I am so so so very excited to share a new writing program with you! Writing Strands actually isn't new to the homeschool scene, but it is very new to me. I'd never heard of it until Master Books started carrying it in their homeschool store, but I've since talked to others and know now just how popular it really is and how long it has been around.
I have looked at a lot of language arts curriculum. It's sort of my "thing" you could say. Before I had kids I taught 7th and 8th grade English in a private school and when my daughter started Kindergarten I began teaching middle school English once again, only to homeschooling this time. I have always been passionate about literature and writing and so it is of course my favorite part of our day. My daughters are very advanced in their language arts skills and I wanted to make sure anything I chose would fit their needs and not bore them. I also wanted to continue with a gently approach to learning this subject. I firmly believe that quality over quantity is vital when teaching writing.
Writing Strands is the only curriculum I have worked with which engaged all of my daughters at their various levels. They have never dreaded writing, but since we started using this about a month ago they can't wait to get to this part of our day.
There are 7 levels of writing instruction in Writing Strands as well as a literature component called Reading Strands. The idea is to use the Writing curriculum one week and the literature curriculum the next. This plan didn't really work for me so I chose to take two weeks to cover one week's lesson of writing and continue our literature path as we have been, reading daily. I'll talk more about Reading Strands at the end of this review.
Each of the 7 levels intends for the students to progress upwards and they aren't grade leveled which I LOVE. I'm all about ability based curriculum rather than grade-level based. Students need to work at their own pace and not be pushed ahead merely because of a grade-level assignment. I also do not want to hold my girls back if they are able to move at a faster pace. In our case that has been true for language arts, but I still kept them in the suggested levels of Writing Strands and I'm glad I did because they are doing incredibly well.
Grace is working in this level right now and thinks it is super fun! She is six and can write sentences, but we haven't worked a lot intentionally on writing yet as she is only in 1st grade. This has been a really fun way to start the process! Level one is all about creativity and imagination for young learners. I love the way this is presented. Language games are a beautiful way to teach young children to be creative with their words. We love the rhyming game and she had so much fun creating a new animal. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we draw, but we always engage through language and I enjoy seeing her imagination wheels turning around in her mind.
Beth is working through level 2. She is actually a bit old for this level, but I wanted her to give it a try and I think it has been a very good fit for her. I will feel better about her moving forward into the more independent level 3 after we work together through this. One aspect of this series which I find beautiful is students take their own writing and improve upon it rather than merely emulating the writing of another. There is a time and place for this, but I love seeing my girl move beyond that method. Beth has really jumped into this with both feet. She never really disliked writing assignments, but it also wasn't something she got overly excited about. Not anymore!
Rose declared these writing assignments were the best she had ever done just after one day! She is the oldest and of course the guinea pig so we have tried a variety of writing curricula. None has compared to this in her enthusiasm. Something I really like about this program is that after the first two levels the books are written to the student so they can work on their own for the most part. I check over her work and we discuss it, but having her complete this on her own did something I didn't expect. When I was working with her more closely on her writing her writing voice never really came through. I believe that her perfectionist tendencies led her to try and emulate what she thought I wanted her to do to the point that her own personality in writing couldn't really come through. This has changed dramatically since starting Writing Strands.
These levels will take my girls all the way through high school level writing and I intend to complete the entire program with each all three, prrogressing from the basics into formal expository writing and beautiful creative writing. I've spent extensive time pouring over these levels and can't wait to see my girls grow in their writing. The process has a flow to it which I have not seen in other programs. It is simple, yet meaty as students clearly learn how to organize their writing and create pieces which are both informative and engaging.
|Beth and Grace working on their novels|
The biggest way I have been able to assess that this program is doing its job is something that happened earlier this week. I went upstairs to check on the girls who were unusually quiet one afternoon. I didn't know what they were up to, but the quiet had me curious. They are past the stage that quiet concerns me, but it was very out of character to the usual chatter I hear coming from their bedroom or playroom. I walked in to find all three busily scribbling into notebooks. It took them a minute to realize I was there and then they all started talking to me at once...about their novels. Yes, all three of my little sweeties have begun writing their own novels without even a suggestion from me. This is why I know Writing Strands has changed the way my girls look at writing. It is now more than just another school assignment. Now my daughters look to writing as one of their creative outlets.
Another incredibly useful book in the series is Evaluating Writing which is written as a guide to teach parents how to best evaluate writing. Included is a handy review of grammar which is clear and concise. Also included are examples of how to include questions to help students further develop their thoughts. I do a lot of these kinds of things when I evaluate the writing of my 7th and 8th grade homeschooled English students. I have gained a few more ideas in this area as well, however, and look forward to using these new insights in my evaluations.
This portion of the program is also very different from other literature curriculum as it is written to instruct parents in how to teach reading, or literature. Geared towards parents who have finished phonics instruction this is the next level. The information in this section is very valuable, but was a little difficult to wade through organizationally. I think the content is excellent, but the presentation was a bit overwhelming.
Because I have studied to be an English teacher I was very familiar with the methods taught in this book and I would recommend it to anyone who feels uncertain about how to teach literature. Unlike other curriculum this does not include answer keys or teaching guides. Instead this will allow parents to confidently master teaching literature to their students no matter what their background. One of my favorite parts of this was the extensive list of books arranged by grade-level. There are many wonderful novels to choose from in this section.
I only wish I had learned of this writing curriculum sooner! It fits nicely with our Charlotte Mason based approach to learning. I also know it is recommended for those pursuing a classical education.
Disclaimer: I received Writing Strands Levels 1-7, Reading Strands, and Evaluating Writing from Master Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions here are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.