShop Is Born
Within weeks, when writing finally began to click for each of our students, we knew we’d struck gold.
Two years later, when the class waiting list soared to 50, parents started asking us to write a teacher’s guide and turn our ideas into a curriculum they could teach at home. Eventually, we bit the bullet and developed what would become our flagship curriculum: WriteShop I and II for junior high and high school.
Shortly thereafter, in January 2001, we officially launched our company.
Kim with one of her students
New Levels for Younger Students
Even with the success of WriteShop I and II, it never occurred to us to write or publish any more books. But when we met children’s author Nancy Sanders—and learned about her heart for developing teaching materials—we commissioned her to create WriteShop Primary for young children in K-3rd grade.
Nancy took our core ideas and developed a gentle, engaging way to introduce the writing process to much younger learners. WriteShop Primary’s success prompted us to keep going, and since then, Nancy has followed suit with the creative—and wildly popular—WriteShop Junior for grades 4-6.
Kids Love WriteShop
Nancy’s work paid off! Children, tweens, and teens love using WriteShop. Hear from a few students who proudly display some of their WriteShop projects and explain why they enjoy the curriculum.
Longtime Customers Share Their WriteShop Stories
We asked longtime customers who have used WriteShop for years and years, even from the very beginning of beta testing some products, to share their experiences with the curriculum and the difference it has made in their homeschool. It’s so rewarding to hear their stories of adult children who excelled with college writing because of their WriteShop background!
Not only is WriteShop a top curriculum choice among homeschooling families, our materials are a favorite of private schools as well as homeschool classes and co-ops, meeting writing needs that extend far beyond the kitchen table.
We’re glad you’re here, and we invite you to poke around the blog and take the placement quiz to find your perfect curriculum fit. You’ll find ideas, tips, and products to help you teach writing with confidence!
A Timeline of WriteShop History 1997-2020
- Motivated to teach their tween boys to write, Debbie Oldar and Kim Kautzer advertised a yearlong writing class for homeschooled middle schoolers. These students couldn’t even write a basic paragraph. Because Kim and Deb couldn’t find materials that worked for them, they developed their own lessons and teaching materials week by week.
- After the success of their first class, Debbie and Kim offered to teach it again.
- Meanwhile, they opened up a second class and wrote new materials to include an intro to essay writing. The first class was called WriteShop I and the second WriteShop II.
- The waiting list for WriteShop classes grew to 2 years out. Parents begged for a way to teach their kids at home. Debbie and Kim caved to demand and wrote a teacher’s manual.
- In December they published the 1st edition of WriteShop I & II as a single volume. With custom blue binders, tabbed dividers and penny-per-page Office Depot printing, the first 50 books came to life.
- In January 2001 WriteShop became an official company with a business license and a legal partnership.
- Split the student book into two separate volumes: WriteShop I and WriteShop II.
- Attended WriteShop’s first homeschool conventions as vendors at CHEA in Ontario, California and THC in Conroe, Texas.
- Website first launched as writeshop4u.homestead.com. [Link no longer viable, of course.]
- Stored and shipped orders from Kim’s garage.
- Through word of mouth in homeschool chat rooms and forums, we made our first online sale and sold 30 WriteShop I Basic Sets in the first month.
- Began using a professional printer to publish WriteShop I & II.
- Acquired the writeshop.com domain.
- First product reviews appeared online.
- Rainbow Resource, Canadian Home Education Resources, and several small homeschool stores became our first wholesale distributors.
Our website’s look has come a long way since 2002!
- Homeschool co-ops began using WriteShop I and II for their writing classes.
- Released 4th edition of WriteShop I & II.
- Kim began speaking at homeschool conventions.
- Released 1st edition of the Handbook for Teaching in a Group Setting.
- Introduced educational discounts for schools and homeschool co-ops.
- Launched a WriteShop group on Yahoo!
- WriteShop included in Cathy Duffy’s 1st edition of 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
- Commissioned Nancy Sanders to develop an early-elementary WriteShop, originally envisioned as Beginning WriteShop, grades K-3 in a single volume.
- Operations moved from Kim’s home to Debbie’s. Debbie and her husband took over storing, packing, and shipping to customers.
- Clarified the vision for a 3-volume WriteShop Primary series for early-elementary ages, and Nancy Sanders began creating the lessons.
- Moved printing/warehousing operation to a local printing company.
- Introduced site licenses for schools and co-ops.
- Received The Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Excellence in Education Award.
- WriteShop became a California corporation.
- Awarded the registered trademark for WriteShop.
- Created our first digital writing extras: StoryBuilders printable writing prompt cards.
- Launched a fresh new website.
- Began beta-testing WriteShop Primary lessons.
- Launched the WriteShop blog.
- Awarded the registered trademarks for “Inspiring Successful Writers” and “Teaching Writing Has Never Been Easier.”
- Released WriteShop Primary Book A.
- Received Practical Homeschooling Magazine’s Reader Award.
- Beta-tested WriteShop Primary Books E and F.
- Released WriteShop Junior Book D.
- Released WriteShop Junior Book E.
- WriteShop included in updated 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy.
- Received the Schoolhouse Review Crew’s Blue Ribbon Award for Favorite Writing Curriculum.
- Updated the covers of WriteShop I & II.
- Brand-new website redesign with cohesive branding and improved customer experience.
- Discontinued 3-ring binders for WriteShop I & II. Introduced a fresh cover design and updated binding for both student and teacher books.
- Started to offer digital versions of WriteShop I & II student workbooks.
- Printed the first WriteShop catalog.
- Introduced video courses for WriteShop I & II.
- Launched a Facebook group for WriteShop parents and teachers.
- Released WriteShop Junior Book F.
- Moved all shipping and fulfillment to our local warehouse.
- Released seven new digital Writing Extras.
- Added a curriculum consultant to assist and advise parents, co-op teachers, and schools.
- WriteShop co-founder Debbie Oldar retired.
- Website facelift including mobile friendly updates.
- Introduction of 1-Minute Placement Quiz.
- Launched WriteShop’s YouTube channel.
- Worldwide COVID-19 pandemic propelled thousands of families into homeschooling.
- All in-person conventions cancelled, so WriteShop shifted to participation in online conferences.
- Updated and released a 5th edition, faith-neutral version of WriteShop I & II to align with already faith-neutral elementary levels.
- Digital versions of the Teacher’s Manual for WriteShop I & II became available for online purchase.
- Released a 5th-edition-compatible Classroom Handbook: Teach WriteShop I or II in a Class or Co-op.
- WriteShop’s valiant printer kept warehouse shelves stocked and backorders at bay despite a year of unprecedented sales.
WriteShop celebrates 20 years of inspiring successful writers!