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  1. #1

    Default Ideas/suggestions for supplementing MCT language arts???

    My DS (age 9) has finished Grammar Island and Sentence Island, and I'm thinking about spending the rest of the year on unit studies that combine literature with writing. Up to this point, I've just been having him read a chapter or two everyday (or more if he wants), and then we would do some other language arts component separately a few times a week. Now, I would like to tie it all together. He does not like narration exercises (they have actually made him cry in the past), but I think he would be okay with answering specific questions about the text or doing some kind of simple writing exercise that is tangentially related to the text. I'm not creative enough to come up with things like that on my own

    I'm thinking about either using Brave Writer Arrow selections or getting something from Moving Beyond the Page (7-9). I'm really not sure how those two programs compare or if there are other programs like that out there.

    Does anyone have any suggestions?

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  3. #2


    I have often looked at Moving Beyond the Page but my issues with it have been that it is really expensive and the books are often older and not readily available (I try to not buy too many books and get as many out of our library as possible). You can print out samples to try and placement tests. So I would try those first before investing in it.

    We have used some Bravewriter Arrows. I find them quite good. My issue with them is that my daughter reads a book much faster than we can utilize all the material in an Arrow. So we will usually only get through half of it and the book is done and she does not want to go back to it. This means I only buy Arrows when they are on sale so that it does not matter so much that we don't fully utilize them. The Arrows are more about grammar though then they are about writing or answering questions about the text.

    For finding questions or activities related to a book, I have had a lot of luck either looking up the author's website (they often have free resources on there) or doing a search for the book name + study guide (or comprehension questions or something similar). There is a lot of stuff out there for free.

    Not sure what sort of books your child is reading, but I printed out some good, simple supplementary activities for a range of books from Middle Grade Mania.
    New Zealand-based. DD 10 (year 5 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 5 (year 0 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

  4. #3


    Thank you for the link to Middle Grade Mania.I read a sample for one of the books, and I couldn't stop reading! Luckily, it is at our library so I'll be adding it to his reading list asap. I have a hard time finding books for DS. He is an excellent reader for his age (he started reading Harry Potter on his own when he was six), but lately he has gravitated to silly books like the Bad Kitty series. I'm okay with that as long as he tries more challenging material, too.

    We just wrapped up the first week of the sample of Brave Writer Arrow, and my DS read the entire book in one sitting. I mean, it's James and the Giant Peach so I wasn't too surprised, but I don't think the Arrow will last a month like it is supposed to.

    He loves reading, but hates writing so Language Arts has stumped me. Even with MCT, he liked the books, but did not want to even try most of the suggested activities.

    I think I will buy the curriculum guide for a book we already have for MBtP 7-9 and see how it goes. The whole program just looks so intriguing, but I have found that DS does not always agree with me when I get exciting about a new curriculum

    Anyway, thanks again!

  5. #4


    Yes, we have the same issue with the Arrows. We generally manage to fit two weeks worth into one sitting of doing it, but then we don't use the other two weeks.

    These are some other sites for authors/books that my daughter has read that we found good discussion question guides for.

    Orphan Island (reading guide and teaching guide linked near the bottom).

    Books by Sharon Creech (my daughter has read Love that Dog, Hate that Cat, Chasing Redbird, The Wanderer, The Great Unexpected, Walk Two Moons, Ruby Holler, and maybe more. We went on a bit of a Creech binge when we discovered her books).

    Be Light Like a Bird (discussion guide link on page).

    The Word Hunters series.

    I don't think we found study guides for these ones, but the books by A F Harrold are great. We have read The Song from Somewhere Else, Greta Zargo, and The Imaginary.

    For finding books, I generally do a combination of looking through book lists from Build Your Library, Bravewriter, MBTP, recommendations from our friendly local librarians, recommendations from here, trawling through the new books section in the library catalog, looking at the awards lists for middle grade books, looking at what comes up on Amazon for recommendations based on my daughter's prior kindle reading, the Mensa for kids lists, lists on Commonsense Media, and just general searching for (reading list for X (e.g., a grade level or a specific interest or type of book).

    Have you tried the other Bravewriter stuff for writing, like the writing projects with Jot it Down and Partnership Writing or doing poetry teatimes and freewriting?
    New Zealand-based. DD 10 (year 5 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 5 (year 0 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

  6. #5


    We looked at Arrows and decided to go with Supposed the Wolf Were an Octopus by Royal Fireworks Press. It works much better for us!
    CJ (Mom)
    Bug: 8 years old
    Doodle: 4 years old

  7. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by NotYourName View Post
    We looked at Arrows and decided to go with Supposed the Wolf Were an Octopus by Royal Fireworks Press. It works much better for us!
    Thanks for suggesting this. It looks great and I like that I can get an e-book version. I have always meant to explore Royal Fireworks Press more but never had the time to really go through their resources and see what they had.
    New Zealand-based. DD 10 (year 5 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 5 (year 0 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

  8. #7


    Supposed the Wolf Where an Octopus does look great. Thanks for posting it. I will definitely pick that one up.

    I agree that Sharon Creech books are fantastic. I might do the Wanderer as a read aloud since I want to read it, too. We just found it recently because MBtP uses an excerpt for its 10-12 reading assessment.

    I keep going back and forth about Partnership Writing and Brave Writer in general because I'm not sure that it's a good fit for my son. I cannot imagine he would enjoy poetry teatime at all. Freewriting was an absolute bust, but some of the projects in PW look interesting. I do like Julie Bogart's relaxed and joyful style of homeschooling.

