I mentioned that we are using WriteShop for our writing curriculum (Relaxed Homeschooling in Seventh Grade). Up to this point in our homeschooling journey, we haven’t used any formal writing program. I tried a few times, but it didn’t work for us. Caroline is gifted/2e and has diagnosed dysgraphia (among other learning challenges) so I knew intuitively as her mom that writing was something that needed to wait. She is a reluctant writer when it comes to formal writing and so I wanted to wait until she was ready rather than push something too soon.
Lest anyone happening across this post with no context be afraid that I have horribly neglected her education to this point, I have not. While she might not yet have extensive practice writing for an academic project, she has all the other pieces in spades. She’s a strong natural speller (self-taught through real life), knows how to make an argument, and has an excellent vocabulary. I simply need to show her how to translate all that into something written for other people. (If you are still worried about her, you can check out her standardized test experience.)
The other thing I need to give her is the formal vocabulary that goes with writing and grammar. We’ve not taken the time to learn specifically about adverbs and prepositional phrases and the like so that was something I wanted to incorporate.
So in order to do all this, I’m using WriteShop as a guide. I’m not following it page by page, but using the parts that work for us. So if you are looking for a review from someone who is using it exactly as it is written, this is not the review you are looking for. (But I hope you keep reading!)
In the interest of full disclosure, WriteShop is one of our clients so I have a full set of all their materials that we’ve helped them publish. That said, this is not a paid review. Kim Kautzer, the owner of WriteShop, doesn’t even know I’m writing this and won’t until I send her the link. This is me simply writing about a curriculum we use.
There are affiliate links in the post. If you are helped by what you read here and decide WriteShop would be a good fit for your child, I would be thankful if you used one of my links when you order. I receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Okay, so that’s the background. On to the nitty gritty!
Why I Chose WriteShop
I did have access to WriteShop which, of course, was helpful. However, I would not have used it if it didn’t work for my child and our family. I’ll explain why I found WriteShop appealing by briefly comparing it to two other programs I considered and didn’t purchase – IEW and Brave Writer.
(And, please, I ask you to not turn this into another version of Classical Conversations Negatives and Why We Didn’t Join with 155 comments of people telling me I’m uninformed and stupid and such. This is my impression as a homeschool mom making choices for my daughter. I’m not trying to write in-depth reviews of the two curriculum options I didn’t choose.)
WriteShop Versus IEW
Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is a very popular program and liked by many homeschool families. Our local co-op uses it and I believe it is also utilized in Classical Conversations. I researched IEW both to understand it as it relates to classes offered at our co-op and in order to choose something to use with Caroline.
One complaint I read a number of times from people who used IEW and dropped it is that it is too much work. It requires a lot of the parent, it is repetitive, and there can develop a bit of drudgery related to some of the exercises that are involved. Drudgery and repetitive exercises are huge red flags for me when choosing a curriculum for someone like Caroline. She thrives on variety.
The other negative for our family is that IEW is expensive. In the end, there was nothing I read about IEW that made me think that Caroline would get that much more out of it than she would with the WriteShop curriculum I already had.
However, even if I didn’t already have WriteShop, I still would have chosen it over IEW. IEW simply seemed like a poor match for my daughter’s learning style.
WriteShop Versus Brave Writer
Brave Writer is another very popular writing program. I researched it because a number of homeschool bloggers I know are incredibly passionate about everything Brave Writer.
In the end, Brave Writer felt a little too foofy for us. By that I don’t mean that it isn’t an excellent curriculum. Brave Writer is like an entire lifestyle. It’s got an entire ethos thing going that seems to center around Julie Bogart, the creator. It just felt like it wasn’t a good fit for our family. I’ll give you a few little examples.
Poetry Teatime is a big deal with Brave Writer families and it sounds lovely. If I had a different family, it might be something we would do. But we’re not a poetry and tea kind of family. We’re more a Starbucks and discuss politics and theology kind of family. I understand the idea behind Poetry Teatime and see all the lovely photos people share online. But trust me. It’s just not Caroline and so there is no point.
