Prep for High School - Writing, grammar, more

Issues specific to teaching 6th to 8th graders, including the transition to Saxon math, Apologia science, Progeny Press guides, and grammar lessons

Prep for High School - Writing, grammar, more

Unread post by cbollin » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:16 pm

Grammar & Writing for High School
hsmom3 wrote:My 8th grade son will complete grammar and writing programs this school year. If we go with AHL for 9th grade, do you think he would need to continue with the advanced programs?

As far as grammar, he knows all the parts of speech but we haven't covered clauses, phrases, gerunds, etc. Wouldn't he need to know these things? It looks like Applications of Grammar does not cover these things. Oh also we really need to cover punctuation and capitalization--any ideas?
AoG covers clauses and phrases. We must have done some gerunds in there too even if that word doesn't show up in the index or glossary, which is kinda odd. (verbals are defined and a gerund is a verbal. so it must have been there....)
But I'm not worried about it. I just asked my 8th grader "hey, on the board... what's a gerund?"
and she looked at me weird like I was from another planet. Then I said "the ing form of a verb but use it as a noun/subject"
ok. I covered gerunds, or is that "errands" 8[]

well, ok, even if just that brief intro isn't enough, it is covered in AHL when it is needed. It gives definitions of gerund (in the lit/composition supplement) around p. 42-43, gives exercises. says how gerunds and participles and infinitives do and don't connect.

ideas for punctuation and capitalization... I'd look for things he gets wrong in his writing and gets a writing manual to make him look up the rules or format when he does know stuff.

I think you might consider some online exercises too

I don't know if he needs to do applications, or just get Writer's Inc a year early and look things up. But there is a grammar component already in AHL English credit.


Lisa M
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Re: Grammar & Writing for High School

Unread post by Lisa M » Fri Apr 30, 2010 2:29 pm

We are finishing AHL right now and have been pleased with the writing component. Because we have done little to no "formal" grammar, I added Daily Grams 9 (takes 5 minutes).

This year's focus was on argumentative paper writing. Early in my schooling years, I learned to separate composition from writing. A child can excel in one and struggle with the other. That continues into high school. There really are two components: the thinking behind the paper (what is being said), and the presentation of the writing (mechanics, sentence structure, etc.). One can write beautiful sentences and great descriptions with perfect mechanics, but say nothing. On the other hand, one can be insightful, logical, and deep, but have horrendous sentence structure and flow.

I suggest you start AHL, write a few papers, then see where the holes are. What I have found with my daughter is that logical thinking does not come naturally for her, but the AHL guidelines are excellent in helping teach the process. So, over the 4 essays she has written so far this year, I have seen constant improvement.

I have also found that her mechanics are generally good, but she is weak in two areas: the use of commas, and writing titles of books, magazines, etc. So rather than add an entire grammar course to her studies, we just focus on talking about those weak areas. Again, with each paper, there is improvement.

I use Learning Grammar Through Language by Sandra Bell,(a throw back to my Spell to Write and Read days) which is a simple book of rules for writing, that have been numbered for reference. As I correct her papers, I look up the error and write "10j" in the margin, so she can then look up the reference, read the rule, and see what she did incorrectly. I do believe it is a bit out of date in some areas, however, so we let Writer's Inc. be the standard.

This first year of high school has been a great opportunity for me to see where she excels, and where she still needs help. It's putting the elementary years into practical application. And I have three more years to make corrections and adjustments. There really is plenty of time!
DD 8 yrs homeschool; Junior in PS
DD 2017 10 years homeschool; graduated 2 of 70
DS 2015 Homeschool Graduate; Four year college tuition scholarship
DD 2013 Valedictorian of tiny PS; 10 years home school


Grammar 9th grade AHL

Unread post by cbollin » Sat Jun 19, 2010 12:58 pm

ilovemy4kids wrote:I have a son who will be starting AHL in July. He has had some grammar, but not a lot. We have been working in Analytical Grammar this year, but very slowly. Any advice on whether to do "Applications of Grammar" which MFW suggests for students who haven't had a lot of grammar, or to just finish the Analytical Grammar? Oh, please don't look at my grammar!


What units of Analytical Grammar have you done? Personally, I would be inclined to finish what you have unless that book is just torture to use. (if you're talking the jr. book of AG, then kick it up a notch, but if you're talking the regular book, how far into it are you?) How much time a day does it take to do? Can it be done by the student more on his son, or do you have to teach it to the student? What else what's going on so that the book wasn't finished (keep in mind that I'm not someone who has done this other book, and only looked at one sample in order to give an uninformed opinion)

it's hard to know where scope and sequence differ on these books or what you haven't covered.

in AHL there is grammar review as part of the lit/comp supplement.

I think the best thing to do is call the mfw office and ask them if they have a good suggestion. Or at least if they have any feedback from 9th graders who had to do a full grammar book in 9th.


