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Please help/long;anyone had negative online writing course experiences?

chats with janice composition potters school writing online writing

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#1 rockala

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 11:37 AM

Ohh I feel so lost today. My dd really wanted to do the Narnia class from Potter school. After spending several hours on the test- which was supposed to take several, they said she is not ready. I am not sure I agree now with why they are saying and lost with how to go from here. I agree she proabably should not take the class though its their attitude that concerns me most. has anyone had similar expereince?

She wanted narnia because some of the other english writing online courses I had looked into, involved books that she does not care for. I agreed and we love Narnia so we pursued this. From all the posts I have read, potter school is very good but there is an attitude of superiority sometimes from the teachers. I have heard this from the science ones as well. We have never done an online course and it is expensive.

They had this requirement about not using "be" verbs. While I agree it is good to not do this too much -I now wonder if they go to far. My dd had to write an essay using bible verses to support her view. She could not use more than 2 "be" verbs per paragraph and only 4 total in the 400 word essay. She had to eliminate verses and rearrange and not use any be verbs on her own writing to allow the bible verses to have some. When the bible has be verbs you have to wonder about things not being allowed to have them.

FYI "be"verbs = be, being, been, is, was, were, am, are. We learned quickly that the bible is full of be verbs. Basically in order to wite the essay she had to not use many verses as there would be too many be verbs. We consider the bible to be good literature, so I am beginnning to wonder how far some of these things make sense. Again, standards are good and be verbs can be oversued, but can it maybe become legalistic?

I do not know what to do. my dd is devastated to be told her writing is immature. the course was going to take 10+ hours a week, so maybe for 9th grade it is a blessing in disquise. But now what to do. Do all these online classes have an attitude of superiority? Does it go too far? Is their help for writing that is not sooo involoved. Bravewriter?? Or is the discipline of an online class a good thing and worth putting up with how difficult they make it? Mh dd tests every year (and IOWA results come back she is way above grade level-granted it is not writing though) and even sat for the SSAT and did well, and for this she had to do a 5-paragraph essay. Yet they want her to take an 8th garde course instead of 9th.

Am I missing something??:confused:

Kathy

#2 Faithr

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 12:45 PM

I have no experience with Potter's school. A couple of my kids took writing lessons with Regina Coeli and we found it to be too much, too fast. It overwhelmed our other schooling because of the requirements. Also we had to deal with cantankerous teachers and the awkwardness of the online class session. We have had a by far better experience with WriteGuide.com Here you get an individual writing instructor. You can design the course yourself (so your daughter could choose what books she wanted to write about, for ex.) Or the teacher can take the reins once you tell him/her what you hope to get out of the course. I think it is wonderfully flexible, with no class time to adhere to. There is no such thing as not being 'ready' for a course. The course meets the student where he/she is in terms of writing ability.

We have been very satisfied.

#3 newbie

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 12:51 PM

I have not had bad experience or any writing test requirements for both my dd;s.

If anyone should have superiority airs, it should be Icademy, you could choke a horse w/their tuition. They dont have those spezialized writing courses though. But they are rigorous.

I think VP has them and they are very nice and very easy to deal w/. Laurel Springs is also nice, but I dont know if they have specific writing course.

#4 Grace is Sufficient

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 01:59 PM

FYI "be"verbs = be, being, been, is, was, were, am, are. We learned quickly that the bible is full of be verbs. Basically in order to wite the essay she had to not use many verses as there would be too many be verbs. We consider the bible to be good literature, so I am beginnning to wonder how far some of these things make sense. Again, standards are good and be verbs can be oversued, but can it maybe become legalistic?

I do not know what to do. my dd is devastated to be told her writing is immature. the course was going to take 10+ hours a week, so maybe for 9th grade it is a blessing in disquise.

Kathy


Kathy,

It may just be the trend in writing, but writing which uses action verbs is currently considered superior to writing which uses state of being verbs.

My son took the Home2Teach.com paragraph writing course, and I saw a huge improvement in his writing, specifically in the 'maturity' level: using action verbs and varied sentence structure. Perhaps you might look into that for writing, and perhaps you could look for study guides and do the Narnia literature study on your own.

I hope you find something that works!

#5 Joan in GE

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 02:02 PM

advanced composition with Rebekah Wilhelm, and there was never an attitude of superiority on her part...she was working under Debra Bell and has since started her own business....

