When we first began homeschooling, I had a 7th and 10th grader. I didn't have to worry about teaching them to read or basic arithmetic or even a general overview of history. They already had those things. Instead, I worried about things like teaching them to write effective essays and evaluating their writing. It was incredibly intimidating when I could barely remember how to craft an essay myself!
What is the Handbook for Writers?
The Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers is a 420-page reference book covering the mechanics of writing and how to construct arguments and write essays. It’s a resource that students will refer to throughout high school, college, and even into adulthood. Teachers can also use the handbook to correct papers and give evaluations that help your students correct errors and learn from their mistakes.
The first part of the handbook goes into great detail to explain how to structure an essay with an arguable thesis rather than one that is already widely agreed with or a simple restating of fact. Other details, such as how to outline and write a paragraph, are also covered.
The second part focuses on mechanics such as grammar, spelling, word usage, formatting, commonly confused words, and much more.
How We Used the Handbook for Writers
The Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers is not a course or workbook. The first section on writing is an excellent walkthrough on how to write persuasively. My daughter and I have been working through this writing section carefully. The handbook provides several example paragraphs that allow students to better understand how to apply the principles covered in the instruction sections.
The writing style of the author is very thorough but also somewhat casual and conversational. My daughter finds it easy to read the information and relate to it instead of trudging through lots of technical details presented in a dry style.
Other Ways the Handbook for Writers Could be Used
We have not yet had the opportunity to use the second part of the book very much, but it is an excellent resource. The handbook covers almost anything you’d want to know about writing mechanics, grammar, word usage, writing structure, citations, and much more.
The author recommends that when grading essays and other writing, the handbook sections be provided so that the student can look up the rule, read it, and correct their own work. This allows the student to fully understand their mistake.
For example, let’s say that the student writes this sentence:
Let’s go, it takes forever to get there.
Rather than correcting the comma splice, I would highlight the sentence and label it “1.36”. This tells the student to look up section 1.36 Comma Splice in the handbook, read the information, and apply it to this sentence to correct the mistake.
The Rubric for Writing Evaluation provided in the back of the handbook will no doubt be a valuable resource as a checklist for both writing and grading future essays.
Overall, I am pleased with the instruction my daughter has received from the first part of the handbook on writing. The author provides so much more than simply saying, “this is how to write an essay.” One example would be the section on Deduction and Induction. The author doesn’t just explain what the terms mean and how to apply them to writing, there are numerous examples that allow the student to really think through the purpose for understanding the principles.
I look forward to finishing the first section with my daughter and using the second section throughout the coming high school years to help evaluate her papers and provide a refresher on grammar skills.