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Composition Volume I: Invention and Persuasion Review by Jennifer Harrison

World News Group and Veritas Press
Veritas Press
(800) 922-5082
1805 Olde Homestead Lane
Lancaster, PA 17601

Teaching writing is terrifying. I’ve not met a homeschool mom yet who isn’t daunted by the task. We want our students to write well and want them to think writing is fun. Publishers have recognized our need for help in teaching writing and have offered many different approaches for us to try. And we try them all. We try something entertaining to convince them they love writing. We try something repetitious so we can be certain they get the point. We try something formulaic so that we can check all of the boxes. In the end, many students are still convinced that writing is too hard, or worse, that it is boring. Through many years of teaching many students to write, I’ve found two things that make a difference: writing for someone other than mom (because peer pressure is sometimes quite positive) and writing with a purpose. Writing something meaningful changes the motivation of the writer.

Knowing this, Veritas Press teamed up with World News Magazine to create a writing curriculum full of purpose. Composition 1: Invention and Persuasion brings writing to life. It teaches students to develop attention to details and how to think about what they read and write. Words have meaning and students seem to instinctively know this. The lessons in Composition 1 work to develop that instinct.

The manual is a collaboration of authors, journalists, professors, and teachers coming together to give students quality writing examples and an invitation to participate with assignments based on these writings. The examples come from nineteenth-century literature, modern advertising, and from carefully chosen news headlines. The manual also shares examples of bad writing, helping them see the difference between strong and weak patterns to imitate or avoid.

Composition 1 begins with a picture and asks students to notice details about the picture. The first assignment is to observe another picture and write a list of questions about it. The next day’s assignment asks them to observe a picture and list things they like and dislike about the picture. I love how gently it eases in and helps the students gain confidence in their own thoughts. It inspires curiosity and helps develop their mind’s eye to notice details. It’s a beautiful skill to have and it affects much more than just the subject of writing. All of this is taught through the lens of a Christian worldview and encourages students to examine their own worldview.

The course is divided into eight sections, with five chapters in each section. Section one eases students into thinking about messages and writing their own thoughts through the use of images. Section two brings text alongside images and emphasizes effective use of grammar. Section three focuses on careful reading and an awareness of what makes a paragraph good. Section four walks students through writing intriguing essays. Section five delves into writing a successful paragraph. Section six goes back to sentence structure, as a building block to good paragraphs. Section seven teaches them to organize their thoughts and their words in an orderly way. Section eight teaches the big picture, from a single, quality paragraph to multiple paragraphs that transition well to convey meaning.

The course also includes a project for each semester. The first semester ends with students writing a persuasive essay, which includes some prompts, but allows students to choose their topic. The second semester ends with an assignment of a fictitious story based on a real event in the life of the student.

The one thing that I do not like about the program is that there is no answer key in the Teacher’s Edition. Much of writing is subjective, so if there were an answer key, it would mostly just say “answers may vary,” but some of the assignments are not subjective and it would be nice to have a key for those questions. For example, one assignment says to review a speech provided in the book and then “write down all of the parallel structures you find.” What if the student doesn’t understand and needs examples? What if mom doesn’t understand and needs examples so that she can help her child? Without an answer key, it is not possible to sit down and grade students’ answers without going through each lesson. When another assignment asks students to “list what type of support is used” in sample sentences, there are no options provided to choose from. Instead, you have you to go through the previous two lessons to understand what they are even asking. The teacher then needs to figure out the answers before being able to grade the students’ pages. Because of this, I found it best to do the lessons together and do these types of assignments orally, together.

Though there is no answer key, the Teacher’s Edition is helpful for the course. It has good suggestions for evaluating students’ writings, plus good insight to what students might be struggling with in each assignment. There are great tips and good reminders throughout each page.

There are one hundred and thirty-nine lessons in the course. The Teacher’s Edition provides a couple schedule suggestions based on either twice per week classes or daily classes, with some lessons taking two days to read and complete. The teacher’s guide also includes grading rubrics for reference.

Composition 1 is intended for middle school, but I think it would be beneficial to most high school students. The Student Manual is $49, and the Teacher’s Edition is $59. There is also an eBook option available for $39 and $49 for the Teacher’s Edition.

-Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2018