Writing can seem intimidating for parents and students. How should a paragraph read? What makes a good essay? How do we know if we’re doing it right? And how do we grade it?
For this reason, most homeschool writing curricula are heavy, cumbersome, expensive, or formulaic. After a while, you can even identify what curriculum a student has used simply by reading his writing. These approaches frustrate parents and hamper a student’s long-term writing skills.
That’s why we made a different choice.
Jensen’s Format Writing
Format Writing by Frode Jensen teaches a logical, systematic approach to both paragraph and essay writing. In spite of the heavy subject matter, the curriculum is easy to use and simple for the student.
The new MasterBooks edition comes in a set which includes to student workbook and an explanatory DVD. The DVD contains each lesson explained by author Frode Jensen himself. The subject is designed for high school students to complete in thirty minutes over the course of one year.
The fresh edition begins with a simple explanation how to use the Parent Lesson Planner. The PLP gives each day’s short assignment, broken up by weeks and semesters, just like other MasterBooks curricula. Each assignment includes a place for students to check off completion and a space for the parent’s grade. Finally, the introduction presents the course itself.
Within the course, each new skill is introduced both in the workbook and on the DVD. If the student and teacher read the lesson or watch the DVD together, the assignment will be easier for the student and the parent will understand how to grade the completed work.
Tests are included for evaluation. At the end of the new edition, parents will find answers to exercises and tests as well as grading criteria for tests.
Below is a sample from the explanatory DVD.
I used an earlier version of Format Writing with my eighth-grade student. The assignments in our book are the same as in the newer edition, we simply lacked the Parent Lesson Planner.
I chose this curriculum to help prepare my eighth grader for the essay writing his high school history class required. My primary goal was to teach him how to correctly structure different types of paragraphs and to self-edit.
With this in mind, we progressed more slowly through the course than the current Parent Lesson Planner suggests. I watched my student’s work carefully and repeated paragraph assignments if he struggled. For example, he completed two definition paragraphs over three weeks and wrote two process paragraphs over two weeks. The newer edition would recommend one paragraph of each topic per week.
Also, I never used the instructional DVD. My kinesthetic learner does better if I sit next to him and help him colorfully highlight important points and draw diagrams of his assignment. A DVD would have lost his attention. He did well with my coaching.
Finally, I am myself an author and have taught paragraph and essay writing to my two older students already, so I felt confident teaching the course with less coaching. However, I am glad to see the updated edition gives parents additional support so they, too, can teach writing with the same confidence.
Regardless of the Parent Lesson Planner, this course is easily customized to each student’s ability. A bright, literary high school student would love the PLP and coast through the book with flying colors. A student like mine who hates writing would also find the book logical and the instructions clear so he can successfully complete each assignment.
Bottom line, my writing-hating son the confidence to complete an essay on any topic successfully.
Format Writing is suggested for high school students. Middle school or high school students with less writing experience could easily spend two years completing the course by repeating each paragraph assignment multiple times, then focusing on the essay portion the following year. As long as the student is writing and editing every week, this would fulfill one credit each year.
My only complaint about Format Writing is the insufficiency of the student checklists. They do remind students to check major issues like the number of sentences, the topic sentence structure, mechanics, and content. However, these areas could be broken up into more specifics for self-editing skills. I made a separate checklist for my son that included active voice, varied sentence structure, repeated words, comma after introductory phrases, and other editing faux pas. A longer, more specific checklist could greatly aid students, but parents can easily create one themselves.
Jensen’s Format Writing includes a consumable workbook, though answers could be easily written on separate paper so siblings could share the book. The course is recommended for high school students, though bright middle school students could use it at their own pace. Sample pages are available on the publisher’s website. This writing curriculum is more economical than most. The workbooks are available directly from the publisher for $37, which includes the DVD. The book may also be purchased separately. You can find the course as well on Amazon. Downloadable versions are available from the publisher for $17.50.
You can preview each book on the publisher’s website. You will find the preview pages and sample video here.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this curriculum from the publisher for my own consideration. These opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support this site.