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High School Writing program options

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In looking for High School level writing programs I'm curious what others have used?  What you liked, didn't like, etc..?


Our son will be finishing WWS2 along with working through parts of Lively Art of Writing this year (8th grade).  This Fall he will be ready for something new.  I am finding this more challenging that I thought in searching for a good writing program and/or class.  Most of the classes I've seen recommended look very expensive ($600+), though I'm sure they have their merit.  But we are already outsourcing math and science, so costs are really adding up.  My wife will be teaching it and doesn't want a DIY self-styled program either.  Something with some structure and not overly difficult to implement would be ideal.  We also prefer more than just formulaic approaches, but something which also encourages original thought and style. Not too much to ask, right?  lol   :tongue_smilie:


In reading many, many posts here it seems like quite a few agree LToW is a solid program, though not very teacher friendly.  So my wife isn't as keen on that one for obvious reasons.


So far we are looking into Write at Home High School Composition 1 which is a little more reasonable than some of the other courses.  Though I'm not sure how formulaic it will be.  For curriculum we're considering Essentials in Writing (EIW).  Still, nothing really jumps out at us a best solution.


Any ideas, thoughts and/or experiences welcome.



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LToW has recently been updated to a 5th edition and boasts that it's more user friendly. (I am having no problems using the 4th edition though.) https://www.circeinstitute.org/store/book/lost-tools-writing-level-one-complete-set


Thanks, LivingHope.  It seems like *every* review I've read on the curriculum comments on it being difficult to teach and therefore time consuming.  If you don't mind can describe a bit more what a typical day looks like for you?  How much work/prep time is required of you, the teacher?  Are you naturally skilled/gifted in writing and English?  Can this be done somewhat independently?


I'm just trying to gauge how difficult this would be for my wife while teaching our two younger dds who require more of her time.  It's a real balancing act for her. That is why ease of use is important and student independence is also a consideration.


ETA: I just noticed you have 8 children.  So you either have super powers or are doing something right.   ;)



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I like the IEW high school writing courses.  We have used "Elegant Essay", "Classical Rehetoric" and will be using "Research Reports" next year with older DD.  My son is taking classes at community college and his professors have all been very impressed with his writing abilities!


Thanks, Charlottweb. We have a number of friends who use IEW as well.   It sounds like it has worked well for your son.  Glad to hear it.


One of our primary concerns with IEW, which appears to be an often stated critique of the program, is its more formulaic approach to writing along with less emphasis on original thought or invention.  Maybe at the high school level these courses provide a bit more of those elements? I really enjoyed reading Ruth's post comparing these major programs here:  http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/348864-my-evaluation-of-numerous-writing-curricula/.  That is not to say that formulas or patterns are bad in and of themselves.  And many college English teachers expect to see the 5 paragraph essay, etc...


Thanks for sharing your experience.

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I'm more and more embracing Bravewriter as being the way to teach my high schooler as well as younger kids.


Hi Julie,


I actually posted a separate thread inquiring about Brave Writer.  Can you share a bit about how you have used it?  Do you use their curriculum, take the classes or both?   


The courses I've been considering for High School are:

Kidswrite Intermediate

Expository Essay


You can also buy the curriculum and teach it yourself.  From what I've heard and seen so far it's not really a complete curriculum, more like short courses.  I guess you could string together some combination of things over a year and call it high school writing.

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We've used several writing curricula.  I really like WWS for middle school and early high school.  For our family, what's been the most beneficial for high school writing has been participating in speech and debate.  They have done expository, persuasive, lit analysis, political analysis (to write debate briefs), and impromptu writing (SAT essays). 


What they write is performed at tournaments with at least nine judges (at least 3 judges/3 rounds/each speech, + sometimes a final round with a larger panel of judges) giving them comments, so they get excellent feedback from more than one source.  They receive comments on their oral speaking skills, but the also get comments on their logic, introduction, conclusion, amount and type of their information, and transitions.  Many judges outline their expository, persuasive, and impromptu speeches, so they can see how their writing flows for someone else.  After the tournament, they rewrite according to the judge's comments and what they feel works or doesn't.


In debate, their logic and how they present their ideas are judged within a very structured framework.  They also must analyze many sources of information to support their contentions, so they get a lot of practice synthesizing many sources (that's something tested on the AP English Language exam).


If your children haven't participated in speech and/or debate, I highly recommend it!


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I am not a fan of LToW. My son hated it and the teacher guide was useless for me and my educational background is in English/Writing.  I am sure it is a great program but the one year we did it was enough to where I would never touch it again no matter who was recommending it. I am following though as we are looking for some high school writing programs too. My son is currently doing a 9 week intro to research class through soverbose.com  and so far it is going well.  I kind of like the idea of sampling different programs/methods through the high school years.  We also did IEW and while it is a great program it is definitely very formulated. It worked great for my reluctant writer and his writing definitely improved. It was also good for my creative writer because it taught her to focus her writing. However, I would not want to put a creative writer in more than a year or two.


ETA: we have not used the updated version so it may be a great improvement.  

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for the feedback everyone.  We are leaning toward LToW after reviewing it more and also discussing it with families who have the latest teacher's edition.  I think it will be worth a try.  If we don't like it there are many other good options including online classes.  


Please, if anyone else has any further recommendations I'd be glad to hear them.



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