When I first decided to educate my children at home, Debra Bell was the first “homeschooling expert” I heard speak during an online conference. She is very humorous and encouraging in her talks. Naturally, I was excited to have the opportunity to use her new writing curriculum Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries in my home. Since she successfully home educated her own children, taught high school and university level English, I knew her grammar and writing integrated curriculum would be worth trying out.
Writers in Residence Volume 1 is the first of four in the series and is for grades four through eight. The colorful text is written to the student and is also a workbook. My son was able to use it for all of his rough drafts and for his final writing piece within the first two modules. During our review period we were able to complete the first half of Unit 1. The text is composed of six units and each unit contains four modules. The workbook, as well as the Answer Key, contained easy to use grading rubrics for his first written assignment (and throughout the curriculum) that was clear and easy for me to use to evaluate his written work.
The first writing assignment was based on the little book “When I Was Young in the Mountains” by Cynthia Rylant. He had several mini assignments to help him free-write his topic and then narrow down to the specific memories he wanted to write about. My favorite revision method of writing the individual sentences on separate strips of paper and then rearranging them into different orders was one of the assignments. The text also guided him in revising his work using specific and descriptive words. My son’s final draft of his memory sentences:
When I Was Young by the Creek
When I was young by the creek, I heard and felt the cold, rushing water.
When I was young by the creek, hundreds of kayakers paddled past us in the turbulent water.
When I was young by the creek, we saw water gushing down rock cliffs into little flowing pools.
When I was young by the creek, I climbed upon huge stick piles.
When I was young by the creek, I wrote these verses.
This was the only final writing assignment we were able to complete before this review was due. I flipped through the book and saw the next assignment was to learn to write a memorable letter about his future based on the letters exchanged between the characters in “Sarah, Plain and Tall” by Patricia MacLauchlan. I love that these writing assignments use excellent literature to teach writing techniques.
Writers in Residence is a Christian curriculum and includes interviews with Christian authors who use the writing technique or process described for each assignment. The six writing tasks for volume one include: sentences, creative writing, research writing, opinion essay, autobiography and a short story. Each of these writing tasks is a separate unit and also includes instruction and review of grammar related to the assignment type. The answers for the grammar pages are in the Answer Key.
As a homeschool mom of four kids this integrated writing and grammar curriculum really appeals to me. Everyone could use this text at the same time while writing and learning at their individual levels. I would not have separate grade level grammar workbooks to mark for each child nor separate writing curriculums to evaluate. This curriculum saves my time and allows us to work and share together. At the end of the school year I would also have six lovely pieces of written work from each child for their portfolios. I think this curriculum is ideal for introducing writing in a positive manner to children and for families who love to learn together.