Entries from May 2008 ↓

Update: WriteShop Primary Book A

Interest in WriteShop Primary continues to mount!

WriteShop Primary Book A
At last weekend’s FPEA conference in Orlando, nearly 100 people signed up to receive e-mail notification of WriteShop Primary’s release dates! We’re excited to bring out a product that will meet many of your needs for a gentle early-elementary writing curriculum.

WriteShop Primary Book A’s release is getting closer, so let me catch you up a bit!

  • We’re now calling Book A a K/1-level book, but it’s really ideal for pre- or beginning writers in kindergarten, first, or second grades.
  • We feel quite official now that we have ISBN numbers for our books!
  • After introducing our prototype at several conventions, we’ve made a few simple changes, including a font change to improve readability.
  • The Activity Set Worksheet Pack for Book A is finished. There’s a worksheet to support and reinforce skills taught in each lesson. Here’s a little peek at the worksheet for Lesson 8. Continue reading →

Your child’s writing: Garden or weed patch?


In this fast-paced world, kids are bombarded daily with the idea that life is lived on the run: Drive-thru fast food, instant messages, and microwave mac ‘n’ cheese come to mind. Certainly, most of us can run to the store for a last-minute “anything.” Why grow your own veggies when you can pick up instant produce at the market?

Even writing, so recently epitomized by text messaging and email, has fallen prey to the tyranny of the immediate. Gone are the days, so it seems, when we mailed handwritten letters to one another. No one wants to wait for the postman anymore, let alone a tomato.

Though there’s a time and place for slap-dash communication, our kids need to learn that most writing—good writing—is coaxed into bloom through time and care. Lovingly tending his flowers and vegetables, the patient gardener understands this. The metaphor of the garden speaks clearly to writing. Let’s see what lessons we can learn. Continue reading →

How to write good

Variations of this humorous advice have been circulating around the Internet for awhile.  Enjoy a bit of Friday fun!

- – – – – 

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules.

  1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never generalize.
  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  13. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  14. Be more or less specific.
  15. Understatement is always best.
  16. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

Orlando Homeschool Convention 2008

Continue reading →

Just don’t tell anyone

Welcome to my first Wordless Wednesday blog post. I’ll do my best to post bad signage photos on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

This is a writing blog, after all, so I’ll be posting bad signage featuring grammar, spelling, and other bloopers. Some signs will make you shake your head in disbelief, and others will have you laughing out loud! Have fun!

FAQ: To write by hand or type?

Should we let our teens type everything, or do they still need to write by hand?

Another question from the WriteShop mailbag . . .

Q:  My 12-year-old is a very reluctant writer who has done little writing. I want to know if he is supposed to write each of the assignments by hand, or can he type them? I want him to be creative and hopefully begin to like writing, but if he’s having to concentrate on his handwriting I’m afraid he’ll never learn to enjoy it. Is it okay to let him type each copy of the assignment?

A:  Kids should start getting comfy with a keyboard at an early age. After all, they’ll use computer skills all their lives! But unless students have a learning disability, we generally encourage them to hand-write the sloppy copy (rough draft) and type the next two revisions.

The Benefits of Writing by Hand 

It’s important for students to keep up this skill. Even though you might hear that typing is the wave of the future, rest assured that your kids will always face situations where they must write by hand—note-taking, job applications, and timed essays come to mind. If they’ve had very little practice putting pen to paper, trust me, they’ll have a tough time of it when faced with an SAT question that must be answered without the benefit of a laptop!

Writing by hand also allows your child to proofread for spelling and grammar errors without depending on spell-check. Kids need to practice the lifelong skill of self-editing because, among other reasons, spell-check isn’t always accurate.

Making Exceptions

Your student may be on the younger side, extremely reluctant, or struggling with the physical act of writing by hand. This describes our own boys before they turned 13! In this case, you might bend a bit to let him type his sloppy copy, especially in the beginning.

Another idea: Have him dictate his sloppy copy to you first. Then ask him to copy it onto fresh paper before he begins to self-edit.

As his small-motor coordination, hand strength, and overall handwriting skills improve through exercises like copywork and dictation, he can eventually begin writing the sloppy copy by hand.

Typing Is a Good Thing! 

Once your child has self-edited his rough draft using the Student Writing Skills Checklist, he can go ahead and type his first revision. When we were teaching WriteShop classes, we actually preferred that our students type their revisions!

Not only is a neatly typed paper easier for the parent to edit, it’s also easier for the student to make changes before printing out a polished final draft.

. . . . .

WriteShop I homeschool writing curriculumCurious about all this talk of sloppy copies and parent editing and polished final drafts? This is all part of the writing process, which is incorporated into every WriteShop I and WriteShop II assignment. To learn more about WriteShop for your junior high or high schooler, visit our website at writeshop.com.

Photo: John Ward, courtesy of Creative Commons

WriteShop Primary Book C – take a peek!

Just thought you might like to take a peek at our WriteShop Primary Book C cover. Isn’t it just adorable? Makes me want to pinch that chubby, huggable little panther!

And if you love the cover, you’ll be even more in love with the contents.  Here is the scope and sequence for the ten lessons of Book C:

  1. Planning the Story
  2. Writing a Mystery
  3. Self-Editing
  4. Journal Writing
  5. Descriptive Writing: Describe a Thing
  6. Descriptive Writing: Describe a Person
  7. Descriptive Writing: Describe a Place
  8. Writing a Book Report
  9. Writing a Simple Report (no research needed)
  10. Writing a Simple Research Report

In addition, you and your child will enjoy some delightful picture books together, create fun-filled writing projects, and learn more about the writing process in WriteShop Primary’s gentle, step-by-step manner. More details to come, so keep checking back with us! 

Book C, for grades 2-3, will be available sometime this summer, but definitely in time for the start of school in the fall. Would you like to be notified when WriteShop Primary comes available? Just drop us an email!

New baby!

OK, it’s the weekend. I don’t normally post on Saturday or Sunday, but I figured I’d make an exception. After all, my sixth grandbaby just entered the world!

We welcomed Baby Ginny into our family just this morning and only two days overdue. As you can see, she’s being simultaneously kissed and manhandled by her big sister Hannah, who (so far) loves this new “toy” with feet and hands that move, a hat and booties that come off, and eyes and ears to poke!

God is good! We’re blessed and thankful, and I’m especially grateful that Ginny arrived before I had to leave for the homeschool convention in Orlando this coming week. Let’s just say I’ve been a bit nervous these past few days, but now I’m breathing that proverbial sigh of relief!

Interview with an editor, part 2

Welcome back to Part 2 of our interview with the very versatile Sallie Borrink! Sallie is the “other half” of Arts & Letters, Inc. (along with hubby David), and is doing such a wonderful job editing our WriteShop Primary books. 

Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday and learn a bit about Sallie’s homeschooling philosophy, her thoughts on WriteShop Primary, and how she manages life with an active toddler in tow! Continue reading →

Interview with an editor, part 1

Writer. Editor. Wife. Mom. Homemaker. Five words that help describe Sallie Borrink, our new friend and WriteShop Primary editor.

Sallie, who’s married to David (our graphic designer), finds herself continually evaluating and adjusting her busy schedule as she learns to make time for each of these personal passions. So come share a cup of tea with Sallie and me as we talk about the many hats she wears. As a bonus, you just might learn a tip or two about editing yourself! Continue reading →

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