We have spent the better part of the last two months working through and reviewing Apologia Educational Ministries Writers in Residence Volume 1 (Apprentice).
This is a physical product and after opening the package, my first reaction was simply WOW! I was not expecting this to be a full inch-and-a-half thick book! Although seemingly huge, it is very attractive with a giant neon green spiral, literally begging to be opened. My second thought after seeing this product was of hesitance because it was, well… a very thick book. I went from total gratitude at this awesome book before me to overwhelmed in the blink of an eye.
If you know me as a homeschooler, you know that writing is my least favorite subject to teach the kids. I have struggled with teaching writing for quite some time. I had finally found something that was working for us and I suddenly needed to switch gears and trust that this review product was not going to be a hindrance and cause us to have to all but start over when we return to what we knew was working. I decided to set aside all despair and resolved to give it my best. Then I looked at the 576 on the bottom left hand corner of the last page, took a deep breath and decided to take it in stride and break it into manageable pieces… wondering if we would ever actually see that page number again as we worked through the book.
After flipping through the book, I knew that I was simply going to have to start at the beginning, this was not a textbook where I could just jump in and start at the first lesson. I settled in to review the well written 17-page How to Use section. Like a good novel, I could not put it down. Seriously. It was evening and I was tired, yet I consumed the whole section. Every word increased my faith in this program and I could not wait to get started.
The first thing the very next morning, Bookworm Beauty reviewed the 3-page Welcome, Students, to Writers in Residence! Debra Bell, the author of Writers in Residence wrote a personal letter to the students explaining the writing journey they are about to begin and what they can expect in the process. She even finishes the letter with an invitation to email her “anything you would like – your suggestions, your stories, your questions.” This was a great step in making this book a living, interactive writing journey for the students. It is not a typical text book in any way. It flows like a written conversation between Ms. Bell and the students.
Ms. Bell introduces the students to a spotlight on a Christian Writer at the beginning of each Unit. The authors introduced are some that the students may already be exposed to, such as Bill Myers, the author of McGee and Me; Jason Lethcoe, whose work is included in Home on the Range, The Little Mermaid, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; and Phil Vischer, one of the VeggiTales creators. Additional authors featured are Amy Green, Irene Howat and Amy Parker. I like how the famous author’s specific craft is taught so that the students are able to follow their models for their own work.
Writers in Residence follows the Six Traits Writing Model and teaches the Writing Process. What is most unique is that it teaches each of the four traditional forms of writing: personal, expository, persuasive, and narrative in a holistic way. They are presented from a real-life approach, as writers actually combine several forms at once in all types of writing. The four styles covered are labeled: I Remember (personal narrative), I Imagine (creative writing), I Investigate (research writing), and I Think (persuasive writing). Although each lines up with a traditional form, they are interwoven as students learn to discover their own voice in their writing.
I can not express how refreshing it is to have a program that is designed for students to work independently as much as possible. The textbook indicates that content is appropriate for grades 4-8. I feel that is has been appropriate for Bookworm Beauty as a 5th grader. It would have been equally appropriate last year and probably the next couple of years as well. She has successfully worked independently during this entire review. I am recognizing additional value of independently working with writing as I am finding that it enables a student to truly own their voice and learn to express themselves through their writing. Of course, I am involved with reviewing her work, which has facilitated a lot of rich conversation. Writers in Residence has almost become a diary of sorts which has unlocked Bookworm Beauty’s thoughts and given her a place to record them.
As a complete language arts program, the work is presented in 24 modules separated in to 6 units. The suggested daily schedule is 4 days per week for 32 weeks. There’s a 4-page daily schedule already outlined with places for the student to follow along and check off after the work is completed. Additional supplemental tools include: Word Collection Sheets, Glossary, Rubrics, Memory Chart, Writer’s Toolbox Strategies, Paragraph Planning Chart, and more.
The language arts elements covered are: action verbs, nouns, conjunctions, subjects, predicates, adjectives, proper nouns, personal letter, capitalization, commas, simple sentence, linking verbs, complements, paragraphs, modifiers, descriptive adjectives, determiners, sensory words, adverbs, transitions, first person, phrases, prepositions, prepositional phrases, object of the preposition, quotation marks, punctuating and formatting dialogue, interjections, question marks and exclamation points.
Another fabulous feature is the Apprentice Log. Students earn paints for their work and use the log to record them. If they successfully earn 85% of the possible points in Volume 1, they earn an Award of Distinction from Writers in Residence.
I can not be more impressed with this curriculum, even the price is impressive at $89 for the Full Set, which includes the All-In-One Student Text and Workbook as well as the Answer Key. To top that off… there are additional volumes in the works including: Volume 2 – Journeyman; Volume 3 – Craftsman; and Volume 4 – Master Craftsman.
If you are still on the fence, you have the ability to download the first 75 pages of the book. Look for the download link near the bottom of the Writers in Residence page. Included in those pages are the How to Use and the Welcome, Students, to Writers in Residence! sections that I mentioned in this review, as well as everything else through the first module. I will warn you however to be prepared to order the product once you download it because you will probably do so anyway!
Oh… and we will definitely see that 576 on the bottom left hand corner of the last page as we work through this book. By then, this textbook will wear the markings of a well worn and loved book.