Monday, March 18, 2013

CREW REVIEW- The Essentials of Writing

Essentials in Writing is a complete language arts curriculum, with an emphasis on composition, taught by former teacher, now homeschooling father, Matthew Stephens.  Offering levels from first to twelfth  grade, we had the opportunity to review the 5th grade level which includes 2 lesson CDs. With each level you order, an email will be sent to you with a PDF file for access to the printable workbook.  If you prefer you can order a pre-printed workbook instead.  Essentials in Writing is divided into two pretty distinct parts, the first 34 lessons concentrating on Grammar, and the following lessons focusing on the writing process.
Essentials in Writing Grade 5 photo EIW5thgrade_zpsbb95ceb8.jpg
This was an easy product to review.  Because of the CD format, you just pop it in and click the lesson you are on.  At this 5th grade level, each lesson is only a few minutes long so as not to overwhelm the student with too much information at once.  Following the lesson there is a corresponding worksheet for your student to complete.  Answer keys are included in the printable files.  
For the purpose of the review we did a few sections of each part of the program.  The grammar part is pretty standard, with Mr. Stephens reviewing parts of speech and sentence structure.  These lessons are fairly short and on occasion we did several at one time.  Once we started into the writing portion of the program we did slow down to one lesson per day.  Each writing assignment is broken down into sections to include: Organizing Thoughts, Draft, Revising, and Edit/Publishing.  At the end of each writing assignment you will find a checklist to help your child and yourself as the teacher evaluate the work done.  Topics we encountered were-
Descriptive Writing
Friendly Letters/Invitations
Persuasive writing,
Summary Writing
Informational Reports (including how to write a Bibliography)
Figurative Language
While most can be completed in a week or so, the Informational Report is more detailed and thus will take more time to complete. 
Our Thoughts-
Unlike my older girls, my 5th grade son has not had the opportunity to do any classes with this type of video instruction with a teacher.  One of the things that drew me to the program, quite honestly, was that the teacher was a male.  I think that all too often our boys never get to see a male teacher, and I liked that Mr. Stephens provided us that opportunity.  The short lessons were a plus for us as they did not drag on and on.  With his humor and laid back approach to teaching, Mr. Stephens kept my 5th grader engaged and interested.  While writing is not his favorite nor his strength, he did do the lessons with minimal moaning, the persuasive paragraph being his favorite so far.  Each lesson is presented step by step with each step being modeled on a whiteboard, so you get that true classroom feel.  Mr. Stephens does interact with students, but you never see them.  Another part we liked about this program was the fact that the worksheets were self explanatory.  Often, my son and I worked together, but this is a program that could be done by a student at this age independently with no problems.  It is quite simple- watch the video lesson, complete the worksheet.
Not really.  A few times "last year" was mentioned and I worried that we might be missing something, but never did we find that it hampered our ability to understand a concept.  Because my son is 11, I do think he could have easily kept up with the next grade level, especially in the grammar portion.  Make sure you review the topics covered in each level when making your grade choice.  If in doubt, I would say go to the higher level.
I have to say, for the low cost and comprehensive content, this is a writing program I anticipate us using for years to come!
Essentials In Writing, 5th Grade- $40.00
Pre- printed workbook- $20.00
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


  1. Great review Michele! We reviewed the 5th grade level as well and I think it is going to be the newest addition to our homeschooling curriculum.

  2. Thanks Michele! Wanted to pop in and add that this company has FAST shipping too! Within 30 minutes of my placing an order, I had recieved a shipment notification. :) We should be diving into boxes by the end of the week, yay!

    1. WOW! That is amazing, Angela! What did you order???

    2. I ordered the 4th and 7th grade levels w/workbooks. Super excited to see how the kids like it! :)


Thanks for commenting. I love hearing from you!