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Need writing curriculum for 8th grader who struggles with writing...


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and just hates school in general.  I am pulling him out to homeschool starting next year for 8th grade.  Middle school is when his academics really went down hill.   He is bright and creative, but he also has aspergers and a processing speed delay.   I think I've got our curriculum figured out, but I need something to ease him into writing.  IEW, Writeshop or something else? 

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Welcome!  :)

 

Can he type?  Does he have anything in particular he's interested in that you might want to harness?  My dd, who had previously been very anti-writing, got into fan fiction writing in 8th gr.  If he has something he's really interested in, it's always wise to roll with that, even if it means taking a syllabus from something else and adapting or whatever.  For this coming year I have a food writing text to use with my dd.  

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Hi,  Thanks for the welcome!  He likes video games, fishing and politics.  I am planning on doing Uncle Sam and Me by Notgrass because I thought that would interest him.  I let him choose between American history and civics and he chose civics.   They do have some writing in that course but I need to help him with the mechanics of writing.  He has always had a hard time with punctuation and forming paragraphs, that sort of thing, so I need to figure out the best way to teach it to him.   I need something that is going to help me help him so that's why I was thinking about Writesource or IEW.  I don't want to overwhelm him so that is something I will just have to play around with since we are just starting.

 

He doesn't know how to type.  I think we will work on that over the summer. 

 

I had to look up fan fiction because I had not heard of that. 

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Welcome!  I agree, get him typing.  Maybe look at the typing programs usually offered on Homeschool Buyer's Co-Op.  Sales happen all the time there so you may find some great resources for other things, too.  Having a typing program will give some structure and something he can do more independently.  Just make certain you are around consistently to reinforce proper finger position and posture as he starts out.  If he learns those things incorrectly it can be a bear to go back, unlearn the incorrect way and relearn the correct way.  

 

http://homeschoolbuyersco-op.org/

 

You might look at some software assistance, too, since typing will take time to master and you don't want him bogging down trying to remember how to type while he is also trying to remember vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and keep ideas for his writing first and foremost in his thoughts.  IEW might provide scaffolding for the basics of writing, but you could also add in something like Dragon Naturally Speaking, Ginger, Inspiration etc. to help with output while he gains needed basic skills in writing/typing.

 

Good luck and best wishes.  We are heading into 8th grade, too.  :)

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Have you picked something for grammar already?  Hopefully that will include punctuation.  He's not too old to do dictation, copy work, or keep a copybook (basically a quote book of sentences that interest him).  

 

You might sort out whether he's the perfectionist type who likes to compose everything in his head and write it perfectly once and be done, or whether he has serious issues with EF and organization and needs help to get all the thoughts in order.  They're very different scenarios.  For the latter you'd use Inspiration software.  In general, many of these kids do better when they have their brains wrapped around the content.  Sometimes an assignment will push writing before the dc really has his head wrapped around it to feel ready to write or actually have something to say, and so what comes out is crunchy.  Jean here just had a thread about writing where she found something similar, that it wasn't that her dd *couldn't* write but that she couldn't write about some arbitrary subject she didn't have her brain wrapped around.  Some people need a LOT longer in the topic to mull than what you'd think.  Mull time.

 

You *could* consider focusing on his comfort getting things out and and less on what the particular structure is.  For instance, if you could find a copy of this book or something similar 50 Debate Prompts for Kids: Reproducible Debate Sheets Complete With Background and Pro/Con Points That Get Kids...  you could do 1-2 each week, discussing them orally and then letting him pick one to write about.  You said he likes politics, so I thought he might like political debates.  Literally just let him write his arguments to that one and don't worry about structure.  Whatever punctuation you've covered, hold him accountable for in that writing. So if you've covered periods, then when he starts writing remind him that your target punctuation for the week is periods and that when he goes to edit he needs to make sure periods are in there properly following the rules you covered.  Kwim?  

 

If he likes fishing, there are some terrific, terrific nature and sports writers.  Has he read any McManus?  The Grasshopper Trap  This would be a place to start.  My dd really enjoyed McManus and he is a prolific author.  I think you'd be able to find more in the genre.  You could use it several ways.  You could use it for punctuation study.  (photocopy a page and then have him circle all the end punctuation in red, underline all the verbs in green, draw arrows from PA back to the subject, find semi-colons, clauses, phrases, etc.)  You could use it as a dictation source.  You could use it to teach keyword outlines and summarizing.  You could let him free write, suggesting that he imitate it with a story of his own, write the rest of the story, write the prequel, or flesh out a scene from it.  He could take a think mentioned in the story/essay and springboard with it, looking for information on it and writing and paragraph or a couple paragraphs on the thing.  (life cycle of the grasshopper, how you trap such and such, history of xyz, etc.)

