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Writing Tales Level Two / Teacher's Guide / Student Workbook Review by Kendra Fletcher

Amy Hastings Olsen
52 Lincoln Avenue
Livingston, NJ 07039

Oh, how I love a homeschooling curriculum written by homeschoolers! The unique needs of the homeschool cannot always be met by traditional classroom curricula, particularly when there are multiple levels being taught in the home.

From the get-go, Writing Tales is a writing curriculum with obvious benefits to the homeschool teacher and student. Amy Hastings Olsen understands what homeschoolers need. Additionally, she tested Writing Tales Level Two on a homeschool co-op of 3rd and 4th grade students, so the scope of her understanding is broad.

Writing Tales Volume Two is a classical curriculum modeled on the 12 ancient levels of instruction utilized by the Greeks called the Progymnasmata. In a nutshell, the theory is that students best learn to write on their own by copying well-written models first. At the same time, they learn the mechanics of the English language by studying and analyzing these models. In a strictly classical approach, the student is not allowed to do anything other than re-tell the original story at the level Writing Tales Level Two instructs. Mrs. Olsen, however, deviates somewhat from the classical model in that she allows the student to add creative touches to their final drafts. Her experience after teaching Writing Tales Level Two was that her students really loved being able to have some creative license. When a child enjoys some part of the process of writing, even reluctant writers can become turned on to writing creatively. They'll feel a major sense of accomplishment, too; when the course is completed, each student will have a "book" of 15 stories authored by them and based on well-written fables and legends.

Grammar is included, and during the 30 weeks of study in Writing Tales Volume Two the students review four different kinds of sentences and two different kinds of quotes, both direct and indirect. They will learn to identify all eight parts of speech, study paragraph definitions in fictional writing, sentence combining, and learn ten different ways to start sentences. Practice is also included in handwriting (with copywork), vocabulary, and spelling. Really, you could ditch the separate grammar text at this level for the year and utilize Writing Tales Volume Two as an all-inclusive writing/grammar/handwriting/spelling/vocabulary curriculum. How's that for homeschool-friendly?

Fifteen fables, fairy tales, and legends (including The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Tortoise and the Hare, Grandmother's Table from the Brothers Grimm, and Aesop's The Bundle of Sticks) are studied and re-written, while 15 grammar lessons are taught simultaneously.

The curriculum includes lesson plans for both homeschoolers and "co-opers". The homeschool lesson plans are divided into five days of instruction while the co-op lesson plans include one day of instruction for each lesson, followed by four days of work to be done at home.

Mrs. Olsen suggests that if you are teaching more than one child at home you may want to consider the co-op lesson plans instead of the homeschool lesson plans because of the group activities and games that are included. There are creative activities provided that take minimal teacher preparation, and by minimal I mean a minute to photocopy pages and you're good to go!

Many moms I know desire to give their students a solid footing in writing but don't know how to pull it off. Be assured that Writing Tales Volume Two is a tool that even the most reluctant homeschool teacher can use affectively and easily, not to mention the most reluctant homeschool student. You don't have to be an expert in classical education, grammar, writing, or even spelling. You don't need to take special courses to learn how to teach Writing Tales Volume Two. With a layout and content this solid, you can literally pick up the book and get started.

Product Review by: Kendra Fletcher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2009