Language Arts - Are the MFW recommendations the way to go?

Copywork, Cursive, Dictation, Grammar, Handwriting, Letter Writing, Memory Work, Narration, Read-Alouds, Spelling, Vocabulary, & Writing (many of these topics apply to other subjects such as Bible, History, and Science)

Language Arts - Are the MFW recommendations the way to go?

Unread post by cbollin »

Looking for assurance
Love2learn wrote:Based on the quality of the MFW curriculum, I have switched to Primary Language Lessons, which is a drastic switch. I guess that I am looking for assurance that this approach is adequate, along with a spelling program and Writing Strands.

Language arts is a subject that could be integrated into the history topic, and I do not see that occurring in Adventures...does that come later? When will my kids start really writing in the MFW 5 year cycle?

I don't want to push, but don't want to be neglectful in this area, either. I probably just need to relax and trust that the faithful authors of MFW have a better overall view of things than I do and just follow their lead. Any thoughts?

By the way, this our first complete year of homeschooling, and I am so thankful that I am able to do this with and for the children, and look forward to many years of learning about God's world with them!
Posted: Sun Mar 26, 2006 5:07 pm
Here's the idea with MFW for when composition is started.

1st grade: It begins with the Bible notebook.

Adventures: student will integrate history and geography with art, COMPOSITION, and handwriting as you make a United States notebook for the year's history and geography topics. Hands on projects reinforce learning.

MFW incorporates "Charlotte Mason" ideas into the development of language arts and writing. This includes narrations, dictation and copy work. In this way, the young student gets time to practice and learn writing from well written works.

This is similar to the development of oral language skills. We start off copying what we hear, begin to produce our own sentences, and then begin to develop more complex ideas to put together on our own. You can't expect a student who is too young to write independently until they have gone through those similar stages of language arts development (according to this philosophy). That's one reason that I think MFW takes the approach it does for developing writing. At least I think that's something like what I heard at the convention workshop yesterday.

The author of MFW, Marie Hazell, is a certified speech language pathologist. I have come to respect her experience and suggestions for language arts to help in the overall development of both oral and written language. Just wished I had followed them sooner with my oldest.

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Re: Looking for assurance

Unread post by Tina »

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 1:01 am

Welcome to the board and ask as many questions as you want and I'm sure the great teacher mom's out there will try to help, and I hope some of what I type here will be helpful to you.

Now, when I first decided to use all of MFW suggestions for LA, spelling and writing, I was a bit nervous too. I saw PLL and ILL (after using a workbook approach) and thought, "there's no way that that book will be "enough", well that was silly thinking. Along with PLL or ILL (PLL for the 2nd grader and ILL for the 4th grader) you also have the spelling and the writing programs and the many neat ways that MFW has intergraded these skills into each curriculum. For instance, in ECC (which we are doing this year) you keep a nature and science notebook. The older my student, the more is required for her science notebooking. We keep a character traits journal for the character traits introduced in Hero Tales. Once a week the weekly bible verse is copied, the next day it's dictated and at the end of the week it is written by memory. My older student does it in print and in cursive.

Then, will all that, you have your PLL or ILL. I find these books to be such a gentle way of teaching the dc language arts. It has everything that all those fancy workbooks have and more, it is so gentle and student friendly and I feel--teacher friendly. There's composition lessons, dictation lessons, oral reproduction, language lessons (was/were, is/are, etc); picture lessons, season lessons, letter writing, and I could go on. It has helped me to keep the focus on what the student is learning and not "how many pages can I get done in one day" That has helped me.

Then, you have your spelling and writing. I use both that MFW recommends. I had a tough start with WS with my dd, however, we have worked thru our errors and difficulties with it and plan to keep going with it. She does well with SP. Now, I found that with all the lessons in ILL, WS and the different writing for ECC, she was getting plenty of writing and LA experience this year! Same for my ds who does PLL, no formal writing program yet (he's 2nd gr) and Rod and Staff spelling. He has grown and matured academically this year beyond what I expected.

