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About Debra Bell
Long before we reviewed this product, I was familiar with Debra Bell. I have two of her books, The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling and The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens, both of which I love and have read over several times. In addition, last year we reviewed her new planner, The Ultimate Homeschool Planner (which I’m still using), and we bought Bookworm The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens.
See, Debra Bell homeschooled all four of her kids, so she knows what homeschool parents need to know to successfully homeschool AND she knows what it’s like to homeschool. To the new Writers in Residence program she brings a great deal of expertise. She has a B.S. in communications education, a M.A. in English, and a Ph.D. in educational psychology.
About Writers in Residence
Wow! What a program! I am so happy to see that this is just the first in a series of writing courses Bell is going to develop!
This one, Volume 1: Apprentice, is for grades 4 to 8. Bookworm is finishing up 6th grade, and the level was just perfect for him. I also liked that the schedule for assignments was laid out for both of us in the front of the book. The program requires 4 days of work a week for 32 weeks, and each day’s assignment is laid out clearly.
The curriculum includes an All in One Student Text and Workbook. You can also purchase an answer key. (We received both for this review.)
This is a meaty program; the student text and workbook is spiral bound and 576 pages long!
Each unit starts with a Spotlight on Christian Writers. Featured writers include Bill Myers, Amy Green, Irene Howat, Jason Lethcoe, Amy Parker, and Phil Vischer.
Each unit (there are 6) includes 4 modules. The units are:
- When I Was Young
- Very Truly Yours
- My Family Hall of Fame
- My Favorite Author
- The History of Me
- Zap! Pow! Kazam!
Each unit covers writing, vocabulary, and grammar. For instance, in Unit One, Bookworm learned about using vigorous verbs, common vs. proper nouns, capitalization, simple and complete subjects, and simple and complete predicates, to name just a few.
How We Used Writers in Residence
We followed the suggested four day schedule and were able to finish the first unit. Bookworm completed all of the activities that ultimately culminated in him writing this short essay modeled after When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Ryland:
When I was young in the Michigan countryside, three pine trees happily welcomed us to Grandma’s. When I was young in the Michigan countryside, I made things in the snow and wore my snow pants. When I was young in the Michigan country side, I was excited to play with the toys at Grandma’s house. When I was young in the Michigan countryside, Grandma held parties at Christmas and Easter. When I was young in the Michigan countryside, Aunt Mary always brought her cheese dip to parties. When I was young in the Michigan countryside, I helped Grandma sweep with the toy broom that said, “You missed a spot.” When I was young in the Michigan countryside, Grandma baked macaroni and cheese and lasagna. When I was young in the Michigan countryside, sometimes we went into town to shop and go to Red Lobster. When I was young in the Michigan countryside, Grandma kept 8 year old ketchup in her refrigerator, and my mom disapproved.
What We Liked about This Product
Overall, Bookworm liked this program, and we plan to continue using this program as his writing program as he finishes up 6th grade and heads into 7th.
Bookworm liked that there was a theme for each essay and that the essay for the first unit was based on the style of another writer.
He also enjoyed that the assignments were varied. He didn’t feel like he was writing all.the.time. He enjoyed that Bell “gave him a break” by giving fun assignments throughout like asking parents the meaning of your name and how it was chosen. He also appreciated the rubric that was given for the assignment so he could refer back to it when writing his final draft and so he knew how he was being graded.
Finally, he liked that the book was very visual and engaging. He appreciated the bright colorful pages.
I agree with everything that Bookworm said. I also appreciated that the Answer Key was a separate book. Many, many homeschool products have the answer key right in the back of the student or text book. Bookworm is an honest kid and doesn’t look, but I’m sure having the answers right there must be tempting for a lot of kids, so I’m glad Bell put the answers in a separate book.
What We Disliked about This Product
Overall, we both liked this program, plan to complete it, and look forward to using the next book in the series when it’s released.
Bookworm had a few dislikes that were relatively minor. He felt that the daily workload was a bit uneven. Some days he felt like the workload was quite light, while other days he felt like he had a lot to do.
He also complained that since the student text and workbook is so large, flipping to the back of the book can be difficult because he had to physically push the pages to get them over the spiral.
The only thing that I didn’t like is that the student text and workbook are combined. With three kids, I would prefer to have the student text stand alone so I could reuse it with my other children and have the workbook be consumable so that would be the only thing I’d need to replace when my younger children use the program.
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I was one of 95 reviewers to review this program. Click on the link below to read others’ experiences: