I love to write, but find writing a frustrating subject to teach when it involves my nine-year-old daughter. She is not reading at grade level yet and because of this following the instructions for most grammar and writing curriculums is difficult. I end up explaining so much I might as well not use a curriculum. I noticed right away that Essentials in Writing is different in this regard. After six weeks of using Essentials in Writing Grade Three($40) four times a week, Anna has yet to encounter a word she could not read on her own! More than this, the lessons are presented in a simple-to-follow video and the instructor (Matthew Stephens) tells the student everything he/she needs to know to complete the lesson. I have seen this curriculum called the “Math-U-See of Grammar and Writing” and I have to concur. In fact that was one of the things that came to my mind almost immediately!
Even though Anna has never used a formal grammar program before, I went ahead and started her in the third grade level. We haven’t had any real issues with this decision. When he looks at us and says “This is review, you probably remember this from last year.” she says, “No I don’t. I’ve never learned this before.” I guess we could call that sassing the teacher if she was actually sitting in his classroom but really she is just calling it like she sees it. Each lesson has been self-contained and did not really rely on knowledge from a previous year. So far we have learned about complete sentences, complete subjects, complete predicates, simple subjects and simple predicates, and sentence fragments in the grammar portion and letter writing, formal letter writing, the parts of a paragraph, and graphic organizers in the writing section, just to name a few.
One of the things I really appreciate about Essentials in Writing is the short and simple length of each lesson. We watch a brief video — usually only four minutes — then we complete one or two worksheets. That is one lesson. Because of the way this curriculum is set up, you can choose to use all of the grammar portion first and then all of the writing portion OR you can use the two different sections concurrently. We chose the latter arrangement and use two lessons from each section each week. Even though the lessons are brief, a new concept is taught in each lesson. I’ve never walked away from a lesson thinking “Oh, that was just a review of what we learned yesterday.”
Essentials in Writing is a full year of material and for that the cost is very reasonable at $40. Two DVDs and a PDF workbook are included with 52 lessons. The packaging states that it is appropriate for Ages 8-9 but I think any child ready for 3rd grade work could use this curriculum. Essentials in Writing is available for 1st through 8th grade. The only thing I found dissappointing with Essentials in Writing was the quality of the DVD case which broke within a few days.
My Bottom Line: I was surprised to fully love Essentials in Writing and plan to continue using this material with Anna and my other younger children when they are ready. It is simple, straightforward, and can be used independently yet it covers everything your child needs to know. This is exactly what I need!