Friday, April 13, 2012

Enlarge Your World With Writing

Can I let you in on a little secret? You can't tell anyone...okay? Remember, I used to be an eighth-grade English teacher, and now I teach all grades in my homeschool, so this tiny secret could ruin my reputation. Okay. So here it is. I-don't-like-grammar.

Whew! That was difficult, but I feel much better now. Do you think less of me for disliking grammar? I hope not. I think it goes back to the fact that somehow I made it through twelfth-grade Honors English (a year early) without ever really "getting" grammar the way my brilliant peers did. I don't know...maybe my nose was buried in a fiction book hiding behind my (boring!) grammar book when they were going over dangling participles, but somehow, I really don't remember doing much grammar in school. Even so, I managed to get "As" in English, gain a reputation as a fairly good writer, and go on to major in English in college without being able to diagram a sentence. GASP!

I eventually did make it through an incredibly intense grammar course in college, learned all the whys and wherefores of the writing I had been doing by instinct (built upon hundreds and hundreds of good books read over the years), and even learned a respect for diagramming a sentence, yet once I started teaching, I still dreaded that time of the year when we had to focus on grammar. BOOOORING. The students were thinking it, I was thinking it, and I was wondering, "Why can't we just write and practice using grammar correctly instead of having to plod through this book of repetitive exercises?" Sigh.

You will not be surprised to find out that over the last thirteen years of homeschooling, I have done very little "formal" grammar instruction with my least, not in the traditional sense. Oh sure, I will go over comma usage when I see a problem in someone's writing, or discuss possessives when I see someone misusing apostrophes, but I am not known for my eagerness to jump into a particular grammar program every year.

This state of grammar-phobia has left me with a bit of guilt from time to time. Did I try hard enough to help my students be good writers (because there really isn't a market for good grammar-ers, is there?)? Did I miss something? Are my kids being cheated or being left behind????

Obviously, I must think they are doing fine, or I'd change something, right? Actually, I was worried when Bubba started his college courses and had to write his first term paper. I was biting my nails mentally as I waited for the rough draft of that paper to make it into my e-mail box...and then I was blown away. His writing style was smooth, his knowledge base was immense, and his word choices were eloquent. Was all that from me? No, I don't think so. It was more likely from the many good books he read (and continues to read). I might have helped point out that he (still) needs to work on his comma usage, but you can't make a good writer like he turned out to be by doing numbered exercises in a book.

I truly do believe that they key to good writing is bound up in the quality and quantity of reading and writing you do, not the number of grammar exercises you complete. I will stand by that and take it to the bank. However, I will admit that there is a need for specifically directed teaching concerning common grammatical errors and standards of usage from time to time...don't you agree? And, I will also admit that not everybody who home educates their kids has a degree in English or taught grammar and actually got paid for it once upon a decade (or more) ago...and not everybody feels comfortable as a writer, or grammar-er (I made that word up, you know), or editor, or anything else that has to do with writing, let alone writing well.

This is where Write With World comes in. We are long time subscribers of God's World News and World Magazine. My kids of all ages have loved getting these publications in our mailbox since the early years when Bubba and I were just beginning down our home education path. Now Tex loves reading the articles, and will fill all of us in on whatever story he's recently perused, often amusing us with uplifting blurbs or amazing us with the depth of his understanding. When I heard that World Magazine was publishing a writing program I jumped at the chance for us to give it a run through, and I have not been disappointed.

This is all you need to get started with Write With World:

A student text (a teacher text is also available), a writing utensil (it should be a pencil, in my opinion...this is a pen...oops!), and a Composition notebook (cost: one dollar).

Write with WORLD exposes students to:
  • reading and critical thinking that develop discernment
  • contemporary subjects and professional guidance to pique interest
  • flexible exercises to build confidence and skill for using today's new media
  • a thoughtful and meaningful Christian worldview

Each level has four units. The units are divided into four chapters. Each chapter has five "capsules," or lessons, which can be easily completed during one week. Throughout the course, students will be introduced to (and hopefully cured of) the Top Twenty Grammar Errors (as shown by Andrea Lunsford's research), plus a few more frequent problems found in college writing. Yes, this WRITING curriculum incorporates GRAMMAR study into it. Do you think they read my mind?? I think that is just marvelous, don't you? So, using interesting, relevant, real-life writing (writing about news, life, advertising, and your own student's opinions), your student will learn to be a better writer AND a better grammar-er! ;-)

Seriously, here are some of the topics covered within just the first chapter: use your Thesaurus often (that's my favorite, so I listed it first), know your subject, using strong verbs, appropriate use of adjectives and adverbs, creating word pictures (show, don't tell), editing your own work for sentence fragments, and improving your vocabulary (by introducing new words in every lesson). That's a LOT of ground covered, and I have to tell you that it did not hurt a bit. Not one yawn was yawned, nobody cried, and everyone learned something new and useful. It's a win/win for teacher and student. Hooray!! Read more about the Write With World approach on their website.

