When deciding which course to enroll in, the first consideration is course length.
Our annual courses run thirty-two weeks, not including holiday breaks. They are our most popular courses and are generally our first recommendation. Why? Simply, writing is a skill that develops over time, with practice, and annual courses provide the most practice.
Our annual courses are comprehensive courses that cover a wide range of writing types, including creative, academic, and practical writing. We think students benefit the most from our annual courses.
Annual courses, however, just don't work for everyone. That's why we created abridged versions of those courses that fit into a sixteen-week semester. They run at the same pace as annual courses, which means they simply contain about half of the lesson content and writing opportunities. Semester courses also include a variety of assignments, but do not include research papers or a focus on essay writing.
All semester courses are offered twice per year--in both the fall and spring semesters.
If you are looking for an a la carte approach, you should consider our workshops. Like the semester courses, our workshops were derived from the content in our annual courses, but they each focus on one particular type of writing. Some examples are short story writing, essay writing, and research paper writing. If your budget or time is limited, or you are only interested in a particular type of writing skill, workshops might be the best option for you.
Workshops are offered five times per year: four workshop sessions during the school year and a summer session.
Considerations for Annual Courses
We offer three middle school courses, roughly corresponding to grades 6 through 8. Generally, we recommend starting 6th graders with Middle School 1. This course, however, includes an eight-week review of basic sentence writing and paragraph construction. If your 6th grader is strong in these areas, you might consider starting with Middle School 2, which does only a cursory review of these topics at the start of the course.
Average or advanced 5th grade students are typically capable of starting with Middle School 1. We generally don't recommend enrolling students before 5th grade.
Seventh or eight graders who are advanced writers are free to start at the high school level, but we don't recommend it. Writing coaches will challenge even excellent writers regardless of the course they are taking.
The major difference among the high school composition courses is that High School 2, 3, & 4 include an essay writing workshop and a research paper in the second semester. In other words, the second semester of those courses is composed of a research paper workshop and one of our three essay workshops. See the chart below for the details.
High School 1 is considered our "foundations" course. We generally recommend that students in 9th or 10th grade start there. It includes a basic persuasive essay, but no research paper.
Think Long Term
WriteAtHome courses are designed to keep students writing in a variety of formats at a manageable pace over several years. Students who start young and stick with the annual course program through their high school years are well-prepared for college-level writing, having written multiple formal essays, literary assignments, and research papers. There is, of course, no obligation to stick with WriteAtHome over multiple years, but the annual courses are designed with this ideal.
In other words, if your student is starting in 9th grade or below, we recommend starting with the annual course that corresponds to his or her grade level and progressing through the courses sequentially. Easy-peasy.
Grade Level and the Tutorial Approach
Course selection can sometimes cause anxiety in new WriteAtHome families, but they soon realize there's no need to be anxious.
This is because our program is tutorial in focus. Parents often worry that a particular course will be either too easy or too difficult for their students. But what they always find eventually is that our courses are designed to adapt to the student's writing ability. Our writing coaches are tutors. Their job is to assess the writing ability of each student and push them toward improvement.
There is no passing or failing a WriteAtHome course. We don't give grades. We provide helpful assessment scores on final drafts of papers simply to help students identify areas of growth and areas where there is still room to grow. We place no expectations on students at the start of any class. They do not have to be "ready" for any particular course. Honestly, we're not really sure what being ready would mean.
That means we work with students with significant writing struggles--those with limited vocabularies and a poor grasp of basic grammar and syntax. And we also work with exceptionally gifted writers. All in the same course. Every student does some things well while needing help in other areas. No matter how remedial or gifted a student is, our coaches will point out both in every paper. We don't expect students to reach some kind of arbitrary writing goal. We expect them to get better and better as the course progresses.
For this reason, it really doesn't matter much what course you enroll a student in. At least grade level and writing ability are not much of a factor. For annual and semester courses, your best bet is usually to enroll the student in the course that aligns with their grade level.