WriteShop Review

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Writing is not my kids’ strong point. That’s hard, considering the fact that it’s something I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. I guess I shouldn’t say that it’s not their strong point because, the fact is, both of my girls have multiple novels in progress. I guess I should say, “Assigned writing is not their strong point.”

Review of middle and high school level writing program from WriteShop


The fact is, though, sometimes you have to write because you have to write and not because you want to.

I have three very basic goals for my kids where homeschooling is concerned. By the time they graduate, I want them to:

  • Have a strong enough math foundation to be able to balance their checkbook, file their taxes, scale a recipe and figure out how leave their server a decent tip
  • Read well enough to self-educate and learn whatever they might like to pursue
  • Write well enough to effectively communicate their ideas

Those are, of course, the bare minimums, but they reflect my core values when it comes to my kids’ educations…and there have been times I’ve worried about that last one. I’ve seen some really great progress with WriteShop, though. I’ve been using it with all three kids. Megan has used WriteShop Junior, Josh has used WriteShop I, and Brianna has used WriteShop II.

WriteShop II

How is WriteShop set up?

It took me awhile to wrap my brain around the fact that WriteShop II is just the second half of WriteShop I. There is one teacher’s manual that contains lessons 1-30. The WriteShop I student book contains lessons 1-16, while the student book for WriteShop II picks up with lesson 17. For some reason, that really confused me, so now you know so it won’t confuse you.

Topics covered over the course of the two books include:

  • Descriptive writing
  • How-to  paragraphs
  • Biography
  • Narratives
  • Point-of-View
  • Persuasive writing
  • Compare and contrast
  • Timed essays

Like WriteShop Junior, each lesson follows the same basic outline, which is really nice for planning. In our house it goes something like:

  • Read the lesson and complete any related activities (often hands-on activities that teach a point in a fun way)
  • Complete the Skill Builder assignments
  • Brainstorm and write a practice paragraph
  • Brainstorm and write the actual paragraph
  • Edit, revise, and write final copy

How teacher intensive is WriteShop?

WriteShop is designed for the parent to work alongside the student. The practice paragraph is meant to be done with the student – with lots of input from the parent so the student can see, in action, how he is supposed to complete the assignment. This has been huge for me. So often in the past I’ve felt like I shouldn’t give the kids too much input – you know, not do the assignment for them.

With WriteShop, I’ve seen that if I do the assignment with them the first time, they do a much better job of writing the second “for real” assignment on their own. They just need to see the concepts modeled. Go figure.

WriteShop Teacher's Manual

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. Teaching writing this way is very teacher intensive at first. Writing time is not always my favorite time of the day. It’s kind of like teaching reading, though. If you put the effort in at the beginning, they can work independently a lot more effectively later on.

How does WriteShop work for students?

I did the first few lessons with Brianna, but she let me know quickly that she’d rather do them on her own. Because she’s older, I told her that was fine, but I wanted to see her practice paragraph before she started the actual assignment paragraph, so I could make sure she was getting and applying the concepts. She’s done really well!

Honestly, the last couple of papers were some of the best she’s ever written. She was to write a descriptive paper, first in first person, then, in third. I could actually picture the scene she was describing in my mind! It was filled with rich, vivid detail. I can’t even tell you how pleased I was. She had a great time with the exaggeration paper, too. I think that one was her favorite to write. It’s fun to see your kids get excited about writing.

Not only has the detail in Brianna’s writing improved, but her spelling is better and her papers aren’t filled with run-on sentences, two things that have always been a struggle for her because of her dyslexia. I think a big part of that is the student checklist that is part of each assignment. Before it’s turned in, the student is supposed to go through his or her paper, using the checklist, to make edits and improvements. The checklist covers:

  • Content
  • Style (strong word choices, sentence variety, consistent verb tense throughout)
  • Mechanics (spelling, capitalization, indention, and margins)

Not only that, but there is a teacher checklist, too, so that you can grade your students’ papers more objectively.