I hope that I have encouraged you. My family has benefitted so much from this curriculum and its gentle approach to teaching for the student and the parent. I was nervous too and this year has given me the confidence to know that what is written in the TM will definitely be enough for each subject that you teach in a way that is manageable and practical and biblical.
Tina, homeschooling mother of Laura (1996), Jacob (1998) and Tucker (2003) In MO
"One of the greatest blessings of heaven is the appreciation of heaven on earth. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."--JIM ELLIOT
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Language Arts - Are the MFW recommendations the way to go?

Unread post by kellybell »

Amberlei wrote:OK so I hadn't ever heard of MFW until the homeschool conference. I went to David's workshop and raced over to their booth as soon as it was done! I love their approach and ordered ECC to do with my (going to be) 2nd and 4th graders. I also got the MFW K for my soon to be 5 year old. I have loved looking over all their ideas and suggestions in the teachers manuals. This is our first year homeschooling although I am familiar with it since I was homeschooled through high school. I have become a bit of a curriculum junkie but I love the Hazells' suggestions for every subject and am thinking I will just go with those and return some things I ordered. We just got our Singapore Math and they love it!

Is the English curriculum they recommend the way to go? How is Writing Strands? My ds is in 3rd and hates to write so I really want something to help him learn how to write well.


Okay, I think you are my long-lost twin. We selected MFW the very same way you did: we went to convention and saw David speak, rushed to the booth and that was that. The first year we homschooled we had a 2nd grader, 4th grader, a nearly-K, and a 2 year old (instead of your 1 year old).

MFW tries to recommend programs that do not take a lot of mom's time, nor of mom's money, but are still very effective. Of course, they are not the only programs out there, but you can be sure that if MFW recommends it, it's full of "twaddle" but instead would get the job done without bogging anyone down.

However, we have deviated from the MFW recommendations on occasion. Stick with what works for you.
Kelly, wife to Jim since 1988, mom to Jamie (a girl, 1994), Mary (1996), Brian (1998) and Stephanie (2001).

Unread post by cbollin »

Writing Strands: Easy to use with the MFW curriculum. It is scheduled on the grid. The lessons are in step by step format. Do not just hand the book over to your student to from independently if they are a beginning level writer. If they are stuck and don't know what to do, give suggestions and let them copy your work onto their own paper. This is a form of copywork, which is a good thing to do to learn how to write.

Primary and Intermediate Language Lessons: Do a lot of copywork and narrations and dictations to help learn writing as well. I like the short lessons in those books.
melodylw wrote:This is my 1st year with MFW and a friend of mine has a question concerning writing with 2nd -8th level. (she's currently looking at using MFW next year for her 3rd grader.

When purchasing the all inclusive curriculum does this include a writing component? (Learning sentence structure, creative writing) and if not, is there a preference out there on what to use...
Posted Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:48 pm by cbollin
Some of the things with sentence structure, etc. are started in the 1st grade program and continued in other years with a lot of copywork and dictation too from the things included in the program.

The creative writing is included with the lang. arts things that MFW recommends.

Julie in MN
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Re: Newbie here

Unread post by Julie in MN »

Amberlei wrote:Is the English curriculum they recommend the way to go?
Here is how I look at the MFW English suggestions.

1. MFW already includes a lot of your language arts. I posted a whole list at one time, but it includes read-alouds, reading, vocabulary, copywork, etc. ( )

2. There are a couple of pieces you need to add to get a thorough language arts program. And MFW carefully points these out & offers specific suggestions:

a. Bits of grammar needed earlier than the full grammar course in junior hi. Things like punctuation and capitalization rules, and when to use "is" versus "are." PLL/ILL introduces these gradually through noticing them & examining sentences, but doesn't give them the formal names such as "singular" and "plural" until about 6th grade. Other grammar programs may introduce the formal names much earlier, and re-teach them every year. PLL also adds a few optional things like poetry & letter writing skills to complement the letter-writing in MFW.

b. Bits of writing skills, like 1st person versus 3rd person. Writing Strands is an efficient way to add these, but you can use other programs as well. Students are already writing in their notebooks & such, so look for a program that teaches additional specific skills rather than just piling on an overwhelming amount of extra writing.

c. Spelling work until your student has mastered the skill, usually around junior hi age. Spelling Power has it all in one book, or there are other methods.

HTH, Julie
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Unread post by tiffany »

I would say if you like your Language Arts, by all means stick with it. The only reason to change might be time constraints. Once you're doing ECC it will be easier to see how your current programs fit in with the total time you want to spend on school.