 

Those would be ways to use his interest.  Not that you have to, but it's a way to consider, depending on how important that is to him.  Lots of boys (and girls) do fine with IEW.  If you want to do that, you could do that too.   :)

 

I think all the writing options are fine in general.  The sticky point is how your student will connect to them as far as personality, need for structure, need to be engaged with the topic, etc.  I got WWS1 and WWS2 to work with my dd, which is no small feat considering the negative rap it has taken on the boards.  For her it was a good fit.  I have no clue if it would be good for *every* dc.  It worked for her because it met her need for extreme structure and clear steps.  That trumped even engagement.  But for a spectrum dc, engagement might be more important, kwim?  

 

That will be great if you can work on typing.  Mavis Beacon was really good for us.  My dd has some motor control issues, and her typing didn't click till we switched to an alternate keyboard layout (Dvorak).  Typing is HUGE for unlocking these kids, so hopefully that will come together for you.  

 

Btw, there's a lot of buzz right now about the new IEW Fix-It levels.  I haven't seen them.  I didn't care for the old version, but this new might be really good.  IEW has a generous return policy.  You could buy a SWI level if it's calling to you and do that at whatever pace then do the fishing-inspired or debate-driven writing for the rest of his writing.  

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Wow, you've both given me lots to think about.  I will be coming back to your suggestions multiple times, I am sure.  I like the idea of the debate related writing and the nature books. 

 

Motivation is big with him; he has none except "can I get this over with so I can play video games." Maybe that will change.  It would be good for both of us to have clear steps.  It would be good for me because I feel like I need that direction too if I'm going to help him and edit his work.  It's been so long since I've been in school.   But then maybe I just need to get him writing at this point and  fine tune it more later.  Good idea to just focus on one thing at a time.  Oh, for grammar I bought 180 Easy Grammar Lessons.  I thought it would be quick enough that it wouldn't overwhelm him but the repetition over time will help him improve.

 

You've helped me decide to work on typing over the summer.  I was debating about cursive or typing but now it seems like typing will be more beneficial to him.

 

Here is our whole curriculum so far, and keep in mind it's trial and error right now and I'll be somewhat flexible because I don't want him to burn out.  My main goals are to improve his writing and math skills.   I can see him going to community college for computer science or graphic design. 

 

Math-Teaching Textbooks (can do on the computer)

Science-Apologia Physical Science (got the cd-rom since he likes computers)

Writing?

Civics-Uncle Sam and Me (also has book suggestions to go with it) 

Grammar-180 Easy Grammar Lessons

Spelling Workout

Vocabulary from Classical Roots

 

Then I also have a few guides for books that we can do:

Phantom Tollbooth

Animal Farm

The Hobbit

 

Also planning on field trips for government/historic places.  Since his 8th grade class in public school would go to D.C. this year, I might take him on our own.   We will go to at least one town council meeting so he can see how things get done in local government.

 

 

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I have tried many writing curriculum over the years. One curriculum that my anti-writer did very well with last year was 7sisters homeschool . com. Lessons are short but to the point. It is self directed and there is No fluff.  http://7sistershomeschool.com/products-page/writing-3/

 

There is a specific middle school curriculum, but the introductory  to high school guides are also very doable for a 8th grader.

 

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If he likes fishing, there are some terrific, terrific nature and sports writers.  Has he read any McManus?  The Grasshopper Trap  This would be a place to start.  My dd really enjoyed McManus and he is a prolific author.  I think you'd be able to find more in the genre.  You could use it several ways.  You could use it for punctuation study.  (photocopy a page and then have him circle all the end punctuation in red, underline all the verbs in green, draw arrows from PA back to the subject, find semi-colons, clauses, phrases, etc.)  You could use it as a dictation source.  You could use it to teach keyword outlines and summarizing.  You could let him free write, suggesting that he imitate it with a story of his own, write the rest of the story, write the prequel, or flesh out a scene from it.  He could take a think mentioned in the story/essay and springboard with it, looking for information on it and writing and paragraph or a couple paragraphs on the thing.  (life cycle of the grasshopper, how you trap such and such, history of xyz, etc.)