Julie in MN
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Re: Grammar 9th grade AHL

Unread post by Julie in MN » Sun Jun 20, 2010 10:30 pm

I agree with Crystal that just finishing the book you have may well be fine. I haven't seen the book, but would you say that when he is done with your grammar book, he will have had good exposure to all the ins & outs of grammar (parts of speech, sentence clauses, and those pesky phrases such as gerunds & infinitives)? I don't think all kids will have every last detail down cold by the end of 8th, but they shouldn't have a total blank look on their face, either %|

From what I've seen, MFW's high school includes grammar in some way every year, so if he's had good exposure by the end of 8th then I imagine he'll be fine with the high school grammar already included. But of course the office can be more exact on that!

Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
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Re: Grammar 9th grade AHL

Unread post by 4Truth » Mon Jun 21, 2010 7:08 am

Well, my 9th grader had started Easy Grammar Plus *before* she started AHL... and then we found that there's a whole section of grammar lessons in the Lit Supplement of AHL. :-) She's going ahead and finishing EG Plus because it's easy, she does it independently, I check on her occasionally to make sure she "gets" what she's doing... but I don't "worry" about it because I know there's grammar in AHL. Reinforcement, I call it. Probably don't even need it, but I view it like those little "holes" you put on your pages in a 3-ring binder to insure they don't slip out when one of the holes on a page tears. It's there and it makes me feel better.

I know that she'll get more grammar in MFW in coming years, too. What is it, year 3 that includes high school Easy Grammar at that level? And there's always grammar incorporated into writing lessons, too. I saw a copy of Writers INC not too long ago (which is used in year 2) but I don't recall if that has "grammar lessons" in it or not. I just know that there's grammar in both years 1 and 3, so probably some in year 2, as well.

Not sure how time intensive AG is or anything like that... but if its difficulty level is something you're battling with, you might consider switching to EG Plus. Then paying attention to those grammar lessons in AHL, too.

(Sorry for the bad grammar... I'm still working on coffee and need to get going. ;) )
Donna, with two MFW graduates and the "baby" in 11th grade! %| Using MFW since 2004.

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How do I teach them all?

Unread post by tiffany » Tue Apr 05, 2011 7:37 am

Laurie in MN wrote:Next year, so I will have a 14 yr old not ready for the writing and level of thinking required for high school. We already figure she won't graduate until age 19 or 20 as she needs more time for things to sink in. I guess I need some wise words from those who have been there, done that before I jump into this. We did try MFW 2yr ago as I mentioned in a previous post, but stopped due to medical issues with our youngest.

Laurie, do you have experience with MFW high school yet? I was concerned about my oldest's composition skills before we started, but she really rose to the challenge.

I know with my current 13 year old, I am going to spend a good portion of my summer getting through WS4 with him, so that he'll be prepared. He hates, absolutely detests, writing. We jokingly accuse him of getting sick on SOTW "write from the outline" days. For your son, some tutoring with Mom on language arts might help get him up to speed. At 14, I'd be a little concerned about waiting for HS. The MFW office might be able to give you some ideas on how to tweak it for him.

For my daughter, we did get the Bible on cd to help her get through the OT readings. If I had to do it over again, I would have gotten the Homer books on some sort of audio version as well. My 13 year old boy, however, says he doesn't want the audio and that he can't wait to read them. We'll see.

I'll pray that God helps you get this all sorted out and gives you an extra dose of peace about your decision, so you won't doubt your choices.
Wife to Tim ('88)
Mother to Sophie 16, Jonathan 14, Joey 12, Noah 10, Matthew 8, Eli 4
Have completed MFWK, MFW 1st grade, ECC, CTG, RTR, Exp.-1850,1850-Mod., HS Ancients, HS World
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Julie in MN
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Another writing ?? 8th grader preparing for high school

Unread post by Julie in MN » Wed May 18, 2011 8:58 am

4littlehearts wrote:How would you start preparing your dc in 8th grade for the amount of writing in the first year of MFW high school? My dd is not a prolific writer by any means. She has struggled with this subject the most. Any suggestions for getting her ready for high school writing??? She is using ECC.
Hi 4littlehearts,
If your 8th grader is doing ECC, then there is a lot of opportunity for writing in the country summary area. Those don't have to be more than a sentence or so under each heading, but they could be more if you want to focus on writing. Or, use the longer country report book, and gradually build on that over the year.

MFW writing recommendations are also an excellent tool for working on different writing skills, and it is easy to overlook it when you get busy with 7-8th grade science, math, and grammar.

Each child has different strengths & weaknesses, so without knowing your child I'll share my focus areas with my recent 8th grader:

1. Write (or edit your writing) every day. You can even make this a part of your grid so you don't forget. Ds needed to develop some writing endurance :~ (He did all of this on the keyboard.)

2. Work on paragraphs. Get them organized -- that was my mantra in 8th grade, "Organize, organize, organize." Make sure they have a point, or a topic. What is the paragraph *about*? It should be easy to say in a word or two, "This paragraph is about a cat's paws, this one is about eyes..." Or, "This paragraph is about state parks, this one is about natural resources..." Then make sure it is all about that topic, and that the reader (you) can follow the ideas on that topic throughout the paragraph.

