Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: The Write Foundation

Writing.  This is the one subject that intimidates me when it comes to homeschooling, and the one subject that makes me think seriously about putting my kids into public school.

What makes it even worse is that I have (so far) had fairly writing-phobic children.  The jury is still out on the littlest two, but the older three... yikes!   They have no problem stringing words together.  Until you put a pencil in their hand.  The Write Foundation was designed for children such as mine. 

The Write Foundation is available in three different levels:
  • Sentence to Paragraph - for ages 11-13, focusing on the sentence, by the end they are writing a two-paragraph paper
  • Paragraph Writing - for ages 12-15.  Starts with a basic paragraph, working up to the introduction of the five-paragraph essay.
  • Essay Writing - for ages 14-17.  Starts with three- and four-paragraph papers, with a major focus on five-paragraph essays.
I decided to start Connor in the Paragraph Writing level.  A few months ago, I would have started him in the Sentence Level, but after really reading the website, and after a phone conversation with Rebecca Celsor, the author of the program, we decided to try Paragraphs.  Rebecca was wonderfully helpful, and talking to her did a lot to convince me that she understood struggling writers, yet I also got the impression that she "gets" the gifted ones too.

Each level consists of 30 lessons, and those lessons can be worked over one week or two, meaning that a single level can be one or two years of writing instruction.  We tended to move at a pace of about a lesson every week and a half, just because we can never do anything exactly as designed.

Okay, so let's back up and talk about how this program came about.  Rebecca found herself teaching writing in a homeschool co-op, and was not able to find a writing program that seemed to be just right.  She wanted something that really drilled the basics, the foundation.  So she started creating her own.  That recently led to publishing the materials, which led to my opportunity to review them.

One thing that this means is that the course is designed with a co-op in mind.  There is a teacher-led lesson that sometimes includes group activities (so far, we've found those very easy to adapt for a single student).  Then there is assigned homework meant to be completed by the student before the next class period.

We found that this structure didn't really work that well for us, as I don't typically have a full hour or hour and a half to "teach" writing.  So what we ended up doing was splitting up the "lesson" part over a few days, and assigning the homework a bit as we went.  Some lessons were easier to break up this way than others, but typically, we'd spend about 30 minutes of teaching time twice a week, and the other three days, Connor would mostly work on his own for 30-45 minutes, usually getting five or so minutes from me in there somewhere.

The results?  I can't say that Connor finds writing to be his all-time favorite subject (that award still goes to science) but he is willing to do the work, without a whole lot of hassle.  That says a lot.  Really.

Now, if we could get him taking this course via an online co-op, I think he would love it.  I'm really tempted to see if this is something that I (or someone) could teach through Virtual Homeschool Group.  I think that would have some serious potential. 

So what didn't I like? Well, honestly, not much.  I think there could stand to be a bit more explanation for the teacher as to what you are doing and where you are going.  In that first lesson, things could be spelled out a bit better for someone who is totally unfamiliar with the approach.

But as far as writing programs go, particularly programs in this price range, I think it took me far less time to figure out than anything else I've looked at or used.  It just could be better.

There were also a couple of awkward moments in teaching... in the first lesson, for instance, the instructions are to highlight each sentence in a different color, when the student is actually supposed to be highlighting each idea (which could be one or two sentences) differently.  It was easy enough to explain on the fly, but I do think this program would benefit greatly from someone who is totally unfamiliar with the approach going through it and pointing out the confusing parts.  My impression is that this was mostly tested by moms of kids who had been in the co-op classes and were already at least somewhat familiar with the methodology.

That being said, my bottom line is that I plan to start William on the Sentence Level next fall.  I think this is going to be a fantastic approach for him.

The website has fairly extensive samples and a lot more information than I could stuff into a review.  And I just found out yesterday, they just started a yahoo group where you can get your questions answered too.  Levels are available for $69.95 for a complete set, or $39.95 for a half-year.

You can check out what my fellow crew-mates have to say about various levels of The Write Foundation at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this curriculum from The Write Foundation.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.


momma24 said...

great review! We struggled with this program as well, but my dh liked what he heard as we worked through it and he is a great writer so we will probably keep doing it!

Michelle Smith said...

As usual, good job with this review. You did a much better job explaining it than I did. I'm glad it is working well for your sons.