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High Schooler with Holes in Writing, Vocabulary, and Grammar


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I have a 9th grader who I am homeschooling for this first time this year.  Prior to this year he attended public school and was an "A-B" student.  Now that we are teaching him we are finding lots of holes in his education.  He has trouble with reading comprehension, writing, uses low level vocabulary in his writing, and often uses grammar rules incorrectly. I am using First Language Lessons with my 1st grader and love it.  Would the Intermediate Grammar be a good place to start with my 9th grader to fill in these holes in his education?  I am also looking into the Writing with Skill level 1 books.  I worry these may be low a grade level for a High Schooler but he really does need some remedial help.  If anyone knows a reference for vocabulary work please let me know. We have added lots of reading both on your own reading and my husband and I reading aloud to him as part of our curriculum.

Thanks!

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Welcome!

Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind is a solid curriculum, but it does move fast. I'd recommend dividing it up into 4 parts--8 "weeks" each--and redo those 8 "weeks" at least twice before moving on to the next set of 8 weeks, and do the same thing. My kiddo did first language lessons for 2 years before starting GWTM, and this is our third (?) year with GWTM, and we still won't be making it all the way to the end of the textbook!! It's very difficult after about Week 20.

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Writing With Skill is a good writing program and I think a kid who went through all 3 levels of it would be very good at expository/analytical writing and note-taking. However, he wouldn't be very experienced at persuasive writing yet, and while the program does try to teach sentence variety and vocabulary building through thesaurus work, my kid who is finishing up WWS3 still doesn't have great sentence variety/vocabulary choice when she's working by herself. We're planning on using Killgallon's high school program next year and the year after, in order to really focus on that element.

I don't think it's a bad plan to use WWS if you really think your son needs that level of remediation! But it's a pretty dry program, and I know there are a lot of folks on these boards who prefer BraveWriter, Killgallon and other programs over WWS. So you might want to look into other approaches before settling on one 🙂 

If you're open to materials with Christian content, Progeny Press has study guides available for a lot of well-known youth/classic literature. They typically involve a fair bit of vocabulary study, analysis questions that you can use for discussion (rather than writing the answers, so he doesn't get bogged down with the "thoughts to words --> words to paper" transition), and essay prompts at the end. I imagine there are similar non-religious materials out there, but I'm not very familiar with them. That would be a good way of connecting the vocabulary to its context.

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Welcome!

For Grammar: it depends on what you think might fit best with his learning style.

Analytical Grammar 
Does it seem like he will *absorb* and *retain* rules from a formal Grammar program? If so, you might also check out Analytical Grammar, which has 3 different schedules (1-year, 2-year, 3-year) for moving through the material at the rate that best fits the student. (I'm not a big fan of formal Grammar programs like WTM's Intermediate Grammar or Analytical Grammar -- not a good fit for our DSs -- but they work great for others.)

6 Weeks to Understanding Grammar (by Joyce Herzog)
Or does it seem like he just needs something to put Grammar into context to see the "why" behind the rules? If so, 6 Weeks to Understanding Grammar is specifically designed to clarify Grammar to middle schoolers/high schoolers. (I had the privilege of seeing Joyce Herzog in a homeschool convention session MANY many years ago, and her clear way of approaching Grammar revolutionized how we did Grammar.)

The Chortling Bard (by Jane Kiester) 
Or does it seem like he just needs a daily "bite" of grammar review + practice, coupled with discussing Grammar in the context of his Writing, during doing the Writing revision stage with him? If so, something like The Chortling Bard  is a very nice resource -- a paragraph a day that builds up the story of one of Shakespeare's plays. Also includes learning 2 vocabulary words per paragraph, and literary devices. Covers all the GUM (Grammar, Usage, Mechanics) aspects of Grammar, such as: capitalization, punctuation, homophones (there vs. their vs. they're), agreements between subject-verb, pronoun and antecedent, and consistent verb tense, pronoun use, use of who/whom, etc.

Fix It Grammar
Another program that looks a bit similar to The Chortling Bard is Fix It Grammar from IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing). No personal experience with this one, but it does have a placement test to help you decide which level to use. I would not be shy about using a lower level (i.e., book 3 or 4) and running through it at a brisk pace to give your student a lot of success, and then move on to one of the high school level books (i.e., book 5 or 6). Here is the Cathy Duffy review for more info.

Editor in Chief, or, Find the Errors
A lot of students at the early to mid high school grades still make a lot of mistakes in their rough draft writing. That's fairly common. If that is what is happening with this student, then it may not be a need for a Grammar program, but just a Grammar review, and practice with making it a habit of going back and fixing mistakes as a regular step in the writing process. If that is the case, then he might just need some Grammar review + extra practice in proof-editing, as a reminder to go back over his own writing after rough draft writing and fixing errors. Two programs that focus on that aspect that might work for you are: Editor in Chief (C-1 and C-2 are the high school levels), or, Find the Errors (gr. 9-12).

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You say that he "has trouble" with reading comprehension. Do you have a plan to address that? Because it's entirely possible that he's made it this far without a good phonics base, which would affect all of his English skills. That would be *my* starting point.

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Well, I can chime in on vocabulary. We love looking through Marie's Words or Vocabulary Cartoons. We do it all orally-they explain to me why the picture fits with the word, use the word in a sentence, and get points for using the words in their everyday life. (usually an m&m). This isn't helping a lot yet, but just adding it to their brain, so when they see it in a book, it triggers a memory, and after awhile, it's just a part of life. My kids are not writers, so I'm hoping in the future it will have invaded their brain so much that it makes its way into their writing. But for now, it's just a seed plant. (8th & 5th grade this year). 

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Susan Wise Bauer wrote an article about using WWS with an older student, including how to bust through Level 1 if you are short on time.  Here is a link to the FAQ that links to the article:  https://support.welltrainedmind.com/hc/en-us/articles/360027244714-Which-level-of-Writing-With-Skill-is-right-for-my-student-

Customers tell us about the different ways they use Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind, and most of them say they are taking at least 1.5 years to go through one book.  Others are using it in really creative ways--like, pretend that it has parts A, B, C, D, E.  Year One, they do ABC; year 2, BCD; Year 3, CD; Year 4, CDE.  The point isn't speed--it is mastery.  

This article in the FAQ has a good overview, and then the Intermediate and Teacher Resource sections of the FAQ might have some interesting and helpful info for you as well.  

I'll be interested in reading what others have to say here, as I am attempting to write an article to help others who find themselves in this situation--I CAN tell you that you are not alone.  

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I’d suggest Hake Grammar and Writing for 8th grade.  http://www.hakepublishing.com/sample-lessons.html
You can look through the entire grammar book at that link and also sample lessons in the writing book.  I notice it also includes a bit of vocabulary study, but I didn’t look too closely at that.

I think the Hake looks very clear, concise, thorough....and if you are looking to fill gaps, it would be perfect. You could skip things that he already has mastered.  I had looked at this at the beginning of the year and now wish I had gotten it. Instead we went the WWS and GWTM route...and while I think they are getting the job done, I love the “cut to the chase” look of the Hake. 

 

Edited by cougarmom4
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