Laurel Tree Tutorials

http://lt-tutorials....ve.com/hsc.aspx

the students did peer review of each other's papers which was good too...

Best,
Joan

Edited by Joan in Geneva, 04 May 2009 - 12:44 PM.


#6 Guest_Katia_*

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 04:18 PM

Kathy,

I'm wondering about the "be" requirement as it pertained to using quotes from the Bible. Are you saying that if the quote had a "be" verb, it counted as a verb in your dd's paragraph?

That just has me confused...or wondering if perhaps your dd was confused by the "be" verb requirement. See, generally speaking, any quotes you use in an essay are used to support your thesis and since they are simply support, NOT your own writing, they do not count for anything other than proper use for support. Does that make sense?

If you are supposed to write a 1,000 word essay, none of the words from your quotes would count towards those 1,000 words because they are not your words. The same is usually true of any other writing requirements, such as the limited use of "be" verbs: it is only your writing of "be" verbs that should have counted; not any of the verbs in the quotes. Does that make sense?

Did that "be" verb requirement specifically include verbs within the Biblical quotes? If that were the case, I wouldn't even have had my dd write it, because it would have been.........ridiculous. But if you simply misunderstood the rule, then you would have recourse to go back to the school and explain the seemingly immature (to them) writing of your dd was due to not understanding their requirements. They might let you try again and re-evaluate your dd's writing.

For what it's worth: my dd loves to write and her college English professor has encouraged her as he thinks she is a good writers as well....and she looked at The Potter's School classes when she was in high school, and she read the requirements about using the "be" verb only so many times....and she said that if you are writing and have something worthwhile to say, you won't have to stop and think about what types of verbs, adjectives, etc. you are using because it is the 'content' and your 'heart' that will shine through. So.....we never tried to enroll in any of those classes....and now I'm glad we didn't!

#7 tex-mex

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 05:39 PM

Ohh I feel so lost today. My dd really wanted to do the Narnia class from Potter school. After spending several hours on the test- which was supposed to take several, they said she is not ready. I am not sure I agree now with why they are saying and lost with how to go from here. I agree she proabably should not take the class though its their attitude that concerns me most. has anyone had similar expereince?



I'm sorry you had that experience... I went to the Potter's School and looked up the class info and saw this:

[FONT="]"Each week the average student will spend approximately 10+ hours on the assignment. The weekly assignment involves the following:[/FONT]


  • [FONT="]Read four (4) chapters each week[/FONT]
  • [FONT="]Locate the vocabulary words in the reading (generally 10-20 words)[/FONT]
  • [FONT="]Look up the definition and use the word in the sentence correctly.[/FONT]
  • [FONT="]Answer 8-22 questions about the text in full sentences[/FONT]
  • [FONT="]Write a 100-word minimum paragraph/essay[/FONT]
  • [FONT="]Write an 80-word minimum creative writing project[/FONT]
  • [FONT="]Find and write about three (3) General and three (3) Author Themes as well as a Biblical Allusion and a Literary Allusion.[/FONT]

[FONT="]At the end of each book a book report or Big Paper is also required. The form (which I will give them) will vary from book to book. Regular weekly assignments do not change when this paper is due.[/FONT]

[FONT="]At the end of each semester, a macro project is due. The macro project is a project in which the student can try a new type of creative outlet using the Narnia books as a catalyst. Whether it be through writing, drawing, painting, or crafting, the students have a chance to try something new."[/FONT]



I've not had my child take a class from the Potter's School. But from reading this description -- it does sound like a rigorous courseload of writing alone.

The teacher had the standard rules I've seen grind students to death in public school:

[FONT="]"Guidelines[/FONT][FONT="] for both part of Exam: [/FONT]

[FONT="]My students use these guidelines to check their work before submission because I use it as a guide for grading. I will use it to grade your work as well. Following directions is a large part of your success in taking this diagnostic, so check this out carefully! [/FONT][FONT=Wingdings]J[/FONT]

