Posted in Charlotte Mason, Curriculum, Homeschooling Methods, Subject English, Writing & Penmanship

The Downside of Writing With Ease

Albert Anker Schreibender Knabe mit Schwesterchen I 1875

When I began homeschooling my two oldest children, it quickly became apparent that writing was going to be our most difficult subject.  Prior to homeschooling, both of my children had been in a public school where they had completed a variety of writing assignments including writing poetry and reports.  With that basis, you’d think teaching writing would be a breeze, right?  Um…no.

The first week of school, I told the kids that we were going to write a paragraph.  Their immediate response was to burst into tears.  Some probing revealed that they had no clue how to put a paragraph together.  They were terrified of writing and continued to struggle with writing right up until they graduated from our homeschool.  Their early public school experiences negatively affected their writing confidence and abilities for years to come.

This time around with homeschooling, with our littles who are all 9 years or more younger than Spunky, 17, I resolved to teaching writing the “right” way.  After looking around at different programs on the market, I decided to use Writing With Ease to complement our studies.  I used Writing With Ease 1 and 2 with Delightful in Grades 1 and 2.

Since then, I have come to the realization that there is a downside to Writing With Ease and that is this:  it is too effective at what it teaches.

What do I mean?

Writing With Ease focuses on teaching a specific style of narration; namely, answering questions on particular aspects of a passage so that a student can then summarize the passage in two or three sentences.  Students are not supposed to give an oral narration full of details à la Charlotte Mason.  That, in itself, is not a bad thing.  However, it has created some challenges in our homeschool.

In Delightful’s Grade 3 year, I was sick with hyperemesis gravidarum and so we used A Beka’s Writing and Grammar worktext to keep up with writing.  Delightful found the grammar to be difficult and struggled with the writing assignments because there was little guidance as to how to do them.  [Note: these are excellent texts for grammar but I think more could be done with the writing component].

Then came Delightful’s Grade 4 year.  Delightful was accustomed to giving detailed oral narrations in various subjects before starting Grade 4.  While planning out her year, I toyed with purchasing Writing With Ease 3.  However, I ended up deciding to try more of a Charlotte Mason approach to writing before purchasing any program.  That meant introducing written narrations while continuing with oral narrations, copywork, and dictation.  And that is where the over-efficiency of Writing With Ease became apparent.

At the beginning of this year, as I tried to show Delightful how to do written narrations, Delightful would consistently produce a 2-4 sentence summary of anything she read.  Then, if given a creative writing assignment such as completing a story from Story Starters, Delightful would still only produce a 2-4 sentence summary of how she would end the story.  I began to talk to her about adding in things like details and dialogue but this initially resulted in frustration.  Somehow Delightful had gotten the idea that good writing is just summarizing ideas.  It seemed way too tedious to add in lots of details to make her writing more interesting.

We have since remedied the lack of details issue, but we never would have had such an issue if Writing With Ease hadn’t drilled the concept of summarizing so much.  That is why I believe there is at least one negative to Writing With Ease:  It is excellent at teaching kids how to summarize passages.  So excellent, in fact, that a child might get the idea that summarizing is the sum total of good writing.  So if you intend to use Writing With Ease, be aware that it is highly effective at what it does — and that it might be so effective that you end up having to undo its effectiveness in certain subjects — at least, that is, if you ever want your child to write more than a summary of what has been learned!

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