About two and a half years ago, Mr. Intellectual told me that he wanted a more structured Language Arts program. I had been finding things here and there for him to do, but he didn’t like that and wanted to learn more. We started using the curriculum that I had grown up with, and he did all right with that for awhile, but by this year he was thinking he wanted something different. We switched to another, which focused mostly on writing all sorts of different types of things, and he liked that pretty well. Then, a couple of months ago, we were offered the chance to review Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers, from Silverdale Press LLC. I showed it to him and he spent quite a long time studying the website and the sample pages that were available, and decided this was what he was really wanting. He’s been using it now for about six weeks, and is really enjoying it.
I asked Mr. Intellectual to write a review of the course, since he has used it and I have hardly even looked at it, so this is what he came up with:
To start out, I will give you a overview of the course. It is a self- guided course. The student goes at his or her own pace, but there is a four-day chart that can be stretched out into five days if you prefer. On the first day, you read the lesson and the profile in rhetoric (talking about someone who inspired the subject); for example, Wendell Berry was used as a man who used rhetoric to argue on the subject of economics, Ida M. Tarbell on the subject of research, and John Locke on the subject of note-taking.The second day is reading something by the person in the profile in rhetoric, the third day is an activity expanding on the subject, and the last day(s) are taken up with writing an essay on a given prompt. Sometimes, of course, it is easier to come up with a fitting essay than others, but it is good for stretching your brain.
When we got the chance to get this course, I jumped for it, and I was not disappointed. It is both a course on talking and writing. Rhetoric is both, and I feel that to some extent it has helped me on both. Some of the prompts have been fairly hard for me to build on; in week four, they had an assignment to go to Walmart and write an essay on its pros and cons, but the problem is that we are in a country where Walmart is unheard of, so I had a lot of trouble with that one. Mom ended up letting me stick to a smaller word count as a result of getting stuck since I can’t go to Walmart (I could’ve if I could’ve gone to the states, but no one would pay the ticket : ( ). Otherwise I’ve had no problems with the course.
Now you are asking two questions, one is whether you really want the course, and two is whether or how the course will help you. I can’t answer that first question for you, but if you do decide to get the course, then it will help you do research better, which will help you have strong arguments in any sort of debate. That will help you be a better person and a better citizen. It takes perseverance, but if you do persevere, then it will help.
As he mentioned, there are four parts to each lesson. There are also four books that make up the course! The lesson book contains a lesson about some aspect of writing persuasively—from the beginning, where rhetoric is defined, on through the process of learning how to get people to see things your way, on through polishing your work. I even saw a lesson on correctness in punctuation. The five sections that lessons are divided into are Introduction, Invention (which includes an interlude for research), Arrangement, Style, and Conclusion, where the student is encouraged to keep writing.
The reader contains speeches and essays by famous historical figures, to give examples of rhetoric, or persuasive writing. These are from people such as Patrick Henry, Winston Churchhill, John F. Kennedy, and even Jane Austen! There is one selection per week from weeks 1-31, with the exception of two weeks toward the beginning, when the student is to do a research project, and again in about the middle, when there is another interlude for writing.
The workbook has four sections for each lesson. The first contains questions about the lesson; the second is review questions about the reading, and the third is designed to help the student explore the week’s topic more in-depth. The fourth is lines for the 500-word essay that the student is expected to write each week! We haven’t used that section, since Mr. Intellectual prefers to type his essays. There is also an answer book, although I’ll have to admit that we haven’t put that to use as we should have. As I said at the beginning, I have hardly taken the time to look at this, since Mr. Intellectual is a self-starter when it comes to academics.
Because Mr. Intellectual is quite interested in writing, this course is a good fit for him. It would not have been useful for his older brothers, and it won’t be for at least a couple of the younger ones, but for someone who has an interest in writing, it is very good. I’m thankful we found it and had the chance to use it!