Why don't you check out some sample pages of Chapter One of Write With World and see what you think?

Here is the Table of Contents, so you can see what else is taught, in case your interest is piqued.

I asked Tex what he thought of the program:
(since he is the one that used it...)
  • This is one of my favorite writing programs so far. It is my favorite book-based program.
  • I like how the book is so easy to read. It is like the teacher is talking to me. Mom says," It is very conversational."
  • The assignments are interesting and make me think. Mom says, "I like how they asked students to find things to write about that they connect with instead of just requiring them to respond to someone else's prompt."
  • It is written from a Christian worldview and I appreciate that. In fact, I prefer it. Mom says, "I do, too."
  • The lessons have to do with many things I experience in real life, and with things that are current. I understand why I have to be able to analyze a book for college, but it was nice to be able to write about the real world and my opinions.
  • I think the lessons are challenging, but not too hard. Mom was able to help me when I needed it. Mom says, "There is a Teacher's Manual, if you feel you need extra guidance. I did not use it, really."
  • I like how they teach you things you need to know in the middle of the writing assignment. For example, they teach you new vocabulary in each lesson and about common writing problems, like sentence fragments. I think that grammar is not so bad when done this way. Mom says, "I completely agree. Grammar is so much more pertinent when taught within the context of real writing that YOU did."
  • I am learning that I have a few things I need to work on to be a better writer, but with this program, it will be fun. Mom says, "If he likes it, how can I complain? I am grateful that he is 'turned on' about learning with this program."
  • Each lesson (capsule) was pretty short. I could finish it in about 30 minutes a day. Mom says, "The assignments weren't the longest and most taxing exercises in writing that I've ever seen...think more like newsy blurbs that get you to really consider your point of view and how you say it...But then, I am thinking this is more about teaching style and critical thinking (with some grammar and mechanics thrown in), and not necessarily about practicing the usual five paragraph essay sort of thing. I would assume a family would easily be able to still fit in their more arduous writing assignments for history and/or literature around this curriculum at the higher grades without having to stop working on this program. Younger students could go more slowly, if necessary."
This is an example of one day's assignment. 
It took a bit longer than the usual, but he did type it and
he probably surfed the 'Net a bit looking for his favorite ad.
It was a toss up between Mayhem and that Star Wars kid car ad...

  • What I did not like: The student text was not very eye-catching. There weren't many pictures, which surprised me since World is such a colorful magazine. I am thinking that maybe the full edition will be more flashy. The information was good, though. I agree.
  • There was also no table of contents, which I wanted to use to check off which lessons I completed. I figure that will be in the final format of the book since this was a trial copy. I'd suggest putting check boxes next to each capsule's title so students like me can check lessons off as they go. I agree that this would be useful. Perhaps a suggested weekly schedule in the student book for kids to refer to might be nice, too.
  • I would have preferred to try the online portion of the program. I like online activities and I think I would have been motivated by the site. I hope I get a chance to see it sometime. I am going to keep working through this text as my writing program for the rest of this school year (this is my choice). I agree wholeheartedly. The site sounds exciting, especially if you can share student writing on it. I was also disappointed that we could not try this part of the program.

Here is a close up of that one assignment:

This is the assignment...

Here is his response.
(Tex prefers to type some of his responses since he is a lefty and when his writing is slow it stifles the creative process...typing is much faster...not to mention the auto-edit function in Word. LOL. We will simply tape this in his writing journal).

Tex says that the assignment really made him think about the motivations of advertisers, especially in relation to how they influenced him. This goes right along with his Logic class (The Art of Argument) and the different fallacies...I love it when a curriculum comes together!

If your middle school student (I would actually say this could be appropriate for grades 5-9, depending on ability and prior knowledge) is languishing in their current very structured and formulaic writing/grammar program and you want to try something new OR if you are TIRED of doing those boring old grammar workbooks, but will feel guilty if you don't do something that practices grammar OR you are looking for something to really get your student to focus on their Christian worldview and how they can develop their writing to be an influence in their world, then THIS is the curriculum for which you have been waiting. Everyone else, well, you might really like Write With World, too, but those folks are going to be doing the happy dance. 

Write With World is on sale now,  and will be available for shipping during the summer of 2012, just in time for a new school year. One full year of Write With World will cost $95 (for a teacher text with online access and a non-consumable student text). You can save by purchasing both years one and two together for $165.

If you'd like to see what other TOS Homeschool Crew members thought about Write With World, please stop by the Crew Blog.


Disclaimer: I received a Pilot edition of the Writing With World Year One Curriculum, not including access to the online portion, in exchange for my honest review of the product here on my blog. All opinions are our own, based upon our individual experiences with the product. If you have questions concerning our use of this product or this review, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment.

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