Classical Academic Press' Writing and Rhetoric Curriculum is, by far, my favorite homeschool curriculum. Since I began homeschooling my son in 4th grade, I have changed our math curriculum, I have changed the structure of our day, and I have changed my approach to teaching science and history, but I have never changed our writing curriculum. Writing and Rhetoric is a cornerstone in my son's education.
6/7/2017 Update: I am searching for resources to help parents and teachers implement Writing and Rhetoric. Scroll to the bottom to see what I've found.
Disclaimer: Writing and Rhetoric has been a curriculum purchase for us for the past three years. I have in no way been compensated for this post. Opinions in this post are solely my own. No one at Classical Academic Press has any idea who I am.
Writing and Rhetoric Lesson Format
Most chapters in each Writing and Rhetoric book follow the same format. Each chapter starts with an introduction and a short literary selection. The literary selections all have a theme, which I like. In book 4 of the series, all of the readings where short biographies of important people from the Middle Ages:
After the reading, students process the reading, either through a narration (written or oral) or an outline. A set of discussion questions follow to encourage students to think deeply about the reading before they are required to write about it.
The next section is titled "Go Deeper" and it is a short section that requires students to look closer at elements of the story such as the vocabulary, themes, or main ideas. The following photos are taken from the teacher's guide. The student text is identical, but without the answers, of course!
In the "Writing Time" section, students do several things. They compete a series of short guided exercise where they practice writing sentences that are more complex than they might come up with on their own. My son likes that some of the writing exercises encourage humor. In later books, they also practice writing main ideas and topic sentences.
The "Writing Time" section culminates in a longer writing assignment. Books 1-3 focus on narrative writing and Books 4 and up focus on essay writing.
When my son is stumped about how to write a paragraph, I simply read him one of the sample paragraphs so he can get an idea of what his should sound like. It is usually all that he needs to go forth and write an original an interesting paragraph on his own.
The final section is the "Speak It" section which provides a variety of ways for students to practice speaking in front of others. Impromptu speaking exercises, reciting poems or sections of famous speeches, and reading dialogues out loud are examples of some of the speaking exercises in this section.
Please note that all of the pictures above are from books 4 and 5 of the Writing and Rhetoric Series.
Why We Use Writing and Rhetoric
When choosing curriculum my first year homeschooling, I spent a lot of time agonizing over writing curriculum. My son is dysgraphic and writing was painful, laborious, and frustrating. I wanted a writing curriculum that didn't have the underlying assumption that doing an exercise must be done many, many times to "cement" the concept in child's mind. You know the idea, "If practicing something three times is good, the practicing it thirty times is better!" After all, there can be too much of a good thing.
Knowing that my son rebelled strongly against any writing assignment that was formulaic, I knew that I needed a writing curriculum that was smartly written and that respected the intelligence of the students using it. I wanted the exercises to be well thought out and free of busy work.
After looking at a few highly recommended writing curricula, I was coming to the conclusion that nothing out there was going to work. I also know that making up a writing curriculum on the fly isn't exactly easy.
Then a new writing program came across my radar called Writing and Rhetoric. Only the first book was out at the time. Writing and Rhetoric was based an an ancient Greek writing program called the Progymnasmata. I had no clue what that was.
I ended up looking at the sample chapters that were online for the first book. And I kept coming back to them. When I finally had to buckle down and pick a curriculum, the second book was out so I was able to look at those sample chapters, too. It's hard to tell from a few chapters, what a curriculum will be like, but Writing and Rhetoric seemed to be a smart and interesting program, but what really sold me was that it was like no other writing program that I had previewed. Despite the lack of reviews and despite the fact that the series was incomplete, I decided to take a leap of faith and try it out.
So far, we have enjoyed that each book focuses on a different type of narrative writing or essay. I don't think we've seen a straight five-paragraph essay yet, which is fine by me. Variations of the five-paragraph essays are great for efficiently demonstrating what you know on an essay test, but beyond that, have little use in the real world. However, elements of the traditional five-paragraph essay have been very effectively taught: topic sentences, thesis statements, supporting details, etc... Picking up the five-paragraph essay format sometime in the future will be an easy task for any Writing and Rhetoric student.
If you look at the sample pages above, you will see that there is paragraph by paragraph guidance on how to write the essay, but it isn't overwhelming. A couple of guiding sentences on what direction each paragraph should take, coupled with the writing practice he has done earlier in the program, have been enough for my son to turn out an interesting, solid essay every single time.
I could go on and on about Writing and Rhetoric. There is so much that I admire about the program. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I will gladly answer them. Thanks for reading!
Helpful Writing and Rhetoric Resources
Check out these bookmarks with the exact annotation marks used the later editions of Writing and Rhetoric. They are available on Teachers Pay Teachers and I think that I will be a useful tool.
My review covers mainly the middle books, if you want to see a review of the earliest books, check out this review of Book 1.