Review by Jennifer Eccleston of My Big Fat Grain-Free Life
You can check out Sarah’s review from 2014 here.
There are many moving parts to home education, and much of it is a joy. For instance: hearing a child read for the first time, the day a diligent student finally grasps a concept they’ve been struggling with, unit studies, creative projects, reading great literature on the sofa, working out math problems in pajamas, and the list goes on. But I think we can all agree that there is a task that few homeschool parents enjoy. Grading papers.
Of all the courses our children take, which class makes moms all across the country moan in unison at the mere thought of grading? Science? Algebra? One could argue points in their favor, for sure. But for me, the thought of having to grade writing makes me want to hide in a corner breathing into a paper bag and holding my daughter’s Build-a-Bear for comfort.
WriteAtHome took the “yuck factor” out of writing for me, as well as for my kids.
WriteAtHome is a comprehensive online writing program whose tag line is “We Teach Writing so You Don’t Have To”. ‘Nuff said. Not only do they teach the writing, but they grade it too! They assign a “writing coach” to each child to answer questions, offer guidance throughout the course, and grade rough drafts and final papers.
My daughter and son, (8th and 10th grades respectively) used WriteAtHome last year and loved it. They both expressed that their writing coach was kind and helpful. My kids did a wide variety of writing, some of which included writing the “best excuse note ever”, writing about a triumph or failure in their lives, writing about a memory that impacted their lives, music or movie review, hometown travel guide, timed essays, compare/contrast essays, analytical essays, and research papers which the coaches allowed to be on a topic that coincided with their history classes. The variety of writing assignments held their interest and made writing fun. This was definitely the BEST year of writing either of them had ever had.
Both of my kids found the website very easy to navigate. All of their assignments were clearly laid out in an online grid showing the date, the assigned lesson, the given writing assignment for the week, and then a “submit” button which allowed them to easily submit their writing assignments. Once a paper had been submitted, it showed up clearly on the grid, making it easy for the student (and parent) to know an assignment had been turned in. Due dates were all outlined clearly on the grid – even explaining when the updated and final drafts were due.
The writing coaches give clear color-coded notes on the returned papers, which my kids found easy to understand and very helpful. Coaches offer suggestions, give positive and “gently critical” feedback, and correct grammar and spelling. Both of my kids said that the writing coach was also easy to contact via the WriteAtHome site (for safety reasons) when they had questions.
The grading is done in rubric style on a scale of 1-5 with points for content, structure, rhythm, word choice, style and mechanics. The coach then gives the student an average score of those dynamics for a final grade.
WriteAtHome offers many options when it comes to their writing courses. Choose a year-long course, 16-week semester, or even “a la carte” which allows you to pick-and-choose types of writing on which your child may need instruction, or an opportunity to strengthen a particular area of weakness. In addition to writing courses, WriteAtHome also offers a PayPerPaper service allowing you to utilize their coaches on writing assignments for other classes such as history, literature, etc. (Can you say “research paper”?)