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Meaningful Composition, Book 4: Put Those Paragraphs Together (2nd Semester) Book 5: Writing for Real (1st Semester) Book 5: Creative and Clever (2nd Semester) Review by Krystin Corneilson

Donna Reish
Training for Triumph
6456 E US 224
Craigsville, IN 46731

The Meaningful Composition series is the latest offering from Training for Triumph, a family ministry/business dedicated to serving homeschooling families. All three of the books I reviewed have a handy "How to Use This Book" chapter right after the table of contents (the same for all three). In it, there are several clear options for incorporating this curriculum into any homeschool language arts plan. It can be a stand-alone English curriculum or a complement to a fundamental grammar course. Each book offers "Basic" and "Extension" lessons for differently skilled students, thus making it even more useable. The series can be used in a homeschool classroom, in a co-op/small group setting, or in an online class through Training for Triumph. Suggestions are offered for additional/supplemental grammar instruction, including TFT's own Character Quality Language Arts (CQLA). Also included in each book is a listing of all of the books in the series, what specific skills they cover, and even the topics of the writing assignments.

Each of the consumable books clearly lays out each bite-sized daily lesson. Every lesson reinforces the previous work and adds on. The students are asked to read, think, memorize key ideas, research, write, edit, re-write, and produce final products. It's hands-on, practical application without extra fluff. At the end of the week (or five lessons), there is a checklist challenge that wraps up and reinforces that segment of learning.

All of the spiral-bound books include user-friendly appendices, covering such topics as editing and revision marks, how to teach in a small group setting, lesson planning, and further explanation of key concepts (such as key word outlines and plagiarism).

Pros: The step-by-step, building-block approach makes the writing process clear and practical. The students complete each step fully, which means they review their work, fix it, improve it, and then move on. Too often, I think, students aren't expected to slow down and take the time to be their own editors, but such self-critiquing is a valuable life-long skill that will improve writing and increase learning. Hopefully, that self-checking step will translate to other subjects in school (and life) as well.

Cons: Having used CQLA in the past, I know that even though the curriculum makes sense and is broken down into manageable chunks, it wasn't always easy to motivate my kids to do their own language arts work. Perhaps it requires more teacher time than I offered before (I have four children in four different grades). I think these Meaningful Composition lessons are worth learning. They are practical and will serve the kids well in the rest of school and beyond. However, if you are looking for a hands-off language arts program, this would probably not be the best choice.

I am looking forward to starting Book 4: Put Those Paragraphs Together with my son right after Christmas. Although he is currently using another "complete" language arts curriculum, I know that he and his writing will benefit, hopefully for years to come.

Product review by Krystin Corneilson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2009