Homeschool Writing Curriculum: 17 Actually Engaging Options

The specifics of a writing curriculum will vary, but a comprehensive curriculum should cover a progression of skills, increasing in complexity and sophistication from elementary to high school. Here's which homeschool writing programs best prepare kids to be great writers.

Emily Veno
• 
July 21, 2023

Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community.

The Power of Being a Great Writer  

Living in an era dominated by rapid technological advances and artificial intelligence, it’s harder than ever, as educators and homeschooling parents, to figure out what skills kids will need to succeed in the future.

For example, why should we care about writing in the age of AI? Will technology make traditional skills like writing obsolete? On the contrary, at Prisma we believe the rise of AI makes writing more important than ever. While AI can generate text and even mimic human-like writing, it lacks the nuance, critical thinking, and empathy that are the hallmarks of human communication. The best human writers will always be able to use their command of language arts to influence others.

Plus, the practice of writing skills is important for children’s brain development. As Flannery O’Connor aptly stated, "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." The writing process enables us to crystallize our thoughts, stimulating disciplined and critical thinking—a skill that remains irreplaceable by AI. Whether it's a scientist explaining a complicated theory or an entrepreneur pitching their company to investors, the ability to articulate thoughts clearly & with originality is indispensable.

Moreover, writing fosters empathy. Writing, especially creative writing, allows us to imagine and understand different perspectives—an emotional skill that even the most advanced AI lacks. Empathy is vital for personal relationships, teamwork, and any profession involving human interaction.

Furthermore, writing teaches resilience. It's a journey filled with trials and errors. Children learn to handle setbacks, receive criticism, while continuously revising their work, skills that instill adaptability and persistence.

And it's a skill where we see a worrisome trend. According to a recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report, only 27% of students in America achieved or exceeded proficiency in writing. This statistic rings alarm bells about the declining writing skills among our children.

As we guide our children's learning paths at home, our responsibility extends beyond teaching writing. Our aim is to help them appreciate writing as a tool for thinking, empathizing, and persevering. Despite the rise of AI, the art of writing is here to stay. It's not just a skill, it's a compass—a compass that will guide our learners to navigate the evolving landscape of the future with thoughtfulness, empathy, and resilience.

Selecting a Homeschool Writing Curriculum: Key Factors

Choosing a homeschool writing curriculum is a crucial decision, as it will greatly impact your child's development of writing skills. Here are some key factors to consider:

  1. Your Child’s Interest in Writing: Is your child a very reluctant writer who may need an online app with gamified elements or lots of varied, hands-on worksheets to stay interested? Or is your child a voracious reader & enthusiastic future author who might do better with open-ended journaling, creative writing prompts, and research papers on topics they’re interested in?
  2. Your Child’s Learning Needs & Style: If your child has any learning differences, such as dyslexia, ADHD, or autism, you should evaluate any possible curriculum for accommodations and supports. Also consider the way your child prefers to learn. Do they like variety or lots of structure? Pen and paper or digital? Visual, audio, or hands-on?
  3. Level of Interaction: Consider the level of interaction the curriculum offers. Does it provide opportunities for discussions, peer review, or one-on-one feedback sessions? Interaction can often boost motivation and improve learning outcomes. You could even look for programs that offer live online instruction (we share a few options below).
  4. Alignment with Goals: What are your goals for your child's writing education? Do you want them to homeschool permanently, or do you hope to have them transition to a more traditional high school or college? If so, make sure the curriculum you choose prepares your learner to write aligned to Common Core standards, and make sure you feel comfortable supporting them.
  5. Flexibility: Look for a curriculum that allows flexibility in pace and approach. Every child is unique and might not fit into a rigid learning structure.
  6. Incorporation of Writing Process: The curriculum should teach the writing process – brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. This will help your child understand that good writing often involves rewriting and refining.
  7. Grammar and Mechanics: While the primary focus might be on developing expressive and organized writing, the curriculum should also help your child learn the grammar and mechanics necessary for clarity and correctness. But we personally feel at Prisma that too many grammar drills can be counterproductive, and many writing experts recommend teaching grammar mostly in the context of a real writing assignment after elementary age.
  8. Integration with Other Subjects: Writing is a skill that can and should be integrated into other subject areas. A curriculum that encourages writing across subjects can foster more meaningful learning experiences. At Prisma, all writing happens in the context of our fun interdisciplinary themes, like Cities of the Future (where kids wrote a speech proposing a new law for their dream city), Build a Business (where kids wrote a business pitch), and Unsolved Mysteries (where kids wrote research-driven podcast & video scripts for a real life mystery).

