One of the things that I love about homeschooling is that I can pick curriculum that is tailored to my kids and their preferences, and that can vary even with kids in the same family. While Cuddle Bug loves to listen to read alouds, PB & J Girl does not. She much prefers diligently working and using workbooks. She’s especially enjoyed products from Memoria Press, so when the opportunity came to review Classical Composition 1: Fable Set, we eagerly said yes.
About Classical Composition 1: Fable Set
This program is designed for students in grades 4-12. As she is finishing 3rd grade, PB & J Girl was just a little short of the minimum grade requirement.
This set comes with a Student Book, a Teacher Guide, and an instructional DVD, and sells for $85.
Each lesson follows a basic pattern:
The students reads a fable aloud
Three Plot Components
Then they identify three plot components–recognition, reversal, and suffering.
Variations Part 1
Next, they find variations of the words used in one sentence. For example, in Lesson 4, they use the sentence “A Hare one day ridiculed the short feet of the Tortoise.” Students must find variations (synonyms) for the words ridiculed, short feet, and Tortoise. Then, they must vary the sentence in three different ways.
Students summarize the fable by creating an outline.
Students then paraphrase the fable using the outline and Variations: Part 1. In addition, they must use particular figures of description. In Lesson 4, that includes ecphrasis, geographia, and dialogismus. (Don’t worry, the student book, teacher’s manual, and video lesson explain what each of these are and give examples.)
Then, the student rewrites the fable again, this time by reduction–leaving out all extraneous information.
Variations: Part 2
Students do much the same as they did for Variations: Part 1, but with different sentences.
The Instructional DVDs
There are four DVDs in the instructional DVD. The instructional DVD follows the exact pattern listed above. For the Fable portion, the instructor, Brett Vaden, reads the fable. He then explains any challenging vocabulary and then reads the fable again. Vaden explains, step-by-step, what the student should do in each of the sections listed above. If you, as the parent are short on time, perhaps because you have other children to teach, the student could do much of the book work independently after watching the DVD.
The Teacher Guide
The Teacher Guide gives further details for teaching and also contains possible answers for each section.
How We Used Classical Composition I
PB & J Girl used this curriculum three times a week during the review period. (Memoria Press recommends using it daily during the school work, and they even offer lesson plans if you’d like to purchase those for a nominal fee.)
Our Thoughts on Classical Composition I
As a former English teacher, I loved, loved, loved this program! When I taught English at the community college, I regularly had students who inadvertently plagiarized because they didn’t know the proper way to paraphrase and summarize. Classical Composition I teaches these skills through repetition, make students strong writers!
This program is also appealing for students who don’t like writing because they don’t know what to write about. This program allows students to write every day, learning valuable skills, without having to think of their own topics.
Having said that, I think this program will work wonderfully for PB & J Girl in a year or two. Because of her childhood speech issues, which she has now overcome, PB & J Girl was a late reader and writer, and she’s still playing catch up. This program was challenging for her; I think we’ll put it aside for now and revisit it when her writing, reading, and vocabulary skills are stronger.
I think this program would be a great fit for a 5th grader or older average student or a 4th grade advanced student or one who has been using Memoria Press throughout his school career.
If you’re looking for a writing program that will make your student a strong, competent writer, I’d recommend this one.
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