Essentials in Writing

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Noelle Bailey

  • Reviewed on Tuesday, January 14, 2014
  • Grades Used: Level 7, 8, 10 & 11
  • Dates used: 2012-Present
I never thought our family would find a writing program that worked. We have tried so many different programs over the years, and none of them seemed to fit our specific needs. As a family with one strong and one VERY reluctant writer I never dreamed we would find one curriculum that would work for both. Not to mention the fact that grading the assignments could be a nightmare. Then we found Essentials in Writing.

Essentials in Writing has been a huge blessing to all of us. It is easy for both of our children to use independently. The year begins with grammar review before continuing on to sentence/paragraph structure and then essays. Each new lesson starts with a short DVD video session before the student completes the written assignment. These are laid out in a step by step manner, so the student is not confused by what is expected. The daily written assignments are short, so as to not overwhelm. Not to mention the ease of grading for me. Answer keys for all lessons, including a checklist and rubric for essays, are included which makes assigning grades a breeze. I can’t begin to tell you what a relief Essentials in Writing has been for us.

I have always been under the impression that a writing curriculum must be intensive to work. Was I ever wrong! Through using this curriculum, I have learned that it doesn’t need to be intensive for a student to learn the necessary components of an efficient writer.

We have now completed two years of Essentials in Writing, Levels 7, 8, 10 and 11. I can say with confidence that this is not only user friendly but also a very solid curriculum. The wonderful ACT/SAT writing scores our oldest child received this year has been a confirmation of this.

Thank you, Mr. Stephens, for creating Essentials in Writing. We are so thankful that there is finally a writing curriculum available to homeschooling families that not only contains all of the above mentioned, but is affordable too.


  • Reviewed on Tuesday, August 13, 2013
  • Grades Used: 11
  • Dates used: 2013
After reading so many rave reviews for this curriculum, and being totally unsatisfied with the writing program we were using already, I bought the 11th grade level of this. I thought the answer to all my problems implementing writing with my son were over: daily lessons actually taught by a real writing teacher!! Within the first 2 lessons, though, it was obvious this program was NOT a good fit for my son. First of all, for an 11th grade level, the wrting topics were ridiculously juvenile and simple, not inspiring or resonating with my son at all. I carefully looked at the rest of the topics for the entire program and realized none of them would inspire my son to write anything worth reading, as we don't lead a 'sheltered' homeschool life that necessitates such childish topics. Second, my son does not respond well to effeminate menteachers...sorry, but it's true. IEW DVDs are out too for this reason as well. After spending about $70 for this program, we weresorely disappointed. I ended upspending about $20 on the college level English composition textbook from my own college studies and my son has been thriving with it, as it has real life, age appropriate writing topics and subjects.

Sorry, but I give the high school level of this program 1 star. It would probably be great for 5th grade or below though.


  • Reviewed on Friday, August 2, 2013
  • Grades Used: 3rd and 6th
  • Dates used: 2012-2013
I really wanted to like this program but I was not all that impressed. I thought some of the essay and writing prompts were inane and my kids thought so too. I usually changed them to something more meaty. Actually, I did a lot of changing things and adding in because in general I didn't think this program had a lot of content, especially for 6th grade.---


  • Reviewed on Tuesday, February 26, 2013
  • Grades Used: 11th
  • Dates used: 2012-2013
I think that one of the most difficult programs to find as a homeschooler is a solid writing program. I wanted this to work for us. However, I take issue with the number of grammatical errors and the plethora of mistakes in the worksheets. Just listen to this writing prompt from the expository essay section: "Bullying and harassment has been identified and discussed on many levels of education and in the workplace. Explain how bullying develops and what the effects are on people." Really!?! If the author cannot even use proper syntax, how can I take this program seriously. He tends to ramble on and on and confuse his own words so often when he speaks that I found it tedious to follow him in the DVD lectures. This program feels very sophomoric.