We are feeling the strong pull of Spring weather to keep us forever outside. With that comes the desire for newness and fresh starts. We enjoy a bit of writing and grammar every day and jumped at a chance to switch things up with a new writing program, Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries.
Speaking of new and fresh, one of the first comments Jon made on the first week was how much he enjoyed the look and the feel of the book. The binder comb is beautiful and the pages are fresh and full of art. It makes me want to pet it as a creative woman, and it made Jon enjoy it as a 15 year old boy. That’s balance my friends.
Apologia Educational Ministries has teamed up with Debra Bell to offer her Volume 1, Apprentice Writers in Residence homeschool writing curriculum. (There are three more volumes in the works.) We have been using 3 products for our 9th Grade High School Language Arts Program, so the shift to have one product is refreshing.
A Quick Guide starts one off introducing a writing-focused language arts program.
There are several detailed pages for How to Use This Book. Since we have been at this for 14 years, it was more of a how to use this particular product for me to review. However, if you are new to homeschooling or teaching language arts, this will be a perfect in depth guide to the curriculum. I love that she put in so much detail to every specific part, with photos. The paragraphs are short and to the point, yet bring out confidence that you can implement this program with your student as the leader.
The Student is the Leader! Debra Bell continues with a welcome letter of sorts to the Students. This is a one time / one student use workbook, intended to be written in, so although she says ‘students’ you will need one copy for each student.
She brings in other writers to help the student see how and why they started. Spotlight on Christian Writers was another favorite of Jon’s. He knew many of the folks introduced, Bill Myers, Jason Lethcoe and Phil Vischer, to name a few, if we must name drop. Ha. It feels like you are on a one on one with them reading their stories.
Here we are not even started on any ‘home work’ and Jon is already thrilled. Yes. I just typed the name of my 15 year old son and “thrilled” when it came to a curriculum.
She gives the student a Suggested Daily Schedule for a 4 day week. We ended up doing 2 days a week, with more on each day. One day he did the entire week in one day, as there wasn’t a comfortable stopping point. Then he looked at the schedule and and was excited for his progress. (Again – excited? I’m not making this up.)
The Nuts and Bolts
But how does this work? Debra Bell has a teaching style using questions to pull out thoughtful answers. She is not a show and tell teacher. Let me ask you a few questions, introduce some ideas, now tell me what you think. Everything is focused on information that is already in the student’s memory. We start by gathering ideas.
My son’s favorite song right now (pop culture) starts with a young man singing, “Once I was seven years old, My mama told me, . . .” Something something, I just drive – but Jon likes it. Well, our first assignment was along those lines. A simple chart that he put his favorite place, person, activity, and some details.
Then she shifted gears to grammar. Direct grammar questions, this week was for Parts of Speech Verbs. We put his regular grammar curriculum on hold during this review. He isn’t in a space to learn the parts of speech, and this book allows for that.
If you need to introduce verbs, or move forward to action and vigorous verbs, you can increase your vocabulary and liven up your writing. Even if your student is young, and struggles to replace the verbs, before you leave the unit there is an example of 12 strong creative picture building verbs.
And the lessons move on. Each day building on yesterday. A conversation as if Debra Bell was in your living room, or sitting with you at the park. It is like having a one on one tutor for your student.
We are going to continue with this workbook through the Summer, and possibly through November until we are finished. I like that there is zero planning on my part. I have enjoyed reading the lessons, but if you have a self starter student led learner – this is set up for the student to walk through it on their own.
There is an answer key, but to be honest, we have not had a need for it. I know I would have been pouring through it in the younger years. It would have given me the added security that we were doing things ‘right’. Since we are on the second son in High School – this was a pretty simple program to pick up.
But don’t let my “pretty, exciting, easy, and simple” take away from how in depth this curriculum is. Believe me when I say we have reviewed and used our fair share of language arts products. Debra Bell is quite skillful in leading the student to a deeper level of language understanding and usage.
For Example: In Unit 1 Module 4, she brings the student into a woodworker’s workshop. She equates an apprentice learning to work with a master craftsman, as he teaches and demonstrates working with wood, to what we will learn with words. A photo is shown of 3 unique chairs. The are very different, some have arms, ornate pieces, cushions, etc. But they are all chairs. She then leads the student into a writer’s workshop. Showing the difference from a simple chair/sentence, to more complex. Verb and noun to Subject, Predicate and conjunction. Moving back and forth with the workshop idea.
It is a lot different than the show, tell, practice model. And if you’ve read my blog enough – you’ll know that we prefer the conversational method of communicating.
This is a year long workbook, it is rather thick. at 576 pages. We are going to enjoy this writing journey.