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Trying to choose writing curriculum for my 4th grader and 8th graders

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New here to this forum, but definitely not new to SWB and TWTM. I've been using her suggestions and books since my oldest (now almost 20) was in first grade. 


We've been avid users of SOW, but I haven't used her writing/composition curriculum with my kids....yet. I'm trying to figure out the best way to go for:


1) my 8th grader, 13yo ds. He is a good reader and a decent writer, picks up on things quickly, but needs to be kept interested in something or at least see the progress he is making to stay consistent in a curriculum. I am trying to decide between IEW-Level B or Writing w/ Skill-Level 1. 


My concerns with IEW is it's very structured and formulaic. I really want him to be prepared for high school writing assignments (we will still be hs'ing for high school.)


2) my 4th grade, almost 10yo dd. I was also thinking of having her do IEW with my son, of course on her own level. The formulaic nature of it might be just what she needs. But again I am not thinking of just this year, I am trying to lay the foundation for good writing for the middle school years. She is not the world's best speller and is constantly asking how to spell words. We have done dictation and narration before but kept it very simple for her in 3rd grade.


3) So in addition to the writing, I am trying to figure out the best way to help her improve her spelling. I am hoping that she is not going to hit the 4th grade slump. She loves to read, but hasn't tackled too many books above grade level, unlike my other children who were reading above grade level early on. Any suggestions as to how to see where she's at in her reading level? I am wondering if I should have a phonics review with her before the #%&* hits the fan later on. How would I know really where she's at with her reading skills? And if they are stuck at grade level, but we desire to increase that, how would we go about doing that? Trying not to worry about this.


Thanks for any help!


Mom of 5 - 19, 18, 16, 13 & 10 All hs'ed at one time or another  :001_rolleyes: Some more, some less!

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I can't answer most of the questions as my kids are too young, but for the 4th grader, reading and phonics.. I highly recommend Elizabeth's phonics lessons. (I cast post the link because I am on my phone but if you search it like that they will pop up).

My son did them in January/Feb this year and his reading just absolutely took off. We went from "hmm.. He's about on level.. Do you think it is enough? Do you think there is a problem?" To reading at a tenth grade level right now and voluntarily reading classics. Barely 8 months after finishing. I'm going to have him do them again this year and hope he picks up more of the spelling rules because he still stinks at spelling, but one problem at a time :)

They would be great to do one a day for the first month of school and know she's had a thorough phonics review.

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Hi Deborah!  I don't have much experience with writing curricula, but about your daughter's spelling issues:


Have you thought about using a spelling curriculum for her?  My 10 year old daughter is an atrocious speller.  While she is not dyslexic, she has spelling tendencies that very much look like dyslexia.


We have been using All About Spelling, and we're heading into Level 4 soon.  I kid you not, without the rules of All About Spelling, she would still not be able to spell words like hurt (r-controlled) or beach (uses a vowel team).  


Her spelling has improved by leaps and bounds with AAS, in ways that we could not achieve with copywork.  She really needed the rules of spelling and lots of examples in order to be able to apply those rules to her own spelling.


Just throwing it out there in case it might be a good fit for your girl. :)

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I use AAR, AAS and IEW for my 4th grader and they're all working really well for her.


AAR - DD started with AAR3 in 3rd grade last year. Most of the level was pretty easy for her, and we were able to move quickly through it, but there were a few things here and there that helped. I wasn't sure if we should do AAR4, because she's a fairly advanced reader, but I'm glad we did. I believe the words in AAR4 are high school level and we've been through several lessons, especially with prefixes and suffixes, where it's really been helpful. The All About Learning website has placement tests for reading, so that might give you an idea of where your DD is at.


AAS - DD was not the best speller, but I've seen such an improvement using AAS. Unlike AAR (where I started her in level 3), I began in Level 1. We were able to move very fast through Levels 1 and 2 and slowed down as things got more difficult in Level 3. We're in level 4 now. We do one lesson per week. Day 1, I go through the lesson. Day 2 is the spelling test. Day 3 is the Writing Station (which is where 5 words are given and the student makes up their own sentences using those words). Day 4, we review all of the cards (phonogram, key rules, sounds, and words). 


IEW - We've used both theme books and SWI-A. You can use either one, it just depends on what your preference is. After using both, we discovered DD does not really care for the SWI videos. They were pretty lengthy (averaging around 45 minutes) and she got SO bored with them. I ended up having to go over all of the information with her afterwards because she stopped listening. This probably had some to do with her age, so older students may do better with the listening. I decided for this year to switch back to a theme book. We'll be doing the Ancient History theme. I also own the TWSS, and while it's very helpful in teaching the IEW methods, it's not absolutely necessary to have if you're using either SWI-A or a theme book.


ETA: IEW is a formulaic approach and if your child is a natural writer, it may not be the right approach. My DD used to struggle with writing. If I gave her a topic to write about, she would have a hard time coming up with ideas and couldn't organize her thoughts into cohesive paragraphs. After using IEW for the last 2 years, she's made tremendous progress using their methods. Now, she actually enjoys writing and often spends her free time writing stories, which she never did before. I can't say that she loves the curriculum, but after I remind her of the progress we've made, she understands why we're sticking with it. 


The other thing I really like about IEW is the 100% money back guarantee (if you purchase directly from their website). If you decide, at any point, that the product is not working, you can send it back and they'll refund you. There's no time limit. 

Edited by Vintage81
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I've used both IEW (for a couple of years and at multiple levels in a co-op) and SWB's (Writing with Skill and Writing with Ease).


I much prefer SWB's curriculum. I love that: 

  • Everything you need is in the book. No having to learn how to teach by watching videos or learning some new method or flipping between books. Everything is in the book. 
  • No teacher prep is required. Writing with Ease has definitely been open and go. Even when I taught Writing with Skill to a couple of students, I just quickly looked over the lesson beforehand. 
  • Writing examples are pulled from literature. In Writing with Skill, two high school sports-oriented boys were not only taught the craft of writing but exposed to great literature. We'll never forget our time with Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It's seared into our collective and independent memories!
  • Different forms of writing are taught. 

Like you, we've used SOTW since it was first released but I hadn't used SWB's writing books until two years ago. I was kicking myself that I'd never looked at it for my olders! I slogged through a mish-mash or resources including IEW (b/c of a co-op's choice), Classical Writing (great idea; hard to execute) and a couple of Rhetoric books. When I finally got WWS, I was like WHERE have you been all of my life? I turned around and bought the WWE for my younger two and have been equally satisfied. 


Hope that helps!


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