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Writing & Rhetoric Book 7: Encomium & Vituperation (grades 6-7) Review by Laura Delgado

(Physical Teacher and Student Books PLUS Digital Download Files)
Paul Kortepeter
Classical Academic Press
2151 Market Street
Camp Hill, PA 17011

Occasionally one is blessed enough to find (or be gifted with) curriculum that she knows immediately will be life-changing for her kids. That was my experience the first time I laid eyes on Writing & Rhetoric Book 7: Encomium & Vituperation (grades 6-7). Actually, I probably experienced that sensation when I read the title of the curriculum. The words encomium and vituperation are two of my favorite words. They have been part of my vocabulary for decades since I learned them in high school (SAT prep, undoubtedly!). Any writing program that takes them as a starting point has to be amazing, right? Oh, and let’s not forget that this program is published by perennial homeschool favorite Classical Academic Press.

Writing & Rhetoric Book 7: Encomium & Vituperation is designed for grades 6-7 and is part of a larger series beginning with Book 1: Fable for grades 3-4 and culminating with Book 12: Attack/Defend a Law for grades 8-9. There are two books for each grade, so the book that I am reviewing here is one semester’s worth of writing. Here’s a spoiler: my children will be continuing with this series through the end. It is the best writing program for my family that I have yet encountered. It is Classical Academic Press’s version of the classical writing teaching model known as the progymnasmata.

The program consists of a 348-page Teacher’s Edition and a 348-page Student book. Both are essential. The set is $39.95, with audio files available for an additional $7.95. Additional student books are $19.95 each (because I used this program with my 6th grade twins and their 8th grade brother, I purchased two additional student books. It really is essential that each student have his own book. The book is consumable and students write on nearly every page.).

A typical teaching week includes a five-day schedule. On day one, the teacher reads the text and students then narrate it back and discuss it. On days two and three, students reread the text silently and mark it up (they are looking for main ideas, unfamiliar vocabulary words, important concepts, etc.). They also complete the “Go Deeper” and “Writing Time” portions of the lesson, each of which are featured in different sections of the text. On day four, students engage in speaking exercises (the rhetoric portion of the program). Finally, on day five, students do revising.

Essentially, over the course of the semester, your student will be writing an essay – either an encomium or a vituperation (an essay in praise or blame of someone). Each lesson is one part of that essay and uses numerous written historical examples to illustrate how to accomplish the task at hand. It is an exceedingly innovative and, dare I say, entertaining way to teach writing. Best of all, it is cross-curricular with another lost art (if you consider, as I do, good writing to be a lost art): public speaking. Because encomia and vituperations are just as much spoken arts as written ones, and because this program also focuses on the art of rhetoric, you can use it to teach public speaking as well. The essays that my children are writing during the class will be the Biographical Narratives that they deliver all spring at speech and debate competitions, and the tools that they are learning with this program will aid in their overall debating skills. After all, the author of the program states in his introduction to students that the one big purpose of the Writing & Rhetoric series is “to make you a more informative, effective, and persuasive writer and speaker!” That makes this my favorite writing program and my favorite speech program!

Specifically, there are many objectives listed for this program, but they are grouped into three main areas: reading, writing, and speaking. Essentially, with this program, a student will end up writing a persuasive essay with narrative, descriptive, and expository elements, but while doing so s/he will read many passages of biographical, autobiographical, and other writings, learning to summarize, outline, and create theses from them. S/he will further learn to (using specific evidence) praise and blame the character and careers of specific historical figures, use pathos correctly, utilize rhetorical devices, understand the relationship between writing and speaking, and so much more! There is more packed into this writing program than into any other writing program I have seen. And the best recommendation I can give it is that my kids love it.

Unlike many children (from what I understand from my friends, anyway), mine are different in that they have never protested writing programs. They tend to like many of the programs that I have introduced to them. This program, though, they love. They don’t want to wait for me to read the text in true progym fashion. They want to work ahead. They love all the historical material included in the text. They have loved having to isolate rhetorical devices like hyperbole and then getting the opportunity to utilize such devices in their own writing. They have gotten even better than they already were at analyzing other things that they read outside of school. They can’t wait to finish writing their papers (or their speeches as they think of them). Can you ask for anything else of a program?

Don’t be put off by the references to the progymnasmata if you’re unfamiliar with it. You don’t have to know anything about it to use and love this writing program. You also don’t have to have used earlier levels. I have jumped in with this level and it’s working fine. There are a few references to things learned/done at earlier levels, but they aren’t intrusive and I don’t feel like we are missing anything major by starting here. The introduction provides a very short summary of what was done at earlier levels and it is sufficient. Whether your student is an avid writer or a reluctant one, and especially if your student loves public speaking or is interested in speech and debate, I wholeheartedly recommend Encomium & Vituperation.

—Product review by Laura Delgado, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2016