3. I discussed grammar as I saw a need. It's always a challenge for me not to correct every jot, but I'm sure it's best not to. Start with the basics -- punctuate the end of every sentence, only use capital letters for a reason (proper names, beginning of sentences). I think by high school they have to not be spending time on those elementary issues, so I'd force the issue. Then move on to picking one tense throughout the writing -- probably the present tense, because that's the usual expectation in essays (usually I have them write first, then go back and make it all the same tense). Next maybe make sure all sentences are complete (not missing a subject or verb) and, on the other hand, not run-ons (too many subjects/verbs without proper connections). You could go thru the basic topics in one of your grammar books and just have a topic of the moment to work, continuing on til you feel it's pretty well mastered. Or, choose topics as you see repeated errors. But again, I think the grammar focus is risky because it can destroy all love of writing. Probably best to make this a minor area unless you really feel the child is producing poor grammar. If so, often it helps when I tutor to point out that the child speaks with proper grammar, so they should read their sentences aloud to themselves (slowly enough to really read what they really wrote, not what they *think* they wrote) and they will often recognize where they went wrong without help.

4. We worked on self-editing. This is still a challenge for my youngest even in 9th, who just wants to wing-it for everything. I know he can hire an editor in college, but really in life it will help if he can boost this skill. One year, I wrote a sentence on a marker board each day and told my ds how many errors there were (ala The Great Editing Adventure), and that helped get him going on editing. But he's a kid who would rather think of a new idea than work on an old one :~ My older dd didn't have to spend as much time on this skill.

5. *After* the paragraph skill was pretty solid, I felt the next step was to work on having something to say -- a thesis sentence. This was *really* hard for my middle dd, and took us years, because she just wanted to say what she "should" say. I kept having to reinforce the idea with her that if we want to know what the encyclopedia says, we will just read the encyclopedia; you need to have a new thought in there that piques the reader's interest or helps the reader understand in a new way. I had different problems with my youngest -- he wanted to say all kinds of vague and random things, but needed to figure out what exactly he could support with actual *facts* and details, and what he could do within one or two pages. This is an advanced skill, and I would only work on it after the child can really organize his thoughts easily, at least at the paragraph level. You'll work on this more in 9th grade.

Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs

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Re: Another writing ?? 8th grader preparing for high school

Unread post by 4littlehearts » Wed May 18, 2011 10:03 am

Thanks Julie for all of those helpful tips that I never really even thought to do. I'm sorry, I did not type it out right, but this year (her 7th grade year) we are using ECC. Next year if dd joins the rest of the family for MFW (I had thought of having her work on her own history) she (we) will be using CTG. All of those tips would seem to apply though to whatever year she is in the cycle.

She can compose a decent sentence but there are times when she will try to fit too much in her sentence producing a run-on. Also she has not had much practice organizing her thoughts so that her paragraphs all talk about the same thing. Many times she will give me one huge paragraph, rather than a composition divided up into separate paragraphs(she will not do this is in her IEW assignments, though). I have not been using Writing Strands, although like I said earlier we have used IEW student writing intensive this year. We have not finished the course yet, still have about 1/2 of it left to finish up. I was planning on finishing it up next year. Thanks again for your suggestions!

Wendy B.
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Re: Another writing ?? 8th grader preparing for high school

Unread post by Wendy B. » Wed May 18, 2011 12:18 pm

Julie gave some good advice!

I would like to add that dictation is an easy way to build writing ability in a reluctant writer. I had my kids do dictation twice a week during the middle school years. We did prepared dication and I would choose an author per quarter. Some of the authors I picked were Dickens, Austin, Bronte, Stevenson, etc. It was interesting to watch the influence of each author on the kids' original writing. I didn't spend a great deal of time picking a paragraph to write but I always choose a longer one. The first day I had them use the passage as copywork and they had to look up unfamiliar words and make sure they understood the punctuation. We then talked about the passage and I asked questions. The second day they took it by dictation. Sometimes I had them re-write a paragraph and compare to the original.

We did this in addition to the recommended writing program and written narrations in History. It was an easy way to review grammar. The kids' stamana improved. They got in the habit of analyzing writing and since it wasn't their writing it was very non-threatening. Their syntax improved in their original writing.

Wendy B.
Graduated ds '08 & dd '09
Homeschooling ds 11 & dd 8 using RtR
completed: MFW 1, ADV, ECC & CtG.

Julie in MN
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Strengthening writing skills before high school

Unread post by Julie in MN » Sun Jul 03, 2011 12:40 pm

atdawn wrote:My son will be starting AHL in the fall. Even before finding MFW I had planned to do a bit of a "crash course" in writing to help him get stronger in writing skills. We are working in the Jump In writing book from Apologia.

My question is about what skills are need before starting AHL. By reading other posts on the board it sounds like learning to write an argumentative essay is covered in some detail in AHL. What other skills would be assumed for this program? I am wondering, at least, what would be assigned in the first couple of months of AHL as we can keep working on Jump In even after we begin AHL.