That being said, I like the MFW language arts selections, and we use them. I have found Writing Strands to be frustrating at times, but it is highly recommended by several sources. I think writing would probably be one of my least favorite subjects to teach regardless of curriculum. My daughter likes it and was resistant to making a switch, so I plan to stick with that for my oldest 2.

PLL and ILL are really neat books that have a bit of everything. You would almost need to look through them to really get a feel for it.

Spelling Power seems to work and my kids like doing it. I really liked the 2nd grade spelling program MFW recommended. I thought it was perfect for that age.
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Could I add a literature-based LA program?

Unread post by Lucy »

Ariasarias wrote:My dd is 7.5 and in ADV. I like PLL and the spelling we are using. I am just looking for something more literature based for LA. She loves to read. I just want to challenge her a little more. I'm not even sure if it's nessesary.
Nicole ;)
Posted: Mon Nov 19, 2007 6:41 pm

Hi Nicole,

I agree that if you need more readers just use their list and get them from the library. Are you using the books in Adventures as extra readers? Honey For A Child's Heart (sold in first grade curric) also provides a great list of literature if you want something that is off the hisory topic.

Something I always liked about PLL and ILL is it used small selections of literature to study from instead of a whole book. This is more prevalent in ILL. I like that they study from a variety of forms such as poetry, narrative, and expository writing.

I also like that MFW focuses on learning to enjoy reading and does not connect readers to the language arts. I found when I had done this with two other programs years ago it dampened my child's love for reading.

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Unread post by mgardenh »

Posted: Tue Nov 20, 2007 12:02 am

I would say if your looking for more literature based just get the readers for the appropriate year level. I think you could just get books from the library or a used book store for readers. Search by keyword to find books for what your doing in MFW. I used a literature-based language arts and the instructions are not as good as they could be. It is choppy and leaves a lot unsaid (for a give to me straight guy it does not work for me).

Another idea would be to make PLL and ILL more challenging by giving her harder assignments/ longer ones. Do some creative writing or whatever piques her interest.
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Unread post by niki »

Posted: Tue Nov 20, 2007 9:24 am

I second what others have said about Honey for a Child's Heart. I also thought there we plenty of good reading books from book basket.
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Unread post by Ariasarias »

Posted: Tue Nov 20, 2007 12:34 pm

I so appreciate your replies. I think every once in a while I question if we are doing enough. I needed to hear that linking the literature to LA dampened the love of learning. I can so see that happening with my dd. She loves to read -- when she wants to, not when I tell her to. She seems to learn so much from book basket when she gets to pick the books out of the basket. She enjoys all the books that she picks to read. Reality is is that she is 7yo. There is so much more time for her to do literature studies. She just needs to keep enjoying reading and enjoying her journey of learning. She also likes to write on her own, so I don't really need to add that at this moment. She actually asks me to "edit" it for her. She such a natural learner that I think I need to do more. I should probably be more concerned with my other children :).
Thanks for your encouragement!!!
Nicole :)
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Anybody have thoughts on language?

Unread post by Julie in MN »

pjssully wrote:My box arrived and i am really excited! I am still not sure what to do about language. Anybody have any thoughts or recommendations! thanks--
Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 12:24 am
Hooray for box day!

Whichever language arts program you choose, there are sure to be many happy users. And I'm sure your kids will turn out fine with any of them :o)

MFW choices are tailored specifically to provide the skills that are not already included in the MFW unit study. So using different language arts programs may run the risk of duplicating some of your efforts. If you are comfortable picking and choosing assignments, this may not be a problem at all. If you feel chained to following all the books exactly, then your kids may end up overloading on what is already a huge subject (language arts).

If possible, identify what you are looking for -- both what you work best with as teacher and what your children work best with. My ds would not like all the pencil work of Queen's, and LLATL wasn't organized the way my brain is (one day it asked the student to circle all the adjectives, but it hadn't taught what an adjective was yet, and I was not a happy camper). However, I have read about many who loved both of those programs and they were exactly what worked for them.

So again, try to narrow down what you are looking for, and maybe someone can tell you whether these resources will likely meet your needs!

