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on February 1, 2009
I have been homeschooling for 18 years and have never used a writing program that my children and I found consistently enjoyable, delight-centered, and excellent in scope and instruction. Enter, Writing with Ease. My 8-year old son begs for his lesson every day and takes great pleasure in reading his narrations back to me. I see consistent improvement in his narrations, marked improvement in motivation to read, and enjoyment (for the first time) in handwriting skills, all connected to the use of this program. The fine literature passages chosen make for such pleasurable shared moments for my son and I, as we read and discuss each week's lessons.

The repetitive quality of the lessons is counterbalanced by the wide assortment of literature and the gradual changes in the program that mark the student's progress into more challenging tasks. I see no waste in time or thought here. Both my son and I sense the value of the simple but meaningful daily rhythm of the program.

Buy the hardcover text as an overview of the entire program, especially helpful to "bigger picture" people, like me. However, if short of cash, start with just the the workbook. (Remember that it's reproducible for an entire family, too; a great help to those of us with many children, and very cost-effective.)

Thanks, Susan! God-speed on those next workbooks and texts!!!
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on August 9, 2010
I like Susan Wise Bauer's curricula in general, and I want to like this workbook. I love the copywork and narration, and it is helpful to have the scope and sequence laid out. BUT... it frustrates me.

1. The literature selections are from wonderful works, but lose 99% of their value when taken OUT OF CONTEXT. For example, Little House in the Big Woods is a great book. But when you read one random paragraph, and copy the sentence "There were no roads." from it....it loses the effect. It might as well be any random sentence made up by a workbook author. If you are using Little House as a read-aloud, it works well to do copywork from it. But my child isn't familiar with the book, so the literary benefit is lost when he reads and copies a miniscule excerpt. I would rather do this same concept but USE THE BOOKS THAT I READ ALOUD for source material.

2. The samples to copy are printed in the midst of white space. For first grade level, it would be helpful to have it written as a HANDWRITING SAMPLE, ON LINES. I am using Handwriting Without Tears, which uses a different type of lined paper, so I am having him write on that instead of in the workbook anyway. But most people use three-lined paper, and that's what is provided for the student to write on. It would make more sense to have the example written on lines as well, so it works better as handwriting practice. It's confusing to be told "copy this" when it actually looks different from what he is expected to produce; there is an unnecessary mental step of translation that he must do to translate "book font" to "handwriting on lines." Eliminating that step would allow him to focus on the content of what he's writing, which is the goal.

If you want to have someone else choose your copywork and narration passages for you, this is done well. The source material is first rate. But I didn't realize how much I would dislike that since the passages have so much less merit out of their original context. The textbook could be useful to guide your scope and sequence; I think I'll keep it to give me an idea of how to increase the complexity of passages and keep me on track. But I'll pull my own source material from books we are reading.

In case you're wondering, as I was, about the DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TEXTBOOK AND WORKBOOK, here you go:

The TEXTBOOK gives broad scope and sequence for four years, generally grades 1-4. I'm on year one, so this is what it looks like. It basically spells out exactly what to do for one week (including passages), with copywork on days 1&3, narration on 2&4. It provides passages for week one, then for the next 3 weeks it says "follow the same weekly pattern as above", using books of your own choosing. Then it spells out week 5 for you (slight increase in complexity), and you figure out weeks 6-8 for yourself. Follow that pattern for each 4-week cycle. You would use your own handwriting paper or notebook paper. In comparison, the WORKBOOK has passages selected for everyday. They are printed right there in the workbook. Then there is a perforated pull-out page with the copywork sample printed and blank lines for the student to write on. So basically the workbook allows you to follow the textbook, but not have to A) use your own paper, or B) choose your own passages, ever. And those are pretty much the two things I don't like about it.
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on September 3, 2008
This is my first year to use any of Mrs. Bauer's curriculum. I really like that each day is just a little bit (just enough)there isn't any overkill. There are 4 days of work for each week. The first and third days they do copy work. The second and fourth days they do narration. My favorite part is narration. You read a short selection to your child (it is already in the book) and they tell you a sentence about what they remember. This is also done - on a larger scale with her Language Lessons book. It is great too! My child loves to tell the story back to me in her own words. Then, I write them down for her. She loves to hear it read back. This teaches how to write a story without being held back by the physical process of writing it down. I wish I had this for my older child! I highly recommend it!
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on January 25, 2010
I am a homeschooling mom using this workbook with a 2nd grader. I listened to Susan Wise Bauer speak at convention last year and was thrilled with her writing methodology. At the beginning of this school year I purchased "The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals", which explains her program. She provides guidelines for narration and copywork material, allowing the homeschooling parent to select material of interest to the student. This book can be used as a stand-alone product for several years of instruction.

However, I found myself falling behind on selecting material for my son. Halfway through the school year I went ahead and purchased "The Complete Writer: Level 1 Workbook for Writing With Ease" to accompany "The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals." I'm so glad I did. This workbook provides narration and copywork material for each day of instruction. For each day of copywork, there is a student page with two sentences to choose from (to match student ability). The narration material is usually something I would not have thought interesting to my son, but he loves it. He remembers the narration passages, and likes to re-read them just for enjoyment. Each day's work is a simple, manageable bite, yet I am already seeing results in just three weeks of consistently using this workbook. Consistency is the key - and that was what I lacked when I tried finding my own material to accompany "The Complete Writer". Having the accompanying workbook with its daily lessons laid out has been worth every penny.