Writing Curriculum Guidelines by Grade Level

The specifics of a writing curriculum will vary, but a comprehensive curriculum should cover a progression of skills, increasing in complexity and sophistication from elementary to high school. Here's a broad guideline to assess curriculum options, or if you feel like building your own curriculum from scratch:

Elementary School Writing Curriculum

At Prisma, elementary school writers focus on developing key skills in our live Literacy Labs & completing writing missions connected to our project-based themes. Content covers:

  1. Sentence Structure: Understanding the basic elements of a sentence, like nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and how to construct simple sentences.
  2. Paragraph Writing: Introduce the concept of a paragraph, topic sentences, and supporting sentences. Graphic organizers often help in this process.
  3. Basic Grammar and Punctuation: Understanding the rules of capitalization, the usage of periods, question marks, and exclamation points.
  4. Story Writing: Introduction to narrative writing, creating simple stories with a beginning, middle, and end.
  5. Writing for Different Purposes: Practice writing informative, persuasive, and narrative pieces.

Middle School Writing Curriculum

Middle school Prisma learners build up to longer writing assignments to prepare for high school writing, and increasingly complete multiple revisions and use peer feedback to perfect their work. They build skills of:

  1. Advanced Grammar and Punctuation: Dive deeper into the intricacies of grammar and the use of more advanced punctuation marks like semicolons and colons.
  2. Essay Writing: Understanding essay structure, crafting thesis statements, and creating coherent arguments.
  3. Narrative Writing: Developing complex narrative techniques, such as point of view, character development, plot structure, and dialogue.
  4. Research Skills: Learning how to conduct research, evaluate sources, and incorporate evidence into their writing.
  5. Revision and Editing: Strengthening the ability to revise and edit their own work for clarity, coherence, and correctness.

High School Writing Curriculum

Prisma high school students develop real-world writing assignments for real audiences, preparing to share their writing with the world and developing college-ready writing skills:

  1. Advanced Essay Writing: Enhancing argumentative, expository, and analytical writing skills. Practice writing longer, more complex essays.
  2. Literary Analysis: Writing essays that analyze literature for theme, symbolism, and other literary devices.
  3. Research Papers: Learning to write comprehensive research papers with proper citation and referencing.
  4. Persuasive Writing: Developing the ability to write persuasively, shaping arguments and using evidence effectively.
  5. Creative Writing: Exploring different creative writing genres like poetry, short stories, and script writing.
  6. College Application Essays: Learning to write personal essays that can be used for college applications.
  7. Critical Thinking: Developing the ability to critique, analyze, and evaluate arguments in writing.

What's Prisma?

  • Prisma is an accredited, project-based, online program for kids in grades 4-12.
  • We exist to ignite a lifelong love of learning and prepare kids to thrive in the future.
  • Our middle school, high school, and parent-coach programs provide personalized curriculum, 1:1 support from educators, and cohorts where kids build community.

Online Homeschool Writing Programs

Live Online Writing Courses

If you don’t feel comfortable teaching or designing writing curriculum yourself, an online course can be a great way to give your learner an interactive, high-quality language arts curriculum.

Outschool

In a nutshell: Marketplace for online courses in all subjects, including writing. You can read teacher reviews and course descriptions to get a good feel of which classes will work best for your child (and try a bunch to see what works!)

Grade Levels: K-12 and above

Cost: Depends on the length, format, and teacher. Expect to pay around $10/class for most offerings, and up to $50/class for private, 1-to-1 tutoring.

Format: Depends on the class and instructor. Some courses may only be live sessions, and others may include asynchronous materials like worksheets, rubrics, and journal prompts.

Pros: Low-lift for parents, high interactivity; and often fun, engaging topics like Comic Strip Stories or Fan Fiction

Cons: If you switch instructors frequently, your child may have gaps in their knowledge or struggle to build momentum with one writing process

Written Out Loud

In a nutshell: Written Out Loud’s three core principles are transforming how kids learn - and love - to write. Prisma partnered with this organization the past two years and we can say that kids LOVE learning to write with this program. Kids write a whole book as part of a team.

Grade Levels: Ages 10+

Cost: Fee per class or camp. Current summer camp offerings are $529.

Format: In virtual courses (or in-person if a homeschool group reaches out to form a class together), kids work in teams to “break” a story in the style of Hollywood writers (decide verbally as a team what the story will look like) and then write their portions, ending in the publication of a full-length book!

Pros: Helps kids love writing, low-lift for parents, high interactivity

Cons: Doesn’t teach more traditional or “academic” forms of writing, so likely will need to be a supplement.

