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Susity

High School English - Approaches and Online Classes

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Hello!   I'm looking for feedback on online English courses, 8th-12th grade.   What have your kids taken and liked or not liked, and why?  

Ideally, we are looking for a LIVE class that covers both composition and literature.   Any recommendations? 

I like the look of Center for Lit's online classes.  Anyone have experience with them?   

More philosophically, what do you think about a writing program that is based in literature (like Center for Lit) versus other approaches?   I'm not sure what to make of  WTM or IEW, etc.  I haven't researched them very much, but at first blush they look boring.  I think my math-oriented, ADHD kid would quickly lose interest.  

By way of background, my son struggled with writing/grammar in public school so we largely ignored it for a few years after we started homeschooling in 5th grade.  He is a strong and enthusiastic reader.   This year he has learned a ton with Analytical Grammar.  He also took two short Essay Prep classes with Bravewriter, both of which he actually enjoyed.  I'm not sure Bravewriter's focus will be enough for him, given the way his mind works.   

I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

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My oldest daughter has taken several online English classes. It is hard to find a good match for what kid needs, so keep in mind that what one kid likes, another may hate.

My eldest toom Center for Lit's American Lit several years ago without the writing component. She liked that they had one book (or one author's works, or several short stories) each month, and she only had one two-hour class to sit through. She was NOT a writer and I chose not to have her combine a love (reading) with a hate (writing) at that time. The negatives were that it was easy to blow off reading the book because there was no accountability (because you didn't have to participate in the live class), it was only once per month, and the format of how they covered each book was always exactly the same. The positives were that you didn't have to participate in the live class, it was only once per month, and they covered each book with the exact same format each time. (Do you see how these can be positives for some people and negatives for others?) Many people who like the idea of Center for Lit's approach but want more frequent interaction and depth in analysis look to Wasko Lit instead. (There is another provider in this vein that gets good reviews, but I remember reading that her classes are full already.)

Eldest has also taken some writing-centric classes through Lukeion and Wilson Hill Academy. Since you are looking for reviews on lit/writing combos, I won't add my opinion of those.

I highly recommend the lit/writing combo classes taught by Mrs Cindy Lange at Integritas. They are super pricey but Mrs Lange is a master teacher and is able to work with each student to make their writing better while also engaging them in challenging literature.

There are many other online English providers like CLRC, The Potters School, and Big River Academy to name just a few. If you specifically do not want a Christian provider, mention that as that cuts out many (but not all) choices.

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Thank you so much for your reply!  I haven't heard of some of these providers and I'm excited to have more options.  I definitely understand that what works for one doesn't work for another!  Since you have experience with multiple children, what do you look for in a LA class, especially for a enthusiastic reader/reluctant writer who is not going into a field where being more than a competent writer is required?  Do you have any general advice for building out 8th-12th grades of language arts?  From what I'm seeing most online providers seem to want to get the kids in 8th grade and keep them until 12th.  It sounds like you have sampled quiet a bit.

I'm not necessarily only interested in literature and composition, combined, for next year, i.e, DS's 8/9th grade.  Don't most people do lit/comp combos though? 

Here is what I know I'm working with:

1) my son still needs 1/2 unit of foundational grammar next year, so I need to leave time for that. 

2) my son loves to read and would enjoy a well run discussion based lit class,

3)  my son is very social and live classes are preferred, 

4)  my son has low tolerance for "boring" writing drills,

5)  we'd prefer not to devote more than 4-5 hours each week to writing, grammar, vocab building, etc.  An additional 4-5 hours of reading is fine. 

We tend to use providers/curricula that aren't overtly Christian but strictly secular is not a requirement.  If Christian, Catholic would be preferred. 

I'm excited to look at the providers you mentioned.  Thanks for any additional guidance.   I really appreciate it. This is the hardest subject area for me to wrap my head around.

 

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Sorry it has taken me awhile to get back here. What do I look for in a LA online class? What that specific child needs at that time. Ideally, the goals of the class match my goals for that kid. I look for detailed, timely, helpful feedback from the teacher (not peer-editing or "workshopping"). I am anti-busy-work, don't care for making online discussion board posts for the sake of participation, and I don't particularly care for lots of "worldview" because it usually seems fake and forced.