Thanks for helping with this! I won't be ordering the materials for a couple more weeks and want to get us ready!
Hi Rachel,
I don't know how much you want to do this summer, but here are some of the skills I worked on in 7-8th, to one degree or another:

- Stop making elementary errors. I want to spend our editing time discussing the best way to say something, not fixing capital letters :~ I tried to back off on pointing out specific errors, and do more "go back and check your punctuation" types of things. Sometimes "on his own time" (after school hours), if necessary.

- Organization, mostly at the paragraph level. Each paragraph should be "about something," and not just random stream-of-consciousness thoughts (each child has their own challenges, guess what my youngest childs' are?!). One of the most productive things we did, rather than correcting details, was giving him lots of feedback from "me as the reader" and any parts of his statements that I couldn't understand. (Sometimes I'd actually make an outline on the marker board showing what I saw as his points, so he could visualize where things were getting muddled.) In that process, we'd sometimes decide he didn't really need something in there, or needed to move it somewhere else & make it a whole 'nother paragraph, etc. In the end, by helping "me" get what his paragraph was about, he was organizing his ideas :)

- Willingness to edit his work. We'll still be working on this in 10th grade... He does work on the computer, so it isn't a matter of wearing out his hand muscles. But my youngest would rather do anything, even start over with a whole new topic, than edit the one he already wrote. This is after I raised his older brother, who used to ask me to "rip it apart," and his older sister, who always wanted to know if everything was exactly right; now I get a kid who just wants to be fun :(

- Oh ya, maybe something I would call "moving them towards the center" in academic writing. For my older dd, teaching writing involved getting her to loosen up, to be comfortable with her own voice, to have a new idea. For my youngest, it's coming from the other end -- getting him to be more factual, more exact, with more supporting evidence or details. (The center is somewhere between your own ideas and some outside facts.) Some of this transition from elementary writing towards academic writing started in 7-8th, but it continues throughout high school. And it's different with each child, I think.

Good luck! It can be painful, but it's valuable time spent!
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs

Julie in MN
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Unread post by Julie in MN » Wed Jul 20, 2011 8:35 am

terick89 wrote:we are trying Easy Grammar this their 6th grade year.
Just wanted to mention that it's okay to take 6th grade off of formal grammar, too. MFW recommendations just get into the world of formal grammar terms about 6th grade, hit it heavy in 7-8th, and continue in-depth portions in 9-11th. It sounds like your kids are ahead of the game, and it's nice to have a break going into those years, too. Of course, you're always working on grammar to some extent in their writing, but formal grammar terms start really making sense because of advances in their own writing as they get older, I think.

Well, maybe you've already decided to forge ahead, but I also wanted to say that for the benefit of others who might be thinking through the topic of grammar.
momofsix wrote:MFW High School covers all needed grammar and language arts for grades 9-12 correct? Assuming they've had some formal grammar that is. I wonder if Winston Grammar Basic would be enough grammar before entering AHL?
I haven't used that in particular, but here's how it looks to me.

7th grade MFW recommendations get the basic 8 parts of speech (or whatever number) down solid. Just like basic math facts, it's good to get that vocabulary down solidly (know adverbs vs. adjectives).

8th grade MFW recommendations get into the details of grammar. There aren't just nouns, but there are words for different *types* of nouns, and whole groups of words can work together as *noun phrases.* Then you move beyond the function of words to clauses and the dreaded phrases (gerunds, participials, blech). Get exposure to these, so your child won't be a deer in headlights later. Hopefully this level will at least get across the idea that some sentences don't work because one part is disconnected from the word it belongs to, or ways a comma can change meaning, or how one word (such as "which") can take a complete sentence and make it incomplete (or "dependent"), etc. These are the types of sentences a 7-8th grader is starting to use, or at least starting to read, so it's not totally foreign information at this point. But it's a lifetime of information, and I didn't expect mastery from my ds in 8th -- although my older dd had mastery at this point just because she wanted to get it the first time.

And then, yes, there is a solid grammar component in MFW's 9th to 11th at least. But it helps to at least have the basics down and a faint recollection of the rest.

Posted Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:31 pm by Julie in MN
I posted something here about how I look at 7-8th grade English:

I think if what you are doing is pretty close to that, I wouldn't worry.

I did notice grammar start to kick in during 7-8th grades with my ds, mostly because he was reading and writing longer sentences, as were his friends, so he started to find that a well written sentence actually helped him understand. However, I wouldn't say he absorbed everything. I did try to spend extra time with him in 8th, developing a grammar "vocabulary" to help edit his sentences, and pushing him more and more to organize his typical stream-of-consciousness writing to be more clear. I look at writing as the best evaluation of a student's grammar needs.

A basic grasp of grammar also helps with high school foreign languages, and when we started doing high school French at home, he realized he needed to understand different uses of pronouns and such. He's taking a college Latin course this year and woah that's a lotta grammar :)

Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs

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Re: Grammar?

