What’s Different About WriteAtHome?
I’m heading to New Jersey today for the ENOCH convention in Edison. I like this one in particular because my parents live about 30 minutes from Edison, so I get to visit them and enjoy some home cooking.
Since I’m in the midst of homeschool convention season, I thought I might take a post to answer a question we get quite often on the exhibitor floor: “What’s the difference between WriteAtHome and ________?”
In a sense, this is a difficult question because it’s asking me to compare our program to other writing curricula. Of course I prefer WriteAtHome to other options (I started it after all), and I’m eager to convince people to give us a try, but it’s bad form to speak negatively of competitors, and, the truth is, there are several very good writing options out there. In fact, I always try to maintain friendly relations with the owners of other homeschool writing programs. I’m convinced that while we want as much business as we can get, we all share the same passion to help young people become competent writers. For that reason, I respect and admire all our competitors.
And homeschoolers benefit from having a variety of options from which to choose. Not everyone is looking for the same kind of writing solution. So, I like to answer the question not in terms of which program is better, but in terms of differences of approach. WriteAtHome takes a particular approach that fits perfectly with many families, but not all.
Here’s one way to look at what makes WriteAtHome different from other programs. I’ll talk about a different distinguishing point in a later post.
I would guess the number one reason that people use WriteAtHome is that it allows the parent to be less directly involved in marking and evaluating papers. Programs that rely on texts, workbooks, and/or videos place that responsibility largely on parents.
In other words, if you want to be the writing teacher and want to be the one to provide input, correction, and evaluation of your student’s writing, you probably should investigate any of a number of excellent text-based or DVD-based writing programs out there. Some do a fine job of training and equipping you to be an exceptional writing instructor. If, on the other hand, you’d prefer to outsource this aspect of homeschooling, WriteAtHome might be a good fit.
Not that WriteAtHome prohibits your participation — we are happy to have you as involved as you wish to be. Some parents look over all papers before the student submits them to his writing coach. Others actually sit with the student and assists them in composing papers. Most, however, do little more than hold students accountable for deadlines and periodically review the comments and assessment scores provided by our coaches. We are at your service and trust that you know what’s best for your students. We think a goal should be to get your students independently responsible for this aspect of their learning, but how that goal gets achieved is up to individual parents.
Why might some parents choose to be more hands-off in the area of writing? We hear the following answers to that question:
1) Writing isn’t my strength.
No homeschooling parent is an expert in all subjects. We all have areas of weakness that become more obvious as our students get older. That’s a great time to look outside the home for support. At WriteAtHome, writing is what we do best, and we are thrilled to use our gifts to help your students.
2) I’m a good writer, but I don’t know how to teach it effectively.
For many, writing is instinctive. They are just naturally good at it, and have never had to think much about it. As a result, it can be difficult to help children who have not inherited this aptitude. I have been surprised at how many people with English, creative writing, and journalism degrees end up enrolling their kids in WriteAtHome.
3) My student is a talented writer and has surpassed my ability to help her.
WriteAtHome works with kids of the broadest range of writing ability, but I think most of our students fall on the two ends of the spectrum. Many parents come to us because their students are struggling to write at grade level. But almost as many of our students have an exceptional gift for and interest in writing (At every convention, I meet at least one student who is working on a novel!). Their parents are eager to foster this talent, but feel inadequate. Our coaches are often writers themselves and love to recognize, challenge, and encourage these prodigies.
4) It causes stress and relational problems.
This is, by far, the most common answer. Because writing is inescapably subjective, students often question their parents’ critiques of their writing. After all, there is no answer key for good writing. And because writing is also unavoidably personal, it can be hard for kids to hear criticism from someone close to them. In some cases, this is an area to work through together. In other cases, it might be best to pass on this aspect of schooling to expert, objective writing coaches like those at WriteAtHome.
I’ll talk about another aspect of our program that differentiates us from other writing options in a later post.
Are you interested in learning more about WriteAtHome? Please take a few moments to check out our website: WriteAtHome.com.