This spring will bring our family to the end of our 7th year of homeschooling. A trend in our family, like many other homeschool families, is the ongoing search for a math and writing curriculum that fits us! There are many great curriculum choices out there that fit the needs of lots of families, but in homeschooling you want something to fit your own family. When the day to day challenges start hitting, it really doesn’t matter how popular or prestigious a program is. If it doesn’t work for your family, it doesn’t work. BUT when something works, it is a day to celebrate! The days over the last month were days of celebration in exploring and using Essentials in Writing’s Grade 11 Essay Writing / Research Paper.
The Essentials in Writing curriculum comes in grade level editions covering grades 1 through 12. The elementary grades focus heavily on the various parts of speech. The middle school years focus on the writing process with some grammar instruction weaved in. The high school level courses targets instruction on sentence structure, paragraphs, essays, and research papers. Instruction for this course is DVD based with Mr. Stephens, the creator of Essentials in Writing, as the video-based teacher. The last of the DVDs in the set also has pdf files with the student workbook pages on them. It is recommended that all the pages in the series be printed off and used to follow along with the lesson. These sheets also contain the assignments and writing prompts that accompany the DVD segments. We found that the written pages were very easily to align with the video segments.
Our family had the privilege of reviewing the Grade 11 DVDs and were very pleased. This curriculum seems to be a better fit for our familythan other curriculums we have used in the past. When I got to thinking about why, it seemed to be all wrapped up in the fact that it focusses on “The Essentials”. It is not a complicated program both in understanding it or in executing it. Let us share with you a bit about how we used it.
Our 16 year old was thrilled to find out that it was not a full year course and honestly I was as well. We have really been looking for a resource that would teach her great form for writing various types of essays and research papers to prepare her for the timed writing component of the College Board exams as well as papers that she will need to write in college. We were not looking for a curriculum that would be all consuming and overwhelming. Mr. Stephens specifically states that the Essentials in Writing product is meant to be interspersed with other language arts assignments throughout the year or can be done more intensively all together as a partial year course.
Knowing that the entire product offerings from Essentials in Writing span from Grade 1 through Grade 12, we were a bit taken back when we found out that Grade 11 starts with writing sentences. Our daughter was quick to inform me that she has been writing sentences for 10 years now. She was not disappointed in doing these lessons, because they were not childish at all. Mr. Stephens jumped right in with discussion of independent and dependent clauses, their use in creating strong sentences, and the importance in creatively combining them to add variety and fluidity to your writing. This focus on structure carries over to the other aspects of this curriculum, which is what we really liked about it. When moving on to the units on paragraphs, our daughter had the opportunity to review and practice writing strong opening and closing sentences as well as the supporting details and examples that bring the paragraph to life.
The targeted focus on the essential core structure of strong writing was maintained as we explored various types of essays. Expository, persuasive, process analysis, cause and effect, compare/contrast, and response to literature essays each have their own units within this curriculum as well as a separate unit specifically on the strategies of writing a timed college prep essay. Visual organizers and formulas are taught as techniques to use during the pre-writing phase. Time is then provided in daily assignments for the drafting, revising, proofreading, and final publishing of each paper. Mr. Stephens clearly walks the student through each step of the writing process using real writing examples. Writing prompts are provided for the students to use as the basis for their assignments. My daughter complained from time to time about the prompts provided. She would have preferred to pick her own topic, but as I shared with her, picking her own topic is not always a reality. There are times we must write on topics that are less than our favorite and we must still write well. This was a great life lesson that was like the cherry on the top of that ice cream sundae.
After working through various sections of Essentials in Writing Grade 11 Essays / Research Paper, we have come to a unanimous decision that this is a great tool that we will be working with throughout our daughter’s coming year in strengthening her writing abilities as well as preparing for the College Board exams. We liked the straight forward approach of focusing on the essential structure of these different types of essays and the strong foundation provided in writing strong paragraphs as the building blocks to any essay or research paper. We also really like the fact that this curriculum is a resource that is not meant to be all consuming. It self-proclaims that it should be a piece in your total language arts solution.
This curriculum sells for $40, which seems very reasonable. This does not include the printing costs for the student workbook materials that are currently on the DVDs. The publisher is in the process of producing pre-printed copies of the student workbook, which should be available in the near future. These will be available for an additional cost of $20.
We only had the pleasure of reviewing the Grade 11 materials. Join me in clicking on the banner below to see what others on the Review Crew have to say about each of the other grade levels offered through Essentials in Writing.