Unread post by Carina » Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:17 am

Julie is right: you can easily wait until 7 grade to start teaching formal grammar! (I taught 7th and 8th grade English for the Los Angeles Unified School District and even though the students were taught grammar in their elementary years, VERY FEW of them could recognize the basics parts of speech in a sentence! I would have to start from scratch with them almost every year.) The only reason my 6th grader is doing the same lessons as his 8th grade sister is because he understands the concepts and (more importantly to him!), he wants to get grammar completed now so that he has more time available in 7th and 8th grade for subjects he actually enjoys! ;)
Wife to David
Mom to Brigit (12th grade), Ian (10th grade), Grant (8th grade) and Colette (2nd grade)

2010-2011: CTG
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2012-2013: AHL & EX1850
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Re: Grammar?

Unread post by momofsix » Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:42 am

Carina wrote:because he understands the concepts and (more importantly to him!), he wants to get grammar completed now so that he has more time available in 7th and 8th grade for subjects he actually enjoys!
This makes sense! I don't want my ds to have to be cramming in extra grammar his 9th grade year.

I keep thinking how important is all this grammar jargon to the average Joe anyway??? I know my basic grammar but can not tell you much after that, and feel like I'm getting by just fine in life :-) But I do want my dc to at least learn the basics & like Julie said:
But it helps to at least have the basics down and a faint recollection of the rest.
And I suppose it wouldn't hurt me to re-learn all of this along with them ;)
Elissa in MN (really mom of 8 ) 3 boys: 16, 10, 7 & 5 girls: 13, 11, 5, 4, 1
Using: God's Creation from A to Z, Exploring Countries & Cultures, World History & Lit, Math-U-See, Sequential Spelling, Rod & Staff English...and more


Re: Grammar?

Unread post by cbollin » Sat Jul 23, 2011 8:49 am

how much grammar do they need? Well, my oldest needed just enough to edit her writing. Yes, the categories of parts of speech have a place in learning, but I've found in teaching that it was more of extended vocabulary lessons so that you can use those 8 words (noun, adjective, verb adverb, etc...) in a more sophisticated way to edit and discuss your own writing. I went with the mfw books for grammar. good enough. and then it's reviewed in high school as needed just to keep it fresh.

remember.. grammar is more than 8 words called parts of speech... it's caps and punctuation too!



I want to talk writing programs.......

Unread post by cbollin » Thu Oct 06, 2011 8:05 pm

mothergooseofthree wrote:I usually post things like this over at the WTM forums, but right now that forum is just adding to my confusion. I have been stressing over this one decision all summer and it hasn't been solved yet.

My oldest has never had formal writing instruction. When I first started hsing my older step-dd, I used SL and back then (not sure about now), I felt that it lacked in teaching writing and just said to do it. Since I am a math minded person and can write, but have no idea HOW to teach it....well, poor step-dd and I were very frustrated with those writing assignments. So, when it was time for my oldest ds to start, I had no clue. He did some dictation, but no narrations and little copywork. I failed to see the value in any of that. I now regret it. Last year, I started him at the beginning with Phonics Road and worked through levels 1 and 2 for 5th grade. I also started having him do a narration/summary here and there, but will admit that I often forget unless the MFW schedule has a notebook page. But, with that, he has come a long way and by the end of last year he had started to be able to get a paragraph down on paper.

We are continuing with PR3 this year and I like the writing, but I do not feel it is enough for a 6th grader since we are remediating. So, I am debating writing programs. He doesn't like writing for school, but doesn't balk at it like he used to. He writes short, one page stories on his own at times or comics, but I never read them. He has watched IEW SWI and done units 1 and 2. He likes Mr. Pudewa and I like IEW, but I read that often the program results in formulated writing. I have looked at WS and it doesn't thrill me, plus I wonder about skills such as notetaking and outlining. I know those are covered more thoroughly in PLL/ILL, but we are happy with PR so those are not options here. And, now the big thing I keep coming to, the new program getting all of the hype over at WTM, Writing with Skill. I have downloaded the 20 week sample and it seems really good. It also looks like it would overwhelm my ds with all of the written instruction....he is an auditory learner. I have also looked at other writing programs and many of them are just down right confusing!

I really want to make a decision on a writing curriculum and stick with it for the long haul. I don't think my ds is going to be a professional writer, but I would like him to be able to write when needed. It does seem that WWS really gets into more than I think we will ever need. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in "THE BEST" that I forget that even after four years of college, a career, and many years of living life, I still haven't used things I learned in school or missed the fact that I was never taught the "ultimate" writing strategies.

So, moms with more experience teaching writing: What have you used? Was it simple, yet effective? Was your kid prepared for high school and college level writing?
The only things I can offer....

use these years to prepare for high school.

If you use MFW for high school, I do think that will help with the college writing.