Prisma & Other Online Private Schools

Some homeschooling families choose to enroll in comprehensive online schools like Prisma, especially as their children get older and need more teacher support or rigorous curriculum. Although these options do charge tuition, they offer a comprehensive, intentional, expert-driven approach to academics (including writing) while still offering the personalization, flexibility, and environment of homeschooling.

Best Online Writing Apps & Websites for Homeschoolers  

Choosing an online program is great if you want something your learner can do at their own pace with minimal supervision from you. These programs can also be great at motivating learners by providing gamified elements (like points, badges, and achievements).

Essentials in Writing

In a nutshell: Former schoolteacher Matthew Stephens’ popular online program delivers direct instruction & writing practice aligned with the traditional way of teaching writing.

Grade Levels: K-12

Cost: $69-89

Format: A video-based online course with corresponding workbooks

Pros: Low-lift for parents with a consistent structure

Cons: May not be enough variety or interactivity for easily bored learners

Night Zookeeper

In a nutshell: A highly engaging game-based online world for kids to explore writing through mini games, interesting writing prompts, and drills

Grade Levels: Ages 6-12

Cost: Subscription costing about $9-13/month, depending on if you pay annually or monthly

Format: Learners sign on to the platform and explore the online activities freely. Parents can view insights into their progress on the back-end.

Pros: Both reluctant and enthusiastic writers tend to LOVE this platform, and the subscription model makes it easy to try out.

Cons: Doesn’t offer as much instruction as more traditional programs.

No Red Ink

In a nutshell: No Red Ink is used in 60% of school districts and although the platform is primarily built for teachers, homeschool parents can register for teacher accounts and provide their children access to this interactive, comprehensive writing program.

Grade Levels: Grades 3-12

Cost: Free version, plus a premium version with additional features

Format: A mix of targeted exercises to help students master sentence structure & grammar, scaffolded writing and revising activities for a range of genres, and diagnostics & quizzes to assess your learner’s skills

Pros: Research-driven, interactive, and incorporates learner interests (kids take a fun quiz at the beginning to tailor the curriculum to what they like to write about), plus built-in assessment (a rarity for writing platforms!)

Cons: Since it’s built for teachers, may not be user-friendly for solo homeschooling parents

Online Grammar & Comprehension Practice

At Prisma, we use grammar apps to supplement our more in-depth writing assignments. Some of our favorites are:

  1. IXL: We like their initial diagnostic and that you can assign individual skills to learners to practice. The format is not the most exciting or engaging, though.
  2. Freckle: Elementary school-age writers enjoy the gamified elements of this math & language arts platform.
  3. Quill: Built around the research-backed strategy of sentence combining & revising as a way to learn key grammar and mechanics, this tool is both free and highly effective (though it may get boring if used too often!).

Best Traditional Homeschool Writing Curricula

Brave Writer

In a nutshell: Brave Writer is a writing curriculum designed to help children discover their own unique voice in writing. It emphasizes creativity and individuality, incorporating various elements of language arts such as grammar, spelling, literature, and writing. This curriculum is by far the most popular one with Prisma parents!

Grade Levels: Pre-K to 12th grade

Cost: Individual online classes range from $99 to $199 per course. Home study courses are available from $79 to $149.

Format: Online classes, home study courses with lesson plans and teacher’s guides, and resources for self-study. The courses take a unique approach, focusing on having lots of conversations before getting writing out on the page.

Pros: The curriculum is flexible and customizable to meet the needs of each student. It also encourages a positive attitude towards writing, reducing stress and resistance. It’s great for engaging and empowering young writers.

Cons: The less structured format may not work for all families. Parents may need to be more involved and excited about teaching writing to ensure progress and there is no built-in evaluation or assessment.

The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)

In a nutshell: IEW is a tried-and-true homeschool curriculum option that employs a method that builds writing confidence and competence. It uses a structured and systematic approach, focused on helping students create quality writing pieces.

Grade Levels: K to 12th grade

Cost: The cost can range from $19 for single items up to $249 for a comprehensive level course.

Format: Mostly DVD-based courses, workbooks, and some online classes.

Pros: Provides clear instruction and step-by-step methods that are easy to follow. It is suitable for a variety of learning styles and abilities. The curriculum covers a broad range of writing styles.

Cons: It can be perceived as rigid by some and may stifle creativity for others. It is more traditional, we have found, than many Prisma parents are looking for. It might be too intensive for students who are not used to structured learning.

Classical Composition

In a nutshell: Based on the ancient principles of storytelling and rhetoric, Classical Composition is a rigorous writing program that leads students step-by-step through the process of writing. If you resonate with the classical approach to homeschooling, you’ll likely be drawn in by this approach.

