Writing & Rhetoric Book Review

Classical Academic Press has made a name for itself in the world of homeschooling.

With its diverse assortment of programs – from Latin, Greek & Spanish to logic, Bible study & writing – they offer high-quality programs that even non-Classical homeschool families are enjoying.

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One of their newest programs, Writing & Rhetoric, is fast becoming one of my favorite writing programs.

The Writing & Rhetoric program is a series of 12 books (the first 3 books are currently available) for grades 3-9 (students should cover 2 books per year).

Setting aside modern writing philosophy, the program creators instead focus on the progymnasmata.

You can learn more about the various levels at the Classical Academic Press website. Let’s take a look at book 1!

Book 1: Fable

The first book in the series includes 14 lessons, a one-page outline of a typical writing week, an introduction, an explanation about the progymnasmata, and a few end pages (instructions for elocution, glossary & vocabulary sections).

The full program includes a teacher’s edition (a replica of the student book with some added content and instruction), a student book, and an audio file.

Each lesson is easily divided into smaller portions spread throughout the week and there are instructions for classroom use as well (though it’s very easy to use in a homeschool setting too).

We easily cover 1 lesson per week. We could probably move a bit quicker but TJ also has writing assignments in history and science as well as dictation in spelling so I don’t want to add too much more writing on top of what she’s already doing.

We begin our week by reading the lesson introduction and then I read aloud the fable. After I finish reading aloud, TJ narrates the story back to me.

Then we talk about the reading (the teacher’s edition does a fabulous job of guiding the discussion) – I ask questions, we discuss vocabulary, parts of speech, and other topics. There is a minimal amount of writing for this first day – perhaps a few sentences.

The next day, TJ reads aloud the fable before we move on to the next section in the book, ‘Writing Time’ which consists of copywork, dictation, and various writing exercises.

Depending on the assignments, we will divide this up over 2-3 days. On the first day we’ll do the first few sections together (Copywork, Dictation, Sentence Play, and Copiousness).

After that we move on to the longer writing assignments, doing one each day (there are 1-2 writing assignments per lesson) and finishing with the ‘Speak It’ section. We spend about 20-30 minutes a day, 3-4 days per week working through the exercises in the book.

Book 1 does a wonderful job of teaching summarizing skills. TJ has no problems at all with adding details (which is also taught in this program) but she needs to sharpen her summarizing skills.

She is learning a lot about pulling out the important details in a story and I’m impressed with her growth in this area.

The assignments are packed full of useful ideas that will make your child think. You won’t find any fluff assignments here.

I am impressed with this program and look forward to trying more books in this series. It’s definitely a great resource to have in your writing toolbox.

Teaching writing doesn’t come naturally to me. I know how to write but it’s harder than you think to pass that skill on!

Because of my lack of confidence we’ve tried lots of different programs and methods – some with more success than others. One of our favorites is the Writing & Rhetoric series from Classical Academic Press.

We used the first three books in the series over the past few years but last year I made the mistake of switching to another program.

Let’s just say it wasn’t our best year and my daughter begged to go back to Writing & Rhetoric (she loves it that much!).

So, we are back for good!

There are a few reasons this program works so well for us: the discussion and natural interaction that comes from working through the lessons, the variety of exercises, and the systematic building of writing skills.

Book 4: Chreia & Proverb

Writing & Rhetoric book four follows the same format as the previous books – lessons are laid out in much the same format with some similar exercises. The focus shifts from basic narratives to longer essays – with the introduction of the chreia.

A chreia is a short essay about a saying or proverb and the author of that saying, focused on praising the author and showing how the proverb is useful to us today.

Classical Academic Press takes an incremental approach to teach this form of writing so students aren’t overwhelmed by the thought of sitting down with a blank piece of paper and writing six paragraphs.

They do a wonderful job of teaching the basic format and providing plenty of opportunities for writing.

There are two books – a student workbook (assignments are completed right in the book) and a teacher’s edition that has many samples and details to guide parents as they are teaching.

While I suppose you could just hand the book off to your child and have them complete the assignments, the best part of the program is the insightful discussions prompted by the various proverbs.

There is an depth and richness to this program that we haven’t found with other writing programs.

The grade recommendation for Chreia & Proverb is grades 4 & 5 and up. We’re using this book in seventh grade and it’s perfect for my daughter.

The requirements are just difficult enough for my daughter but not so difficult that she can’t complete the assignments.

With twelve lessons, you can easily complete this book in one semester, even allowing time for additional writing assignments in other subjects.

Here’s what a week with Chreia & Proverb looks like for us;

Day One: I read aloud the introduction and story about the historical figure. My daughter narrates the story and we work on the ‘Talk About It’ and ‘Go Deeper’ sections together.

Days Two & Three: We divide the ‘Writing Time’ exercises over a few days (except the chreia). TJ works more independently on these assignments.

Day Four: On day four we focus on the chreia. We started the year working on it together, discussing each paragraph before TJ began writing. After completing about two-thirds of the lessons she was ready to work on the chreia independently.

Day Five: We work on presentation skills with the ‘Speak It’ section.