I can’t say that Josh is terribly excited about writing, but WriteShop has fit the bill for explicit, step-by-step writing instruction – something he needs because he, too, has dyslexia.

Now, I’ll be honest and say that we haven’t spent as much time on WriteShop with him this last six weeks because the weeks have been so busy and his Trail Guide assignments have been good practice for where he is in his writing right now, but we’ll be continuing to work our way through WriteShop.

WriteShop review

I like that we started WriteShop early with him, so he’ll have plenty of time to work through it at a pace that works for him. The teacher’s manual contains lesson plans for one-, two-, and three-year tracks. I plan to spend three years working through it with Josh. We can take our time and let him apply what he’s learning to the writing assignments in our regular curriculum. I love that.

The only confusing part about WriteShop to me is that not everything is in one book. The student book is written to the student and the teacher’s manual is written to the parent. Both are needed when working through an assignment. I understand why everything isn’t in one book, but sometimes the book juggling is confusing…or maybe my brain is just getting more feeble as I age. That’s entirely possible.

Overall, we’ve been very pleased with WriteShop and I plan to continue it next year. Because a family is permitted to reproduce the consumable pages for single-family use, I’ll be able to use the materials with Megan all the way through WriteShop II. It’s the blessing of being the baby that she is the only one who ever gets to write on the actual original pages. {grin}

Support for WriteShop

The best thing about WriteShop may just be the people behind it. Author Kim Kautzer has been so willing to patiently answer all my questions. If you click on the “support” tab on the WriteShop website, you’ll find a wealth of resources, including:

  • Parents’ Corner – Articles and information to help parents teach writing
  • Kids’ Corner – Games, ideas, and contests for kids
  • Online Tutoring – You can find an online tutor to help your student with writing
  • Writing and Homeschool Resources
  • Forums

You can also follow WriteShop on Facebook and Twitter.

I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.  Your experience may vary. Please read my full disclosure policy for more details.


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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. Hi Kris! I stumbled upon your website looking for reviews of Institute for Excellence in Writing. I notice that while you said that you loved the program in that review, that you are now using WriteShop. I’ve also considered WriteShop and am trying to decide between the two programs. Any insight?? Anything would be helpful! I’m looking for a writing curriculum for my daughter who will be in 5th grade next year. I also have a son who will be in 1st, but we’re keeping writing simple for him…nothing structured yet besides grammar and narration. I homeschooled my daughter for K and 1, but both kids have been in public school since that time. Just trying to get a feel for how the two programs differ and what made you switch. We may start with IEW and pick up WriteShop in the future at some point, too. Just another option. Writing is the most difficult subject for me to settle on because I LOVE it and am a perfectionist about it! I’m paralyzed thinking that whatever I do they’re going to “miss something.” Ahhhh, homeschool. 🙂

    1. I get asked that question a lot. I’m actually planning on writing a post comparing the two later this summer or early fall. In short, they’re both great programs. I liken it to choosing between a Canon and a Nikon if you’re looking for a camera – either one is an excellent choice; it just comes down to a matter of preference. One of the biggest differences between the two is that IEW teaches kids to write using a modeling technique with key word outlines. WriteShop uses the students’ own writing with the parent providing the modeling in the form of a practice paragraph.

      My kids weren’t crazy about the key word outlines. I probably could have modified IEW to make it work for us, but I wanted to try WriteShop and see if it worked better for them. Writing still isn’t necessarily their favorite subject, but they like doing original writing better.

      It all boils down to what works best for your kids and you as the teacher. You really can’t go wrong with either IEW or WriteShop as far as quality teaching goes. Since your daughter is going to be in 5th grade, I’d suggest looking at WriteShop Junior, Book D, rather than the regular WriteShop books, which are more for middle and high school. WS Junior is colorful and fun. My youngest really enjoyed it.

