Sometimes the subject with which we are most familiar can be the trickiest curriculum to choose. If you hold a Master's Degree in Spanish, for instance, you may find that no curriculum really lives up to your expectations or at the very least is not presented the way you would want to present it.
Maybe I'm over-estimating my abilities, but writing is one such subject for me. There are a couple of elementary writing curricula I use and endorse wholeheartedly, but in 15 years of homeschooling I have been hard-pressed to find a middle school writing curriculum I have really liked.
When the opportunity arose to test WORLD Magazine's new writing curriculum, I jumped at it. Long a fan of WORLD, I hoped it would be written by some of my favorite WORLD columnists and contributors, and lo and behold, it is. 20 WORLD staff members from editors to publishers to photojournalists and correspondents have joined with three notable Ph.D's in English and Literature to fashion a complete middle school writing curriculum, and it is outstanding.
Personally, I am not a fan of writing curricula that is based on formulas. It may be prudent to teach a student a five-paragraph essay format, but learning to do so does not make a student a writer. I wanted more for my children because writing is a tool that can be instrumental in tearing down walls amidst conflict, build up hearts and minds for the cause of Christ, and most importantly, communicate the Gospel with grace and power. Really bad writing accomplishes none of these goals, and boring writing formulas may do worse.
Write With WORLD, as you may have already guessed, does not rely on formulas. To be certain, the authors use some common tools to get your student to put pen to paper. But the strength of Write With WORLD is the underlying goal of teaching the student to think before writing, and they do it right from the get-go. From chapter one:
What questions does this picture raise in your mind? Our first question would be, “Is the surfer in control, or is he about to wipe out?”
In your Conversations Writer’s Journal (CWJ), write down your questions (at least five). Now describe the picture in writing, as we did in the example with the girl playing a guitar while riding a skateboard. Make sure you include an answer to the question, “How does the picture make you feel?”
For my reluctant 7th grade writing student, this approach has been remarkable. Abby does not enjoy writing (she prefers math and science), but she has taken to Write With WORLD like a mouse to cheese. When a middle school student doesn't balk at the work presented, I count my blessings. Middle schoolers are a notoriously tough crowd.
I asked Abby what she liked about it and she said, "It's my favorite writing book you've made me do. It's not boring. It's really interesting and I am learning a lot. I like the words they have me learn and look up."
From the Write With WORLD site:
We've chosen to tackle the top 20 grammar errors made by U.S. college students (based on Andrea Lunsford's research). We cover 19 of them (all except #6). Additionally, we included a few other common problems that grew naturally out of the lessons or that we thought were important: parallelism, when to use I/me, apostrophes and contractions, and use of quotation marks.
In every unit, the first three lessons cover one error each, and the fourth lesson is a review of the grammar issues touched on in that unit.
Our philosophy is that exercises are not the best way to teach grammar; grammar is best learned in the context of students' own writing when possible. Ultimately, good grammar helps improve style, as well. The lessons are short and not comprehensive, but they focus on key issues with which real students struggle.
Write With WORLD is a complete two-year writing curriculum comprised of teacher's manuals for both years one and two, and student editions also for each year. Teacher's manuals are of course non-consumable, but you might want a student edition for each of your students. Abby is writing in her writing journal, so we'll hold onto the student manual, too. A full year's curriculum includes both texts (teacher and student) and costs $95; you can purchase both years for $165.
The purpose for Write With WORLD resonates loudly and clearly with me. From their website:
Christians in particular should try to be the best communicators. They possess the truth and need to articulate a biblical worldview. Just as important, today's students must be discriminating media consumers - able to read, hear, and watch what the world is saying and to recognize the truth.
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.