The Best Writing Course for Kids…
I know, I know, everyone says that IEW is the best homeschool writing course out there. And I have to admit that I haven't really looked into it a lot, but whenever I start to, it quickly becomes apparent how much work it would take on my part to learn the system so I could teach it, not to mention the cost of the materials. The main clincher for why I haven't gone this route, is that I always get the feeling there's a LOT of work required from the kids. I'm sure some kids and some parents can rise up to that challenge. Not us. We're finishing our third year of homeschooling, and more and more I'm realizing that best for our family is the KISS plan:
My goal is that our kids come out on the other side of this homeschooling adventure as confident people who are solid in the basics. In this new world we live in, everything else you need can be found in specific training for your career choice or on the internet. Yes, I could fill up their every day with monotonous busy work, or I could continue with what we're doing these days:
- Mostly reading, writing and math:
- Reading individually and together, and only what they enjoy. I've struggled with this one back and forth (and would like your thoughts), but have given up on getting them to read boring classics that I would hate reading too. Yes, I could make them sit there and read the words, but if they're not into it even a little, and therefore will never remember a word of what they read, WHY? I know some kids could push through and maybe even end up liking it, but I know my kids, and we've tried. Not that all of the classics are boring, some are awesome, and those we'll generally use for read aloud time because I want to read them, too!
- Math: we do this for elementary age math and this for high school math, and we have also used Saxon math off and on, but the kids hated it. I am still glad we went to Saxon for a couple of years though, because they became more solid at math with all the repetition. We may continue to jump back and forth (or more likely add in math worksheets when needed) if I don't think they're getting enough time to just practice solving problems.
- Writing, see below…
- We touch on the other stuff once or twice each week: religion, science, history, Latin, art, etc.
- The rest of their day = time to be kids! (And more reading sometimes.)
So anyway, back to writing…
I found this writing program before the school year started (maybe one of you told me about it?) that I think is the best writing course for kids. It's a PERFECT fit for us: “Virtual Language Alive“. By the way, nope, I'm not getting paid for this post. You've all helped me so much in the past, I just really wanted to share this with you.
I love the philosophy behind it:
- “No Parent Needed; Just Add Student.”
- “If you want to successfully snuff out a love of language in your student, make him do a formal program of grammar, writing, spelling, and vocabulary all at once. Hand him workbook after workbook filled with assignment after assignment, a lot of which is busy work, designed to fill time. Wouldn't you hate having to do that? Or you can give your student freedom to work independently with a program that promises no busy work and gives weekly feedback with minimal requirements.”
- “Just write something three times a week for fun using vocab words,” is what I've told (and continue to tell) my students, giving them next to no restrictions other than that.”
Here's how it works in our family:
- I enrolled our 10th grader in VLA — On Monday he does the packet, and I help where needed. Then on his own timetable he writes three essays a week. We turn them in and she sends them back the following week with her corrections. Her guidance is SO kind and encouraging, it never overwhelmed him and he gained confidence in his writing! He's getting vocabulary, grammar, AND writing all in one course and there's very little complaining! This is SO much nicer on all of us (Kent and I included!) compared to the hours of work in previous courses on long essays or research papers. Yes, he does need to be able to write a research paper, so I'll enroll him later in her Virtual Composition and Style and Virtual Research Writing courses.
- With our 4th grader he still uses a spelling book, but we just go over the activities each week orally and discuss the new words he doesn't know. No more spelling tests, because does that really help them remember how to spell? Then he uses those words to write one short essay a week. We still do other writing with him, as well as editing all together as a group, so he's getting some grammar that way. It's all covered, but there is no complaining!
- Our 7th grader does the same spelling book (for her grade obviously) and she writes two essays a week. She and I also do grammar together each week, and I give her extra writing in her other subjects.
You'll see where Joanne says on the VLA page: ““Get the Complete Language System That Earned Two of Joanne Calderwood's Kids Perfect 800 Verbal SAT Scores and One a Perfect 36 Writing ACT score!” I just have to say that I'm pretty sure her kids probably would've gotten high scores no matter their writing program. Some kids are high scorers, some just are not. Either way, I believe this is a great program and helpful for most any type of child.
Learn more about VLA here.
What do YOU love for a writing curriculum?
NEXT: I need some HELP!
Now that I've found what works so well for writing, it makes me even less tolerant of boring curriculum in other subjects. I'm itching to find what will be a better fit for us when it comes to science, history, and Latin. (For Latin I'm not so concerned that they can conjugate all their verbs, etc., but I want them to learn more of the vocabulary because I know it will help them throughout their lives. Oh and yes, we already did Latin Roots — do you know of any others that are similar?)