Jenn in NC
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Unread post by Jenn in NC »

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 9:21 am
Hi Pam,
Julie is right that whatever program you choose, you will find a whole camp full of happy mommy/teachers promoting it! And probably a few dissenters as well! :)
Julie in MN wrote:MFW choices are tailored specifically to provide the skills that are not already included in the MFW unit study. So using different language arts programs may run the risk of duplicating some of your efforts.
This is exactly what was happening when we were using LLATL. There are a lot of language arts activities integrated right into the MFW programs, and we were having to skip them in order to get time for all the LLATL stuff. That just seemed silly to me in the end; if I was going to have the kids do some writing or other thing like that, I would rather it be about what they were learning. But, you know, that is just us :)

Also -- LLATL was a lot more teacher intensive than I had time for. For some reason, going into the program, I wasn't expecting to need to sit with my dc the whole time. My older ds was able to be somewhat independent with it but the rest of my dc needed me there pretty much constantly.

My 2 cents -- I switched around our LA programs a lot in the beginning and was never satisfied with anything, until about a year and a half ago we finally just went with the MFW recommendations. We have never looked back. It has been exactly what the kids needed. And it dovetails so well with MFW. That's a big plus.

But again, maybe that's just us...
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Unread post by kellybell »

Posted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 7:30 pm

We're in our fifth year of hs-ing. We are quite happy with the Serl's Language Lesson books. I like them in that they are quick to teach, right to the point, and nothing is silly (actually, I am okay with silly) or offensive (that, I'm not okay with!). And, the price is right.

My ds (now in 3rd grade) seemed bored with the PLL book last year, so I thought he'd enjoy something different and I (shhh! don't tell anyone here on the board) got him the BJU Grammar and Writing book for this year. it looks pretty "complete" and is colorful, etc. After a week, he asked to go back to PLL. Enough said. Won't do THAT again. Anyway, I like the Serl's Language Lessons and am glad we are using them.

Oh, and to answer the other question, it's very easy to use a different LA (or math) if you decide to. Unlike some other unit studies, the LA isn't "tied in" tightly, it does stand alone. The only thing I would suggest is to not pick an LA that takes a huge chunk of time. Make sure what you choose can be done in a small amount of time.
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Unread post by Lucy »

Posted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 8:09 pm

We too used PLL and ILL and have liked them very well along with the other Lang. Arts that is included in the program. Here are some things that are included with in the programs themselves:

*copywork/handwriting: The beginning of each year including Adventures has a review of all the letters. MFW suggest that in 3rd you begin teaching cursive(my 7th grader still can't seem to get it). After that each week has a memory verse which is copied with best handwriting and later dictated in the week(ECC and above)

*history notebook: In Adventures a notebook is keep is kept of summaries that are made from the history events that area read about. This will be explained in the T.M.

*science: Each year is different and has different amount of summary writing. In Adventures Nature Notebooking is started again in is explained in the T.M. but this is another opportunity to write about what they have experienced or seen in nature. This is mostly drawing an labeling at a younger age.

*Letter Writing: This is begun in ECC and encouraged in each year.

Writing Strands or any structured writing besides what is in PLL is suggested until 4th grade. When Kelly and my kids first started it was 3rd but that recommendation has been changed. I personally have found the other writing up until that point to be enough.

Here are some other topics from the Lang Arts archives you may want to take a look at. You may want to look through some the others there as well.

From Marie Hazell:

Here is a post from JulieinMN. She list some of the ideas I have explained here and more: ... 8364#p8364

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Just a thought about spelling

Unread post by gressman9 »

Posted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 12:47 am

I wasn't going to change for spelling next fall. Why fix something that isn't broken? BUT.... HEre is why I am most likely switching back to Spelling POwer.

It costs about $65. I won't have to buy anything else but those cheap Walmart notebks (thanks for the suggestion on the previous spelling thread!).

If I stick with the PACES, JUST For Two of my 7 children I would spend about $400 on JUST SPELLING (over the next 6 years)!!!! If I extend that to one more child and cover 9 would be closer to $600. Again, just for spelling. That is outrageous, at least in my mind.

