Teach Writing Stress Free With Here To Help Learning - Review
Teaching writing can be a real challenge sometimes. I've looked for a long time for a writing program that would be a good fit for all of our children. This can be a real challenge! I'm teaching a wide range of ages and each child has their own learning style.
What Is Here to Help Learning?
Here to Help Learning is a Christian writing program for grades 1 to 6. The program was created by Beth Mora who is a mother of 8 and has been homeschooling for about 20 years. Beth's style of teaching is very hands on and high energy, but she found after her older children had finished school and moved from home it was harder to teach her youngest child in the same way.
To help solve this she started a tutoring group for other homeschoolers to build a co-op like setting for her daughter.
Beth intended to have just a small program of about 5 students for a few days a week. However five years later it had grown to about 60 families and she was teaching 8 different classes each week!
During this time she had shared a worksheet she created with another homeschooling mother who loved it and encouraged her to put it online and share it with homeschool families. Here to Help Learning grew from there!
Here to Help Learning is very different from any other writing program I've tried. It makes heavy use of video based instruction. Mrs. Mora teaches the concept of the lesson to your student and a group of children in the video at the same time. Often Mrs. Mora is dressed up as a character to introduce the lesson and it leaves my children laughing so hard!
The program is split into 2 basic concepts learning how to write paragraphs and learning how to write essays. The paragraph program is intended for grades 1 to 3 and the essay program for grades 4 to 6. Each of these topics are split into 3 levels called flights.
What I love is that the paragraph flight and it's matching essay flight are compatible with each other. This means you can teach all of your children or a co-op group the same lesson with just slight differences between the groups. This helps to keep everyone on the same page working together without holding anyone back or leaving younger children lost in the dust.
Essay flight level 3 is a little bit different because it is about writing your own 6 chapter book! This level is recommended for children in grades 4 to 8 and have completed at least 1 previous essay level. In this level, children learn from professional Christian authors on how to create their own book.
The program includes scripted lessons and worksheets that make it so easy to use.
You do not need any textbooks.
Simply print the worksheets and help your children to file them in their writing binders in the correct order.
The teaching foundation is Christian and God is talked about often in the lessons.
There is a Bible verse about working well that children practice memorizing each week.
Children also work on real writing projects that they can publish to have a real sense of accomplishment.
Here to Help Learning can be used as an online program or you can buy DVD's and workbooks.
How We Have Been Using Here to Help Learning
When I first started using Here to Help Learning as part of our writing program I decided to keep things simple for now and start all of our children in the paragraph program.
My reasons for doing this is because although I feel my oldest child could use the essay program I wanted her to have some extra practice and really solidify the basics before she starts high school level work next year.
I'm planning to use the essay program with her starting later this year. Since the basic topics in the paragraph and essay programs are similar in each flight level anytime I want to I can move some of my children up to the essay level and still keep us all on the same page.
As I mentioned the paragraph program is intended for grades 1 to 3 and the essay for grades 4 to 6 however, the paragraph program is an excellent resource for older children who have special needs or just struggle with writing.
Our children are strong right brain learners and some are dyslexic. This means their process for learning to write in an organized way is different from children who are left brained. I find that most writing programs are taught in a very left brain way and this just doesn't work well for our children.
Here to Help Learning is different it works well for both left and right brain learners!
When you first log into your account area all the different parts of the writing program are accessed from a drop down menu. The first option is the Resources tab. This is where you find all of your teacher guides and information.
Writing Overview/Teacher's Guides
Writing Warm-Up Gallery
Making An Essay Folder
Making a Yearly Writing Portfolio
Master Supply List
What are Discovery Tickets?
Writing Program Video Overview
Write A Book Wings & Winging Ceremony
Professional Publishing Options
Student Language Helps Booklet
I can't say enough how spending time exploring the resources above will help you understand how this program works. It's filled with ideas and examples to help you with your writing lessons.
The next tab is Writing and under this is listed Flight 1, Flight 2 and Flight 3. Clicking on any of these takes you to the page for that flight level lessons.
Here you can select either the paragraph lessons or essay lessons for each lesson of that flight level.
The next tab is Literature and here is their new study on Island of the Blue Dolphins. I haven't tried this out yet, but I'm looking forward to it!
The remaining tabs are for contact information, FAQ's etc. The FAQ area has answers to many important questions and gives tips for using their paragraph program with older children as well.
The first thing I did when using Here to Help Learning was to set up my children's writing binders. Then I printed the worksheets for the first lesson and helped them to file these in the right sections. I also printed a copy of the Student Language Helps Booklet for each of them.
At first, I wasn't sure that it would be worth it to print for my youngest children, but after looking at it I did. This is a simple and visual writing reference that will be used by them for years to come.
After you select what flight level you want to work on and open the lesson the page is very easy to use. At the top is a video playlist for the lesson and right under it is the worksheets you need to print.
The first few pages are a step by step guide for the parent/teacher and after that, there are a few writing worksheets for the children.
So Just What Does A Lesson In Here to Help Learning Look Like?
You start playing the video playlist that starts with the short Pre-Flight Checklist. This is Mrs. Mora dress as a flight stewardess and she welcomes them to the class and reminds you what supplies are needed for that lesson and to have a happy attitude.
