We’re eclectic homeschoolers. We’re avid readers. Living books would be right up our alley. Stands to reason that we’d at least dabble in the classical homeschooling style, right?
Not so fast. See, I think about it… and then I think about the amount of prep work it implies. And promptly chicken out.
I like plans, you see. Not the locked-into-a-strict-schedule sort… but at least a general idea of where we’re going, how fast, what we’ll visit on the way… and about when we’ll arrive.
If someone mentioned a classical-style Language Arts curriculum to me, I’d be a bit hesitant. Skeptical. I’d figure it required a lot of teacher prep, a lot of subjective grading… and assume it wasn’t for me.
Thankfully, we were chosen to review Writing Tales – and it has torn all my misconceptions up, spit them out, and make a pretty cake instead.
When Writing Tales was added to our list, I checked out the website – and was VERY impressed. Any question I might have asked was already answered, the website was easy to navigate, samples were available… and the website did an extremely good job of making me curious and want to try it out. (Samples are available in two locations. The samples on the Writing Tales website has, for level one, complete lessons 7 and 8 – from the student workbook, and both the homeschool and co-op lesson plans from the teacher guide. Level Two is the same setup, but with lessons 9 and 10 instead. Different samples that display Scope and Sequence, along with the Table of Contents for each title, are viewable from Writing Tales‘ publisher’s website – click on the individual title, then click on the link to PREVIEW, located below the book image.)
When Writing Tales arrived, I was shocked at just how thick the books are! There is a TON of material here. Currently, Writing Tales consists of two levels, each with a student workbook and a teacher’s guide. For level one, the student guide has 188 pages, the teacher’s guide, 318. Level two is even heftier, with the workbook weighing in at 294, and the teacher’s guide a solid 472.
The teacher’s guides are perfect-bound, which is a nice, sturdy solution. Even though I prefer spiral-binding, I can appreciate the cost savings with texts this massive. Student workbooks are a strong double-spiral, which I really like. The level two workbook, though, could use a slightly larger spiral – it gets a bit tough to turn the pages smoothly without damaging them.
The currently available levels of Writing Tales are recommended for grades 3rd-5th. After browsing through the books, I decided that we’d make this a family project – I decided that my 3rd and 5th graders would use Level 1, and my 7th and 9th graders would try out Level 2. Each level is a complete language arts program, with spelling, vocabulary, grammar, writing, and handwriting practice.
I quickly discovered two things. First, at theyounger end, students need to be reasonably competent readers, and be comfortable with writing at least a few sentences on their own. The younger they are, the more those skills will be the deciding factor as to whether or not they’re ready to start Writing Tales. Second, the author dramatically underestimates the appeal – and challenge – this curriculum has for older students.
The structured format of a pre-planned story, plus the encouragement to add their own embellishments, is definitely a huge draw with the older students. Granted, the spelling & vocabulary portions are a bit too easy for the older students, and the grammar just a brief refresher, but the writing instruction is a great approach to use with older students. (It’s definitely been a boon for my formerly-public-schooler; heaven forbid he actually have FUN writing something! And no having to think up a story to write – that’s the point where he often derails – and since that’s the first step, it’s nice to have an easy way past it and get on to the actual writing.)
But here’s what you really want to know: how much teacher prep is required?
Very little. This is an EASY curriculum to implement in your homeschool. Make a few copies you need, and just pick it up and go. Even better, detailed 30-week lesson plans are included, for both homeschool and co-ops. I generally wouldn’t be comfortable teaching a co-op class… but even I could DO this, and feel competent doing so.
All pages you might need to copy are located in the teacher’s guide appendix, and even better – these pages are available for download on the Writing Tales website, so you can just print from your computer, rather then running out to make copies. Couldn’t be easier.
A couple of reading books, commonly available at libraries, are used as *extra reading* in Writing Tales. Specifics are included on the Writing Tales FAQ page.
We’ll be continuing to use Writing Tales, even with my older students. (In fact, I’m seriously considering backtracking a bit and letting them do level one, also.) I look forward to future levels!
Writing Tales is having a sale May 2nd to May 9th: 20% off, plus FREE shipping. That’s a great deal! Prices are currently as follows:
- Writing Tales Level One – Student Workbook – $19.95
- Writing Tales Level One – Teacher’s Guide – $24.95
- Writing Tales Level Two – Student Workbook – $24.95
- Writing Tales Level two – Teacher’s Guide – 32.95
To see what other crew members had to say about this product, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog post, Writing Tales.
**I received this product for free as a member of the 2010-11 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew so that I could provide you with an honest review of it by our family.**