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Develop Effective Writing Skills


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Essential in Writing logo photo EssentialsinWritinglogo_zps7affe1cf.jpg

Develop Effective Writing Skills


Essentials in Writing

 Product Review

Writing is not always a fun subject to learn or teach for that matter.  I did not do well with writing as a student and even as an adult I have challenges.  Consequently, it is my desire for my children to develop effective writing skills.  Finding a homeschool curriculum that is simple to use and of good quality is important to me.  I believe I have found that curriculum.  Essentials in Writing provided me with a free copy of the Ninth Grade Essay/Research Paper Curriculum through the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  I must say I am pleased with this product and grateful for reviewing it.

Essentials in Writing Grade 9 photo EIW9thgrade_zps197c408a.jpg


Matthew Stephens is a public school English teacher and a homeschool dad.  He has written the Essentials in Writing curriculum for first grade through eleventh grade.  The twelfth grade curriculum is set to release in August of this year. 

Mr. Stephens has kept the cost of his products affordable.  The current cost is $40 for the DVD curriculum, which includes the video instructions and a PDF file.  A printed workbook is available for $20 for those who prefer not to print the lessons themselves.

Mr. Stephens is revising his curriculum format.  In the near future, the consumer will be able to download the PDF file from the Essentials and Writing website after purchasing the products.  The consumer will then receive a hard copy of the DVD instruction.  With the curriculum being in DVD format and having downloadable lesson plans, makes it even more economical.

Before beginning with the curriculum, I copied the lessons and placed them into a notebook and divided them by the four sections: sentences, paragraphs, essays, and research paper.  This made it easier to follow along with the DVD instruction and with completing the assignments.

Essentials in Writing SentencesEIW Paragraph

My son and I watched the DVD lessons together.  We found the lessons on sentences and paragraphs to be a review.  The lessons were short which made it nice for my son to watch the DVD and complete the corresponding written assignments on the same day.

Essentials in Writing - The Writing Process

Section three is on essays with the first two lessons on the writing process and parts of a formal essay.  Mr. Stephens has further divided section three into lessons on personal, persuasive, and expository essays, as well as on compare and contrast essays.  My son and I focused on the expository essay lessons.  My son already had a writing assignment in another subject.  The Essentials and Writing curriculum reinforced what my son needed to do to complete his essay.  I really appreciate Mr. Stephens adding examples in the written lessons.  It is very helpful to see what quality and ineffective essays are.

 EIW Source Cards

Section four is on writing a research paper.  This is the section I liked the most.  It reinforced the need to use source cards and for citing sources when conducting research.  It was nice having someone else point out the importance of doing such.  Now my son knows this is not just a mom thing.

 EIW - A - Source Cards

My son found the Essentials in Writing curriculum mostly review for him.  He is very articulate and finds writing effortless.  The curriculum was more helpful for me.  It is too bad I did not have this curriculum when I was in school.  It would have helped me to develop effective writing skills.

As a homeschool mom, there is one aspect of the curriculum that is noteworthy.  It has a rubric to assist in evaluating writing!  Mr. Stephens has included checklists and a scoring guide with the lessons.  This is even helpful for the student to see what the expectations are and to self-correct the paper before handing it in for evaluation.  You may want to visit the support page of the Essentials in Writing website.  There is a video on using a rubric to score writing and a PDF of a Personal Narrative Scoring Guide.

The Ninth Grade Essay/Research Paper Curriculum is as it says and not a complete language arts course.  This will serve as standalone high school course since it does not include literature studies. 

If I have to say there is a negative for this product, it will be the quality of the sound.  Be prepared to adjust the volume.  The music is much louder in comparison with Mr. Stephens’ voice.  

This is a product I recommend especially if you have a visual or auditory learner or you need assistance with teaching writing.  I will definitely be saving this curriculum for when my daughter is in the ninth grade.


Angie McFarren, Homeschool Consultant


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This copyrighted article originated from Angie McFarren at H.O.P.E. Home School Consulting. © 2014 H.O.P.E. Home School Consulting Blog  All Rights Reserved.

Angie McFarren

Angie McFarren is a homeschool mom of 1 high school student and graduated another who is now attending college. She has homeschooled them since they were in K and Pre-K. Angie is passionate about homeschooling and enjoys Helping Other Parents Educate. She is a Homeschool Consultant and the author of Educate the Home Educator Crash Course. Angie is also on the See the Light Art Curriculum team.


  1. Thank you for this review. I have read so many reviews that came from the review crew and your’s is by far the best and seems the most honest. I’ve been looking at this program for a little over a day and from what you wrote, it seems to be the fit I’m looking for. Thank you!

  2. Thanks Lori. I am so pleased you liked my review. Let me know how well the product works for your family.


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