14 December 2009

Writing With Ease

My new book came in the mail this weekend! And what a blessing- it came in the evening when the kids were at the YMCA for a few hours and I had the house all to myself!! I feel like I just ordered Writing With Ease from Rainbow Resource the other day, and it's already here!

Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education, is a professor of writing and literature at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. She says:

"I read through scores of incoherent, fragmented, unpunctuated papers, written by students who graduated from well-funded high schools with small classrooms and qualified teachers."

The full title is The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals and it's a four-year, non-consumable writing guide for the elementary writer. I say "writer" instead of "student" because the material can be used for anyone learning to write. Bauer is so sure that this book will be an assest to older students and other poor writers that she labeled the courses "Year One" instead of "First Grade" (and so on). Since she has college students who would benefit from this kind of instruction! Older kids don't want to think they are 'as dumb as a first grader' and I'm sure they appreciate her choice of titles.

It starts with 27 pages of Bauer's calm, confidence-inspiring way of talking to you about "Understanding the Process." She starts with 3 pages of "Why Writing Programs Fail" (writing a lot instead of learning to write); then spends 11 pages breaking down her methods for each of the three classical stages (1-4th grades = grammar stage; 5-8th grades = logic stage; 9-12th grades = rhetoric stage). Especially helpful in this section are the parts entitled "what you're not doing" and "what you're still not doing." Here she comforts and reassures those who were impacted by the recent/current methods of 'learning' writing: write, revise, repeat. She says there is definitely a time and a place for both original work and research papers, just not when most students are doing them. She doesn't want us to put the cart before the horse, as they are doing in most school settings. Here, the cart is producing written work and the horse is learning to write.

The last section of "Understanding the Process" is four page-long layouts describing how each year of instruction is going to pan out. At the bottom of each layout you are directed to the page for that year's "Mastery Evaluation," so parents can determine if their student should start in that year of lessons, or the next. It was really easy to run my oldest through the evaluation and see where she stood.

Let me quote to you from Rainbow Resource's review of the next part of Writing With Ease :

"The bulk of the text provides the weekly lessons for each level (year). Each year is divided into segments with a varying number of weeks. Each of these segments starts with a detailed lesson plan for the first week; then “tweaked” plans for the rest of the segment’s weeks (i.e. use slightly longer sentences for copywork; look for sentences that contain the proper names of days of the week and months of the year). Each year concludes with a mastery evaluation. Copywork sentences and narration excerpts are provided for each of these “first weeks” but not for the remaining weeks."

So, I didn't mention yet that along with this non-consumable text goes consumable yearly workbooks. At over $20 each, though, and four children of my own to educate, I would buy one each of the workbooks and make them copy the work on their own paper. Buying one copy and sharing it is a bargain- it's better yet than either of the other options:

-buying each student their own ($100 each kid over 4 years)

-only buying the text and finding all those passages and creating your own questions and choosing a copy sentence, etc. I'm sure for me at least that I would let it slide and end up doing a lot less than I would want to.

When I considered purchasing this book, I diligently looked at each of the pages from the table of contents that the Rainbow Resource staff put online. I was really confused how week one takes up 4 pages but weeks two and three only took up 1 page. Having the book now, I see that week one is fully scripted with a chosen passage, content questions, copywork sentences, and dicatation passages. Then, you are instructed to follow that pattern for the next few weeks on your own. To complete the full course with only the text you would have to find passages yourself, a task complicated by Bauer's suggestion to find passages that have certain requirements, such as months, capitals, abbreviations, etc.

After going through the scripted, fully prepared lessons in Writing With Ease, I am convinced that I would rather spend the money on the workbooks than look for the passages myself. How does the saying go? "You have time and money. If you have more time than money, make it. If you have more money than time, buy it."


  1. It's sounding pretty good.

  2. Home is Where the Heart isDecember 15, 2009 at 11:10 AM

    We use this book with the workbook, and it is wonderful! I only have one child, so we do write in the workbook, but having them copy on a separate sheet of paper is a great idea if you have more than one!!

  3. We used it today and there was no complaining, so, good for day 1!

  4. We tried using dry-erase markers on a page protector and it was too messy. I was thinking they could do it in a composition notebook, and voila! all of their writing improvement in one place!