Why You Shouldn’t Use WriteAtHome
I started WriteAtHome in 2001 with five students, using email to exchange papers. We now serve more than 2,000 students per year through our online tutorial writing courses. Obviously, people like our services. We get lots of positive comments from customers on a regular basis. It’s a simple idea — get kids writing every week, give them an experienced writing coach to read and respond to everything they write, and give them a chance to revise and correct their papers based on their coach’s input. The result is inevitable: students learn to write better.
But we do get some criticism from time to time. Sometimes it has to do with a writing coach who wasn’t a good fit. That’s okay, we can always move students to new coaches if we are alerted to that. The other complaint we occasionally hear is that we aren’t rigorous enough. That’s the topic I’d like to address today.
Here’s the way it is usually expressed: “We paid a lot of money for this course, yet there are weeks when our son/daughter only spends twenty minutes on her writing for the week. We just don’t think that’s getting enough for our money.”
Before I respond to this comment, let me say that if people are unhappy with our services at WriteAtHome, we make them happy. That’s the way we do business. If a writing coach isn’t meeting expectations, we talk to them. If things don’t improve, we move a student to a new writing coach. If people just aren’t satisfied with what we offer, we give them their money back without any rigamarole. These things don’t happen often, but when they do, we make sure people end up feeling good about their experience with us — even if it means getting their money back.
The Process Approach
At WriteAtHome, we embrace a process-oriented approach to teaching writing. That means we believe that writers rarely get it right the first time. We think writing involves preparation, drafting, revising, and proofreading before ultimately publishing. And we believe that having a writing coach guide students through that process is the best way to help them develop writing skills. That’s why just about all of our assignments are completed in three drafts.
Students submit a draft of a paper. It comes back the next week with helpful notes that include encouraging comments and corrective feedback. The student then gets to revise the paper and resubmit it. Then we do that again — more coaching and then a third and final draft, which gets more comment and a formal assessment score.
With this approach it is not uncommon for 2nd drafts to require only a few modest changes — especially for gifted writers. That means that some weeks will require little time and effort on the part of the student. This isn’t always the case, but it’s typical for every student to have a few particularly easy weeks.
What You Are Paying For
Keep in mind, however, that there are no easy weeks for writing coaches. They invest the same careful attention into every draft of every paper. Just because the changes they suggest might be minor doesn’t mean they have not conscientiously read and commented upon each and every draft. And that’s what WriteAtHome customers are paying for — the labor and expertise of writing coaches, not the labor of their own children.
In fact, we think it’s a good sign that students sometimes have little to do to improve their papers. It’s a sign of progress.
Rigor Isn’t Necessarily Good
Let me be clear: we don’t offer a rigorous program. We never suggest that we do. In fact, we have settled upon the current structure because we think it’s decidedly unrigorous. We want a pace that the average student can stick to throughout a given 32-week course. We like the idea that some weeks are easier than others. We like to leave room for other subject areas and writing across the curriculum.
So, if you are looking for a rigorous, labor-intensive writing program, don’t use WriteAtHome.
Getting Your Money’s Worth
Depending on what discounts you get, WriteAtHome ends up costing somewhere between $12-$14 per week. We think that’s a pretty good price to pay for the work of a personal writing tutor, not to mention the curriculum that’s included. In our area, the going rate for tutors is about $50 an hour. And professional editing services can easily cost you $75-$100 on the kind of short papers we assign.
Sure, we could increase the intensity of the program and ask students to submit more than a single draft per week. Of course, those papers would have to be read and marked by our coaches, which means we’d have to charge a lot more, and in the long run, we don’t think that would make most of our customers happy.
If you are looking for a rigorous program that will require lots of work from your students, I’m not sure what to recommend, but it isn’t WriteAtHome. If, on the other hand, you are looking for an effective writing development program that has helped thousands of students improve their writing in a warm, positive environment, then you really should consider WriteAtHome.
If you’d like to learn more, visit our main website today!
One of my all-time favorite posts, Brian!