Grade Levels: 4th to 12th grade

Cost: The cost can vary, but most books range from $15 to $30. DVDs range from $55 to $85.

Format: Textbooks and DVDs.

Pros: It provides a thorough, rigorous program that can help students become proficient writers. It's ideal for parents who prefer a traditional, structured approach to teaching writing, similarly to IEW.

Cons: According to curriculum reviews, it can be challenging and time-consuming. Some students may find it too rigorous or not creative enough.

WriteShop

In a nutshell: WriteShop is a writing curriculum that helps parents teach writing to their children in a step-by-step manner. It focuses on both the creative and mechanical aspects of writing.

Grade Levels: K to 12th grade

Cost: Books and resources range from $7 to $50. Full-set curriculum kits range from $120 to $160.

Format: Books, digital downloads, and online resources.

Pros: The curriculum is easy to use and provides parents with detailed lesson plans. It encourages more creativity than some of the traditional options above while still teaching the technical aspects of writing.

Cons: Some parents have found it to be too teacher-intensive. It requires more preparation than other programs.

Writing Strands

In a nutshell: Writing Strands provides a step-by-step approach to teaching writing, focusing on a broad range of skills such as creative writing, report writing, composition, and critical thinking.

Grade Levels: 2nd to 12th grade

Cost: Individual books cost about $20 each.

Format: Books.

Pros: Even though it’s step-by-step, it is flexible and can be adapted to suit individual student needs. It's also affordable.

Cons: It lacks extensive grammar instruction, and some parents find it lacks depth in certain writing skills. The book-only format may not work for some kids who need more varied types of assignments.

New York Times Writing Curriculum

In a nutshell: This is a modern, real-world-focused curriculum, drawing from The New York Times resources. It emphasizes critical thinking, research, and journalistic writing skills.

Grade Levels: Middle school to high school

Cost: The online resources from The New York Times are often free, but for detailed curriculum materials, cost can vary.

Format: Online, leveraging articles, essays, and multimedia from The New York Times.

Pros: It offers contemporary, engaging, and relevant content. It helps students understand and engage with current events. Great for developing research and critical thinking skills.

Cons: Less emphasis on creative writing. The content might be advanced for younger students. Parental guidance might be necessary due to potentially sensitive topics.

BJU Press Writing & Grammar

In a nutshell: BJU Press Writing & Grammar is a Christian-oriented program that emphasizes grammar and the writing process, incorporating both traditional and creative assignments.

Grade Levels: 1st to 12th grade

Cost: Subject kits can range from $100 to $150, while individual books can range from $15 to $40.

Format: Textbooks, workbooks, and tests.

Pros: The program provides a comprehensive approach to teaching grammar and writing. It's straightforward and structured, providing detailed lesson plans.

Cons: Some parents have found the curriculum to be too rigid and not engaging enough. The Christian worldview integrated throughout the material may not be appealing to everyone.

Well-Trained Mind

In a nutshell: Based on classical education principles, the Well-Trained Mind approach guides parents in crafting a rigorous, comprehensive homeschool curriculum.

Grade Levels: K to 12th grade

Cost: The core book "The Well-Trained Mind" costs around $20 - $30. Other resources' costs vary.

Format: Books and online resources.

Pros: It provides a detailed, rigorous roadmap for classical education at home. It is highly customizable, allowing parents to adapt to their children's learning style and interests.

Cons: It requires significant time and effort from parents. The approach may be too rigorous or structured for some students.

Does Your Writing Curriculum Prepare Your Kids for the Real World? 

At Prisma, one of our learning values is that education should prepare learners for the real world. 98% of Prisma parents say that our school does a better job preparing their learner for the real world than their last school. “The real world problem solving the learners do is unlike anything they do in more conventional schools,” says one parent. “If anyone tells you kids aren't ‘ready’ to consider meaningful topics like the world refugee crisis, neurodiversity, building a business, or scientific research, don't listen!”

When kids see why what they’re learning matters, they’re much more motivated and engaged. When we compartmentalize subjects, we make it unclear for learners how those subjects are used in the real world. When the only writing assignments you are given in school are to write 5-paragraph essays only your English teacher (or parent!) will read, you’re unlikely to grasp why writing is an essential skill in so many careers. Imagine if, instead, you’re asked to write a product pitch for an invention you developed to solve a real-world sustainability problem, like our learners did for the Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge in our interdisciplinary theme Wild Inventions. Prisma learners are still taught foundational writing skills, they’re just asked to apply them to real world problem-solving in an interdisciplinary way.

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