[FONT="]--Submit your essay in 12-pt Times New Roman, single space[/FONT]
[FONT="]--Double space between paragraphs[/FONT]
[FONT="]--Give the composition a title[/FONT]
[FONT="]--No abbreviations—write out the words[/FONT]
[FONT="]--Use numbers properly—spell out numbers below ten[/FONT]
[FONT="]--Do not use THE, A, or AN to start sentences [/FONT]
[FONT="]--Do not begin two sentences alike in same paragraph[/FONT]
[FONT="]--Each paragraph has at least 4 sentences and no more than 12[/FONT]
[FONT="]--No more than 2 “be” verbs in paragraph or a total of 4 in each composition [/FONT]
[FONT="] (Am, is, are, was, were, be, been, and sometimes being)[/FONT]
[FONT="]--NO Contractions!"[/FONT]


I don't agree with their "Grammar Czar" rules of who passes the test... but maybe this class would have not the ideal fit? I mean, I'd hate to be taking this class... 10 hours of work each week? Yikes.

Edited by tex-mex, 03 May 2009 - 07:10 PM.


#8 rockala

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 06:12 PM

Yes those are the rules you have found. I guess I feel pretty ignorant that we have never learned that be verbs inside quotes do not count.

I will have to find something to teach he this stuff. Maybe writeguide or home2teach will teach her this stuff. I am not educated in the dept clearly. i am glad to know this information though and I thank you.

Kathy

#9 HollyinNNV

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 06:51 PM

Dear Kathy,
My dd has not taken writing classes through Potters School. However, I do teach writing. I do not think that Potters School has anything to gain by asking your daughter to take a different class. I doubt that there is any "superiority" issue. They (Potters School) simply want to make sure that your daughter is able to succeed in the class. It could be very frustrating for your daughter to enroll in a class that is too demanding for her. Why not take the eighth grade class that Potters offers?
Holly

#10 Laurie4b

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 07:55 PM

Some of those "rules" are ignored by excellent authors. My sons have a teacher at a once-a-week class that really emphasizes use of action verbs rather than "to be" verbs, but it is not as rigid as that. They have both benefitted from their teaching.

I would just look for another class/teacher. It sounds like that one is not a good fit.

I wouldn't choose a class with that level of rigidity for my kids either. My kids' current teacher has an excellent track record of preparing her students for admission into competitive colleges, and she does it through positive encouragement. That is also the philosophy of IEW instructor, Andrew Peduwa. It sounds like a teacher like that would be a good match for your dd.

Edited by Laurie4b, 03 May 2009 - 07:57 PM.


#11 Janice in NJ

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 05:37 AM

From my understanding, Potter's has been around for a while. Their English department is pretty large. Because more and more homeschoolers are demanding/searching for more difficult courses at the high school level, they have designed their courses to follow a specific skill sequence. If you spend some time on their web-site, you will see that their sequence begins with an English 1 course. Many students take this course in 7th grade. But if you take the time to sit in on their recorded open house sessions or talk to their very knowledgeable and helpful staff, you will find out that student as old as 15 are in the "English 1" class. THAT's why they call it that instead of "7th grade English." Just like home-homeschooling, they have designed their classes to "teach to the student's level NOT their grade." I think that is very wise.

They offer a solid course that covers a lot of basic skills at that level. Skills that the student needs to master in order to move to the English 2 class and then to the English 3 class. At that point, the students are encouraged to take "Advanced Composition" - a writing intensive class. (After that students are prepared to use their English skills in literature courses and across the curriculum.)

So there is a planned 4-year sequence. And because they recognize that kids who master certain skills get REALLY bored in classes that keep starting at the beginning, the classes are incremental across the English curriculum.

However, Potter's recognizes that many students have mastered the necessary elements of English skills and following specific instructions in order to insert themselves into the sequence even if they haven't taken all of the classes in the sequence. You can take a placement test and obtain a seat in the English 2, 3, or Advance Comp classes - or the Narnia class. However, they are not going to start the class at the beginning, so they require the students to be able to read the assignment and follow the directions without extra help. And most placement tests include an additional grammar element along with the writing sample; the placement tests are quite comprehensive in scope.

Most on-line classes that we have participated in require the student to meticulously read and follow directions. These are college-prep classes and the inability to read, plan, and follow a syllabus with no hand-holding has proved to be a major stumbling block for lots of kids when they hit college. I think it's better to allow them to hit this wall when they are younger - when you can encourage them to "Look again. What does it say? Well then, yes! You're going to have to do it and you're going to have to do it his way. The teacher isn't interested in your brilliant ideas. You have to do the assignment the way he/she said to."

