I can’t say enough good things about this curriculum! Before we discovered Mrs. Bradrick’s wonderful composition manual, for years we had used a highly acclaimed language arts program with our older daughter. In spite of getting A’s on the assignments, by the end of 6th grade, her writing skills were still quite poor. I did not need the I. Q. of Mr. Einstein to figure out that something is wrong with getting A’s on the workbooks, and yet not being able to adequately put together a simple essay or creative writing assignment. Something needed to be done.
We started using Understanding Writing in 7th grade, and in a year’s time, the change was dramatic. Not only did our daughter learn to write well, but she enjoyed doing it. Eventually she turned writing into a part-time career. This was the only composition curriculum we ever used with our younger daughter, and she is an excellent writer also.
The Understanding Writing manual consists of over 300 pages in a ring binder. It covers grades 1-12. Mrs. Bradrick claims that nearly every student will need to start in Level 1 or 2, regardless of age/grade. (There is a diagnostic chart at the back of the book to help determine where to start.) She is probably right: we started at Level 1. Older children simply move through the levels at a faster pace.
The plan is to use letter writing to teach composition skills. If you cannot think of lots of people for your children to send letters (or e-mails) to, don’t let that keep you from using this book. As with most materials, you may need to modify the instructions a bit to fit your family’s lifestyle. We wrote some letters, but I often assigned writing projects which weren’t sent as letters. By the time our second daughter was finishing up the program, blogging had become very popular, so we used that avenue for her to hone her skills.
I really love the Christ-centered attitude that Mrs. Bradrick takes toward writing. She emphasizes that we should always write for the glory of God and with a humble spirit of desiring to bless others. (Oh, wouldn’t it be great if more people were taught this concept before being turned loose in the social media realm!) She discusses wrong heart attitudes which may show up in our writing, or in how we respond to writing assignments, and what to do about them. The all-for-Jesus, dying-to-self message comes through consistently.
Another great feature of this book is the no-stress approach. Parents of large families will appreciate the flexibility of being able to teach all their children at the same time. The lessons can take as little as 20-30 minutes a day. There is no pressure to accomplish a certain amount of work within somebody else’s time frame. No more, “Come on! We have to finish 20 pages of this workbook every week or we won’t get done by the end of the year!” What a blessing to be able to accomplish what God wants us to in His time frame. The relaxed approach was very freeing for us.
Mrs. Bradrick suggests several grammar handbooks from A Beka and Rod & Staff, which she believes are necessary purchases in order to use Understanding Writing successfully. If you already have a pretty good grasp of basic grammar, and if you own a good college English handbook, you may not need these. We did not use them or miss them, but if you lack confidence in your own writing skills, you might want to purchase them to be on the safe side.
Cost for Understanding Writing: $75.00 + shipping.
Purchase directly from the Bradricks or through other homeschool catalog companies. Also available used at Amazon.
Mrs. Bradrick is a former English teacher and home school mother of nine. You can find her at Family Discipleship Ministries.