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How to help an 8th grader with poor grammar/writing/spelling?

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I am embarassed to say that this issue has fallen through the cracks for a long time, for a bunch of reasons. My oldest son has been in ps since early elementary, and it's recently become painfully apparent that his writing and grammar skills are sorely lacking. His spelling is also very inconsistent; he spells many complex words correctly, but often stumbles on common words. He is a reluctant student, and is already struggling with the volume of homework in eighth grade.


What would be the best approach to bringing his grammar/writing/spelling skills up to par (then hopefully to a higher level)? DS reads very well (though he doesn't usually challenge himself without much prodding) and does well with reading comprehension. However, when it comes time to express himself in writing he has problems forming an idea, then produces writing that is both disorganized and filled with errors. His vocabular is good, and he is articulate when speaking so long as a subject interests him.


One of my sixth graders is homeschooled, so we have some curriculum on hand already: WWS, FLL, MCT Town and Voyage levels, etc. The rest of the family are natural spellers, so we've just used Spelling Workout so far. I think I have Megawords around here somewhere, but didn't end up using it because it looked overwhelming.


The biggest obstacle I see is time. DS already spends about 2 hours daily on homework, and is having difficulty in math as well. I know he will also balk at using the same materials his younger brother is using, but I can find a way around that. I am really at a loss for how to help oldest ds. The work he's doing at school basically amounts to treading water and doesn't seem to be addressing any of the problems he is having. His latest project in English class was making a clothespin doll that was required to have limbs and a full set of clothing with hat. :glare: I've thought about bringing him home, but both he and dh are convinced it would be disastrous (and to be fair, I have serious misgivings about the idea as well).

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Dear Abeille,


I just read your post and although I don't have much advice to give I certainly can relate (especially about the english project- that is the kind of thing that happens around here too!) I am just in the process of figuring out what to do with my son as well. I have a 12 yr old son (in 7th grade) and what I will start with is Writers INC. Now, I haven't received it yet, so I can't really comment on it. Also, it is more of a resource than a curriculum. I certainly can understand that he might not want to do FLL, MCP or WWS so maybe Writers Inc would seem "grown up" to him if you could find a way to use it or incorporate it with FLL, MCP or WWS.


So I'm not very much help, but I certainly understand your concern.

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  • 2 weeks later...

IEW might be a good program to bring more organization to writing; and could probably be done over the summer or in short daily/weekly bites.


Megawords is much more user-friendly that it appears. Skip to the part where it explains how to do the check tests: those can be done in one or two sittings, then it's pretty much open-and-go. However.... there are 8 books in the series. While I might be tempted to just jump in and address the problem with *something*, there may be a more streamlined method out there for his age group. I've heard of Apples: Daily Spelling Drills for Secondary Students, though I've never used it. It does not appear to be secular.


I hear you about time.

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I'm finding that certain things are extremely difficult to afterschool, especially as kids get older--namely writing/grammar/spelling and math.


You could try using The Magic Lens 1 with him. He'd get the MCT big picture version of grammar with it and it wouldn't be the same as his younger sibling's. It is also a good entry point. I'd do it in a way that is more like sitting on the couch and having a conversation rather than schoolwork at the table.


MCT is not great on mechanics though. For that I recommend Hake Grammar (Saxon). Unfortunately, it is very schoolish. I am currently bribing my son to complete Hake 8 with the prospect of getting an XBox (yes, it's that important to me!).


As for spelling, Sequential Spelling for Adults might help and it is fairly painless. It isn't my first choice, but it might work for your needs.


And then there's writing. The only thing I've found to do for writing is to give a lot of input when they actually have a writing assignment, which is difficult when there are never any assignments that come home (or any assignments at all!).

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For composition, try an undergrad writing center/lab- they have great handouts!





For grammar, I would take one issue at a time and discuss how to improve. For my DS, I purchased a used 6th grade textbook (his grade) and we are going through the grammar portion step by step. I supplement with online materials, FunDecks and whatever I find that works.


You might also consider just using an online grammar guide and going through it step by step. I used this one from time to time:


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I LOVE Rod and Staff for grammar, and they have a solid writing component as well. If you do it all orally, each lesson only takes about 20 minutes (the writing lessons take a little longer, but not that much longer). I think you are wise to address this issue now. The ACT and SAT are full of grammar questions (in the form of which sentence is in the proper from), and a solid foundation in grammar will help. The writing assignments in R&S teach the basics of organization, as well as sentence variety, etc. I think you could do a couple lessons on the weekend, and a couple during the week, and it would be relatively painless. I would start in book 5 or 6. R&S is VERY conservative, as it s published by Mennonites, but the instruction is top notch!

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