About a month and a half ago, the director of Writeguide, an online writing course for homeschoolers, asked if I would be interested in reviewing their program here at Semicolon. I looked at the website, thought it sounded like something that would be of interest to many homeschool families, and asked if one of my urchins could do a trial run.
Karate Kid (age 13) was the guinea pig. He hasn’t done much formal writing, lots of reading but not much writing. We signed up for a one month course, and then promptly it got really busy around here and we managed to forget when the course started! (One month’s instruction at WriteGuide is $75.00, which would be a bargain for many homeschool families who often tell me how intimidated they are by the task of teaching kids to write.) Because it took us a few days to get on track in starting the program, and because I didn’t remind Karate Kid as often as I should have to communicate with his personal writing consultant, he was only able to complete one piece of writing over the course of the month. Nevertheless, I was quite pleased with both the process and the product.
Karate Kid’s assignment, an assignment that I gave him, was to write a process paper explaining how to do something that interested him. The WriteGuide writing tutor will work with your child on an assignment given by the parent, a writing task in the particular curriculum you are using, or a piece of writing that the writing teacher, the parent, and the child decide together that the child needs to complete. For example the homeschool parent could ask the WriteGuide teacher to work with the student on basics of the SAT essay or a research paper or simple paragraph writing, whatever fits the particular student.
Students enrolled in our Individualized Writing Course work with their own private writing teacher (called a writing consultant), Monday through Friday on papers and projects of their parents’ choosing. Your child’s writing consultant will provide 100% individualized, hand-tailored instruction to meet his or her precise needs as a writer. The course takes the form of a friendly, daily (Monday through Friday) exchange of letters, papers, instructions, lessons, and feedback between the student and his or her writing consultant. All aspects of the writing process, including generating ideas, prewriting, outlining, research, taking notes, drafting, controlling tone, sentence and paragraph structure, literary and stylistic devices, grammar, punctuation, mechanics, editing, proofreading, and the process of revision.
Students, parents and tutor communicate via protected, on-site email. As I said, Karate Kid’s writing teacher was great. She communicated with him daily, M-F, as long as he kept up with the assignments and revisions she suggested. (Sometimes he didn’t answer her for a couple of days, and therefore we may not have used the course to its full potential.) KK wrote a rough draft of his paper, and his WriteGuide tutor gave him specific suggestions to improve the writing, grammar, and structure of his paper. Here’s the end result: How To Make A Bird Bolas by Karate Kid. Remember that although KK is in eighth grade, he has done very little formal writing and had almost no writing instruction, although he has been taught basic grammar and sentence structure. And he has done a lot of reading.
Because I teach literature and history classes at our homeschool co-op, parents come up to me all the time in a panic about teaching writing. In fact, I see writing and science instruction as the two scariest subjects for homeschool parents who are entering the middle school/high school years. My new response will be to recommend WriteGuide as a resource for those who can afford it. Even if you can only do one month’s worth of instruction with WriteGuide, it would be a valuable month’s investment. I plan to sign up for another month’s writing consultation in the spring when KK writes his research paper.