It would have been ideal to start this workbook when my son was in 1st grade. However, I'm glad we went ahead and started with Level 1, even though my son is in 2nd grade. We're electing to do five days a week (the workbook provides 4 days of instruction each week - two days of copywork, two days of narration) in order to get "caught up." Another option would be to cut out certain weeks - such as every fourth week or so - in order to move through the material more quickly. Note that the material progresses in difficulty (it's subtle) from beginning to end of the workbook.
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on October 26, 2009
Both my husband and I are very impressed with this workbook. And (even more important) our kids enjoy it and are learning to listen actively and narrate clearly. I bought this book as a supplement to a language arts curriculum that already includes copywork, so I don't require my children to do any writing. We simply use it orally during dinner: I read a passage, my kids answer the following questions in complete sentences, they each compose a sentence about the passage, and I write down their sentences and read them back while showing them the written work (there are fun little pictures on the pages intended for recording this narration). I also show my children the copywork passages (printed in the workbook) and ask them to point out the specific things the workbook highlights. My husband enjoys being a part of the process, and often the kids beg me to read another passage and ask them more questions. The literature selections are well chosen and entertaining, and often make us want to find the original source and read more. Having my children learn to listen and narrate effectively is very important to me, and I find that Writing With Ease Workbook 1 is a painless, entertaining, and effective way to move towards this goal. I'm getting comfortable enough with the method delineated in the workbook that I find myself using it with other read-aloud literature, too. However, I appreciate the diverse selection of passages in the workbook (many I would not otherwise choose) and I love the convenience of having everything in one easy-to-use package.

My one criticism of the workbook is that the spaces between the handwriting lines provided for the instructor to record his/her student's narration are huge. It's actually difficult for me to write large enough letters to fit inside those lines.

This workbook has all the literature passages and narration questions in the front; then a large chunk of workbook pages with serrated edges (2 copywork passages and two narration pages per week). I immediately tore out all of the workbook pages, hole punched them and put them in a 1" binder, which made things much more managable. The book grants permission to photocopy these pages for use within your own family, so I photocopy the two narration pages for each week back-to-back before I record my children's sentences. This way, I will be able to use the workbook again for my 4 year old and my 1 year old. This makes it fairly cost effective for our family.

My children are currently 6, 4, and 1 years old. I hadn't anticipated including my 4 year old yet, but she participates eagerly and her comprehension and ability to narrate has really surprised me. She's definitely listening more actively in general than she did before. I plan go back through the workbook with her when she is older.

I did not buy the Writing With Ease textbook. I own The Well Trained Mind and am familiar with the method of writing instruction recommended by Susan Wise Bauer. I have found the workbook to be perfectly sufficient for our purposes. I look forward to purchasing and using Levels 2-4 with my children.
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We have been using this curriculum all year and I do like it. Mostly because it's short and I like the narration exercises for the most part. It is a wonderful way for children to learn how to summarize. But, I don't entirely like all of the passages included in the book. My daughter has struggled with some of the vocabulary in the passages in level 1 this year. She reads a lot and we read a lot of different stories, but some of the passages in level 1 had a lot of unusual words in them that she has never heard. Because of it, the summarization exercises have often been difficult for her and I don't think she has gotten as much out of them as she could have. I wish the author had chosen passages not quite so packed with difficult vocabulary. I love Cynthia Rylant's lighthouse family books because she includes great vocabulary, but it is not in an overwhelming way. When a child is introduced to a few words they don't know, they can figure out the rest of the passage. But, if there are too many words they don't understand, they won't be able to get the main idea of the passage. This book is for a strong first grader. I am using the First Language Lessons curriculum as well and they do compliment each other. My only wish with this book is that the passages weren't quite as long or as difficult as they are.

I did copy the pages at the back so I could reuse them later. I wish I had simply left them in the book and started a journal for my daughter. This is what I will do next year and then I will write the sentences in her book for copywork--rather than wasting the paper. I do also have the Writing with Ease textbook. I do think that the textbook is a helpful book--not mandatory, but can be helpful. Last night, I looked at it again and realized that I should have looked at it sooner. The author explains that you can use your own passages for copywork and narration when you want to. I should have done this last week when the passage was far too difficult for my daughter to understand. There is also a helpful section at the back of the book with some FAQ's.
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on October 25, 2008
This is a great resource for anyone who would like to use the Charlotte Mason ideas of copywork and narration from the classics but doesn't want to re-invent the wheel. Susan Wise Bauer has done a fabulous job selecting passages from books that your kids will want to read on their own later. Cute graphics and clear instructions make this a product worth spending your limited education budget on.
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on April 17, 2014
I had bought the "The Complete Writer: Writing with Ease" book along with this book "The Complete Writer: Level 1 Workbook". I sent back the book and kept the workbook. The workbook has exactly what the whole book has but it also includes each page for every day (perforated and pulls out pretty easy). The workbook is outlined for just opening it up every day and starting the lesson.

The material is great - I'm glad we added this book to our lessons. We're covering literary material that is classic along with teaching writing skills and emphasizing handwriting development. We are using Level 1 with our 6 year old.
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on October 10, 2013
I started this program with my first grade homeschooler. I use and really like the grammar program already from this company. This one meets the needs to easily teach the skills of copy work, narration and dictation. My son wants to read the full stories based on the excerpts in the book, so we have extra reading materials to boot. The lessons are short, and to the point. Perfect for a young child! :)
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on December 20, 2008
I bought this item and I do not regret it, however I feel it is too expensive for what it offers. All of the information contained should have been included in the hard-backed book I bought first. The worksheets could have been better done had Peace Hill Press put them on disk. Now I use this book only for reference and make my own worksheets on the computer. *NOTE I include little drawing boxes on my worksheets as my daughter loves to illustrate the sentence she just wrote.

I do think this is an excellent curriculum however, and I would buy it again. You could put this together on your own, but I prefer having it laid out so I can concentrate on homeschooling.
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