No matter what curriculum you use, you might consider taking some time to learn about being a writing coach. one book that I found helpful wasIf You're Trying to Teach Kids How to Write: You've Gotta Have This Book! by Marjorie Frank.
I also enjoyed listening to Pudewa's workshops or reading his articles - 4deadly errors of teaching writing. and But It's So Awkward ... es/192.php
and ... es/131.php

so much of writing is being able to coach them through the awkward phases.

stepping aside a bit... maybe back a little later on "what skills did I find my oldest needed by beginning of 9th grade and where were they in MFW" but.... I'm tired right now. I've taught 9 exercise classes this week because I was subbing for my boss who is on vacation.................


Wendy B.
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Re: I want to talk writing programs.......

Unread post by Wendy B. » Thu Oct 06, 2011 11:09 pm are doing PR3 but want to add a bit more writing for a 6th grader. You like IEW and he likes Mr. Pudewa but you read somewhere that the program can result in formulated writing. WS doesn't thrill you and WWS looks overwhelming (plus it isn't even out yet).

Sounds to me like you need to stick with IEW and ignore the critics!

My kids did some WS with lots of narrations and dictations in the pre-HS years. They were prepared for highschool. During highschool they wrote a lot of written narrations and wrote a lot formal essays using Format Writing as a guide. They were prepared for college.

The key in the pre-HS years is to get them writing often and frequently. If IEW is the key for your son to write, then use it. If a 6th grader is saying that he likes a particular writing program, then use that program!

Ultimately the BEST is the one that works for your family. Crystal's statement about coaching them through the awkward phases is soo true.

Wendy B.
Graduated ds '08 & dd '09
Homeschooling ds 11 & dd 8 using RtR
completed: MFW 1, ADV, ECC & CtG.

Julie in MN
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Location: Minnesota

Re: I want to talk writing programs.......

Unread post by Julie in MN » Fri Oct 07, 2011 1:08 am

I think the most important things in teaching writing are to get the student actually writing in some subject every day by about 6th grade (like Wendy mentioned) and to be their "reader" and give them lots of feedback (like Crystal's coaching). I imagine generations of great writers being tutored by parents under the lantern, without a fancy program :o)

That said, I do like the MFW combination of Language Lessons and Writing for adding those touches that might get overlooked. Language Lessons have the student look at language, including things that might get overloooked, like poetry and debate. The Writing Strands lessons over the years are small and manageable, but cover things like different tenses, different perspectives, and clarifying details; it also helps with reading more into other peoples' writing, by seeing that they do indeed skew their perspectives to get the desired reader response etc. I think the key to using both Language Lessons and Writing, based on comments I've read over the last 7 years since I started using them, is to treat them as tools and not get too regimented about them. But I consider them to be good tools.

I did use one of the SWI videos with my older dd, and I think there is a place for that program, but it's a lot bigger and more regimented, so I'm cautious to recommend it unless a child really has a related need. And I don't think I've used any of the other writing programs you mentioned.

Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002)
Travis (32) engineer; never hs

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Re: I want to talk writing programs.......

Unread post by MelissaM » Fri Oct 07, 2011 6:18 am

Okay, well the other ladies have mostly said what I was going to say - and said it better than I could, but I will add a couple little things.

First - to ease your mind a tiny bit about preparing him for high school. When I went to our hs convention in May, I attended the MFW high school workshop that Bret led. He said at that time that to be prepared to enter MFW AHL in 9th grade your student needs to know how to write a really good paragraph. A paragraph?! Yes, one paragraph. A good topic sentence and some supporting sentences. Well-written, no run-ons or fragments, but just a paragraph. That was so freeing to me! I thought (much as I thought when my oldest was starting Kindy, lol) "Oh, I can do that!" Okay, my oldest is only in 5th grade, but my point is, there is time. Time for you to use whatever tools work for you in your house with your kids to learn how to write a really good paragraph. No need to panic.

Now, put down your samples and all your other writing stuff and step away. Take some deep breaths, make a list of your goals, and then find the tools that achieve your goals most efficiently.

I was struggling with Writing Strands (we started in Jan). Like, I really didn't get it. Assignments were not going the way I thought they should, I would get frustrated and then the next week we would not do any writing at all. I printed off some samples of WWS and thought, "Maybe THIS will solve all my writing problems!" And the samples do look good, no doubt. But I am not in love with the price or the consumable nature, so I had to analyze whether the problem was really WS or me. Okay, I realized that most of the problem was that we were not doing it consistently. I decided that doing an okay job every single week would get the job done better than doing a great job every few weeks. Because if you only do writing every few weeks, it will never be a great job. I dug out my copy of WTM and went back to see what was said about WS - hey, it's recommended in there! It is a good program, even though it seems to have fallen out of favor among internet homeschoolers at the mo. Okay. I decided that we would do it every single week, no matter how it went, and we would move on to the next assignment when the current one is finished - no getting hung up on getting it perfect. And hey, guess what - after just a couple of weeks, we are both really liking it a lot better. (My dd said, "God has really changed my heart about Writing Strands; I REALLY like it now!")

