We have lots of writing programs - most of them excellent; each worthy in its own way. Why add another? Because there are so many positive aspects of teaching the classical language arts rolled up into this one well-organized, user-friendly and academically challenging program. If you are following a classical methodology, or even if you're not and you just want an excellent and comprehensive approach to writing, then this program may be the one for you. The classical education tradition is one where words represent real concepts, ideas are important, virtue is essential, and truth matters. This is a writing program that is built on these pillars.
The Classical Writing series as a whole is designed to teach writing and related grammar and vocabulary skills from beginning skills through high school level skills. The books are sequential but don't correspond to specific grade levels and don't have to be used at the rate of one per year. Students should start at the beginning and progress through the series at their own pace. Younger students may spend more than one year on the beginning volumes. Older students may start at the beginning but only spend a few months in a volume before going on to the next level.
Several things are common to all of the books. Instruction is systematic and rigorous and requires teacher-student interaction - this is not a self-teaching program. Assignments are comprised of analysis and imitation of great works of writing. All areas of language arts are incorporated into the lessons: grammar, vocabulary, phonics review, and spelling. The writing projects and original compositions are built around the "progymnasmata." (What's that, you ask? It's a series of fourteen exercises in rhetorical writing starting with fables and narratives, progressing through confirmation and invective, and ending with thesis and proposal of law. For reference, there is a list of these fourteen progymnasmata included in the appendices of each core book of the series.)
Did I mention that the program is rigorous? The expectation is that 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week will be spent in the analysis and imitation of the writing models. Another 30-40 minutes a day, 4 days a week are suggested for work on the actual writing projects. In the Aesop book, models are drawn from fables, folk tales, myths, and legends. The weekly routine introduces the model on the first day, and covers word skills on the second day, sentence skills on the third, and copywork or dictation on the fourth. Specific grammar and vocabulary skills covered depend on the skill level of the student but follow a scope and sequence typical of classical methodology. In fact, grammar is an important aspect of the entire program, and masters for grammar flashcards are provided at every level. The student is encouraged/expected to be continually reviewing this information in addition to adding to the depth of the coverage of grammatical constructs. Aesop writing projects include short narrative, short narrative amplified by adding dialogue, and a short narrative amplified with descriptive detail. Each of these projects is approached in a multi-step fashion: read and discuss, first draft, correct first draft, amplify, and final draft.
The Core books for each level provide the overall teaching strategy, weekly and daily routines, instructions for different skill levels, detailed steps for completing the writing projects, and suggestions for planning. Core books are required and can be used by themselves although you will then have to put together your own daily lessons. Student Workbooks and Instructor's Guides are technically optional but make the program much more user-friendly by providing step-by-step weekly lessons as well as models and workspace. You need both along with the Core book to complete the course in this manner. The Instructor's Guides provide lesson plans with daily detail and teacher helps and are completely cross-referenced to the Core books. All "lessons" refer to four days of instruction. Also provided in the Instructor/Student books are the models and answer keys for diagramming and parsing work as well as room for teacher analysis notes. Appendices include background info on models and authors, a scope and sequence, editing checklists, suggestions for writing across the curriculum, and an "utterance chart" master (an ongoing chart that students keep with suggestions for creative replacements for the prosaic "said" in dialog construction). Student Workbooks provide weekly models and workspace. The A workbooks at each level provide introductory instruction and practice. The B workbooks provide another year of instruction and practice at each level. It's assumed that students on the young side of the designated age range will spend the additional time at each level. Older students can start with the B books and then progress to the next level. Each student will need his or her own workbook. ~ Janice