When Lauren saw the preview video for Here to Help Learning's online homeschool writing program, she begged to try it. The writing instruction is divided into either Paragraph Writing or Essay Writing, with three separate flights in each. Generally speaking, Paragraph Writing is geared towards students in grades 1-3, and Essay Writing is intended for students in grades 4-6. Since Lauren's still a beginning writer in terms of formal assignments, I opted to start with Paragraph Writing, Flight 1. Interestingly, the flights within each level can be done in any order. I chose Flight 1 because those assignments appealed to me most.
Here to Help Learning teaches a nine-step approach to completing a writing assignment, starting with brainstorming and ending with publishing. Thankfully, these nine steps are not expected to be completed in a single week. Each project is developed over the course of five or six lessons.
Each lesson is designed to be completed in a week, with the student working on it twice each week. The main instruction comes through video instruction by Mrs. Beth Mora and is supplemented with printable materials for each lesson. The materials were easy to find and print, but I found that our days went more smoothly if I printed out each lesson's materials ahead of time.
The first day is designated as Group Time and includes watching an online video. It is scheduled to take roughly an hour, from start to finish and it was fairly easy to divide the instruction into two separate sessions when Lauren's attention started to fade. For the most part the video was addressed directly to the student, but I was needed from time to time to help with an activity.
The instructional videos are lively and entertaining. They are perhaps the most striking feature of this program, and one reason that this program could be a good choice for visual learners.
Lauren particularly liked Mrs. Mora's video lessons, and I can tell she learned from the videos. The first lessons talked about brainstorming, and Lauren later was explaining to me about how brainstorming uses the creative side of her brain. A week or to later, she told me that she had to have a plain piece of paper (not lined notebook paper) in order to brainstorm ideas for a stopmotion video project she wanted to create.
I appreciate the way that this program allows the parent to adjust the activities to the level of the student. For instance, one part of the first lessons was an interactive game called Sentence or No Sentence. When we got to that part of the video, Lauren paused long enough to play a few rounds with me. By working with her on that part, I could vary the difficulty of my sentences (or fake sentences) to better match her ability level.
Throughout the materials, options are given for students of differing abilities. For instance, students listed six words that described a particular picture for a Writing Warm-Up activity. They were given eight minutes to write and these options for the assignment:
Parents are encouraged to help the student, whether that means serving as a dictionary so that the student doesn't have to worry about spelling or even serving as a scribe who takes dictation for the student who cannot yet write down their sentences.
So far in our lessons, Lauren has been working on her narrative writing assignment about something she learned to do all by herself. Later lessons in this flight will cover descriptive writing, persuasive writing, poetry and fiction.
Here to Help Learning offers a monthly membership with access to their entire website (all three flights for both paragraph and essay writing) for $6.99 per month. They also offer some of the materials in print form with DVD instruction (prices vary).
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