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PowerHouse Writing High School Review by Melanie Reynolds

Lisa Dettinger
PowerHouse Educational Resources

Essay writing is a key skill that high school students must master, especially if they plan to attend college. Yet writing can be a challenging task for a parent to both teach and grade. Lisa Dettinger has developed an effective, easy-to-use curriculum designed to teach high school students how to write top-notch essays. PowerHouse Writing High School is available for purchase online at for $99. This course includes a consumable workbook for student use, which is downloadable and printable upon purchase. The softcover print version of the workbook (8 ½” x 11”) can also be purchased for $18 from Amazon, through a link at In addition, the course, hosted via, includes online lessons taught by Ms. Dettinger. The course instructs students on 6 types of essays (process, cause-effect, compare-contrast, editorial, problem-solution, and argumentative), foundational information on writing them, and an additional section on preparing for tests with essays, covered in 8 lessons. Students may complete the course in a quarter, a semester, or in a year, earning either .5 or 1 credit (depending on the time put in). Students will need a computer or tablet with access to the internet to view the teaching videos. PowerHouse Writing High School is designed for independent study by high school students; they will watch the teaching videos, complete the exercises in the workbook, take quizzes, and write essays on their own. Parents and students will grade the essays together, using the included rubrics.

Scheduling PowerHouse Writing High School’s daily work was quite simple. We are using it as part of my son’s senior high English course (which also includes literature and vocabulary). Each week, we scheduled 5 days’ worth of essay lessons. After I scheduled the work for the week, he completed the videos and lessons independently and simply provided his work to me for grading. The eight chapters include 1-2 teaching videos apiece. Students watch the teaching video, then work through the chapter’s exercises, which include essay examples, graphic organizers, and written work. Students learn about each essay type, and as part of the chapter’s work, will write an essay in that style. There is also a rubric included for each essay assignment, where students self-grade and parents also grade the work.

The video teaching lessons by Lisa Dettinger were easy to use. The student logs in to the family account for each lesson and just clicks on the lesson part (A or B). The teaching videos themselves are short and succinct while at the same time being rich and full of depth; they range in length from just over two minutes to twelve minutes long. Ms. Dettinger presents her materials clearly and understandably.

I found the materials to be very straightforward and precise. Each type of essay was explained well, and the assignments for each chapter started with introductory foundational instruction that my student was able to absorb and then build upon, little by little, as he progressed through the chapters. My son felt that Ms. Dettinger was an understandable and informative instructor. The course was, I felt, a challenging one; it was well-suited to high school coursework. It requires attention to detail and creativity even as students work within the constraints of each essay style. In addition, Ms. Dettinger does not shy away from challenging and interesting subject matter in the essay examples she gives in the workbook. Students will face topics such as:

  • Should the legal driving age be raised to 18?
  • Grace vs. justice
  • Suicide prevention
  • Government responsibility
  • And more

As a parent, I found PowerHouse Writing High School to be an exceptional addition to our senior high curriculum. I feel as though my son had proficient writing skills (appropriate to his age group) when he began the class. Yet I was pleased to see that those skills, including vocabulary use, organization of material, and creation of interesting essays, grew rapidly throughout the course. In addition, I saw the fruit of the learning and growth of his writing skills not only for this course, but as he wrote for other courses he is studying. PowerHouse Writing High School is an excellent writing course and it is applicable not only in literature courses but in any subject a student will have to produce great writing for.

I believe that PowerHouse Writing High School will prepare students effectively to take the SAT and the ACT, even as it strengthens their ability to succeed at the college writing assignments many of them will face in the future. If you are looking for an excellent essay writing course for your teen student, do consider PowerHouse Writing High School. Due to the challenging nature of the course, the thinking skills students will require, and the subject matter of some of the essays, I do recommend it for older and more mature high school students. Yet since students will be dealing with these issues and others in life after high school, it should be both a powerful and practical preparation for them.

-Product review by Melanie Reynolds, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2019