If you have followed some of our homeschool experience you know that writing is a challenging subject for my boys. This has made it difficult to work on writing skills.
When I considered reviewing Essentials in Writing for Third Grade, I was hoping to find a program that I can use to help my children improve their writing but that did not involve long writing exercises.
Essentials in Writing is a writing curriculum created by Matthew Stephens. Mr. Stephens was a middle school teacher and is now a homeschool parent. Essentials in Writing is available for students grades 1-12. The curriculum is composed of video instruction and worksheet assignments. When payment is made you are emailed a link to download the PDF files containing the worksheets. The DVD is mailed. Having the digital PDF files makes it nice because the program can be used with multiple children in the family.
We have been using Essentials in Writing for the past several weeks. I ordered their curriculum for Third Grade, and have used it with both my sons who are in 3rd and 4th grade. I sent the files with the PDF worksheets to the OfficeMax in my area and had them print and bind them.
For 3rd grade there are 52 video lessons and 116 workbook pages. In the video lessons Stephens teaches the concepts to a classroom full of younger students. The camera is focused just on him. He teaches the theory/concept to the students and then models the material for the students on a white board.
Stephens is very articulate and does a great job at teaching the material at the student’s level. My boys were both able to watch the videos and complete the corresponding worksheet with minimal help from me. When I reviewed their work I could see they understood what was taught.
For 3rd Grade some of the things that will be covered throughout the year include:
- Run-on Sentences
- Parts of a Friendly Letter
- Parts of a Paragraph
- Descriptive Writing
- The Writing Process
- and much more
Each video lesson was about 4-5 minutes long. Each lesson has at least one page of worksheets, providing the child the opportunity to implement and practice what was learned. Some video lessons have 2 pages of worksheets for practice (i.e. video lesson 4 has worksheets 4A and 4B)
The video lessons were short and the worksheets did not require a lot of writing. Everyday, during the hours of our core subject classes, I had the boys sit together and watch the lesson of the day. This would take a few minutes. I never felt the need to sit by them or pause the video to explain anything. I did stay close, just in case. Right after watching the video they each completed their workbook assignments.
The short lessons made the program more flexible for us. If I felt the boys could handle more I had them complete 2 lessons. If not, I was able to do a quick lesson, without feeling like I cut it short. In 10 minutes the boys were able to learn about and practice important writing concepts.
In the weeks we have used the program we have done 15 lessons in the Grammar section and 7 lessons in the composition. My boys did well and enjoyed both, but liked the activities in the Composition section better.
In the Grammar section we learned about subject/predicates, fragmented run-on sentences. The activities were different, some asking the boys to underline the subject/predicate of a sentence. Other assignments took the boys a bit more time, requiring them to rewrite a paragraph with fragmented sentences, and writing them a complete.
One of the first activities in the Composition section is learning the parts of a “friendly letter” and how to write one. They had fun writing a short letter to their grandmother, who is now in the Dominican Republic. This activity was one that had them learn in context and understand the importance of writing in “real life”.
We also spent some time learning about paragraphs and writing some. The way the worksheets are in Essentials in Writing, they were able to do these exercises without a lot of writing. For now, this works for us!
I have hesitated using a formal writing program with my children. There were many things we enjoyed about Essentials in Writing:
- NOT teacher-intensive! They boys were able to complete their assignments independently.
- The 3rd Grade level curriculum matched my son (3rd grade) very well. He did not find it too easy or to advanced.
- I liked that in the video he did not just focus on theory, but always modeled what was being taught. This was probably one of the reasons the boys were able to complete it more independently and still understand it very well.
The only thing I would change about this program is merging the Grammar and Composition sections more. Right now the first half of the year is Grammar and the second half (starting in lesson 29) is Composition. Though you can always do a bit of each at a time, I would find it better if the program was organized in such a way that each is covered together.
Compared to other writing programs I have seen in the past, I find the price to be very reasonable! If you would like to try it you can order both the PDF worksheets AND the DVD video instructions for $40! If you would like a hard copy of the worksheets instead you can choose this option for an additional $20. You can order for any grades (1-12) at their website!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.