The next video is also very short and it's called the Flight Check-In. In this Mrs. Mora reminds the children to hand in their flying solo work from the last lesson and for the parent to hand out the discover tickets (rewards).
Then the scripture memory verse is practice and she explains some word definitions from the verse for the children.
The next video is the Take Off, this is the part that gets my kids excited! It starts off playing a game that teaches grammar. For example, the game sentence no sentence was taught in the first lesson.
In the second lesson your prompted to pause the video and play the game again as a review with your children. This game teaches children what a sentence is and the idea is you take turns saying a sentence or an incomplete sentence.
If the kids think it's a sentence they give a thumbs up, if it's not then they give a thumbs down. Then to make it more challenging you give partial phrases and the kids need to turn them into a complete sentence.
This might sound really simple, but guess what it worked!! My children really understood what a complete sentence was after playing this game. It was so much more effective than just telling a young child that a sentence is a complete thought.
The next activity is using your writing warm up worksheet together. It has an interesting picture at the top and together you brainstorm a list of 6 words to fill in your word box. After they have finished coming up with their 6 words, they are given a list of writing challenges to pick from.
For younger children or struggling writers, it could be copying the words in the word box or thinking up more words about that picture prompt. Older children or avid writers could complete a short story.
Then Mrs. Mora get's the kids moving! They all stand up and practice together the writing process. This is done by memorizing the steps starting with brainstorming and ending with publishing. Each step has hand gestures to help them remember what they are.
Then they learn the next step in the writing process and talking about what they would like to write about.
All through this process, Mrs. Mora is giving examples of herself or the children she's working with on how each step is done.
The last section of each lesson is the Flying Solo assignments. This is where the children are given a short assignment that is based on what they learned in the writing process that day. The cool part is this assignment is given by Captain Knucklehead.
Who is Captain Knucklehead you might be wondering? It's the Mora's hound dog! This really gets my children giggling. This assignment is meant to be done on a different day from the video and game work.
What I Think Of Here to Help Learning
I've been using Here to Help Learning as part of our homeschool writing program for the past month. I have to say that I'm truly impressed with this writing program! It is the first writing program that I've used with my children and have had them all beg to do it!
If I let them they would work on more than one lesson a day. Here to Help Learning is designed to do 1 lessons a week and provides 1 years worth of lessons in each flight level this way. I do plan to move up to working on daily lessons with my older children to build their foundation a little faster.
Then when we get to a point in the program that the work is more challenging we will slow back down to working on 1 lesson a week.
Sample writing warm up from our first lesson.
I think the only downside I've found with this writing program is the amount of printing I had to do. This is really only a concern for the first lesson. Since I was using this with 5 children I had to print 5 copies of the student language helps book and it's 36 pages long and full colour.
However, I found this book to be very worth printing! It explains step by step the entire writing process in a way easy for children to understand. A version of this book is available for the paragraph level, essay level and another one for students writing their own book. After the first lesson your only printing out a few pages each week.
Beth Mora stresses 2 things in her lessons that I strongly agree with. First is that families should not compete within each other because it doesn't build a good environment for working together. Instead, they should work together and help each other with their learning.
The second is children should work at the ability level that is right for them. If your child is not writing on their own yet they can dictate the answers for you to write down. If they are able to copy a word or two down on their own that's great! If they are able to write a sentence or more on their own let them do it. If they can write a full story then go for it!
Each child can work on the same writing lesson but at their ability and should not feel bad for not being able to do the same level of work that another child can.
This fits in so well with my philosophy of learning. I'm very eclectic in our learning styles but heavily influenced by Charlotte Mason’s methods. I find that the teaching methods in this program work very well with how I like to teach writing. Perhaps I could describe it as Charlotte Mason influenced with a visual, interactive right brain twist.
The writing lessons are based on using pictures as story starting prompts. Then you work as a group to brainstorm lists of words you would like to use in your story. These are written on a whiteboard and the children can copy them down into their word box. Later after talking about your ideas each child writes their own story.
To me, this is similar to a written narration except that it's a work of original fiction. Children work on meaningful writing projects that they help to choose and the goal is publishing their work in some form.
One of the key parts of the lesson for me is the videos. They are organized into short clips for easy navigation. The videos are high energy but also easily and clearly explain the topic. They are funny enough to get my children giggling like crazy, OK me too! At the same time they are not annoying ( not cartoons with silly voices) to watch and are a very fun way to introduce writing and grammar games.
I have to say my favourite part is that this writing program is very biblical based. Beth is always pointing the children back to scripture as a guidance to do our best work and I love that.
Videos lessons are short, fun and do a great job of explaining each part of the lesson.
There are multiple flights/levels so you can use this program for years over many grade levels.
As children work through the lessons they learn many types of writing.
It makes my children laugh! The writing warm-ups and games have entertaining skits with Mrs. Mora and Captain Knucklehead that keep my children interested.
This program is not overwhelming. Since it's intended to be used 2 days a week for a school year it doesn't pull a lot of time from your other subjects.
If you would like to try out Here to Help Learning you can access the program for FREE for 1 day and download their quick language reference chart for free to!