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Our homeschool has always had some curriculum from the Well-Trained Mind on its bookshelves. When my oldest was in first grade, we started using First Language Lessons for grammar. Then we added Writing with Ease in the lower elementary years. When he was in middle school, we purchased Writing With Skill volume 1. We have now successfully used all three volumes of WWS and would love to share why they have worked so well.
Why we love WWS:
- the curriculum works hard, not mom
- written for 4 days a week, adding flexibility to your schedule
- written directly to the student to teach independent learning
- teacher’s manual is easy to use as needed
- reusable curriculum for multiple children
- teaches foundational writing principles and builds on them
- uses great literature as a model
- rubrics for grading final work included
Here’s how the first part of WWS is structured during your 4-day week:
Day 1: Original Narration Exercise
This helps with the “what should I write about” aspect of writing. Susan Wise Bauer realizes that writing involves coming up with what to write as well as the skill of actually communicating those thoughts on paper. So narration practice solves the writer’s block issue.
Day 2: Outlining Exercise
These exercises help students to master the skill of organizing their thoughts before writing.
Day 3: Analyzing the Topos
Topos is the Greek word from which we get our English word topic. These exercises teach students how to come up with topics to write about – descriptions, chronological narrative, cause and effect, etc.
Day 4: Practicing the Topos
Once students are able to narrate with ease (a skill taught and practiced in First Language Lessons and Writing with Ease), they will stop working on narrations and progress to this structure:
Day 1: Outlining Exercise
Day 2: Analyzing the Topos
Day 3: Practicing the Topos
Day 4: Copia Exercise
Copia is a Latin word meaning abundance. In these exercises, students learn to write many different types and patterns of sentences to keep their writing interesting and fresh.
We just work on the next lesson each day, not worrying about fitting exactly four days into a typical school week. My middle schoolers use WWS about three times each week, while alternating with Grammar. My high schooler spends at least an hour daily on WWS. You can read about our Language Arts Plan here.
I started my oldest on this curriculum in fifth grade. That was a tad early. I now start my kids with WWS Level 1 in 6th or 7th grade.
You can see Susan Wise Bauer’s recommendations here.
I think the most helpful thing I can do is give you a tour of the student and teacher books, so here it is.