Middle School Composition Course {Review}

When my older kids were younger, I took care of teaching writing on my own. It worked well for that season of life. This season, however, finds me in a different place in life. So when we were offered the chance to review Jump In, 2nd Edition from Writing with Sharon Watson, we bit…reluctantly, I’ll admit, since I’m sometimes loathe to give up my one-on-one time with my students.

Spoiler alert: Elijah (13) loves Jump In! If it’s enough for you that a teen boy loves his writing course, you can just hop on over to their website. Ha! Meanwhile, I’ll be over here talking about the program a little more.

Jump In is promoted as a way to get reluctant writers enthusiastic about writing, and at the same time giving enthusiastic writers direction and fun. We believe that Sharon Watson accomplished that goal with resounding success!

Let’s jump in!

The set comes with a teacher’s guide and a student textbook. Whenever I see a teacher’s guide, I’m like, “Whoa! Is this going to involve work?” Ha! Rest assured, the course is written to the student as much as possible. There are some duties that you will have as a teacher/parent, but honestly it isn’t much. It’s basically an open-and-go course. You as the parent will have to do some evaluations of their writing, but the course guides you along on what to look for and how to assess. I personally don’t have a problem with this, but I know this is an area that strikes fear in the hearts of many a homeschool parent. Relax. Please, please…relax. The teacher’s guide has you covered. And, again, the course is “write” up my alley–open and go.

The forms of writing the student will be covering include the following:

  • Opinions
  • Persuasion
  • Cause and effect
  • Newspaper article
  • How-to
  • Report
  • Biography
  • Compare and contrast
  • Book report
  • Book response
  • Description
  • Narration
  • Poetry

The student begins with a section about getting your feet wet, so the student starts with some fun, stress-free activities. It then progresses through the different forms of writing. Each form is broken down into clear, simple skills. Each skill is explained with directions and examples, and then the student has an opportunity to practice that skill. It’s not overwhelming at all.

At the end of the book is a “locker” where the student’s “tools” are kept, such as the mistake medic, proofreading tools, paragraph outline, and numerous other invaluable tools that any person should master to become an effective writer.

The teacher’s manual also has what are called 10-minute writing plunges for the student to tackle in a fun, low-pressure way throughout the course. With this optional addition, the teacher can expand the course with more writing assignments. These are not (initially) graded, so the paralyzing fear of other people reading isn’t there.

The teacher’s guide also includes a schedule for the course, breaking it up for completing the course in one, two, or three years. I love flexibility, because, honestly, the number of times I have told myself we’re going to finish this in a year is just about the number of times I have not finished in a year. (Just FYI, my instructors never finished a textbook in all twelve years of regular schooling, so I don’t feel too badly. We do actually finish…just not always within a school year.)

Just like the student book has a locker, the teacher’s guide offers a teacher’s backpack. It is jam-packed with tools similar to those of the student, as well as additional helps for the teacher. One personal favorite is the article “Why a Reluctant Writer Hates to Write (and What You Can Do About It).” Just so you know, the short, incremental lessons and low word counts in this set are key for reluctant writers. Shazam!

Regarding evaluation, there are sample essay evaluations in the guide. There are also answer keys for the question and answer sections of the student book. Finally, there are grading grids for all the writing assignments. While, yes, these are somewhat subjective, don’t let that scare you away. Doing something with your student is better than doing nothing in most cases. What do I mean?

When my now young adults were young, I tried a couple writing courses which turned them off to writing instead of igniting a zeal for it. That was a sad turn of affairs, since they loved writing their own books, writing letters, and playing with words. In that case, doing nothing was preferable to doing something. In the case of Jump In, your student will benefit from the course even if you aren’t entirely capable as an assessor or as a writer yourself. My personal belief is that it is better to have your student do this course without you rather than not do anything at all. It’s a great course.

Now, each lesson in the course is different, but I’m going to show you the incremental approach to building skills from just one of the lessons, so you get the basic gist of it. I opened the student book randomly and landed in biography, so…I skipped it and went to how-to. Ha! Honestly, I have sold more how-to articles than biographies, so let’s take a look at that.

As I said, the lessons are broken up into skills. Here they are in order:

  • Skill 1: I know how to do this. Check off skills you already know. Teach someone how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
  • Skill 2: Evaluate these students. Another student’s PBJ instructions are included. Can you follow the instructions successfully, or are they lacking?
  • Skills 3 and 4: The essay method for turning a list into a how-to. Exercises are included, but the only writing is answering three questions.
  • Skill 5: The instruction-manual method for turning an a list into a how-to. This includes in-book evaluation exercises, but no writing.
  • Skill 6: The assignment. The student has two options. There is also a writing schedule to guide the student so the blank screen does not paralyze him or her.
  • Skill 7: Checklists. There is a checklist for each of the two types of how-to writing, essay and instructional. Self-evaluation comes before turning the paper in for a final grade.

Do you see how each skill is broken up into many days, and even how each skill, such as the assignment, is broken up further to guide the reluctant reader? With the ability to stretch this into three years, your student can learn slowly and painlessly, while your enthusiastic writer and be putting out pages and pages of work as he or she works through the lessons more quickly and spends extra writing time on the extra writing plunges.

You will still need a grammar course for your kids. Please.

As you know, many of the products we review are great, but don’t get to stay in the trailer. This one is sticking with us. In fact, I plan to buy the consumable student book again (also available as a digital product) for Rebecca in a few months…or maybe now. I love that he’s been using it independently and bringing his work to me to “peek at.” He’s progressing at a comfortable rate for him (although I’m going to challenge him to move a leeeeeeetle faster) and is learning to love writing. Don’t believe me? Read this:

Elijah’s thoughts:

I really love this curriculum. When I started, I exceedingly hated writing, now it’s my second favorite subject. I superbly love how it breaks it down into smaller parts, and the lessons are quick so it’s easier to stay focused. My previous course had long boring lessons and I always wanted to skip it, but this one I’m always excited to do it. I definitely want to continue this course through the whole year.

Of course, that’s all time-dependent, ’cause look how he’s voluntarily spending his time this morning:

The baby caught an entertainment center. Elijah to the rescue. She will not let go. Ha!
Napping in the library at St. Paul’s in Slinger, Wisconsin. He wouldn’t let me take her. He insisted on being her napping place. Hearts!

Follow Writing with Sharon Watson on social media. This isn’t her only product. You can find all sorts of writing instruction to suit your family’s needs.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writingwithsharonwatson
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Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew’s other reviewers’ reviews. (Whew. Say that once slowly. Forget five times fast.) Every family has a different experience, so find the family that most closely resembles yours and have a read! Thank you!

Comments

  1. Christy, thank you for your wonderful review of Jump In, 2nd Edition and for Elijah’s thoughts on it as well.

    I think my favorite part was “the number of times I have told myself we’re going to finish this in a year is just about the number of times I have not finished in a year.” SO TRUE!

    Okay, maybe my favorite part is that writing has now moved from Elijah’s most hated to second-favorite subject. That was a need-a-Kleenex kind of moment for me. (And I would love to know what his most-favorite subject is!)

    Have a great summer traveling!

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