      1. Thanks for the post. My dd is going on Grade 7 and has done quite a fair bit of writing equivalent to children in school and not excited about keyword outlines but I’m not good with providing the modeling for practice. Does Writeshop provide any guide in doing that?

        1. It gives examples of paragraphs written by students. Then, the parent and child brainstorm together for the practice paragraph. Basically, it gives you the feeling that it’s okay to help your child as much as possible with the practice paragraph, so he or she has a good understanding of how to write the second paragraph on his/her own.

          1. Thanks a lot, Kris. May I know if the assignments call for paragraph writing or whole essay writing?

  2. I homeschool my youngest child who is a rising 8th grader. We homeschool year round, so she is between 7 & 8 grade, (working in both grades). We have been homeschooling for just about 18 months. I spent the first year “DE”- schooling and trying various curriculums. You know the “overkill” phase. I found some stuff I just loved, and lots of stuff I just decided was a waste of time and money.
    I am most certain about one thing, we are definitely fans of Charlotte Mason’s curriculum ideas. I love that it is allowing my daughter to start finally becoming an independent thinker and learner, rather than my hand feeding her facts she could regurgitate back to me, and then forget next week. We use Teaching Textbooks Pre-Alg 1(this is her 7th grade Math) for Math, Worldly Wise 10th grade for Vocabulary/Spelling, I used LLATL in 6th grade and have just come back to the LLATL Grey book for 8th grade. My daughter uses note booking for all her Science and History at the moment. I plan having her do an outside Science class this fall called nJoy Science, it is a locally run Science and Lab program using Apologia, and taugt by a Science certified teacher who homeschools his own children, and he is sharing the love, for a nominal fee of course. This comes HIGHLY recommended by other homeschool moms. Though I am seriously contemplating the Science, I am also looking into our 1st ever co-op. It is a CM style group. Older students will do Shakespeare, with plays, and Geography fairs, Field Trips, Nature Studies, Music and Art Appreciation with great activities planned following CM philosophies and Principles.
    The other 2 things new for me this year will be Latin and a Writing course. I’ve found a great Latin program called Visual Latin, this program is to Latin as TT is to Math, and I am looking to implement an added writing course, at the moans and groans of protest of my soon to be writing daughter.
    I have come across your program for writing; 1. WriteShopp l & ll. The other programs that I really like are; Writing Strands Series by:Natl Writing & Editor-in-Chief by The Critical Thinking Co. https://www.criticalthinking.com/getProductDetails.do?code=c&id=09705. All 3 seem to have amazing attributes that make me say, “I want this one, um, no I want this one”.
    I think you get the point on the writing programs. I did come across many more, but these 3 are I think the best to choose from. (my opinion) The seem to hold many elements that my daughter won’t sit and fight me. She’s not a fan of writing, We do TT because I can’t “Teach Math”, but I can still help write and proofread a paper. ( I proofread my sons college papers) Though I am sure I have more than 1 or 2 grammatical errors in my post.
    I guess my question to you is have you had any experience with the other 2 writing programs I mentioned? Or do you know of someone who does?
    I didn’t intend on writing you a short dissertation on my homeschool journey or, I just thought since you have been at this a while, and since you seem to have a wonderful grasp on homeschooling, maybe you could give me a guides hand in working it all out.
    I unfortunately don’t have the luxury of playing around 1 or 2 more years figuring it all out, as my daughter starts HS next Fall, so it is my job this year to prep her and I have no idea what I am doing. I guess I threw it on your “porch” so to speak beacause you are already using one of the programs, plus I love your hs’ing philosophies. I toured your site. I think I used to get emails from you at one time as well. No worries, I have signed up to get them.
    Thanks so much for your post. Again my sincerest apologies about the length of my reply. Hoping this finds you well.

    1. Hi, Kimberly. It’s such an exciting time to be homeschooling with so many incredible curriculum options available. I’d love to be able to offer additional insight, but I haven’t had any experience with Writing Strands or Editor-in-Chief.

      Thanks for subscribing!