The component of Big Juicy Conversations as compared to narration makes sense. Except our family excels at big juicy conversations all day. I don’t have to plan them. They happen all the time. With Caroline’s 2e, narration is actually something we need to work on.
And so on with various small things that made me feel like we aren’t foofy or emotional or something enough to be a good fit with Brave Writer.
So, again, I know that Brave Writer is adored by so many. It is like its own little club with lots of optional add-ons that you can purchase for the experience. But it doesn’t fit who we are so it didn’t draw me in enough to make me give up something I already had that I thought would work perfectly well.
WriteShop is Just Right
In the end, I felt that WriteShop was not too hard and not too soft.
It wasn’t too hot and it wasn’t too cold.
It was just right – for us.
It strikes me as a middle-of-the-road curriculum in that it provides both solid structure and creative ideas. Like all writing programs, it necessitates that mom be involved and hands-on. It requires some financial outlay, but one that is reasonable for an average homeschool family. The curriculum can be adjusted for struggling learners or gifted/2e kids with suggestions included right in the lessons. The curriculum is written to be flexible, but also provides homeschooling moms with as much structure and hand-holding as they need/want in terms of how the teacher material is written.
As I see it, it’s the writing curriculum for the mom who wants a lot, wants options, but doesn’t want something that takes over her life.
So WriteShop it is!
WriteShop Grade Levels
WriteShop uses an incremental approach to learning and breaks down into three levels that look like this:
- Writeshop Primary K-3
- Writeshop Junior 3-6
- Writeshop I & II
If you aren’t sure which book to use, they have an interactive placement quiz that can help you decide in about one minute.
WriteShop For Gifted/2e Learners
As I mentioned, Caroline is gifted/2e. Like other twice-exceptional learners, she is both gifted and has learning differences. Kim has actually put together a video called Teaching Writing to the Twice-Exceptional (2e) Child. If you have a 2e child, you might find this video helpful.
WriteShop also has an in-depth Special Needs & Writing FAQ you can explore. If you have a reluctant writer or a child who struggles, I recommend seeing if there is information there that addresses your questions.
How We Use WriteShop
So here is how I’m currently using WriteShop Junior. I’m doing this in a bit of an unorthodox way, but this is what will work for my particular child at this point in our homeschooling journey. While you may not do it the same way, perhaps this will also help you think outside the box in terms of being free to use curriculum in the way that works in your home.
The Fold-N-Go Grammar feature is one that I was confident Caroline would like. It’s colorful, very hands-on, and simple. We are going through all of these before we do any writing.
This is not how they are designed. The curriculum is set up to do one with each chapter (writing project/focus). But to do them all in a chunk and then refer back to them when we need them will work better with the way Caroline learns. So we’re focusing on acquiring the grammar piece and then we will start with the writing projects.
Because we are starting with the WriteShop Junior set which is designed for kids a bit younger than Caroline, some of the activities are a bit childish for her. I’m opting to not use some of them and only using what is a good fit.
I’m also working with a different schedule than what is laid out in the book. Again, this is because she is beyond much of this but I’m using it to make sure she has what she needs before high school.
So I’m adapting and using my intuition which is largely how I’ve always homeschooled. By the time she’s done with eighth grade, we’ll have finished WriteShop Junior D, E, and F and will have moved on to something else. That will either be the next level of WriteShop (WriteShop I and II) or something else that works for where she is at that point.
It isn’t important to me when she gets there and I don’t see any indication that writing will ever be her “thing” the way it is for her mom. (David is not a writer either so she comes by it honestly.) My goal is to make sure:
- she doesn’t hate writing
- she’s a solid writer
- writing doesn’t hinder her in any way in terms of high school and college.
As long as we get to that point, I’m satisfied. I think WriteShop has the right combination of structure and fun to get us there.