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What age for for "Writing with Skill?"


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My son will turn 12 at the beginning of the school year and in 6th grade this upcoming fall. Should I start this fall or wait another year? He is not a very good writer now. 

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IMO, it really depends on what kind of "not very good writer" he is.

My oldest is technically a very strong writer - he can spot a run-on sentence at 20 yards and skillfully add an appositive clause when told to...but that is the rub...he could only write what he is specifically told, in excruciating detail, to write.

This is a kid who can write strong prose if you tell him exactly what to include, in what order, for what purpose, using what structures. OTOH, if you just ask him to write a paragraph about elephants he will produce 30 boring words that don't really say anything at all. And if you ask him to write any sort of story he will just dissolve into a puddle of tears.

We had tried "fun" writing  - that is not what DS wanted or needed. He needed highly structured, get 'er done, parts to whole, predictable, "dry" writing instruction. I think he likes the fact that WWS doesn't even pretend to be something that he will enjoy. He hates writing, and "getting" to write about his favorite hobby or pretending he is a cub reporter in Wordsmith Apprentice isn't going to change that fact. He knows that writing is a non-negotiable, so he wants to become proficient in exactly the type of academic writing he will be required to do as quickly as possible. No frills, no fun themes, no busywork, and NO creative writing.

DS worked through WWS 1 starting right around when he turned 11 (in the second half of 5th grade and the first half of 6th grade). It required a HUGE amount of scaffolding, but almost entirely logistical and organizational. I don't think I could write a curriculum that was harder for an ADHD brain to cope with if I tried. 😉 All the steps, instructions and expectations are written in narrative paragraph form...and often not in the order that the student actually has to think about them or complete them. That is by far the hardest part for DS.

The actual writing, OTOH, was challenging in the best of ways. It was very teacher intensive, but it gave me (and him) so much support for helping him improve his writing. Once we waded through the paragraphs of instruction, DS always knew what steps he needed to take, what he should end up with, and how it would be evaluated.

Since finishing WWS 1, DS has been practicing writing across the curriculum using the topoi he has learned. He LOVES the lists of procedures and things to remember for each topoi - I can now tell him to write a chronological narrative of a particular event, and he knows how to do that. It has greatly improved his writing confidence and allowed him to think about interesting ways of structuring an essay that go far beyond the standard five paragraph form. (Most of his essays still are around five paragraphs, but now they might be a description of a place used as a hook and introduction, one narrative paragraph that starts a historical story in that place, a description of the main historical figure involved, a second paragraph telling the rest of the historical story, and then a short conclusion referring back to the historical place.)

We will be starting WWS 2 soon.

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I have had a sixth grader start it, crash and burn, then do very well with it in seventh grade.

Another seventh grader did very well with it. 

Another child with some  LD's did it in ninth grade. 

 

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@wendyroo thank you for your detailed share.  I find that kind of real life story really helpful in assessing whether something would play out the same way in my house.  I appreciate the time you took and your willingness to pull back the curtain on your journey ❤️ 

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1 hour ago, wendyroo said:

IMO, it really depends on what kind of "not very good writer" he is.

My oldest is technically a very strong writer - he can spot a run-on sentence at 20 yards and skillfully add an appositive clause when told to...but that is the rub...he could only write what he is specifically told, in excruciating detail, to write.

This is a kid who can write strong prose if you tell him exactly what to include, in what order, for what purpose, using what structures. OTOH, if you just ask him to write a paragraph about elephants he will produce 30 boring words that don't really say anything at all. And if you ask him to write any sort of story he will just dissolve into a puddle of tears.

We had tried "fun" writing  - that is not what DS wanted or needed. He needed highly structured, get 'er done, parts to whole, predictable, "dry" writing instruction. I think he likes the fact that WWS doesn't even pretend to be something that he will enjoy. He hates writing, and "getting" to write about his favorite hobby or pretending he is a cub reporter in Wordsmith Apprentice isn't going to change that fact. He knows that writing is a non-negotiable, so he wants to become proficient in exactly the type of academic writing he will be required to do as quickly as possible. No frills, no fun themes, no busywork, and NO creative writing.

DS worked through WWS 1 starting right around when he turned 11 (in the second half of 5th grade and the first half of 6th grade). It required a HUGE amount of scaffolding, but almost entirely logistical and organizational. I don't think I could write a curriculum that was harder for an ADHD brain to cope with if I tried. 😉 All the steps, instructions and expectations are written in narrative paragraph form...and often not in the order that the student actually has to think about them or complete them. That is by far the hardest part for DS.

