I am a big advocate of Charlotte Mason style of learning to write. My older two kids tried the “school” concept of writing every day and working on spelling lists but we never seemed to achieve much and I was pushing away real writing, and writing they wanted to do because we had to do “school writing”. They were past the oral narration stage and wanted to write so I let them write whenever and whatever style they felt inspired by. I gave them a writing manual / resource book (which they took to bed as bedtime reading!) to answer any genre question they had. They were soon exposed to a lot of different writing issues, practices, genre, etc. I didn't teach them poetry (very un-Charlotte Mason I am sure!!) but before I knew it they were writing poetry that reflected their passions and thought processes. (We read very little poetry so I am not sure how this happened – LOL)
Both Jess and Josh are good, keen writers. (Though for Josh it is a talent/passion) They both have had opportunities to meet authors and discuss their writing with them. We signed Josh up for a writing course via email. It soon became apparent that the main benefit of this was the way he was being stretched to think beyond his comfort zone for writing ideas and style. This year Jess would have been the same age as Josh when he took that course so I started to look for a writing course that would stimulate them outside of their comfort zone.
An Australian homeschool supplier highly recommended Writing Strands for students aiming at university. That is what made me choose it in the end.
I like the gentle pace, the kids take themselves through it (ages 12 and 11) so I am only involved in the marking/correcting and helping them understand any concept they have obviously missed. I am finding it easily fits into our day (in fact Josh often does more than the one day's lessons) I like the way that it is not attached to school year levels though they do have ages as a guide (but not one book per one year). When the children are gripped with another writing idea I let them drop Writing Strands – after all, our reason for taking it on is for extension not to be their main writing.
As far as content goes – It is teaching the kids to look at the various components of writing (or choices writers make is how Five in a Row puts it!) But I have only got the 2nd book and haven't looked at any others though I presume they continue in the same vein.
Because of the ages of the children when we started we missed the first one (which has a suggested age of 7). Nomi is 8 and I have no thoughts of starting her on Writing Strands until she needs to be extended. I believe that the gentle pace of oral narrations, copy work, and written narrations will be a good start for at least another year for her.
So that is how I see Writing Strands and how we use it in our family.