  3. I’m thinking about using this for my oldest next year. He’s going into 9th grade, and while grammar and mechanics are a strength for him, assigned writing and prompts are not. I want his English studies to have a strong focus on writing next year. Thanks a great review!

  4. In July we are starting POE with our 2nd and 3rd graders, POE with middle-school supplement with our 5th and POP with our 8th grader. This is our first time using a “boxed” curriculum and I originally starting looking at it because of your reviews. I am VERY excited! Did you use WriteShop along with the TGTL curriculum? If so, did you skip the writing portion of TGTL and just do the WS assignments? I’m mostly concerned about the 5th and 8th graders’ writing. I have never been strong in, or a fan of, writing. Both kids took 2 6-week sessions last year through Home2Teach and loved them, but it gets costly if you do it year round. I want the coming year to have more of a writing focus and to get them excited about it and don’t know the best way to do it.
    Thanks for any help!!

    1. We used POS just as it was laid out. I added WriteShop last year due to my son’s dyslexia. He needs more explicit writing instruction. Yes, I skip the writing portion of TGLS and do the WriteShop assignments. I follow the three week lesson plans, so we do two writing assignments each six weeks. Hope that helps!

  5. I don’t know anyone who is using Writeshop so I can’t pick their brains. Thank you for this helpful review. My daughter is going into 6th grade. We’ll be using Writeshop for the first time. She has a good foundation already from using Abeka since K. Hopefully this will be challenging and definitely different. She loves to write.

  6. Thank you for the review! we have struggled through several writing curricula over the last several years, leaving me frazzled and my son still not where I think he needs to be for high school next year. Do you think that Writeshop can be used as a one year high school level writing course? I want him to have a solid foundation and we just aren’t there yet.

    1. The lesson plan suggestions included offer a two-year and a three-year track for completing both volumes.

  7. I homeschooled my son for the first time this year for 5th grade. We used BJU English 5 for his English curriculum. It included writing assignments as well (descriptive writing, compare/contrast, writing a play, persuasive business letter, and others). I am looking into WriteShop for him to go more in depth with his writing skills, but also need a grammar curriculum. Do you use something separate for grammar? Does WriteShop provide different types of writing like BJU does? I have done very little research when it comes to English. Just wondering if this writing curriculum + a separate grammar curriculum would be a bit much… Thank you for your review, and for any info you have to give me!

    1. WriteShop covers things like: descriptive writing, narrative writing, biography, persuasive writing, essays (including timed), letter to the editor, etc. We use Easy Grammar/Daily Grams for grammar.

    2. I just bought WriteShop Junior “Book D” at a homeschool convention yesterday! It was kind of an impulse buy, but my gut told me it would be a good fit. But it was also my first time buying any kind of curriculum (we only started homeschooling just a few months ago, after finding out our son has dyslexia and dysgraphia) so here I am online this morning checking out reviews to make sure I made a good purchase. I am SO GLAD to read here that someone w/ dsylexic kids is using these materials! Thank you, Kris, for writing your review.

      I also wanted to answer Ashley’s question… With a kid going into 6th grade, t sounds like you’d want to buy their “Book E”. I can’t tell you for sure if that set has grammar incorporated but I can tell you that “Book D” does, and that was one their selling points to me- that they include that stuff (parts of speech, punctuation, etc) within the lessons, not separately. That way, it’s taught/practiced in context and also not overwhelming and doesn’t seem like a chore. I recommend emailing the company to ask about Book E just to confirm, but I’m guessing it does include grammar as well.

  8. My 5th grade dd, Gracie, has tons of grammar and copywork with Writitng with Ease and FLL, but I noticed last night that she just doesn’t have a creative writing outlet – which she loves and is excellent at – that guides her along and helps her learn the steps to “good” writing. So, I thought this might be a fun supplement to do together – 1 or 3 years. Whatever. Any thoughts?

    1. WriteShop has several levels in their “Junior” series. I would think one of those might be a fun option for her.

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