As a first-time homeschooling mother of a young scholar who’ll be officially entering grade one this fall, I sometimes wonder when all the various language arts skills will pull together and ‘click’. We do phonics, spelling, reading practice, copywork, read-alouds, among other sssubject mattters, but when will they all merge together into a comprehensive whole? When will my daughter realize that not only can she consume the written word, she can also create it? When will she grasp a vision for what literacy truly means? I’m certain that I’m not the only homeschooling mother with these questions running wild through her mind as she considers her child’s academic future. Thankfully, I believe I’ve found a key to the answer, and though I may not know ‘when’, I do know ‘how’ I can begin drawing these elements together into a cohesive whole.
If you’re a homeschooling parent of a youngster between kindergarten and grade two you should be perched on the edge of your seat waiting to hear about this wonderful new resource that models writing skills, involves reading fun picture books, and making hands-on publishing activities (also known as crafts made from your child’s writing). Published by WriteShop, the same company which brought homeschoolers the oft recommended classic WriteShop writing program for junior and senior high students, WriteShop Primary is a carefully structured, gentle, easy to use program for introducing writing to primary students. It’s also the missing piece of my homeschooling puzzle.
The WriteShop Primary series will eventually include three books. Primary A is now published, Primary B is about to launch, and Primary C is still in development. The three titles are designed to be completed before the end of grade two, and sample schedules are provided based upon when your student begins with Primary A. Kindergarten students are scheduled to complete one book each year, completing one of the ten lessons every three weeks. Students starting the series in grade one complete one lesson every two weeks and work through the series in two years. Finally, students beginning the series in second grade are scheduled to complete all three books in one year, working through one lesson each week. The child-friendly, hands-on approach and fun illustrations may be considered rather childish for older students, so it’s best to stick to the recommended ages and progression through the course.
Course author Nancy I. Sanders makes everything easy for first-time homeschooling parents such as myself through the use of clear supply lists, schedules, scripted writing activities with forms that repeat through each of the ten lessons in order to achieve a sense of familiarity in young students, and co-coordinating worksheets in the reproducible Activity Set Worksheet Pack. Evaluation forms to mark your young learners progress – not tests – are also included in the Worksheet Pack. Everything is clearly organized with an appendix that includes lesson-by-lesson supply lists, picture book suggestions for each lesson and a full index. Once your writing station is well stocked (wonderful suggestions are included for supplies to keep on hand), just grab your non-consumable Teacher’s Guide, your student, and you are ready to go!
Each lesson revolves around a theme of interest to children such as animals, friends, trains, colors, rhymes, and so on. Each of the ten lessons includes a series of eight repeating activity sets that are completed alongside a parent as a new writing concept – the lesson focus – is introduced. Guided writing practice is included in each writing activity, and is accompanied by picture book reading, games, brainstorming, composition, editing, worksheets, publishing the writing (craft), and evaluating the students work. Though these may seem like daunting concepts, particularly for pre-writers, they are incredibly accessible and child-friendly, free of any feeling of intimidation on the part of the child or parent. The focus of the lessons move through such teaching concepts as title selection, punctuation, rhyming words, and ordering stories chronologically.
Lest the program sound overly structured, parents are free to customize it for their children and suggestions are given within the text. What I most appreciated is the option to ease pre-writers into writing activities through parental modeling and the gentle sharing of writing time together as a parent-child dyad. This is one of the key features that make WriteShop Primary such a blessing to parents seeking to tie all the loose threads of their literacy program together. These guided activities can see children through from pre-writing to confident writing skills.