MFW has definitely picked reasonable and affordable choices. NOT consumable stuff is definitely the way to go if you have a large family!
Michele in WA
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Unread post by Michele in WA »

Posted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 6:19 pm

Okay, I admit it.... I panicked when we were using PLL a couple of years ago, and thought "it's not enough!" So I went with something else for the past couple years. Now, I am regretting it.

So for those of you who are concerned and want a different Language Arts program, just stick with what MFW recommends! I see now that they will get a complete LA education, with less frustration, with the gentler approach of PLL and ILL.
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Unread post by RB »

Posted: Wed May 07, 2008 2:40 pm

One option is to start out by trying all the MFW recommendations (say for a good 6 months) to see how they work for you. Or you could stick with what you are doing now and see how that works. I remember reading that the MFW programs and the LA materials complement each other nicely, and we have certainly found this to be true.
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Anyone used different readers/spelling

Unread post by mgardenh »

Anyone used different readers/spelling?
I can't compare but just say I love spelling by sound and structure and PLL. Very easy to teach and accomplish. Love the short assignments. :-)
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Good children's dictionary suggestions?

Unread post by LA in Baltimore »

705emily wrote:I am interested in purchasing a good children's dictionary for my 8yo dd for 3rd grade. Does anyone have any good recommendations? I am not looking for a "picture" dictionary--but something with a little more "meat" yet still child-friendly :)
Irmi Gaut
We've enjoyed Merriam-Webster's Elementary Dictionary for years.
It is designed "for students ages 7-11."
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What do you use for Language Arts and why?

Unread post by Joyhomeschool »

rawbanana wrote:What do you use for Language Arts and why?
We just started MFW 2009/2010 school year with ADV. I used NO spelling before Spelling Power and only used PLL in a CM way for second grade. We relied heavily on copywork for 1st grade and on through 2nd. DD is in 3rd for 2009-2010. So we continued with PLL and added Spelling Power. I did Spellling Power as directed in the TM for SP. We didnt do so well with it. At convention I heard a MFW rep talk about how to use SP ( a little bit different the MFW way than the SP way) and we started that this week and its been much more successful. We plan to use Spelling by Sound and STructure for DS who will be 2nd grade in the fall.

With PLL we did fine in 2nd grade for the 1st half of the book. In 3rd for the second half we didnt do so well. All the sudden *I* wasnt understanding how to teach the lessons. I began searching for a different LA that taught me how to teach. Then I found that PLL and ILL have TMs available through Rainbow Resource! Yay!! So I've been toying with those this week as well. We are much happier and understand the program with the TMs.

So my 2cents.. I didnt like all of MFW suggestions until I learned how to better use them. IF you try them, and dont like them ask MFW people for help. They are really great! Honestly! We dont go with MFW for Math, yet. But love the LA suggestions. The thing I love the most about the company is the people!
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Encouraged (or a brag on my kid)

Unread post by TriciaMR »

I just want to say how well Writing Strands and Primary Language Lessons (PLL)/Intermediate Language Lessons (ILL) have been working for my oldest. We've had lots of writing issues in the past (the physical act of writing). Well, I don't know what has happened (perhaps being 10 1/2 years old?), but I've been very busy with my twins and 1st grade. Anyway, the last couple of weeks, my dd has taken it upon herself to at least look at her ILL lesson and see if she can do it herself, so she can get done with school earlier than we have been. And, the amazing thing is, she has done about 2/3rds of them herself. (I think one of them was a poetry analysis that we had to do together, and I can't remember exactly what the other was.) She has done them pretty well (the spelling can leave something to be desired, but that's a separate issue that we're working on diligently). The stuff we have learned in Writing Strands has applied to the lessons in ILL, and I see it coming out in her writing. The assignment she did Friday had a sample journal entry to read, and then a sentence starter and "finish the paragraph." Her sentences flowed together, her writing was creative, and she did it by herself without complaining. (And, even though the spelling wasn't always correct, it was often phonetically correct, which is a big step up for this kid.)

I know PLL/ILL can seem old fashioned, and that the lessons in Writing Strands can seem kind of weird or out of left field sometimes, but they seem to work together in this amazing way where the lessons from one apply in the other and vice versa, and it gradually improves their writing. I'm not saying you'll get miracles overnight, but keep working at it, and some day you just might be amazed.

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CTG and writing? English ? as well..

