I’m the first to admit that I found teaching writing a struggle. You’d think it would be easier - after all, if you can write you should be able to teach it, right? Apparently not!
We’ve tried quite a few writing programs through the years but our favorite (and the one we’ve stayed with the longest) is the Writing & Rhetoric series from Classical Academic Press.
I received this product for free and was compensated for time spent using the materials and writing this article. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Classical Academic Press
If you’ve read many of the articles about our favorite homeschooling resources here at Happy Homeschool Nest then you shouldn’t be surprised that the programs from Classical Academic Press are some of our favorites.
We are fans of their Logic resources, the Greek Code Cracker, and the Writing & Rhetoric series. If you need a creative spin on your homeschool resources take a look at Classical Academic Press!
The Writing & Rhetoric Series
Classical Academic Press produced the Writing & Rhetoric series with the goal of using the ancient system of persuasive writing, the progymnasmata, as a foundation. This method was used during ancient times to teach students how to speak and write persuasively. Classical Academic Press has revived the methodology so homeschool moms don’t have to figure it out all on their own.
While working through the series, students are exposed to examples of great literature and work on their writing skills by imitating great writers. The series moves in small, incremental steps and moves from concrete to more abstract ideas as the series progresses.
With a planned 12-book series, there are currently 9 levels available. Each level includes a student worktext (reading and assignments are both completed within one book) and teacher’s edition. The teacher’s edition is a copy of the student book with answers and extra teaching material. You can also purchase an MP3 audio file for each level that includes an audio version of each lesson’s readings (something I highly recommend for later levels - the readings get quite long!).
Writing & Rhetoric: Encomium & Vituperation
The seventh book in the series, Encomium & Vituperation, focuses on teaching students to write persuasive essays. They’ll learn to write an encomium (an essay that praises the virtues of someone) and a vituperation (an essay that focuses on the faults of a historical figure).
There are fourteen lessons in the book (you can easily cover two levels in the series each school year following the suggested schedule). The first six lessons introduce the concepts of encomium and vituperation. Each part of the essay is broken down and explained while specific skills are reinforced through each lesson. While working through lessons seven through twelve, students will begin writing their own essays using biographies and autobiographies about various historical figures. The book makes this process very simple, breaking down each step of the essay into manageable pieces. The final two lessons will teach students how to write their first research paper.
Each of the fourteen lessons is divided into the same basic format (like previous books in the series):
- Lesson Reading - each lesson contains narratives and writings from a variety of historical sources. You can even purchase an MP3 audio file that contains audio versions of these readings so you don’t have to read everything aloud!
- Tell It Back - students are encouraged to narrate the story in a variety of ways. You can have them summarize the reading in a few sentences, outline the reading, and annotate the text (an important skill!).
- Talk About It - while working through this section, you and your students will cover comprehension questions and discussion that provide a solid foundation for understanding the lesson material.
- Memoria - students are encouraged to memorize a quote related to the lesson and also to keep a commonplace book to hold their thoughts and quotes for future reference.
- Go Deeper - this section focuses on specific skills - understanding the difference between biographies and autobiographies, writing thesis statements, and using hyperboles, similes, and metaphors are some of the skills students will practice.
- Writing Time - the bulk of your time will be spent on this section, with exercises that teach students to write with interest and variety. This section also covers the six-paragraph essays that are the focus of this course.
- Speak It - the goal of this series isn’t just to teach writing, it also focuses on teaching students how to speak persuasively as well and activities in this section of the lesson support that goal.
- Revise It - students learn to analyze and improve their writing when they work through this final section in each lesson.
Classical Academic Press also provides a grading rubric (see page 325 of the teacher’s edition). Grading a writing assignment can often feel quite subjective so the rubric is a great resource to assess your student’s writing.
How we’re using Writing & Rhetoric 7
The teacher’s edition includes a suggested daily schedule that covers one lesson every five days. We covered the first six lessons in six weeks (one lesson per week - following the suggested schedule) but we slowed down for the remaining chapters - taking two weeks to cover each lesson. Since I also assigned writing assignments in other subjects it was a little bit too much to also expect a weekly essay as well. Here’s how that typical two-week session looked for us:
Our focus for the first week was simply reading and working through the first sections of the lesson material - stopping just before the weekly essay assignment.
- Day 1: Just reading - my daughter read the lesson material herself or we listened to the audio file.
- Day 2: We worked on narration skills with the 'Tell it Back' section and discussed the readings following the questions in the 'Talk About It' portion of the lesson. We finished the daily assignments with the 'Memoria' section.
- Day 3: We started the 'Writing Time' assignments - focusing on the Sentence Play section.
- Day 4: We continued working on the next section of the 'Writing Time' assignments - the Copiousness section.
During week two we focused on writing the essay, revising, and the 'Speak It' section
- Day 1: Following the guidelines in the lesson, my daughter planned her essay, filling in important details in her worktext.
- Day 2: Using her notes from the worktext, my daughter wrote her essay.
- Day 3: We took a break from essay writing and worked on activities in the 'Speak It' section of the lesson.
- Day 4: We followed the guidelines in the 'Revise It' section for editing the essay as well as working on any other assignments in that section.
I've noticed that my daughter is becoming more independent as she works through this series. She does most of the reading and assignments on her own now. My involvement is primarily focused on the lesson narrations and discussions (week one, day two), 'Speak it' activities, helping with editing, and checking assignments.
We both enjoy using this series and how writing is taught. Instead of learning one method for writing, my daughter is developing an arsenal of various essays that she can use in the future. Once you learn how each one is written, it's very simple to apply the method to writing assignments in other subjects. I'm so glad we found this program - it really is one of my homeschool favorites!
Have you tried the Writing & Rhetoric series?
Have you given this program a try? If you’re looking for a reliable and solid writing program, give the Writing & Rhetoric series a try!