The story behind WriteShop, part 2

In Part 1 of our story, Debbie and I discovered that our plans for teaching our first writing class were very nearly doomed. Now for Part 2 . . .

Taking a Detour

detour signIt wasn’t just our own boys whose efforts cried out for help—every student in the group struggled at some level. So we canceled class for two weeks, scrapped the lesson plans we had so carefully crafted over the summer, and started from scratch. We had made a commitment to these parents, but clearly we needed to take a detour.

In need of new resources, we pulled out every writing program we’d ever used (and believe me, between us we had them all!). We drafted a wish list detailing the components of our “ideal” writing class:

  • Prewriting games to stimulate creativity.
  • A way to introduce and help students develop new skills.
  • Creative, varied writing exercises with clearly defined expectations.
  • Incremental lessons that built upon previously learned material.
  • Writing checklists to help students edit their own work.
  • A simple evaluation tool to help us grade final drafts objectively.

We didn’t think we were asking much! While each program on our shelves had merit, not one of them provided everything we needed or wanted to help us feel successful at teaching writing. In that moment of clarity, WriteShop was born.

A Fresh Start 

With a new plan in place, class began afresh. We prepared lesson plans and activities as well as homework assignments, and designed checklists and grading keys to suit our needs.

But we hadn’t set out to write a curriculum. On the contrary, spending hours together in person and on the phone, Deb and I were relieved just to hammer out one lesson at a time by Monday at midnight! But within weeks we knew we’d struck pay dirt–writing finally began to “click” for every student in the class. After two years, as our class waiting list soared to 50, parents started asking us to write a teacher’s guide and turn our ideas into a curriculum so they could teach it at home.

“Ha!” we scoffed, “That’s for ‘real’ authors.”

A Curriculum Is Born 

But the seeds had been planted. And when a trusted friend with much experience as a curriculum counselor gave our materials her stamp of approval, we set to work on a Teacher’s Manual. Eventually we published WriteShop I (for grades 6-10) and WriteShop II (grades 8-12). We’re currently developing materials for early elementary ages as well.

Many times we have felt like we were barreling down the rapids without a paddle, but God has remained faithfully in control of our little boat. Years later, with WriteShop users in all 50 states as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Great Britain, and beyond, we still pinch ourselves now and then to make sure this is real.

We don’t have all the answers, but we can offer tools to teach and evaluate writing in a parent-friendly, step-by-step manner. And while we may appear to be “writing gurus” to some, in truth we’re moms just like you, ordinary homeschoolers who stumbled out of obscurity because our children had a need. Desperation yielded to creativity, creativity gave way to potential, and potential became reality.

Who knows? Maybe there’s an idea ready to hatch at your house!

Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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