As eclectic Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, we appreciate reading and studying good pieces of literature and writing, keeping our lessons shorter for each subject area, and using a more whole language approach to our learning.
Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services has a writing program called Write with the Best. There are two volumes; one for grades 3-12, and the other for grades 6-12. This program fits the needs of eclectic and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers quite well. If you like using a piece of quality literature to examine good writing, identify effective uses of parts of speech and word choice, and analyze literary meaning, this program supplies you with all of these learning opportunities in one book.
One of the most effective writing classes I ever took was a creative writing class in high school. It was a class that focused on specific pieces of literature which we analyzed and used as a model for our own writing. Before that, I never really looked at what made a good opening paragraph, effective details in the body, or a solid closing. By looking at and copying the sentence structure and the kinds of words used to develop a piece of writing, you can develop your own written masterpiece.
We received Write with the Best Volumes 1 and 2. My younger son has been using Volume I for grades 3-12, and my older son has been using Volume 2 for grades 6-12.
Write with the Best Volume 1
Volume I emphasizes analyzing and writing excellent descriptive paragraphs, and includes writing dialogue, a short story, a fable, a friendly letter, and poetry. The pieces of writing used for modeling include
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
- A Christmas Carol
- Robinson Crusoe
- The Wind in the Willows
- The Gift of the Magi
- The Ants and the Grasshopper
- The Shepherd’s Boy and the Wolf
- Treasure Island
- The Daffodils
- Paul Revere’s Ride
Also included in this volume are
- an explanation of characteristics of what makes writing the best
- proofreading checklist
- grading criteria for the parent to use of the student’s writing
- learning style suggestions
- additional literary passages for modeling writing
- a How to Write Guide
Ballad or Narrative Poem
- answer key to the volume units
The volume is divided into units with numbered daily exercises to complete. Each unit begins with a piece of writing to read. Each day focuses on the completion of identified objectives, each one, a different type of skill to note in the literary sample piece or for your child to practice, using the model. Some of the types of skills or activities include
- reviewing the parts of speech, and finding them and looking at how they are used in the sample.
- discuss the piece of writing and the effectiveness of the use of specific nouns, verbs, adjectives.
- paragraph development.
- steps in writing your own paragraph.
- proofreading and editing your own paragraph.
- writing a final copy of your paragraph.
- analyze the piece of writing for meaning, mood, imagery.
- character development.
- use of thesaurus for better word choice.
- a dictation exercise to practice good listening skills and writing habits.
We followed the suggested daily exercise objectives, alternating its use with the Easy Grammar series we already use for further grammar practice. Sometimes, my sons would want to go ahead and complete the next day’s exercise if they were on a roll and they wanted to complete the next step in developing a piece of writing while their creative juices were flowing.
My younger son’s favorite thing about using this volume was reading and listening to the literary passages and trying to imagine in his mind what each piece was describing. He also enjoyed the descriptive paragraph assignment that he completed for describing his favorite object. He had start with a topic sentence, add descriptive details, and write an effective closing sentence. I asked him for permission to share it with you.
I love pizza. It tastes like heaven with its crunchy crust and melted gooey cheese. Its hot steamy tomato sauce makes it irresistable. When I feel pizza, my fingers tingle with excitement. That’s why pizza is the best food ever.
I enjoyed using this program very much. All the preparation work is done for me. (As a former English teacher), I think it has a great mix of a large variety of elements of language arts. As recommended by the author, Jill Dixon, I would still supplement with a grammar program to teach punctuation, capitalization, word usage, and more specific parts of speech. I love the Charlotte Mason elements of using good literature to read and use as a model of good writing and dictation. Using your child’s own writing for editing and proofreading practice to reiterate grammar rules is the right way to go.
Write with the Best Volume 1 can be purchased in ebook format right now for the special price of $14.95, regularly $19.95, Pages only hardcopy with no binder for $22.45, and Hardcopy Pages in a binder for $24.95.
Write with the Best Volume 2
Write with the Best Volume 2 for grades 6-12 builds on top of Volume 1 in the respect that the student has learned how to develop a good paragraph and has examined and practiced the art of strong descriptive writing. Volume 2 emphasizes developing the skills involved in writing expository essays such as persuasive and informative paragraphs. It also includes writing poetry, business letters, literary criticism, book reviews, newspaper articles, speeches, and monologues. As you can see, it covers a broad spectrum of writing. The pieces of literary excerpts included in this volume are
- The Railyway Train, Emily Dickinson
- A business letter written by Helen Keller
- Common Sense, Thomas Paine
- Of Studies, Francis Bacon
- Literary Critique of Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe
- Book review of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, William Dean Howells
- Newspaper article entitled “Would ‘Treat ‘Em Rough’”, Ernest Hemingway
- A speech “In Defense of Rabirius – Before the Senate”, Marcus Tullius Cicero
- A monologue spoken by Mark Antony in Julius Caesar
Also included are additional features to assist you and your child in practicing these more complex writing skills:
- Learning Styles suggestions
- Additional literary passages for modeling writing
- How To Write Guide
Poem in Free Verse
Write an outline
Write a summary
- Grading criteria for the parents to use with their child’s writing
- Proofreading checklists for each form of writing
- Answer key for the volume
Again, just like Volume 1, this volume has a wide variety of skills used in each unit from grammar skills to literary analysis and appreciation to practical application in expository writing. I found that it is operating on a more complex level than Volume1 and uses higher order thinking skills in just the literary analysis alone. To be able to write these more complex essays your child should really use Volume 1 or another writing program before using Volume 2. This volume moves on from the premise that your child can write a good developed essay with smart word choices.
This volume has your child practicing a large variety of language arts skills including
- literary elements and imagery, including more subtle elements like tone and allusion
- parts of speech
- poetry analysis
- outline notes
- paragraph summaries
- thesis statement
- types of supporting details
- transition words
- author’s intent
- clarity in writing
- using attention grabbers and clinchers
My son enjoyed this program very much. He liked the variety of skills being taught and used each day. He also enjoyed the format, where each day had a set of written objectives spelled out. His favorite assignment was writing the free verse poetry assignment after reading and analyzing one by Emily Dickinson. He also gave me permission to share his favorite writing assignment with you.
Cold like the stillness of death,
Light like the lamp in a dark room,
Always attempting to break through the shadow.
Sometimes weak, sometimes strong.
You need to add oil to keep the flame burning.
It may take time and energy to do it, but,
Doesn’t all of life?
This is life, cold, bitter, cruel, unfair, that is,
If you wish to see it this way.
Or, you could see that light of hope and faith burning.
This light is the faith in the promise we are given for the end of life, but,
Many abuse it, or neglect it.
Write with the Best Volume 2 can be purchased in ebook form at a special price right now for $18.65, regularly $24.95, Pages only with no binder for $27.45, and Hardcopy Pages with a binder for $29.95.