The actual writing, OTOH, was challenging in the best of ways. It was very teacher intensive, but it gave me (and him) so much support for helping him improve his writing. Once we waded through the paragraphs of instruction, DS always knew what steps he needed to take, what he should end up with, and how it would be evaluated.

Since finishing WWS 1, DS has been practicing writing across the curriculum using the topoi he has learned. He LOVES the lists of procedures and things to remember for each topoi - I can now tell him to write a chronological narrative of a particular event, and he knows how to do that. It has greatly improved his writing confidence and allowed him to think about interesting ways of structuring an essay that go far beyond the standard five paragraph form. (Most of his essays still are around five paragraphs, but now they might be a description of a place used as a hook and introduction, one narrative paragraph that starts a historical story in that place, a description of the main historical figure involved, a second paragraph telling the rest of the historical story, and then a short conclusion referring back to the historical place.)

We will be starting WWS 2 soon.

My son sounds like your son.  He is great with grammar. He is precise, but has no interest in writing. He will write what he needs and/or is told to write about. But it is to the point and done.

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Dd did it in 7th iirc and I went through the (removing unkind words, spit spit) manual highlighting on every single page the most essential things, writing notes, etc. She would not have been able to do it earlier, and I see zero benefit to rushing. 

https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology  Have you thought about looking this direction instead?

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My older two started in 6th and finished the 3rd book just before 10th grade.

My younger dd is doing it in 6th, but we have a better idea what to expect. So at the beginning, if she could do two lesson days in one day she did. We have always done writing 5 days a week. She is now getting to note taking which always seems to take all of us way, way longer than the time allocated, so she will be slowing back down for the next few weeks.

Nobody here has been interested in creative writing so far, so WWS fits the bill for us. I've learned to expect that on average it will take us longer than is scheduled, but I've also learned that the end result is worth the extra time. My older two can now approach a writing assignment with a plan and get results.

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My son started it in fifth and did fine.  We didn't finish the assignment for the end of the year because covid closed our libraries down.  We picked it back up this year for 6th and are a little over halfway through level 2.  I'm very pleased with how much he has learned so far.  He is usually able to work independently in the places intended, but I do have to stay involved.  Mostly I need to make sure he has taken enough notes.  If it says take 10-15 he will take 10.  If it says write 150-200 words, he will write 150.

For background he is an advanced student who loves to read nonfiction.  We used mbtp for 4 years prior to wws.  That program requires more pencil to paper than wwe and spends more time on paragraph structure.  It also started working on multi-paragraph compositions with intros and conclusions.

I'm not too attached to finishing a certain book or number of pages in a given school year, so if we get to a place that is more difficult we'll just take more time for it.  In general, I think the willingness to be flexible in pacing and to provide scaffolding is more important than whether you start this year or next.  If there is something else that blooms good to you in the meanwhile, that is fine.  If there's nothing else that catches your fancy, start was and adjust as needed.

Edited by Syllieann
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My dd is just short of 12 and doing well with it, I’m just not expecting as much from her.  My 14 year old boy would not have managed it at her age - I actually have them both doing it together I just expect higher quality output from him.

It really depends what you mean by not a good writer - my dd is not a great writer in the sense that her grammar and spelling is average but her thoughts flow quite freely.  My DS has almost perfect spelling and grammar and a great vocabulary but he really struggle with thinking of what to say which has made this program harder for him.  
 

The program can also be done more independently or less independently - it will be more parent intensive if you do it earlier on.

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If he can make solid paragraphs without help, I might consider it. If he can't, I'd focus on that this year and start WWS in 7th. 

Fwiw my youngest girl just started WWS 1 in 7th this year. She's not writing phobic, just stubbornly independent and needs specific assignments to her her moving forward, preferably from a book and not me. 😄 At first there was wailing and gnashing of teeth and she argued at the ridiculousness of the assignments.... but then she fell into a comfortable groove. Now, ¾ of the way in, she rather likes that book and I haven't heard a complaint in ages. She probably could have started it in 6th, but she would have felt so much more stretched (and there would have been so much more attitude..). For her 7th was the sweet spot. Level 2 is on my list for next year (8th). 

Edited by SilverMoon
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