Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Write with the Best Volumes I and II

Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services offer homeschool writing curricula, vocabulary based on Greek and Latin roots, and a guide to career, college and high school planning. I was able to request two products for review and I chose Write with the Best Volumes I and II. Having heard of this program before, but not actually seen or used it myself, I was intrigued by the premise of learning better writing skills through reading and analyzing great works of literature. This makes complete sense to me, as I've always heard and believed that the best writers are also avid readers. Reading aloud and assigning good books to be read individually is a huge part of my homeschool, as I believe you learn a multitude of skills through reading great books (vocabulary, writing, spelling, history, etc.).

Write with the Best Volume I is designed for grades 3-12. There is a "How To Use This Program" section in the front that I really appreciate. The author gives you a suggested time period of eighteen weeks per unit, studying each unit for two weeks, but then adds that taking a full year is perfectly fine. She stresses that mastery of the skill is what's important, not moving through the material at any certain speed. Adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of your student is recommended (for instance, reading aloud if needed). Copying of student pages for your family only is allowed (and encouraged).

Units are divided into days, making it easy to just flip open the book and get started. You begin by reading an excerpt from a work of literature. Volume I contains excerpts from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, A Christmas Carol, Robinson Crusoe, The Wind in the Willows, The Gift of the Magi, Aesop's Fables, Treasure Island, and poetry by Wordsworth and Longfellow. It covers writing descriptive paragraphs, dialogue, short stories, a fable, a friendly letter, and poetry.

After reading the excerpt, there are objectives for each day that help the student write their paragraph (or story or poem) in a step by step fashion. I like that the author does not assume the student already knows the mechanics of writing (which I find is too often the case in many writing programs) but actually teaches them bit by bit as they work through the lessons. It's not quite self instructional, I need to sit down with my daughter at the beginning of the lesson and discuss the assignment. I haven't found it to be a huge time commitment for parent or student though, because the manner in which the objectives are broken down makes it less intimidating and more doable.

Write with the Best Volume II continues teaching writing by studying and modeling world literature. This one is designed for grades 6-12 and contains excerpts from Emily Dickinson, Helen Keller, Thomas Paine, Francis Bacon, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Cicero, and William Shakespeare. It covers poetry, business letters, taking notes, essays, critiques and reviews, articles, a speech, and a dramatic monologue. The set up mirrors Volume I, so it should be an easy transition from the first volume into the next.

I began using this with my daughter and then put it aside to dig into another review product in the same genre. We are planning to return to this next week, as I prefer the bite size day by day instructions given in this program. Having all good things to say about the volumes themselves, I do have to admit that I did not like the e-book method of receiving them. When purchasing the e-book, you must install a special reader and then may only print the book twice and you need to print it in it's entirety. The main benefits to e-books, in my opinion, is the ability to print what you need, when you need it. Basically, you are purchasing this as a book that you print yourself and place in a binder. Your other option is to order the pages pre-printed, as this is not offered in any other type of hardcopy.

If you're interested in this program, you may download the first two units of Volume I and the first unit of Volume II as a free sample. I love when vendors do this! It's so nice to be able to see the product first hand and determine if it's a good fit for your family.

The e-book version of Volume I is currently on sale for $14.95 (regularly $19.95) or you can order the pages pre-printed for $22.45. A 3-ring binder to hold the pages is available for an additional $24.95. For Volume II, the e-book version is currently on sale for $18.65 (regularly $24.95) or you can order the pages pre-printed for $27.45. A 3-ring binder to hold the pages is available for an additional $29.95.

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