For all of them, I'd like an option that doesn't require a lot of my time! I enjoy working with them some, and we do a lot of group time (mostly reading aloud, my favorite part of the day!), but I want the majority of their work to be independent.
Any ideas?? THANK YOU ALL!
Last thing: Are you worried about the dangers of too much screen time?
I'm so excited about this new option and I'm ordering the iPad one first because the kids use that one for school the most:
Karen Olayo says
The teaching textbooks for math… do you use the cd-rom and the text book and the workbook? I see on amazon some are being sold without cd and I am a bit confused. Also the following years for other students you can reuse?? Need new work book I assume for each student, right? THanks for the help!
Well I’ve done all different things. I’ve had our older kids use a separate sheet of paper to save the book for the younger ones. Our youngest is using it now WITH the book and I really like it because he, being a typical boy, hates writing, so I let him use the problems already in the book and work them there instead of having to write it all out on a paper first. Much less complaining this way!
For your other question, you definitely need the CD Rom in my opinion, unless you want to do all the teaching and grading yourself, because that’s the great thing about TT, the CD does all that for you. I think the workbook and textbook are the same thing, that’s all I have anyway, the only other thing I have is the answer booklet, but I don’t use that, because as I said, the CD grades everything.
Hope that helps!
J IN va says
We used Christian LIght math until we got ready for Algebra and switched to Teaching Textbooks which dd hated and did not do well with. Then we switched to Math U See and backed up to pre-algebra and let her cruise through it to have some easy math for a bit to make up for all the struggle with Teaching Textbooks. She’s now 3/4 through Algebra and doing much better although math is not an dnever will be her favorite subject.
We have used Apologia science starting with Gen Science. Physical Science we stopped about 3/4 through because of all the math and dd hated it Biology, Anatomy/Adv Biology and Marine Biology she loved.
Diana Waring has a great chronological Bible-based hitory that we loved. It can be a unit study becuase it incorporates many learning styles. We just did what worked for us and skipped the rest.
Note to self: Lots more good advice here on FB
Kathy Riley says
Kelly, Thank you for raising these questions and thanks to those who commented on them. I taught Latin at a high school for two years and used Wheelock’s Latin. This book is designed for graduate students to learn Latin quickly. However, my students said that just learning the vocabulary in the book improved their SAT scores. One passed the book to her sister, who was taking French and had low SAT scores. The sister went through the vocabulary in Wheelock and improved her SAT score by 60 points. The secret to Wheelock is this: he gives the Latin vocabulary word and then English derivatives with them. Most of my students did not know much SAT vocabulary despite having rigorous English teachers who had them reading books and writing long papers. Wheelock’s Latin is not too expensive and available in paperback and has been updated by Prof. Richard LaFleur at the Univ of Georgia.
Also, as a remedial reading and writing teacher, I found lists of SAT vocabulary helpful to slide in on the side to my students. I did a word a day, usually contrasting it with its opposite or a word easily confused with it. Note that this was with 10th to 12th graders. My students scored very well on their SATs and got into military academies and highly rated schools.
I’m looking into the Visual Latin online as I am tutoring two young boys to prepare them for professional schools in the future without having to take Latin in school. Making lessons fun and breaking down large groups of ideas into smaller ones is a key. I am looking forward to seeing what Visual Latin does with this.
Best wishes. I am a regular reader who found you through GAPS. Kathy
Kelly the Kitchen Kop says
I’m excited to check that Latin out, thanks Kathy!
Hi, Kelly! We’ve been in Classical Conversations for years now, with a 12, 8, and 6 year old (and a preschooler and toddler, not schooled formally yet). CC uses IEW. I have loved it, although after 4 years in that class with my 12 year old, I have come to realize that it’s not for everyone. It was easier for us because a tutor taught it once a week in class, and my son would just complete the assignments. But. . . it was like pulling teeth! Most of the kids really seemed to love it, but my son just wilted under it. I asked him why he hated writing, and he said that it was because he had so many requirements for how each sentence had to be structured, and which kinds had to be in each paragraph. If I had to go back, I would definitely have gone with another program for him. So, although he says he doesn’t like writing or grammar, he did tell me that because of that program (and the CC grammar program) that he is REALLY good at it. But I think now I’d just rather him love to write, and enjoy it. So we’re getting him back to loving that subject.
I think we’ve found a great resource in http://www.10ktotalent.com. It shows you how to indirectly teach writing/grammar by letting your kids blog about their God-given talent. They spend hours and hours immersing themselves in the talent that they are interested in, and they share it and connect with others through blogging and joining groups with that focus. They learn writing/publishing/editing skills along the way, and by the time they graduate from high school, they are more of an expert in the field than many college graduates! We are leaning this way now, instead of stuffing my son’s head full of facts that he will not retain, nor will he care about, nor will serve him in his journey to become a programmer.