Writing is important, but my oldest would not write and revise for me- so I outsourced it while keeping her reading/discussing at home (except for one year when she did Center for Lit because she needed a get 'er done). So, most of the LA classes for her were writing-specific. I think it is really hard to find good LA classes. I've certainly found some doozies.

Roy Speed's Shakespeare classes are great for learning close reading, getting taught by a master teacher, and getting interested in Shakespeare (my DD disliked the very thought of Shakespeare but came out of Roy's Macbeth class very enthused & requested a semester of studying Shakespearean Comedies). Low output, so it matched that kid's needs. She took it before high school. Roy has added other classes in recent years that I can't speak to.

Advice on building out language arts . . . Nope. I only know what didn't work with my specific kids and what did work. I have avid readers, avid audio book listeners, and a couple of struggling readers, still. I have a former writing-phobic kid and two avid writers  (one creative and one academic). I have one kid that thrives with live classes, one that tolerates one or two under certain circumstances, and one that refuses to ever do a live class again.  (The youngest two have not taken any online classes.) Each one has different needs and each year, I have to figure out what they need.

So, having said all that, I want to say you can do all this at home. If yiu can provide the ear for his discussions & direct his writing, I would encourage you to do that. There are some great threads of ideas on this board for doing just that.

If you really believe you need an online class, check out the Online Master Thread for reviews (read them in the light of knowing your kid & his needs) and keep looking around and asking. (What I mean is if he needs a live class, Bravewriter might not be a good match no matter how much praise it gets. If you don't want him spending 10 hrs/week, don't consider BlueTent Online. Etc.) The High School board and the Middle school board might have a few more ideas for you, too.

I know you can't go wrong with Cindy Lange as a teacher. I have heard good things about CLRC's Intro to Lit/Comp (7th-9th grade), but haven't had a kid take that class yet. The Potters School Narnia writing class is supposed to be pretty good (but Christian in scope) 7th/8th grade level. Wilson Hill Academy has a Fundamentals of Expository Writing was a good class for 8th grade, but my kids have not taken it with the current teachers. Those should all have reading & writing & not take more than 5 hrs/week (not including live class time).

Excelsior, Big River, HSLDA Academy, Bright Ideas Press, AIM Academy (Debra Bell), Lantern English, Online Scribblers, etc. are other providers you can look into. Some are live-some are not. The Master Online Thread should have links to all of them and more. 

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Thank you so much for this.  It's so kind of you to offer your experience and advice.  It helps to hear others thought processes.  There are so many different approaches within language arts, even what should be taught.  Sometimes my head spins.

I spoke at length today with Cindy Lange.   I really liked her and her approach.  She came across as thoughtful, intelligent, kind, and dedicated to her profession and her students.  She's committed to small class sizes.  This year my son took two Bravewriter classes. They were fine introductory classes but he was disappointed by his classmates (lack of) feedback and the asynchronous interaction with the teacher.   I'm going to reflect on my conversation with Cindy, but I'm strongly leaning toward signing him up for her class.  Thank you so much for steering me in her direction. 

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Susity:
 
I am the homeschooling dad to whom RootAnn referred (I teach Shakespeare, among other things).
 
A number of things about your description of your son prompted me to write — first, that he is "an enthusiastic reader/reluctant writer"; second, that he is "very social and live classes are preferred" and that he would enjoy a "well-run discussion class"; finally, that he "has low tolerance for 'boring' writing drills." 
 
Your son sounds to me promising. — It's not easy to generalize about students who are "reluctant" writers because, in my experience, students may be averse to writing for a broad range of reasons. But the fact that your son is an enthusiastic reader bodes well; likewise the fact that he enjoys discussion.
 
 
I teach an online writing class that is live and discussion-based, but it's unlike most other writing classes in a number of respects — and I'm telling you this because I think your son may benefit from an out-of-the-box approach.
 