Hence the long list. :001_smile: Even at the English 1 level, the on-line teachers realize that they can't reach through the screen and MAKE your child read and carefully follow directions. That's a skill that they need in order to take an on-line class. If all of the students in the class are ready to do the work exactly as instructed, then the class is ready to start learning.

And the state-of-being requirement? The kids at the English 1, 2, and 3 levels have been given the editing tools that allow them to move from the passive voice to the active voice. At the English 1, 2, and 3 levels the editing tools move the kids toward the active voice. And no, they don't believe that no one should ever use a state of being verb. It's just some kids have been pounding nails their whole life with a large wooden block. They know about the hammer in the box, but familiarity with the block makes it seem like a better choice. It's not. :001_smile: If you force them to trade the block for the hammer often enough, they will eventually say "Oh. I think I like this better. Oh! Hmm... I didn't know." NOW they are ready to choose the tool that is right for the job rather than the one that they were used to using. Make sense?

Does your student know the difference between active voice and passive voice - action verbs and state-of-being verbs? Can she find them in her writing and rewrite to avoid using them? Many writers have a hard time choosing the words they want to use. They say, "I just write. It just flows." Hmmmm... I've read it. Nope. Doesn't really flow. The ideas are there. But writers are purposeful. Writers write purposefully. Writers carefully choose their words and phrases. With purpose, writers move their words around until the words reveal their intentions. Writers purposefully play with their words until their intentions are revealed.

They tweak with their ideas, their arguments, their metaphor and analogy choices, their sentence length, their word choice, etc.

It's a bit like learning to play the piano. I thought I was a great player. Everyone around me told me that I was a terrific pianist. But I remember the day that I listened to myself for the first time. I was in college and I had been given enough instruction - nitty gritty, drive me nuts, why do I have to play this easy-peasy stuff over and over and over again???? "instruction." Then I "heard" myself for the first time. Oh my. I wanted to quit. My teacher's knew that I was ready to begin. Painful. Bummer to my ego. But my prof wasn't there to boost my ego, he was there to teach me how to play. And now he could finally start. Good stuff. :001_smile:

Potter's School classes are one of many on-line experiences. But they are designed to teach the student where they are at. That's why they offer placement tests. Rather than be frustrated by the process, I would warmly suggest that you be grateful - it sounds like the class isn't what you are looking for. Even the foundational "skill" requirements for the class rub you the wrong way. :001_smile: It sounds like you need to search for a class that will allow you and your student to operate with more autonomy. You know what's best for you and yours.

Peace,
Janice

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#12 Janice in NJ

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 05:38 AM

Sorry - meant to post under the original post. Sorry!

#13 Gwen in VA

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 05:58 AM

Janice -- awesome post!

My to-be-10th grade son is currently taking the placement test for English 3, the 9th grade English class. We don't have a problem with him being "held back" for a year since that is where we believe his English skills are, and we want him to SUCCEED in his English class this year.

We look at math and see it as an incremental process, with the more advanced levels requiring complete mastry (or nearly so) of the earlier levels.

I don't think English is quite as figidly stair-step as math, but even English definitely has knowledge "bits" that must be mastered before a student can comfortably move on. I appreciate The Potters School making the effort to place students in/around where there knowledge lies so they don't get unduly frustrated and so they don't hold the class back.

#14 Janice in NJ

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 06:38 AM

Thanks Gwen,

All three of mine are signed up for classes. I spent a TON of time in their open house sessions. I like what I'm seeing. I love, love, love teaching and exploring "English" with my kids. Love it! But I need someone else to drive that composition bus. I never know when enough is enough. Frustrates everyone.

Those placement tests were an eye-opener to me. My kids are SUCH whiners!!!!!! They did it, but they were absolute cranks about it. I'm looking forward to playing the role of "encourager" this year: "I'm so sorry. Wow! That's going to be hard. Come on, you can do it! What's the first step? Face your balrog. Jam your stick into the rock with your best 'You shall not pass and all.....' voice. Buck up. You can do it. Start with a plan. What's your plan? Start by jotting down a sketch of your plan."