Okay, this isn't to talk you into using WS, just to let you know that doing writing every day is more important than picking "the best" (whatever that is) curriculum to teach it. For me, "the best" means I can afford it, and I can use it again with the next kid.

Will your son make it through the whole history cycle before starting high school? I think (Crystal or Julie or someone can correct me) that in 1850Mod the SoTW AG teaches some outlining and writing from an outline, so that should get covered without having to get WWS if you decide you don't want that. If you own WTM, teaching outlining is covered in there, you can make up some assignments to go with your history lessons if you're not going to get through the whole cycle.

I don't know. Just take some deep breaths and don't make any decisions in a panic. Don't think about it for a few days, pray about it and come back with a clear head. I always like to ask my dh about these things when I'm panicky (I panic every year about something - grammar, math - this year it was writing), because he's more objective than I am. How can I get so emotional about curriculum? :)



Re: I want to talk writing programs.......

Unread post by cbollin » Fri Oct 07, 2011 7:44 am

Oh good.. Melissa said what I was wanted to mention.
Part of this is to “work backwards” instead of saying “ooh.. I need the perfect writing curriculum”
Start with End Goal and move back a step.

End Goal: before you really begin high school (especially with the strong writing in MFW), make sure your student can Write One Quality Paragraph. What? You read that and might think our dear Bret from MFW is off his rocker. ;) But he’s right. Now getting to that one quality paragraph takes some steps along the way to get there.
More in a little bit unless someone says what I want to say... but work calls....

but for preview of it
*having their own thoughts to share
*making it a complete thought (sentence structure)
*improving the sentence
*variety in sentences
*how to organize thoughts clearly
*how to edit, mechanics, grammar, etc.

*and... various formats (reports, outlines, stories, summaries, etc) to practice those same skills over and over. Yes, MFW provides some of the "classic outlining" via SOTW in 1850MOD, but.... even if you never do that program, your child will get other practice times with organizing writing. That's really all outlining is.. right? a method to organize.

so, I'd stop looking at writing programs for a bit. Take the time to assess your child's ability to write sentences on his own from his own thoughts not just merely rewriting another person's paragraph. Then, after you see where he is on the path toward "quality paragraph of own thoughts", that might help you take the next step with whatever program you go out and buy.

ps. it took me 3 tries to like WRiting STrands... but I have to learn everything I just told you before I could appreciate the program.


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Re: I want to talk writing programs.......

Unread post by Mallorie » Fri Oct 07, 2011 7:59 am

MelissaM wrote:
First - to ease your mind a tiny bit about preparing him for high school. When I went to our hs convention in May, I attended the MFW high school workshop that Bret led. He said at that time that to be prepared to enter MFW AHL in 9th grade your student needs to know how to write a really good paragraph. A paragraph?! Yes, one paragraph. A good topic sentence and some supporting sentences. Well-written, no run-ons or fragments, but just a paragraph. That was so freeing to me! I thought (much as I thought when my oldest was starting Kindy, lol) "Oh, I can do that!" Okay, my oldest is only in 5th grade, but my point is, there is time. Time for you to use whatever tools work for you in your house with your kids to learn how to write a really good paragraph. No need to panic.
This helped me greatly this morning! Thank you SO much. :)

Bret Welshymer

Re: I want to talk writing programs.......

Unread post by Bret Welshymer » Fri Oct 07, 2011 11:07 am

Our son used MFW high school and followed the English and other writing assignments as written in the lesson plans only during high school. He is a third year engineering student now. I was really pleased when he told me that he was getting complimented on the writing in his lab reports. He said his professors often complained about how these really smart engineering students could not write, but he was getting complimented.

That really encouraged me since our youngest daughter was three years behind him and also using MFW for high school. Just last night I was reviewing one of my daughter's book reviews for MFW HS Year 4. I was joking with her about whether she had actually written the plot summary or borrowed it. Her writing skills have really grown through her high school years.


Re: I want to talk writing programs.......

Unread post by cbollin » Fri Oct 07, 2011 2:11 pm

Thanks Bret! I do enjoy hearing those teaching stories from those ahead of us in the program. I had heard the recent story about your son. Quite a smile to read about last night grading your daughter's work.

seriously.. isn't it nice knowing that those mfw consultants actually use MFW's recommendations and are real homeschool parents? anyway... thanks :)

A few more random thoughts here.

My oldest is not strongly gifted in writing. She is average to above average. I’m not a great writer either. I can’t say any of this will give you a college level child by end of 8th grade, but that’s not the goal. It’s to help the average normal homeschool mom/dad who is just as nervous as any of us about somehow not teaching them how to write. When they get to MFW high school... it's really good stuff.

My oldest hated to write until sometime late in jr. high and most of that was just doing fan fiction and just having fun with it.

Outlining does not have to be done via some fancy program out there. Yes, it is included in 1850MOD. Remember that an outline is just a graphic organizer for your thoughts.

I. This is my Topic and what I am going to say
A. my first point
B. my 2nd point
C. do I have a 3rd point
This is what I just said.

Now you have the tools for outlining. go make real sentences from it.

Never be afraid to offer suggestions to make it sound “better”. Give 2 or 3 options and let your child pick the one that sounds the best to him.

Vary your sentences.
Add in a few words here and there.
Use new vocab or stronger vocab

Don’t worry if you don’t follow IEW suggestions exactly (in terms of how many of which dress ups/openers)

Some children need to talk out loud before writing. Ok. So do I.

Agreeing with Wendy on this point. If you are otherwise ok with IEW, ignore the chat on such and such forum. They change their minds every hour anyway. On the other hand, if you are at a natural stopping point in IEW and ready to do something else… do you want to talk about strengths and weaknesses in Writing Strands?

End goal: by end of 8th grade, the student needs to be able to write quality paragraph on his own. That will include mechanics, spelling, editing, staying on topic in the paragraph. Having his own ideas.

Fiction writing: I don’t remember how that is covered in IEW. I like how Writing Strands covers it.

Remember: give quality input with quality literature. Do narrations with school work to help organize thoughts and understand the material. Let your child tell stories. Make up new endings to favorite stories (ie. Fan fiction route).

Well.. those are the basics to take the pressure off from finding the “perfect” method, or perfect program, or stress of it all.


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Re: I want to talk writing programs.......

Unread post by mothergooseofthree » Fri Oct 07, 2011 2:30 pm

WOW! Thanks for all of the responses. I am really wanting to simplify things and I usually end up complicating it more when I start researching. You have all given me a lot to consider. I would like to hear the strengths of WS especially in comparison to IEW since it seems to be our front runner.

Thanks again to all! And, yes, it is refreshing to know that if my kids can get a good paragraph down on paper, then we are doing okay! LA is my weakness when it comes to hsing so I really appreciate being able to talk all of this out!

Bret Welshymer

Re: I want to talk writing programs.......

Unread post by Bret Welshymer » Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:34 am

mfwstudent wrote:Mr. Welshymer,

What does your son think in high school writing was most helpful to him in learning to write for college classes and learning to express himself?

Thank you for any help. I"m in 10th grade now and using WHL.
I recently asked my son this question. He said that having to write regularly as scheduled in MFW high school required that he continue to use and develop this writing skills. He also said that preparing an outline for each writing assignment helped him to compose a better paper. He did not always like preparing the outline, but he continues to do that now as a college student.


Re: I want to talk writing programs.......

Unread post by cbollin » Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:08 pm

homemama wrote:I'm enjoying this thread.. It is very helpful!
Out of curiosity, Bret, did your son follow MFW during his younger years? I'm especially wondering if he used the ILL plus the Writing Strands. I'm trying to find a good path for my 10 son to help with his writing skills, that's why I ask.

I'm not Bret, or related to him... But I"ve heard Bret give some MFW workshops about his journey to homeschooling. Hope he doesn't mind if I chime in on his behalf. HI Bret.

Bret and his wife did not start homeschooling until their son (3rd child) was in the middle of 10th grade (public schooled before that, or maybe it was Christian school?). Their youngest daughter began homeschooling in middle of 7th grade and she did Writing Strands. I think that daughter is now a high school senior if I've stalked them enough in life. ;)

My oldest child, however, is in 10th grade and began to use only MFW language arts recommendations starting around 5th grade. So, she's done ILL, and WS, and Progeny Press and all of the MFW programs with writing from outlines, and research papers, etc.

I do honestly believe that Writing Strands and the coaching method in it has been an excellent path for my daughter along with narrations and having a literature rich program with book basket, etc. In case you didn't realize it... my oldest daughter is MFWstudent on this thread. I asked her to go ahead and ask Bret and his son that question mostly because I can't seem to get it across to her the value of organizing her thoughts in an outline or in some format to organize before starting writing.

I would not treat "teaching writing" as a stand alone subject for a 10 year old. You will have to help them spread their wings. Talk about the writing process with them. Get them to talk out loud first. Write it down, let them copy it. Soon after that kind of modeling, a student will begin to talk his thoughts, and write them down with less help from you. Edit together.

my oldest just told me "mom... don't tell anyone about those lab report suggestions on apologia's website for chemistry. the other students might freak out as much as I did" LOL

then we both remembered... even in 1850MOD, MFW gets lessons in on writing from outlines. (can you tell it's been an odd week in our house with writing... she doesn't want to do the Beowulf assignment.)

They need to have a really good paragraph.
For that- they need a really good sentence, and then a whole bunch of sentences on the same topic from their own thoughts on it.
Don't start all sentences the same way. (avoid dick and jane writing, as Writing Strands puts it)
use vocabulary that shows you are getting older and mature
read and discuss quality books with your child.
Write and help them as needed. It's not cheating to help them learn to improve a skill.

Do those things in WS and ILL and the Notebooking assignments in MFW history programs.
Get the book Evaluating Writing, that is part of Writing Strands. It is a coaching writing book.


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