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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Making writing an essential part of your school day. Schoolhouse Review Crew Review #HSREVIEWS

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   When we started 8th grade with Taylor this year I knew we were behind a bit with Alyx who is in 9th grade, the boys have always struggled with writing and so we have been moving a bit slow in this subject compared to other areas of our schooling. Essentials in Writing is a primary Language Arts/Writing curriculum that teaches the student the right way to write. This is what we needed, step by step program that will help guide the boys into being confident writers without overwhelming them. Both boys will be in High School next year and I want them to be able to catch up this year and the beginning of next to their grade level in writing mechanics. We have always found good language arts curriculums but never one that was a full package of language arts and grammar and writing from sentences to research papers. I think we have finally found that.

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   Essentials in writing is a curriculum that is taught using short DVD lessons from founder Matthew Stephens who is a former middle school English teacher. I love writing but find it is one of the hardest subjects for me to teach and put into words. When it is something that comes so second nature I often find it hard to articulate what needs to be done to another individual. This is why I was so drawn to want to review Essentials in Writing as it was video based lessons, more of an independent study, which is what we are trying to gain more of as the boys are getting older. Now I am not sure about the younger ages but we chose Eighth Grade and it is definitely an independent program and the boys loved that, they enjoy working at their own pace and that way as they each learn differently they can move as slow or as fast as they want.

   The Eight Grade curriculum is compromised of ...

Eighth Grade Curriculum - $40
Included:  DVDs with lesson-by-lesson video instruction and a CD-ROM with printable worksheets/assignment sheets/answer key in PDF format.  (they are in the process of replacing the CD-ROM with a downloadable file to keep the costs down) You also have the option for an additional $20 to purchase a pre-printed workbook, so you do not have to print the lessons out. For us I prefer the printable sort, since I have a laser printer that is cost effective as far as ink and then I can use it for both of my kids with out having to purchase additional workbooks, it is all a matter of preference at that point. 

   Now as your start the 8th Grade curriculum you are beyond the grammar and are moving into the mechanics and structure of writing good solid pieces. There are however some review of grammar but only in the video lessons, you will not find and printable worksheets for that. This was fine with us as we have pounded over grammar for the last couple of years and need to shift our focus to the actual writing of papers. For review purposes we did skip around a bit, the lessons go fairly swiftly depending on what the topic is, the research papers will be a bit more lengthy we have not tackled that portion yet, we are going back to where we skipped off for the review and work in sequence and build up to the research paper, I am not sure we will get to finish the book this school year as we are almost finished only about 2 more months left for us. We will most likely pick it back up in the Fall and finish it up by Christmas break. Alyx is a little more ahead of Taylor at this point so it all depends on how fast they are working. I am using it as a completely student led curriculum which has helped me tremendously this year. 

   The curriculum is divided up into 64 lessons, the first few lessons are focusing on clauses and compound and complex sentences. This is to be the first of the foundations of writing a strong paragraph. Next for chapter 6-12 the boys moved onto figurative language, as children on the Autism spectrum this is a particular challenging area as they do not express themselves as some. I was pleasantly surprised that they sailed through this area and actually liked it. This was an area they actually asked to complete in entirety.  After that they proceeded to begin the next few chapters, writing different types of paragraphs, such as persuasive and descriptive, they only did half the lessons in this book, I wanted them to focus on descriptive paragraphs, they both chose to write about our Fall road trip down south. It was fun to read each of their interpretations of our adventures and what they each focused on as the highlight of the trip. 

   After we jumped from the paragraph sections we jumped into the next 3 chapters which covered the mechanics of dialogue and the writing process. We then chose to jump over the personal narrative portion as I am saving that to go along with another subject after Easter. Which brought us to writing a summary, we used this portion to write a book report on Life of Pi. The last portion we managed to begin in the review timeframe was writing a compare/contrast business letter. The boys are working on that currently and I had them pick a business they liked of a certain product and write the similarities and differences of a business that is a direct competition. I cannot wait to see how this ends up. I will be sure to let you all know. 

You can check out the curriculum for yourself by visiting the following links...

  I have enjoyed watching my boys use this curriculum and find their inner spark for being a writer, writing just as reading can unlock adventure anytime you put your mind to it. I have seen great strides in their writing performance and also their confidence in writing. My boys have always struggled with writing which in turn caused a struggle with all of us. I think it may have been the way I was teaching it and this has helped take me somewhat out of the equation with the video lessons. I highly recommend Essentials in Writing whether you are struggling to teach writing, or if your students are struggling with writing, or you are just simply searching for a new curriculum for the upcoming new school year. They offer writing programs for all grades 1st through 12th, They also offer High School elective classes such as Creative and Technical writing courses. I am seriously considering the Creative writing class. If you have any doubts at all or are interested in hearing about the other grade levels be sure to check out the Schoolhouse Review Crew as we all chose the program that fit our homeschooling needs, there is sure to be a review about the program that will fit your family best. 


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