Update: WriteShop has taken out the Christen content of the homeschool curriculum. The fifth edition, released on May 1, 2020 is now appropriate for secular homeschoolers.
WriteShop is a complete writing curriculum for middle school to high school age students. This review is for WriteShop I with the Video Companion Course. This course contains some Christian content. WriteShop provides a secular, public-school option for this course. You need to contact them to order the secular version. The homeschool version will contain some Christian material.
I received free access to this product and compensation for the time I spent writing this review. I am not required to write a positive review. I am not an affiliate. Below you will find my honest opinion of WriteShop, my kid’s thoughts, and any information that I think will help you decide if the product is a good fit for your homeschool right now.
How We Used WriteShop I
We started at the beginning, as recommended no matter what your age or writing experience. We used the Video Companion for the teaching in lesson one. I had a 6th grader and an 8th grader using the program. We then completed lesson two without the video. Since lesson one is longer to teach students how to use the program this equates to about 5 weeks of using the program. We are currently taking a break from the program to work on ‘passion’ writing projects the kids were begging to do, but will cycle back to the program when they run out of creative projects, or just need some technical so those projects can shine.
The Video Companion for WriteShop
This video companion can be used to replace the need for you to begin each lesson with teacher instruction. The program itself is not designed to be used independently. But if you need your child to work independently they can do so with this video course. You will still need to be ready to edit their writing before they complete the final draft of each project.
The video is clear, understandable, and easy-to-follow. My girls did complain that it was very repetitive. Although the video lessons are short, they got bored watching them.
I would say the video’s serve an utilitarian purpose. They are probably not going to get your child excited or interested in the lesson, but they will tell them exactly what they need to do and how to complete the assignments correctly. I would say the video is worth it if you don’t have time to teach the lessons.
Maybe you have a baby or toddler, a lot of kids to teach, work, or are caring for a parent. In that case, you can buy the video and your student can work through the materials on their own. The editing you will need to do is very clear with a checklist for each lesson.
You can probably complete the feedback needed in about 15 minutes. You will not need to do this more than once a week and probably only once every two weeks depending on the track you choose. (Most people will not need to work at the pace of a lesson a week, but if you have a high schooler who needs to complete the program more quickly, they can get through WriteShop I & II in one year using an accelerated schedule provided in the teacher’s manual.)
Organization of Material - Excellent
WriteShop is a very well-organized program. The material is presented clearly. It follows a specific writing process for every lesson. Learning that process is built into the first lesson. Each skill is reinforced with skill builders. Creativity is encouraged with brainstorming, and although a general topic is assigned students have freedom to choose what to write about within that topic. For example, in Lesson one they choose an object to describe. One of my students described a Lego block and the other one described a paper chain.
Ease of Use - Excellent
The program is easy to use. During lesson 2, when my students did not use the video as the teacher, I spent about an hour total helping them. This includes time teaching and editing. This would typically be spread over a two-week period. My kids spent another 2 hours working on the lesson without me. If you divide this up evenly over 10 days, a child would need to spend about 18 minutes per day. Totally doable.
The teacher’s manual makes it very easy to find the information you need. There is ample guidance to help you become more confident in your editing and feedback skills while encouraging your child to grow in their writing skills.
My Favorite Part of the WriteShop Program is the Self-Editing
Editing is such an important and essential part of the writing process but many writing programs expect the student to turn a first draft to the parent/teacher and leave the job of editing in their hands. Every professional writer self edits before anyone else sees their work. I love that WriteShop teaches students how to edit their work. They get a very clear checklist to use for this step each lesson. This helps them find their mistakes and improve their writing before it even gets to mom.
I have never seen such clean drafts turned into me, even when I have told my kids to edit before they give it to me. So I would say the program is very effective at teaching this skill.
Adding in Interest
It can be difficult to get students excited about writing. Like many other skills they have to practice bits and pieces before they are able to bring their skills to their own creative projects. However, they need both interest and practice for learning to truly stick. This is why I am telling my older kids to use this curriculum as a reference material. When they are writing a novel, or a Dungeons and Dragons story, there are many lessons in WriteShop they can apply to little bits of their own projects. When kids see how their own awkward words, which they already love can be transformed for the better, they get excited.
I would not suggest this approach if your kids lack basic practice in these skills, although you can still supplement with this approach. The program incrementally builds on skills from previous lessons so if your students are new to writing lessons you won’t want to skip ahead. Rather, work through the lessons as presented and encourage your kids to explore topics they are interested as they write.
I think the main strength of WriteShop is that it takes a topic that is complex and presents it in a clear, incremental way. It does not ask too much of either the student or the teacher, it is realistic to spend the time needed to complete each lesson and the program as a whole. It is also covers all the basics students need to master to become good writers. You don’t need to buy a new writing curriculum every year during middle school and high school. With WriteShop I & II the basics are covered.
WriteShop is thorough, but it is also concise.