We also did Saxon for a few years, and my kids hated it, so we do Horizons from Alpha Omega now. The kindergarten book goes way too fast for us, though, so we still use Saxon for K. For history and science, they always got timeline and key history facts from CC (which we would still do on our own either way), and science projects that I would never do, since I’m too busy for all that. 🙂 However, in the vein of 10K to Talent, at home, I just gave my kids The Mystery of History books and Apologia books, and let them have at it! They read them like they are Christmas presents. Sometimes I’d have them do the quizes in the history book, but if they’re not reading for enjoyment, WHAT’S THE POINT, right?? They learn because they love what they’re reading. Not because they have to study for a test.
Loved your article, and I will definitely check out the new writing program. Thanks!
Kelly the Kitchen Kop says
I love that blogging idea!! And I agree about the tests, it may make me a rotten teacher but we do much testing…
Can you tell me more about Mystery of History books and Apologia books?
Kelly the Kitchen Kop says
We ‘DON’T do much testing’ is what that was supposed to say.
Compass Classroom for Latin
Kelly the Kitchen Kop says
Sharon, what’s Compass Classroom like??
Thanks Kelly! What is the best book to start with the Great Editing Adventure…that sounds fun! Mine is going into 4th grade…thankyou for all your help! Homeschooling boys is a lot of work! Lol im trying to make things more fun, simpler and make them WANT to do school! 🙂 Jamie
Hi Jamie, I agree about boys!! The Great Editing Adventure has a book 1 and book 2, so they make it simple! 🙂
For reading, you can use religion. I don’t remember all your kids ages. There are saints books by Louis de whol. My 11, 14 year olds and myself along with the women’s bookclub loved them. It brings the story to life. The spear , lay siege to heaven are two to name quickly. He has quite a few. Taylor Marshall also has excellent books. The eternal city of Rome and 2 more in that set plus he wrote a historical fiction about Saint George and the dragon. Let me know if you want more details. I highly recommend their books. De whol wrote books before the saint books, Im not recommending those.
Audry, I just looked him up (Louis de Whol) and realized he wrote one of my favorite books of ALL time!! It’s for adults called, “Restless Flame” about Augustine — if you haven’t read it, you’ll want to!!!
Hi Kelly, I really like Latin for Children by Classical Academic Press. It is a solid program and nice and engaging for students. The Latin curriculum by Memoria Press is also very good and many, many people are fans. I don’t find it quite as engaging as Latin for Children which is not a deal-breaker at all, just an observation. I taught Latin for 7 years before my daughter was born and now I teach Latin at a local homeschool co-op; I have used both these curricula in these settings.
I’ll check it out, thanks Candace!
Hi Sara, I’ll have to say thanks to Jo-Lynne!
I’ll check out those history & Latin courses, what do you like about them?
Thanks for sharing your good fortune in finding a nice fit for your family with the VLA writing course! We do our writing through our literature and history programs but it would be really nice to have someone else besides me to provide all of the feedback. I’m going to check it out.
I am glad to share with you what’s working for our family and hope that you can find something that you can use as well.
We use Memoria Press Latin and love it. The kids started early with the Prima Latina series and have progressed through 1st-4th Form Latin programs. We use the dvd lessons (to insure correct pronunciation) and now that they are older they can watch the lesson on their own and do the corresponding work for each week independently. We listen to the drill for the week’s lesson on CD in the car on the way home from mass every morning so I’m sure it gets done but I’m not really having to do anything. I do like other curriculum they have to offer and am considering using the Logic courses (with Dvd lessons) for electives later in high school. They also offer enrollment in live classes but we haven’t done any.
For science, we have used Apologia all the way through. We started out with Jeannie Fulbright’s Creation Series which is excellent and the kids really loved using the accompanying Notebooking Journals that she provides for each book. In the early grades you will have to help with the experiments but they are so much fun. We sometimes would wait for the evening or the weekend to do them so Dad didn’t get left out. We use Dr. Jay Wile’s middle and high school courses with Apologia as well and the kids can pretty much do them on their own. Each one provides a lab so you can give that as a credit which many colleges look for on the transcript. There are supplemental resources you can get to go along with some of them like dvds of experiments and Apologia provides lots of support through links to additional material on the course website for the elementary and upper level books. As far as results, they are highly rated as being excellent preparation for college. I am using Dr. Jay Wile’s new elementary science series, Science in the Beginning, with my youngest as he finished the Jeannie Fulbright series with his older siblings but isn’t ready for the upper level courses yet. We like them as well and they are easy for him to do independently unless the experiment requires a second person.