Among my own methods:
  • Reading essays. My students read and discuss essays by really fine writers — dozens and dozens of essays. One of the things I find appalling about most writing instruction is the way we ask our students to write essays before they've actually read any. So I'm a believer in giving students models, showing them what it looks like for a writer to speak his or her mind on a given topic. And my students often "reverse-engineer" the essays they read: when they read something they find really interesting or moving or insightful, they take up the question: How was that done? — And through discussion, they identify writing tools and techniques they think worth "stealing" for their own work.
  • No literary analysis. I don't emphasize it; among all the essays my students read, only a very few could be called "literary analysis." — Equally important, I don't ask my students to write literary analysis (though they are free to do so, if they wish). The topics of the essays my students read include science, ethics, history, theater, writing, and more; some are personal anecdotes, with thoughts on (seemingly) random topics. As for my students' writing assignments, they are free to write on topics of their own choosing. My assignments often begin with one of the essays they've really admired — What if you were to write that sort of essay... What would you write about?
  • Mindmapping. We all know that clear thinking precedes clear writing, but teaching kids to think is really challenging, and the traditional tools we provide them with are not great. So I believe in giving students 1) real thinking tools, and 2) abundant workouts with those tools — teaching them, in effect, to mine their own thoughts and experiences. — What goes on a mindmap is the raw ore they turn up in those mining efforts; then they need to practice working with that ore, refining it, and then arranging it all into a logical sequence.
Your student probably has a lot to say — he just needs help connecting with his own voice in writing. And a traditional English class may fall a bit short of what he needs.
 
All the best.
 
—Roy Speed
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1 hour ago, royspeed said:
Susity:
 
I am the homeschooling dad to whom RootAnn referred (I teach Shakespeare, among other things).
 
A number of things about your description of your son prompted me to write — first, that he is "an enthusiastic reader/reluctant writer"; second, that he is "very social and live classes are preferred" and that he would enjoy a "well-run discussion class"; finally, that he "has low tolerance for 'boring' writing drills." 
 
Your son sounds to me promising. — It's not easy to generalize about students who are "reluctant" writers because, in my experience, students may be averse to writing for a broad range of reasons. But the fact that your son is an enthusiastic reader bodes well; likewise the fact that he enjoys discussion.
 
 
I teach an online writing class that is live and discussion-based, but it's unlike most other writing classes in a number of respects — and I'm telling you this because I think your son may benefit from an out-of-the-box approach.
 
Among my own methods:
  • Reading essays. My students read and discuss essays by really fine writers — dozens and dozens of essays. One of the things I find appalling about most writing instruction is the way we ask our students to write essays before they've actually read any. So I'm a believer in giving students models, showing them what it looks like for a writer to speak his or her mind on a given topic. And my students often "reverse-engineer" the essays they read: when they read something they find really interesting or moving or insightful, they take up the question: How was that done? — And through discussion, they identify writing tools and techniques they think worth "stealing" for their own work.
  • No literary analysis. I don't emphasize it; among all the essays my students read, only a very few could be called "literary analysis." — Equally important, I don't ask my students to write literary analysis (though they are free to do so, if they wish). The topics of the essays my students read include science, ethics, history, theater, writing, and more; some are personal anecdotes, with thoughts on (seemingly) random topics. As for my students' writing assignments, they are free to write on topics of their own choosing. My assignments often begin with one of the essays they've really admired — What if you were to write that sort of essay... What would you write about?
  • Mindmapping. We all know that clear thinking precedes clear writing, but teaching kids to think is really challenging, and the traditional tools we provide them with are not great. So I believe in giving students 1) real thinking tools, and 2) abundant workouts with those tools — teaching them, in effect, to mine their own thoughts and experiences. — What goes on a mindmap is the raw ore they turn up in those mining efforts; then they need to practice working with that ore, refining it, and then arranging it all into a logical sequence.
Your student probably has a lot to say — he just needs help connecting with his own voice in writing. And a traditional English class may fall a bit short of what he needs.
 
All the best.
 
—Roy Speed

 

Roy, have you ever had advanced middle school students in your classes or are they restricted to high school age students?

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