 

Thanks to all who responded.  I am rereading your suggestions and I thought this was really great and can apply to many of the books we read. Also,  I ordered Writing with Skill Level 1.  It was very inexpensive and it will hopefully give us a place to start.  There is just so much to choose from!

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  • 3 weeks later...

OP, I was posting on the Gen Ed thread you started regarding planning and just finally connected that you had also started this thread and posted on another LC thread.  You have indicated that your son is incredibly behind in math.  There are many of us here with kids who struggle in math.  I just wanted to mention that I have Teaching Textbooks, which you had indicated that you would probably be using with your 8th grade son.  I like TT.  But for a child that truly struggles in this subject I cannot emphasize enough how you will need to stay totally engaged with what he is doing, and I really encourage you to supplement with other things, including math games, and maybe you and he creating word problems to solve (my kids actually do better if they have to take a completed math computation and create a word problem from it for me to solve).

 

Every single time my DD13 begged me to just let her do her own thing with TT or other math material it was a total disaster.  She needs a lot of support, a LOT more practice and review than TT provides, and a lot more scaffolding and I have heard the same thing from many other parents.  But your approach will be important.  Teenagers can obviously really resent a lot of handholding.  TT allows them to work pretty independently.  But your son may not retain any of the material if you are not working with him really closely.  We are still trying to work through this over here, too.  DD wants independence.  But she is finally accepting that she does need a lot of help and is finally realizing that when she gets that help she retains and does so much better.

 

One thing that has helped her (and I mentioned this to you on another thread) was going way back to basic subitization skills using a variety of sources but especially "Overcoming Difficulties with Numbers" by Ronit Bird.  

 

I don't know if your dc has struggles with multiplication but DD sure did.  Regularly skip counting and focusing on only one multiplication table at a time is helping.  Also, I have DD fill out a multiplication grid on a regular basis.  Actually, after the first couple of times she did it successfully I just leave them lying around and she does them for fun.

 

Hope you don't mind the additional advice.  I just know that we wasted a lot of time our first year of homeschooling in math in particular because I didn't go far enough back to solidify basics and I allowed DD to rely to heavily on TT (at her request) when she really needed so much more.

 

Best wishes....

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Hi OneStep,  Yes, I definitely plan on having to sit with him the entire time he is doing math.  For one, I need the refresher if I'm going to help him.  That was one thing that made it so hard  in middle school.  I did not get the instruction and therefore, I had to try to relearn the concept online before I could help him, or it was a concept that I have never encountered (dilation, anyone?).   Plus, I've learned that he will not pay attention unless I am directing him constantly.  It was great to see a light bulb go off in his head one day and he became more engaged once he understood what we were doing.  Then he was offering the answers without prompting.  He just really needs that one on one that he wasn't getting at school. 

 

I'm going to look into that supplemental math book.  He does know his multiplication and division facts but struggles with long division and higher number multiplication.  He doesn't like to write down his work and does it all in his head.  It was fine until the numbers became too big.  He has always fought writing down his work. I'm not sure what that means. 

 

I love the advice so please don't feel like you are giving too much.  It's a really overwhelming thing to start doing this at this time, in middle school, with a teenage boy who has Aspergers.    Lord help me!  And anyone else who will listen, LOL.  :laugh:

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Hi OneStep,  Yes, I definitely plan on having to sit with him the entire time he is doing math.  For one, I need the refresher if I'm going to help him.  That was one thing that made it so hard  in middle school.  I did not get the instruction and therefore, I had to try to relearn the concept online before I could help him, or it was a concept that I have never encountered (dilation, anyone?).   Plus, I've learned that he will not pay attention unless I am directing him constantly.  It was great to see a light bulb go off in his head one day and he became more engaged once he understood what we were doing.  Then he was offering the answers without prompting.  He just really needs that one on one that he wasn't getting at school. 

 

I'm going to look into that supplemental math book.  He does know his multiplication and division facts but struggles with long division and higher number multiplication.  He doesn't like to write down his work and does it all in his head.  It was fine until the numbers became too big.  He has always fought writing down his work. I'm not sure what that means. 

 

I love the advice so please don't feel like you are giving too much.  It's a really overwhelming thing to start doing this at this time, in middle school, with a teenage boy who has Aspergers.    Lord help me!  And anyone else who will listen, LOL.  :laugh:

:grouphug:  :grouphug:  :grouphug:

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