For history, we used Story of the World for most of elementary and, except for some liberties/slant that were taken in the last book, we loved it. Now we are using Connecting With History which is a Catholic program. There are many things that I like about it. For one thing, all levels of students can do this at the same time so that our family is studying the same period of history all at once which means we can all talk about it and share our thoughts about it… There are different expectations for each level though as you cover the time period. There are recommended family read aloud books that we have REALLY enjoyed that correspond with each period and then books that they can read independently. Each unit includes a map(s), vocabulary, key figures and events to be placed on a timeline and all of this is kept in the history binder along with any writing… they do which becomes a history scrapbook of sorts. There are lists of suggested projects for the student to choose from to be presented at the end of the unit that range from essays on something about the period that was of particular interest to the student, hands-on projects to be created and group projects as well for all levels to participate in together. There are opportunities for all interests and talents to be used including art, music, videography, culinary, sewing, robotics, warfare…you name it. It just depends on what each kid is into and what they come up with to demonstrate some aspect of the time period. Presentation day can be as low key as turning in the project or just showing it to me on weeks that we are strapped for time or as elaborate as having Presentation Night when Dad is home with everyone getting up in front of the family to explain/demonstrate their project, read their essay, perform their play/poetry/song or to show us the movie that they shot. You can do as much or as little as fits your family’s schedule at the time. I love that we get exposed to so much extra information about each period through all the kids’ projects. There are core reading assignments that can be done individually but for our family it is easier for us to do this all together and just have one book rather than them all having to share the one book or the expense of buying them all their own copy of it. You really can tailor this program to the needs and style of your family easily.
I know you didn’t ask but I also wanted to tell you about the religion series we use because it is that good. It is the Didache series for high school from Midwest Theological Forum. It is very solid and current catechesis and I highly recommend it. Scott Hahn is one of the main contributors. You should check it out if you haven’t seen it.
Lastly, we really enjoy the Excellence in Literature program. It provides a thorough survey of authors and novels giving the students experience with the lives and times of the author first so that they can more completely understand what they wrote and why. Most of the background information is through the links that are provided and the courses can be purchased as a download so that you can just click on the link or you can order a print copy. If you have more than one child using it you are given permission to print additional copies.
P.S. Mine hated Saxon too. Ha!ha! We did the same Algebra program that you are using with our oldest and she didn’t love it either so we finally found a good fit for her with YourTeacher.com, an online math program which is more mastery based and also has ACT/SAT prep which was nice.
We actually were using that Latin program but none of us loved it. I’ll check out your other recommendations though!
Katina Prescott says
having just a K5 & 1st grader: I’d highly suggest Appologia and Story of the World. Obviously we’ve only done elementary stuff, so I have no idea what high school would look like. I am now super excited to look into Connecting With History!!
Howdy, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually commented on any of your posts. So, I’m Sara, nice to “meet” you 🙂 I’ve been homeschooling my kids since the get go. It was kind of my plan to homeschool up until 2nd grade. My oldest will be in 4th next year. If we had better (less expensive) school options in our area I’m not sure I’d still go on but anyway, not the point of my comment. But at least you see where we’re at (my other 2 are 1st and pre k) and that I have no great experience. I’m not super organized and like to draw from lots of different things for our curriculum. I also like it to be easy. I’m not a super fan of the teacher’s manual.
So, I’ll cut to the chase. We used Veritas Press online History course (we meaning my oldest and I have basically done nothing). I they also have things for older grades. We are using Latin from Classical Academic Press. It’s just the beginner level so I don’t know what they have later on but it’s pretty hands off and my oldest likes it.
I’ve been debating IEW. It looks so good but I’m also wondering about my ability to actually do what needs to be done.
PS I found your blog ages ago via Jo-Lynn Shane 🙂
Kelly, is this something you purchased or did you just learn her way of teaching? I have 3rd grade children and under…so I am wondering what to purchase or learn. ..I am having having a hard time navigating the URTHEMOM website…thankyou…
I only paid for her services for our high schooler. For the younger kids I just adapted it to their spelling lists. You can use any spelling list/book you have (I love Catholic Heritage Curricula but any spelling will do) and one day just go over the list with them and make sure they know the words’ meanings, then have them do any of the spelling activities you want them to do on another day, and then they write an essay another day. It can be any length as long as they use 5 of their words. When they’re done I have them edit it themselves, (which they’re used to because we do the Great Editing Adventure together on the white board, which they all really like) and then I edit with them. We’ll fix any spelling errors or grammar, I’ll talk to them about run-on sentences, etc. It works so well for us!
Feel free to ask me anything else. 🙂