How ironic is it that I write for a living, but struggle to teach writing to my children? My writing instruction while in public school was limited at best. A new round of 5 paragraph essay writing each year, just so I could answer the few essay questions on the end of grade test, and a few (ungraded) journal entries were the standard instruction year after year. Over and over I was taught to write a thesis statement, make 3 topic sentences, expand on those sentences to make an introduction, 3 paragraphs, and finally re-write the thesis statement and summarize for the conclusion.
I want more writing instruction for my children, but I often fail at getting from the idea to instruction. I want them to learn more than the 5 paragraph essay during their homeschool careers, but I don’t know where to start in the teaching of writing as a craft!
As middle school approaches for my second daughter, with little writing instruction behind her, Jump In from Apologia caught my eye. She is my independent learner, so the instructional style of speaking directly to the student is perfect for her.
I wouldn’t call her a reluctant writer, as she loves to write stories creatively in her spare time, but she is a struggling writer when given a specific topic to write about. Factual writing often frustrates and overwhelms her. Jump In breaks writing into small pieces, keeping the student from getting overwhelmed with new information and big assignments.
Jump In is written to the student, to be completed at her own pace. The workbook contains enough material for two years of writing instruction, though you will need to choose a separate grammar instruction or practice curriculum for your student. My one complaint about the program is the lack of a schedule to work with. It’s hard to know if my student is working through at a pace that will complete the program in two years. I prefer to give my middle schoolers a lose schedule, with weekly or at least monthly goals, she can break down into manageable chunks on her own. It’s hard for me to hand my student a book and say, “Just do a little each day.” Its probably my teaching background coming through, but I want a specific start date and end date for our homeschool year during which all of the chosen curriculum is completed at roughly the same time.
I do love the clear instruction and assignments given through out the book. My student will learn about prewriting skills, opinion writing, persuasive writing, expositional writing (biography, book report, book response, newspaper article, how-to, and compare & contrast), description writing, narrative writing, and poetry. The index contains helpful resources for students such as proofreading tips, do and don’t lists, and more.
The workbook itself is well made, with sturdy pages, and pleasing colors. Assignments can be completed right in the book, though my daughter often choses to type her assignments.
The parent/teacher manual is a slim 73 pages since the instruction is presented completely in the student book. Most of the parent/teacher manual is dedicated to reading writing, including evaluation forms and how to earn an A paper, a B paper, and so on. A section of 10 minute Writing Plunges is also included. These plunges are meant to make writing fun and engaging. Students get a new prompt 4 days a week and spend 10 minutes writing on the prompt. On Friday, she choses her favorite, proofreads it and gets it ready to turn in. They are meant to be used instead of the student workbook, either to take breaks from the workbook, thus spreading the student workbook out over two years, or the plunges can be used as the 2nd year of this program.
Even though I don’t like the lack of built in scheduling in Jump In, the actual instruction and my daughter’s enjoyment of the curriculum thus far has convinced me to use this curriculum for the beginning of my daughter’s middle school writing instruction.