Homeschoolers these days sound like they’re ordering a Starbucks treat when describing their educational styles. “I’m Charlotte Mason-inspired with a little Waldorf and wildschooling mixed in, sprinkled by gameschooling and very unschool-y leaning, with an overarching eclectic Classical motif.” Admit it – you know this person, don’t you? Goodness, you may be this person. And that’s fine! The beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility to teach education like a buffet – to take what works and leave what doesn’t, to pick and choose what you love and feel most connected with and create a truly unique, bespoke learning environment.
Sometimes, though, our idealized, fantasy homeschool set-up doesn’t always materialize, or it’s not what we thought it would be, or it’s really, really expensive. And sometimes, no matter how much you love it, it just doesn’t work. This is why I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to check out WriteShop in our homeschool – I was so married to a homeschool style that I stuck for too long with something that just wasn’t working. It was time to try something completely new, completely different, and completely fool-proof. It was the perfect time to try WriteShop.
I’m not the most organized person, and my son isn’t an inside-the-box kid, so we naturally fell into a more unschool-y approach to homeschooling. We don’t have a schedule, we don’t have a start time, and we don’t have much formal curriculum. Overall it’s worked well with our personalities, allowing us to dive deep into the history he loves so much and find unique ways of studying and experiencing science. We learn something from everything we do, and it’s opened up the idea of what education can be. It’s comfortable, engaging, and it just fits… except for one glaring area.
I’m a writer, always have been. I grew up reading mountains of books and feverishly writing in mountains of journals. I devoured the written word and brought it new life again when I picked up my pen. I excelled in English class, won creative writing and essay contests, and in college I even had a few professors compliment my papers in front of the whole class. Writing is my jam.
When it came time to teach this skill to my son in our homeschool, I was confident I’d be imparting such natural knowledge and ability unto him that he’d become an award-winning novelist by high school. We followed an unschool-y approach, dabbling in a popular program that emphasizes learning to write by way of reading. We read volumes of beautifully-written literature. We paused and discussed passages. We immersed ourselves in words and metaphors and living books… and by middle school the kid still couldn’t write a decent paper.
He could write, physically. He knew the mechanics – indent your paragraphs, start a sentence with a capital letter, introduction, three paragraphs, and a conclusion. He knew the rules, but he hadn’t learned how to play. We had focused so much on the enjoyment of language that we hadn’t grasped the mastery of it.
Unschooling was not working when it came to writing.
I’ll admit to being a little overwhelmed when our WriteShop I Starter Bundle first showed up. As someone who isn’t used to curriculum or schedules, it took me a little time to familiarize myself with the program and feel comfortable. Since the program is designed to be able to take between one and three years to complete, the teacher and student workbooks are thick, and there is a lot of material covered. It wasn’t long, though, until I began to see the schedules and lessons as empowering, not limiting.
Sure, I still balk at scheduling, but this schedule was done for me. The program has options to work through the material in one, two, or three years, making it an excellent option for gifted learners, younger learners, and right-on-track learners. You simply select the track you’ll be completing and follow the schedule that’s been created for you.
One of the more helpful aspects, for my son, has been the writing examples provided in our workbooks. We’d been so immersed in wonderful writing that he had come to accept it as the norm, making it difficult to grasp editing and embellishing. By providing two passages, one basic and one with better and more descriptive writing, he’s been able to see that what he starts with isn’t always what he should end with. Seeing edited passes opened his eyes to just why we try better, try again, try at all.
I was worried about how my son would react to such a “rigorous” program – something structured compared to how loosely we’d been approaching writing. Like I mentioned before, he’s an outside-the-box kid, so he doesn’t always embrace things that come from a box. WriteShop, however, has gotten him excited about writing! Truly, really excited!
The emphasis on synonyms and adjectives has sparked something inside him akin to a treasure hunt. When filling in the blanks in a lesson, rather than it being busy work or arbitrary facts and definitions, he’s on a mission to find the best possible words, to create unique stories. Now he has not only an appreciation of what language can do in a story, but what language can do for him… and how he can use it.
This program does incorporate faith and Bible verses for copywork and consideration, but secular homeschoolers can easily skip these parts or use other sources of inspirational quotes for dictation and practice.
WriteShop has completely turned our homeschool writing around. I’ve had to humble myself and admit my shortcomings when it comes to teaching writing, but I’m very grateful that a program like this exists. WriteShop isn’t so filled with flourish that it teaches appreciation without ability, and isn’t so focused on rules that it creates copies of approved essays. WriteShop’s approach truly fosters excitement towards writing as your child sees for themselves how much their writing improves. If you’ve struggled with writing, if you’ve perhaps waited a little long to introduce it, or if your unschool-y approach isn’t quite turning out the pieces you’d hoped it would, check out what WriteShop has to offer your family. And for a limited time, you can enter a WriteShop bundle giveaway by heading to this site! Good luck, and happy writing!
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