My 5th grade daughter loves to write, but rarely when it is assigned to her. She’s the type that will pen her own fictional story or write in a diary for hours, but stares blankly at the page when she is given any instruction on writing. When we were chosen to review Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries, I didn’t really know what to expect.
Writers in Residence Volume 1
This homeschool writing curriculum by Debra Bell is a physical product for students in grades 4 and up. While I think it would be great for 4th graders, I feel like students through middle school would also gain a lot through doing this, so I personally think it would be great for grades 4-8.
The set consists of a Student Text and Workbook as well as an Answer Key.
The Student Text and Workbook is an all-in-one worktext that is softcover and spiral bound. It’s a thick book at 576 pages, and it is meant to cover an entire school year. They suggest working on this program at least 3 times a week, but there is a suggested daily schedule that has it split into 4 days a week for 32 weeks.
The book is divided into 6 units, and a total of 24 modules. Each module has between 11-16 small tasks to complete. Each module within a unit teaches and assigns work to work toward a specific writing assignment for that unit. Unit 1 focuses on writing strong sentences. Unit 2 works on creative writing. Unit 3 is about research writing. Unit 4 covers opinion essays. Unit 5 is on autobiographies. Finally, Unit 6 has student writing their own short story.
Throughout all of these assignments, students are also encouraged and asked to practice many language arts elements, such as picking apart sentences for their verbs, nouns, conjunctions, predicates, and subjects. They critically review sentences to determine correct capitalization, identify simple sentences, notice linking verbs, and more. It gets more in depth as they get further into the assignments.
Students get to work on the writing process in simple and engaging chunks. They work on planning what to write, drafting it out, revising it using specific and given steps, editing it for correctness, and polishing it up so their voice shines through once all of the technical aspects are taken care of.
This curriculum also helps students work on their spelling. This is done through editing their work, of course. There is also a Word Collection assignment during each module where students place words they’ve come across recently that they want to add to the collection. For my daughter, this helped her to solidify spelling on new words just by singling the word out and writing it again. Then, she tends to reread all of her Word Collection as she is adding new ones, so she’s exposed to the correct spelling of these more challenging words each time she does that assignment.
There are comprehensive grading ruberics for students to use for their writing assignments and for parents to go over with them to see where the student’s strengths and weaknesses are. It’s a great way for students to see what is expected of them, as they are asked to review the rubrics prior to completing the writing assignments.
I appreciated having the rubrics, because it made me (and my daughter) look at the bigger picture when evaluating her writing. Without a rubric, I might have hyperfocused on a single issue rather than being able to seriously look at it as a whole with many pieces and seeing that, overall, it was pretty great! This helped her to gain confidence and it helped me to gain perspective.
How We Used This
My daughter completed her writing work at least three times a week during this review period. I preferred 4 times, so we aimed for that, but gave ourselves a little flexibility.
Although the workbook is written to the student, she honestly wants to spend more time one on one with me, so I actually read the text and assignments to her. She loves that Units start out with “meeting” authors and finding out more about their lives. She found it interesting that some authors don’t grow up thinking they will even write at all!
We started our lessons by checking out the Suggested Daily Schedule at the beginning of the book. We both really love this section, because it totally has the look of a colorful planner. It has the work put into little bite sized chunks with four days for 32 weeks and makes this huge book much more approachable. For example, on Week 5, Day 3, we read the “Meet Amy Green” article, read the introduction to Unit 2, and studied the rubric for the writing assignment for Unit 2. Easy, simple, not very time consuming at all!
Once we looked to see what we had to do for the day, we turned to that day’s assignment and started to read on it. Sometimes she was supposed to dissect sentences. Sometimes she was assigned to write a rough draft. Sometimes she needed to do a bit of brain storming.
The thing I liked most about working with this curriculum is that it was very well laid out. There were no surprises. Students, and their parents, will be able to work through the lessons with explicit instruction and detailed expectations.
My daughter really needs things spelled out to her for writing assignments. If there is even a bit of ambiguity, she shuts down and has a really hard time getting “in the zone” to work. This curriculum was very clear and did a good job balancing teaching, practice, and practical application of the information.
Most of the lessons took less than 20 minutes to complete in a day, which is a very manageable time frame for us. I’m extremely pleased with this program and am excited that there are 3 more volumes coming out in the future.
It is colorful and engaging. The work is not daunting. The writing assignments are fun and meaningful.
We will continue to work through Writers in Residence. I am loving the consumable workbook for her.
I also appreciate that this program doesn’t specify a certain grade level or days of the year they must be completed. Sometimes, it’s a lot of pressure to complete a curriculum strictly throughout a school year if it is marked something like “Grade 5 Writing” with the weeks broken up. Life gets hectic and busy, and sometimes we aren’t able to stick to those plans! With this one, that stigma of grade leveling is not even a blip on our radar. We’ll just work through it until it is finished and move on to the next one. Easy!
She’s giving me less trouble when it comes time to do writing work. She’s able to really see her own work improve. I’m able to spend time with her and work on these skills as well, although she could easily complete a lot of this much more independently than how we’re using it.
It’s an awesome program. I’m really glad we’ve been able to try it out because the style and simplicity work really well for her. I appreciate the thoroughness of the instructional part, the comprehensive self-grading (which we work on together), and the writing assignments are meaningful and enjoyable.
The full set retails for $89, which my daughter and I feel is well worth it.
Do you want to see how other families used Writers in Residence? Click the banner below.