Learning to write well is a critical skill for children to learn. I never had to worry too much about teaching my two oldest kids to write well, because they seemed to intuitively understand the process. I just gave them lots of writing assignments and they produced good essays without much angst. The process with my 13 year old son however isn’t quite as easy. His writing is ok, but he is very much a “just the facts” kind of person, and is having trouble making his writing interesting, compelling and organized. I recently received a writing curriculum from Essentials in Writing to use with him and review.
Essentials in Writing has curriculums for 1st through 9th grade, and I reviewed the Ninth Grade curriculum, which focuses on essay writing and the research paper. The curriculum comes as a DVD, with the lessons on video. There is also a printable student workbook included on the DVDs, so it is easy to print out the lessons. They also offer you the option to buy a pre-printed workbook, if you prefer not to print your own. The course has about 75 video lessons, and they estimate that it would take about 150 class periods to complete the curriculum. The course does include lesson planning advice, to make it easy to figure out how to pace the course. And there is also plenty of help on the website if you have questions. The DVD course costs $40, and it is another $20 if you want the printed workbook.
Here is what is included in the 9th grade course:
Sentence composition, paragraphs, the writing process, essays, using effective writing techniques, research paper, and other topics
- SENTENCE STRUCTURE – dependent and independent clause; simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences; address sentence errors (fragment, run on, and comma splice)
- FORMAL PARAGRAPH – structure; expository, persuasive, compare/contrast, and descriptive
- THE WRITING PROCESS – in depth study of each part of the writing process; practice the writing process with each multi-paragraph composition
- ESSAYS (formal and informal) – detailed instruction and step by step process for, personal, expository, persuasive, and compare/contrast essays
- RESEARCH PAPER (project) – detailed instruction and step by step process to conduct a research project and write a research paper (EXPOSITORY)
We started out with the introductory lesson and then moved onto the lessons on Sentences. These aren’t exactly grammar, but are about using variety in sentences and avoiding common errors, like run on sentences. My son has never liked video curriculums much, and as we worked through this section he complained every day that he would rather I just explain it to him, and that he already knew all this anyway.
When we moved onto paragraphs I started hearing a lot fewer complaints. He found these more interesting, and felt the exercises were useful. We did a few lessons in paragraphs, and then I let him pick what kind of essay he would like to write. He choose a Persuasive essay, and has started going through the process of organizing and writing an essay.
I liked the idea of having the curriculum on DVD, because we have multiple times during the week when I have to take my daughter to college or other activities, and I thought this would be a way my son could be productive when I wasn’t there. But I’ve found that works better in theory than in practice! My son will do the work when I am not there, but he tends to rush through it, and doesn’t pay enough attention to details. So he ended up re-watching a number of the lessons so I could go over it with him. The curriculum spends a lot of time on how to organize writing and plan, and this is one place my son needs work. He prefers to just start writing without a plan, which makes the final product not very good.
Overall we are pleased with the curriculum. My son rates it as “OK” which is probably about as high as he would rate any writing program. He does want to keep using it, and is looking forward to writing a research paper next month. I feel that it does a good job of covering the appropriate topics for 9th grade writing, and is perfect for 13 and 14 year olds. It is not fancy or exciting, but it is very thorough. And it is a very good value too, since many writing curriculums for homeschoolers cost quite a bit more than $40.
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