Fifteen minutes later..... "Oh, so you do know how to do this." They answer with a heavy sigh, "I guess, but it's a ton of work."
"Life is work," I smile. Sorry - trying not to be too sarcastic, but my kids know me - I'm oozing a bit. ;)
"You know what? Start with step one of your plan while I go scrub your scrunge out of the tub. I'll move on to the mopping while you dive into step two."
"Very funny, Mom. You're just hilarious. I get it. Sheesh this list is dumb..... This is a terrible way to write."
Next day?
Yelling from the other room, "This whole essay is all state of being verbs. I can't do this!"
"Yes you can, just eliminate them one at a time."
"But I like them. I like the way they sound." He's petting them because he doesn't want to rewrite.
"Too bad. You're not done until they're gone."
Heavy, heavy sighs. Big moans. Crank, crank, crank.
"I'll make cookies. You edit. I bring some in when they're done. Will that help?"

LOVE IT!!!!!! :001_smile:

My daughter? "This is the most stupid list of requirements ever. I have too many words but not enough sentences. This is dumb! This teacher is nuts! This is terrible way to write. You can't fix this!"
"Bummer. Sounds like you're going to have to say more with fewer words. Best get started. It's not going to fix itself. Hmmmm.... maybe we'll watch a history dvd instead of doing the assignment listed on your schedule. Does that help? Start editing and as soon as you're done, I'll make popcorn. K?" Dd rolls her eyes. "This is SO dumb!"

She wrote a nice essay.
We're looking forward to a great year.

Peace,
Janice

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#15 Peela

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 07:55 AM

My dd14 did a course at home2teach.com. I would say she is a significantly above average writer- for her age- and she loves to write. However she was automatically put in the Paragraph 1 course. I was a little taken aback but decided to try it for 6 weeks (thats how long the courses are). She learned so much, and so did I- I can see why they start everyone there. She then moved onto ....Paragraph 2! I was really expecting her to be ready for essays, but I am glad she did these foundational courses first...and then she was told she could do a poetry or literature analysis one, but not the essay course yet. They were very strict about it but I trust it now and I intend to use them again. It sounds similar to your experience, if I had tried to dive my dd straight into the essay class she just wouldnt have coped at all, even though she writes essays all the time!

#16 Piano&ViolinMom

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 08:50 AM

Janice -- awesome post!

My to-be-10th grade son is currently taking the placement test for English 3, the 9th grade English class.


Hi, I am new here. Having solid foundation in English for my son who is new to homeschooling is very important to us too. I am trying to learn it as much as I can from all of you. Where do you take the placement test for English? Do the test reflect kids' ability in English well?

#17 Janice in NJ

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 09:48 AM

Hi!
The classes that Gwen and I were discussing are found here:
http://www.pottersschool.org/
Lots to read to find out about their organization and what they offer.

There are lots of other on-line English options as well. Start by using the "Search" feature listed above - in the blue bar. Maybe try "on-line writing" or "writing class." That will get you started. Then you can come back and post more questions. Folks here are so helpful, but they can offer more specific advice as you narrow your questions. :001_smile:

Welcome to the boards!

Peace,
Janice

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#18 Brilliant

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 11:03 AM

My daughter took four 7th/8th grade classes w/ Potters School. A couple of her teachers were very strict with their expectations, which were made clear at the beginning of class. I can see how it might be seen as an attitude of "superiority", but I saw it more as a "This is how we do it, and if you want to succeed in this class you'll do it this way, too."

We didn't continue with Potter's School only because we moved to an area that has lots of classes for homeschoolers.

#19 cathiemom6

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 11:20 PM

In defense of PS - I have 3 children old enough for their English classes. Our experiences have all been excellent. The "rules" don't apply for quotations, scripture, etc.
They have taken Writers workshop, Eng. 1, 2, 3 and next year my oldest will be in Adv. comp. The courses are challenging, but he reward is a great improvement in writing each year. As they progress through each level, the expectations increase and the amount of writing increases. The instructors have been able to take them to a level I could not. I am certain that PS has one goal - serving God by serving homeschool families in a Christ centered - God honoring way. It is easy as parents to take comments personally that were not intended to be personal - just based on the standards that have been set.
Be careful making judgments on classes you have not experienced from beginning to end.
I believe most of the PS students don't take the Lit type classes until after Adv. Comp. so the writing ability is solid at that point.
Anyway, every penny we've spent at PS has been a blessing. I highly recommend it.
And, BTW, no fair checking my email for "be" verbs and grammar - I'm not the one in the class :):001_smile: