Writing Programs I Like
As discussed in an earlier post, Learn to Write while Using Excellence in Literature (EIL), students are able to learn to write by using the classics and models/learning by doing approach of EIL. However, if you have a student who isn’t yet ready for EIL, there are several writing programs I like that can help you prepare for high school writing. I’ve seen good results from students who have used each of these, and I suggest choosing according your student’s learning style and the amount of time you have available.
Although I probably could have titled this post “best writing programs for homeschool students,” and generated a bit more traffic, I can’t really do that. It would imply that I’ve tested them all and made a considered judgement, and I haven’t (but Cathy Duffy has). These are the best programs I’m familiar with and have seen results from, and there may be other programs that are equally effective. If you’re looking for “best,” remember that best is what works well for your student.
All of these are good and have been used by thousands of students who learned to write well, but they are different in presentation, content, and format. Consider learning styles, teaching styles, and student strengths as you make your choice, then implement faithfully for at least a month. If you’ve given something a serious try and it’s not a great fit for your family, just release it — sell it or give it to someone in need, and move on to something else (see the C. S. Lewis quote at the bottom of the page for a bit of wisdom on this).
Favorite Writing Programs
Institute for Excellence in Writing Student Writing Intensive (SWI) with Andrew Pudewa
This comprehensive DVD course provides a structured framework for learning to write. It is taught by Andrew Pudewa, a gifted and engaging instructor, and comes with everything you need to help students become comfortable, competent writers. SWI is organized and offers clear instructions. Using it is like learning to cook using a recipe. A recipe can help a student chef master cooking techniques, and Student Writing Intensive forms and structures can help student writers master the elements of writing. Just as a master chef can move beyond recipes once basic ingredients and techniques have become second nature, IEW students can soar into more creative realms and complex forms once the basics have been mastered.
Who does IEW work best for? SWI seems to work particularly well for auditory or kinesthetic learners, and writers who have little confidence; boys especially seem to enjoy learning from Mr. Pudewa. Students who are already competent or gifted writers may find the forms confining. They may prefer to move directly into Excellence in Literature if they are in grades 8-12, or into The Lost Tools of Writing for a different type of writing instruction.
IEW also offers Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, an outstanding video course for parents and teachers.
Cathy Duffy’s review of Teaching Writing: Structure and Style
The Lost Tools of Writing: Rediscover the Craft of Composition by Andrew Kern and Leah Lutz
Fans of classical learning will love the newest edition of this beautifully structured, intellectually engaging curriculum. With the goal of cultivating wisdom and virtue through the practice of classical composition, The Lost Tools of Writing contains an audio overview of the curriculum, plus carefully structured lessons with complete teaching instructions for the parent.
The use of classical terms may seem daunting at first, but each term is well-explained and the teacher’s guide and audio/video resources make it easy to follow. If I could travel back in time and take any of these writing courses as a student, this would be my choice. It is outstanding.
An interesting post at Classical Conversations: “What Can Lost Tools of Writing Offer the IEW Writer?”
The Lost Tools of Writing is available from Circe Institute.
WriteShop: An Incremental Writing Program by Kim Kautzer and Debbie Oldar
“Step by step” is the guiding principle of the WriteShop approach. These ungraded manuals teach a variety of essay types using the building blocks of brainstorming, writing, editing, and revising. This flexible curriculum can be used with middle or high school students, and it includes a teacher’s manual with clear instructions and helpful information. WriteShop may be a good choice for visual learners who like the structure of IEW’s Student Writing Intensive, but don’t enjoy video (this is the student who says, “Just give me the book and let me read/see it”).
With each of these programs, you’ll get the best results if you choose one that fits your student’s learning style and aptitudes. Learning is easier and retention is better for adults when we work with our strengths, rather than against them, and it’s the same with students. There’s so much to learn during these years that we may as well be as efficient as possible!
Favorite one-book writing resources I like
Among the writing programs I like are several supplementary resources we used for filling in areas of need. This does not include resources for grammar and vocabulary and such — I’ll do another post on those at some point. Here are the top three writing supplements I like for middle school and high school.
The Elegant Essay: Building Blocks for Analytical Writing by Lesha Myers
Lesha Myers offers an elegantly simple introduction to essay writing, providing an introduction and specific instructions for each part of the essay. You can go through it from beginning to end, or simply turn to individual sections as needed. It’s useful even if you have other references on hand. Excellent for visual learners and those with an aptitude for writing. TEE was one book when I used it; it has now been expanded and includes well-thought-out teacher’s manual.
The Elegant Essay is available at Everyday Education.
Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers
The Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers is a unique one-stop reference for how to write essays, as well as a guide for punctuation, style, and usage. This hefty handbook (over 400 pages) includes detailed instruction in literary argumentation and essay writing,with topic sentence models and other helps. In the back, you will find a second section that is a general reference resource for grammar, style, and usage, including citations. It is suitable for high school, college, and adult users, and is helpful for teaching, reference, and writing evaluation.
The Handbook for Writers is available at Everyday Education.
Wordsmith: A Creative Writing Course for Young People by Janie B. Cheaney
I used Wordsmith with some of our boys and found it helpful. It’s not a complete, know-everything writing course, but it focuses on helping students refine elements of their writing such as grammar, sentence structure, etc. It is written directly to the student and has well-laid-out lessons that are easy to use.
Wordsmith is available at Rainbow Resource Center.
“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be.
And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.
If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road;
and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
C. S. Lewis
*With respect to FTC guidelines on material connections: My endorsement of these resources is based on review of work from students who have used these programs, plus personal examination of each item. The Elegant Essay and Wordsmith were personal purchases, WriteShop was borrowed, and the Student Writing Intensive and The Lost Tools of Learning were provided by the author or publisher for review.