Unread post by MelissaM »

4littlehearts wrote:How much writing is assigned through out this course for kiddos 4th grade and above? I am not referring to just actually filling in answers or worksheets, but real writing such as creative, essay, narrations etc.? I am realizing that I really need to vamp it up in these areas. Thanks!
There are quite a lot of compositions in ILL, and you would start using Writing Strands (if you're going with MFW recs) as well, in 4th grade. Start with Writing Strands level 3. It is scheduled on the MFW grid 2x/week, so you just work through it till you're done. There is also copywork and dictation scheduled, plus oral composition (narrations) and notebook pages and letter writing.

This post is based on the ECC grid - I haven't seen the one for CtG yet, I'm just making assumptions about what it's like. I do know that MFW recommends starting Writing Strands in 4th and using it every year through 8th, and that ILL is used in 4-6th grades. My dd is just finishing 4th - we're not quite halfway through WS3 (started in Jan), and done with ILL part 1.

This year with my 4th grader, once we started Writing Strands, I actually had to skip some of the composition assignments in ILL and do a lot of it orally because it would have just been too much writing in one day. I guess I figure the goal is to have a good foundation of writing skills by 9th grade, and I think she's getting that, even if she's not writing a 5 paragraph essay yet, or writing a paper every day. If you feel you need to add in more writing, you could assign written narrations from his history or science readings. :)

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Re: CTG and writing? English ? as well..

Unread post by Julie in MN »

I agree with Melissa on using Writing Strands as your main "writing lessons."

I'd use ILL as the rest of English -- some thinking about grammar, an intro to debate, observation, etc. I think I'd start in the 5th grade portion of ILL, and if you see a need to go back, then there's a good table of contents for finding particular skills to work on. I started in the middle of PLL way back when, and it went fine.

Here's a thread on CTG writing:

And once you get started on ILL, keep in mind that there's this handy 3-page thread on ideas for specific lessons:

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Writing Strands versus IEW? Thinking ahead..

Unread post by erin.kate »

gratitude wrote:So I am thinking ahead here all the way to 4th grade... 1 1/2 years from now for my oldest. My last thread showed me clearly that the writing we are doing in ADV, will do in ECC, and doing in Language Arts/English will prepare him for 4th grade writing.

So I am wondering, do all of you use Writing Strands that MFW suggests? I like the fact it looks very straight forward, and I am hoping that a few copies are around the booth in June to look at. :)

Then occasionally I hear of a home school mom mention IEW as the best program, in their estimation. From the web-site it is difficult for me to tell much about it.

So what do you use for late elementary/Junior high writing?
Hi Carin. :) Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeell, I'm not there yet, either.

But what I have learned over the last three years with MFW is that I should never have veered from their suggestions. Obviously, if something just plain does not work for one of my kids I'd look elsewhere, but somehow the way Marie puts this all together makes sense in the long run, and YOU know that I have a wandering eye, lol. I am planning on trying WS as recommended before changing course. I have read great reviews and less than stellar reviews of it, but that's true of anything, and perhaps I'll fall into the love it category. Maybe you will too. :-)
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Re: Writing Strands versus IEW? Thinking ahead..

Unread post by s_duguid »

Writing Strands for us. We're currently in book 5. Between listening to good sentence structure with lessons and read-alouds, reading good books, ILL, and notebooking summaries, my daughter's writing shows great variety and sound editing. Hearing, seeing, practicing. She really picked up on what "sounds" right.

For me, IEW may be the "cadillac" in writing programs, but it doesn't fit well with the overall MFW curriculum. Since it would be too time-consuming, I would have to decide which other subjects to pull back on. I've had to trust Marie's suggestions and they truly work well together.

At convention last year, I sat in on the Writing Strands workshop. One HUGE thing I learned was to work on only one kind of correction at a time; don't overwhelm your young writer with capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure corrections, marking their papers in lots of red ink. Another thing I learned was lots and LOTS of praise. My daughter's confidence in writing has blossomed this year.
Sue, married 20 years and mother to 3 (only homeschooling one):
TJ (18), college sophomore
Drew (17), high school senior
Victoria (12) starting 1850-MOD in fall
  • completed Exp_1850, RtR, CtG, ECC, ADV
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