  9. #8


    Bravewriter is more about the philosophy, not so much a “here is exactly what you should do” system. When we were using it for picking our literature to read, we NEVER had a dud.
    Also, my boys LOVED poetry teas! Sitting around a table, eating freshly made treats, drinking (herbal) teas, and taking turns reading poems was one of the things my oldest really looked forward to! Grama would even come over.... Grama even brought a friend a time or two! We will still, on occasion, do a poetry tea, because they were that fun. (And we moved on to BYL for language arts and social studies).
    We used the Arrows as our literature guides, in retrospect, mostly to train me on what level of understanding and depth DS should have. The points she (Julie) would bring up led to open ended discussions - again, I at least, have fond memories of them.

    My understanding of MBTP is that it is a more comprehensive curriculum, like BYL, covering language arts, science, and social studies.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  10. #9


    Just from our experience, for my reluctant writer, Bravewriter (the philosophy) has 100% turned her around into someone who writes by choice, outside of "school work", without being asked, just because she enjoys it.

    We took her out of school in mid-2016 when she was 8. At that stage, she had screaming, crying meltdowns every single time writing was approached. She hated it with a vengeance. So I gave Bravewriter a go after reading about it on here. I think without trying it, it is really hard to comprehend what it is, but as Alexsmom says, its not about a packaged product that will tick X boxes off your writing curriculum, its about fostering a (hopefully) lifelong love of literature in all its forms.

    I never purchased or read the Writers Jungle, no time for that and it also seemed quite expensive. But I did grab some of the free samples of Arrows and ones on sale for half price (if you subscribe to the mailing list there are often half price sales on specific ones during the year), the free poetry teatime guide, and Jot it Down. We picked up doing copywork (starting with one sentence or less), freewriting (starting with absolutely no expectations), appreciating art, and watching movies to go with books. We did not make any of these really strict, rigorous things that we stuck to every week, which I think is another thing about Bravewriter, you don't want to force it.

    Poetry teatime you can really make it whatever you want. You don't have to have tea, you could have juice, or a smoothie. You don't have to sit at a table, you could chill out in some other spot in the house or outside. The point is to add some little enjoyable things to eat and drink, a nice relaxing spot to sit, and to just read the poetry and not get all analyzing on it. You can get poetry to meet all sorts of interest areas, sports, science, space, poetry in the form of books (free verse), or we had a really cool book about hip hop and poetry. So you can pick poetry that your child may like. If they don't like it, that is still a valuable lesson. It is also good in life to learn what we don't like. So far, we have not met a child or adult that did not like poetry teatime. We usually only do them about once a month but they are enjoyed by all.

    We only do freewriting occasionally for school work. But I have found something else my daughter likes to use are writing prompts. Write Shop has a lot of free things available. Like writing prompt calendars and story spinners.

    The other thing that helped for my very reluctant writer was to allow her to be in the Jot it Down stage to start with, I think we may have even done it till she was 9.5, and I would have let her do it longer if she needed to. This gave her the space to enjoy the art of composing without having to be the one to do the actually writing. The Jot it Down product gave me lots of ideas to do for that, but you could always try it with any writing projects you have by just transcribing or typing for your child. My daughter has a much lower processing speed than her other cognitive abilities, and she is also very visual spatial and struggling with writing is a common thing with both visual spatial and processing speed issues. So she had writing trouble coming at her from two directions.

    That may not sound like what your child's issue with writing is though. So another thing that may be valuable to you is to sit down with your child and ask them why they find writing tough and really listen to their point of view. I am very into the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions model by Ross Greene at the moment for solving issues in our house. The resources to do it are all free online at Lives in the Balance ( and But pretty much you would make an appointment with your child in advance (so you don't spring it on them) to sit down and discuss writing. Then you would ask specific questions (e.g., "I see you really find it difficult to complete work when I assign you X writing task to do, do you want to talk about what's happening here?"). Then ask more questions till you have got to the bottom of the actual problem. It may be something you have never imagined. The lighting or noise or chair or type of pencil/pen or something else may distract him. He may read the question and get ideas of things to research or draw and it frustrates him to have to write instead. He may still have some sort of struggle with the mechanical aspects of writing that is masked until he is asked to combine the mechanical aspects with composition. He may just find it boring, but ask drill further to find why it is boring. Then you go on to defining your adult concerns (e.g., "I worry that if you don't do these writing projects now that you won't be able to write an essay in high school" or answer questions on exams or whatever your worry is). The last step is to collaborate on solutions.

    At this stage, it sounds like you really want to do MTBP, but you have not asked your child if they would like to. There are free samples online, and the assessments for age levels have writing questions in them as well. Why don't you print out some of those to try before investing in buying one? We have used the free samples and the assessments (post getting my DD over her writing issues), and from my experience with them, they ask a lot of questions and require a lot of writing, that in her reluctant writer stage, my DD would have hated.

    Really from what you have described in your first post, it sounds like what might suit you would be planning out a year of reading from various lists online and finding ideas for activities from searching for free comprehension guides online. Things my daughter has loved have been like reading The Vanderbeekers and making double chocolate pecan cookies. She had to check the pantry and write out the shopping list of what we needed and write up the recipe.

    So after 2.5 years of this making writing fun, she actually at the end of last term wrote in her little review we do under the heading of "what I want to learn next": how to write a book report and an essay. So it does get you there in the end even if it feels a little airy fairy along the way.
    Last edited by NZ_Mama; 03-16-2019 at 04:26 PM.
    New Zealand-based. DD 10 (year 5 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 5 (year 0 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

  11. #10


    I don't know if you've ever heard of It's a wonderful website that has all kinds of articles related to every subject you can imagine. They gather the articles from very reputable newspapers, magazines and websites. You and your son can choose an article together (something fun or interesting)and when he is finished reading it, he can take a quiz, answer questions for comprehension or write a short paper on what he learned. My son really liked this site because the news was always changing and so were the articles. It kept him interested!

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Ideas/suggestions for supplementing MCT language arts???