Sep 18, 2010

Write Guide Review

I was contacted at the beginning of the summer by Write Guide.com's founder to do a review of their site and was given a one month trial account for my daughter to try it out. As writing is the most stressful subject in our household and the program sounded intriguing, I thought we would give it a whirl ~ I also managed to get KM to agree to try it.

Here is some company info -
WriteGuide.com, also known as Ludwig Education Services, LLC, is a small, family-owned business that serves homeschool families and adult learners, providing them with their own private writing teachers. We also work with many independent-study charter schools in California and Alaska. Founded in 1998, we remain devoted to providing homeschoolers with daily, 100% individualized writing instruction. To learn more about our teaching approach and methodologies, please review our Homepage, and our company's philosophy and mission statement. All schools, businesses, and individuals are welcome to contact our main office via the information on our Contact Us page.

What to Expect During the Course

Every time a student or parent writes to his or her writing consultant, the writing consultant will always respond within 24 hours (unless it's a weekend or holiday), providing whatever lessons or feedback are necessary to help the student move forward with the project. Enough instruction will be provided to give the student about half an hour to 45 minutes of work per day, so that the student can then write back to his or her writing consultant to receive more instruction. Ideally, students should write to their writing consultants every day, Monday through Friday, so that they'll receive five sets of individualized lessons, feedback, and instruction per week. Students can take as much time as they need before responding to their writing consultant, but please be aware that the consultant won't write back until the student has responded to his or her last message! Upon hearing back from his writing consultant, a student should complete the assigned work, and should respond with a message and a draft of his paper. Parents can also send one message per day to their child's writing consultant, in addition to the message or paper that the student sends. We like to view our course as a partnership between two teachers (the parent and the writing consultant), and so frequent parent input is both anticipated and appreciated.

I started out by describing KM and the issues that she has had with various writing programs as well as the situations that had occurred in PS. Then they assign a teacher based on this information. When we first were contacted by the teacher I was unaware that they hadn't passed the information on, but expected me to reiterate it. This made no sense to me because I had put a lot of time and thought into the description of my daughter because I thought the teacher would be seeing it and using it to set up a plan of action for her. Instead once the teacher was chosen she contacts both the child and parent through the
mywriteguide portal not knowing anything about the child(ren).

There are a lot of really great options available - see four approaches, about midway down the page - and I choose for the teacher to decide what she thought would be a good place for KM to start, given her reluctance to write and it was decided that she should work on a simple report. The teacher did a great job of getting KM to pick a topic, ready to research and explained how to collect bibliography information thoroughly. She then gave her an extremely well thought out outline to use to organize her information. KM decided to research Neptune and then, after researching and with the help of the teacher, decided to focus specifically on the Voyager 2's missions and info collected on Neptune.

We lost a day of the program because KM and I were unaware that she had to respond to the teacher after her first initial "Hi there" email in order for the teacher to email her back. While I understand the want and need to ensure the anonymity and security of our children on the Internet, as well as keeping a record for the program and teachers' safety, but this portal thing is a bit of overkill in my opinion. The teachers "can't" send a message to the student unless the student replies to the previous message. I really think it would be beneficial if the system emailed you when you had new messages, there were 3 days that she had to keep checking back in throughout the day in order to see if she had gotten a message yet and didn't get responses until very late in the day.

The parents have to log into there own portal in order to see what is going on as well, which while easy enough to do, is just another thing to check on. The other drawback to this is that they can only respond back and forth once in a 24 hour period. KM is very much a seize the moment type of learner and when she has a question she wants the answer fairly quickly. This lapse in time caused a lot of momentum to be lost. I felt like I had to hold back from stepping in in order to see what was going to happen and I have to say it was agonizing for me as she was putting a lot of effort in, but then had to wait for so long to get the responses or feedback that she needed to move on to the next step.

Things get hectic in the summer and in case you haven't been to my blog lately, they were totally kooky here for a bit. So there was a Monday to Thursday stretch that KM didn't log into her account and I was surprised when I logged into mine that the teacher hadn't sent me a note asking anything about whether she was okay or if she was having trouble and afraid to ask or anything. The program runs on a month to month payment basis and if your child is missing a good junk of days, I would kinda expect some sort of acknowledgement to the lack of participation.

KM worked very hard on this report and she really seemed to be understanding what the teacher was saying. I helped her stay on task as I was hopeful that she would complete the entire paper before the month was up. Even with some of the previous hurdles, she did manage to keep progressing. On the day that the program was to expire, the teacher sent a message asking her to send her final draft and any last questions in her final email. KM was excited to have it completed, get final feedback and wanted to know how to complete the bibliography, however the program email interface did not allow us to do so. If I had know that this was how the program worked I would have had her email the full draft the day before with her question about the bibliography, instead of just the tweaks she had made to her conclusion paragraph. I emailed the office in regards to this and they gave a very timely response of "Thanks for writing! Your course was scheduled to end today, but we're going to extend it by a day so that Mrs. xxx can review the final draft. " which I was happy with. I do not however know if this is something that would have been done for everyone or just something that was done for me because they knew I was reviewing the site ~ I try to not be cynical, but the person that responded was the person that initially contacted me to do the review.

The teacher was very encouraging and really gave some great feedback, formats and suggestions in a very positive way. I think that in theory this program is a good idea and although it was a great learning experience for KM, she picked up some good tips, and the final paper that she produced was far better than she or I expected, it just isn't for us. I am super picky about where I spend my money and with my homeschooling dollars even more so. It might be a good fit for more advanced and/or independent writers, but from the stand point of the parent of a reluctant writer it just doesn't seem to be what we need. It must have some sort of staying power that I am missing as they have been around since 1998. I think that the biggest issue is that I feel if I am going to be paying $75 a month for a writing tutor I don't want to have to teach writing at all. With this method and the lack of instant information, guidance and direction I think I would have to step in far more than I would be willing to.

Thanks to Write Guide for allowing us the opportunity to review your product!
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