FORGOT YOUR DETAILS?

The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Tess Hamre and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Wordsmith Apprentice and Wordsmith Craftsman Review by Heather Jackowitz, and Dawn King

By Janie B. Cheaney
Common Sense Press
8786 Highway 21
Melrose, FL 32666
(352) 475-5757
http://www.commonsensepress.com/

Wordsmith Apprentice is a writing course designed for grades four through six. A newspaper scenario adds fun and interest to the course. In addition to this write-in workbook, you will need a student thesaurus and a newspaper for samples to show your child. (Due to the questionable content of most newspapers, we used World Magazine for children instead.)

The focus of the first half of the program is on how words function in sentences. This program assumes a basic knowledge of grammar (nouns, verbs, articles, pronouns, conjunctions, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases). Much emphasis is placed on choosing specific nouns and vivid verbs. Writing assignments in the first half of the book include poetry, advertisements, definitions, invitations, thank-you notes, captions, word puzzles, and book reviews.

The second half of the book starts with paragraphing. Students practice four types of paragraphs: descriptive, narrative, explanatory, and persuasive. Summaries, directions, and news reports are some of the writing assignments in this section. The final assignment is an editorial essay about something the student would like to change about his home, town, or country.

Mrs. Cheaney has done a fabulous job of making writing meaningful to children. Her assignments are clever and inviting. My only criticism is that some of the assignments direct children to prepare for writing a factual report by writing an imaginary report based on a cartoon drawing. This was my children's least favorite type of assignment, so we often changed the topic to something they had experienced firsthand. Other assignments use a sports theme, but my son chose to write about famous battles, such as the defeat of the Spanish Armada, instead. Feel free to tweak the program to suit your family's personality.

I have used this program with two children, a girl who loves to write and a boy who doesn?t. Wordsmith Apprentice met both children's needs for an effective and interesting writing program. In fact, our family created our own family newspaper based on the ideas we learned from this program. We publish The Jackowitz Express quarterly and send copies to all the grandparents and cousins.

Wordsmith Apprentice is one of my top five favorite homeschool resources. I highly recommend it!


--Product Review by: Heather Jackowitz, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC

Wordsmith Craftsman
By Janie B. Cheaney
Common Sense Press
www.commonsensepress.com
8786 Highway 21
Melrose, FL 32666
(352) 475-5757

Wordsmith Craftsman is a college-preparatory writing program for high school students. Mrs. Cheaney recommends it as part of a four-year writing program. In ninth grade, students complete Part One (notes, outlines, summaries, and letter writing) and continue to work on Wordsmith projects from the junior high program. In tenth grade, students work through Part Two and half of Part Three (writing style, as well as descriptive and narrative essays). Students spend eleventh grade finishing the remainder of Part Three (expository and persuasive essays) in addition to one research paper. Finally, students practice all four essay types and complete two research papers in twelfth grade. (Directions are not included for writing the recommended research papers.) A chart offers other scenarios for those who want to complete the program in less than four years.

This book is a goldmine of information and exercises. An extremely helpful section in Part Two shows eight ways to develop a paragraph: by chronology, locality, induction, deduction, definition or classification, comparison, exploration, or cause and effect. Additionally, the appendix has many valuable resources. First, two useful forms will simplify the process of note-taking and summary writing. A practical summary of the steps for essay writing together with suggestions for introductory paragraphs will come in handy throughout high school and college. Finally, a chart of common fallacies of argument will remind students to avoid them in their writing. Each fallacy includes a definition, an example, and an explanation of the error.

Mrs. Cheaney seems to relate well to high school students. She writes directly to the student in a respectful way and offers a variety of examples and writing topics that would interest that age group. Moreover, the author breaks the writing process down in an understandable way that should allow even the reluctant writer to achieve competency with the written word.

There are two potential downsides to this program. First, it is not broken down into a day-by-day lesson plan, so you will probably need to help your student chart a plan and stay on track with it. Secondly, you are on your own when it comes to evaluating your student's writing. If you do not feel competent in this area, you may need to arrange for outside help. My niece often sends me her writing assignments for evaluation. My teacher side likes offering suggestions for improvement, along with a heaping dose of praise. But more than that, my "Auntie" side loves keeping in touch with my niece.

Upon completion of Wordsmith Craftsman, your student should be competent to tackle any necessary assignment in college and beyond. According to the author, ?It's no exaggeration to say that a well-written essay is the mark of an educated man or woman.? Thanks to Mrs. Cheaney for breaking the process down into manageable chunks so that homeschoolers can achieve this level of success!


--Product Review by: Heather Jackowitz, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC

Wordsmith Series
By Janie B. Cheaney
Common Sense Press
www.commonsensepress.com
8786 Highway 21
Melrose, FL 32666
(352) 475-5757

The Wordsmith series, consisting of Wordsmith Apprentice, Wordsmith, and Wordsmith Craftsman, was recently updated to include more exercises and assignments. This series is written directly to the student, and they should be able to use it with a minimum amount of supervision.

Wordsmith Apprentice was written to give students in grades four through six an opportunity to put into practice the grammar and punctuation rules they've already learned, as well as introduce them to writing in a fun way.

This workbook has three sections: Nouns, Verbs, and Sentences; Modifiers; and Organizing and Reporting. The scenario of writing for a small town newspaper engages the student while adding a touch of imagination to the assignments. Examples of exercises include writing captions for pictures, writing help wanted ads, and by the end of the book, writing newspaper articles. This is an enjoyable way for young writers to start learning the writing craft. The exercises are not too difficult or time consuming and they look so fun, I've found myself wanting to complete them!

Wordsmith is designed for students in grades seven through nine to develop confidence in their writing ability by learning basic writing techniques and by discovering that their own experience contains plenty of writing topics. This workbook is divided into three sections: Word Games, which examines the basic parts of speech; Building Stronger Sentences, which focuses on sentence structure; and Now We're Writing! which teaches several different writing techniques.

Wordsmith focuses more on creative writing than Wordsmith Apprentice. There is an optional teacher's guide for Wordsmith that will help those who want a week-by-week schedule for the book. The revised edition contains more exercises, as well as a more polished and professional layout and cover. Wordsmith's exercises are interesting and imaginative. Writing techniques are broken down into easy-to-digest steps and tips so it doesn't get overwhelming.

Wordsmith Craftsman, written for high school students, has a more structured approach and emphasizes writing and thinking skills that will be useful for the rest of your student's life. Part One examines "Everyday Writing," study notes, outlines, and letters. Part Two, "Language Power" polishes writing techniques introduced in the previous books. Part Three, "The Essay" is an in-depth look at this much-maligned form of writing. Again, each form of writing is broken down into steps, coaching the student along the way to completing the assignment. This series in an excellent way for reluctant writers to get the necessary writing skills for life. Most of the assignments are short and the explanations are easy to understand so the writing process is not overwhelming. At the same time, the exercises can be challenging enough for more advanced writers. The books do not have a set schedule, so you and your student can set the pace.

I'd say on average, each book would take a year to go through. You'll want to use something else to fill in the years between each book with another program, because you won't be able to go on to the next book right away. The only weakness I see in them is that the Wordsmith series does not give much parental guidance in evaluating the student's work. This is a minor inconvenience compared to the riches you'll find in this series. The Wordsmith series is a cost-effective way to make sure your children have basic writing skills needed for life. I give it two thumbs up!



-- Product Review by: Dawn King, Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

TOP