A team of writers from Veritas Press worked with professional journalists at God’s World News and WORLD Magazine to create Composition One: Invention and Persuasion. The publisher intends this one-year course for use with students in junior high or high school, although to me it seems best for grades seven through nine.
In classical education, the five canons (or divisions) of rhetoric are invention, arrangement, elocution, memory, and delivery. The first three of these apply particularly to the writing process, with invention being the first. Since this course is labeled “Invention,” this implies the beginning of the study of rhetoric. “Persuasion,” the other part of this course’s title, reflects the intent of the course to form writers who understand the purpose and power of communication. The course’s use of models of good writing, as well as an emphasis on critical thinking and analysis, also demonstrates classical influences.
Building on classical methodology, the course’s authors use both past and present-day writing models that should be very interesting to students. In addition, the input of working journalists on some of the lesson material might explain why so much of the content seems very pertinent to real-life issues. Many assignments have students search for their own examples or models. This is why the You Teach Kit for this course includes a subscription to WORLD magazine to use as source material for many assignments.
If you are at all familiar with WORLD magazine or God’s World News, you are probably aware that both are published from a Christian worldview. That same worldview carries over into this composition course. The course assumes that its audience shares its worldview, although it isn’t doctrinaire in its approach. For example, in a lesson about writing that challenges errors in thinking, it says that this should be done with kindness rather than to crush an opponent. It then lists four authors who “took up their pens to save others from error-filled thinking and saved lives as a result.” The four listed are Saint Paul, Martin Luther, William Wilberforce, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (pp. 135-136). These writers are all well known primarily because their writing reflected a Christian worldview.
The course is intensely practical and not at all formulaic. While it discusses the conventions of good writing, it stresses the fact that professional writers do not always follow the rules that students have learned. For example, on page 50 it says, “For most of the writing we will be doing, paragraphs should be around four to seven sentences. This is just a general guideline, not a rule. The only real rule for paragraph length is that a paragraph should be as long as it needs to be to get the job done.”
The course teaches composition skills in a gradual fashion. Within the first unit, the first few lessons have students analyze images and advertisements to understand how they are conveying their messages. Then lessons shift to reading sentences, paragraphs, and essays─again, with an analytical eye. The second unit teaches the persuasive essay. In Unit III, students write a short personal story, Unit IV teaches how to craft a narrative, and the fifth unit guides students through writing a short story.
The teacher’s manual has two suggested schedules at the back of the book. One schedule is for class sessions meeting twice a week, and the other is for classes meeting five days a week. The schedules show what is to be taught in each class session and what is assigned for work between sessions. Obviously, this assumes that students are meeting in class groups. Even so, the course can be used by students working independently as long as a parent or teacher provides frequent feedback and discussion as needed.
The essential course items are the student edition and the teacher edition. The teacher edition has some reduced images of student pages with teaching notes around those images. If there are no teaching notes, student pages are reproduced at full size. The reduced student pages might be hard for some people to read. Christian Book Distributors has sample pages from the teacher edition that you can view if you want to check this out in advance.
The teacher edition has a few pages of introductory material for each of the five units, the aforementioned schedules, grading rubrics, and a list of materials (e.g., magazines, family photos, and sticky notes). The course is self-explanatory for the most part and doesn’t require very much teaching. It should be usable for inexperienced homeschooling parents to teach. The biggest challenge will be accurately evaluating student work. The grading rubrics are helpful, but having more than one student’s work for comparison (as in a group class) would make it easier for teachers to evaluate assignments.
It costs just a little more to get the You Teach Kit with both the student and teacher editions plus a WORLD magazine subscription, so I recommend the kit. A live, online version of this course is also available.
Composition One: Invention and Persuasion is a well-designed course that makes use of substantive material and topics that should motivate students to write interesting compositions. Although students get to write about superheroes and other "fun" topics, many assignments challenge students to form and present opinions as they learn how to effectively convey their ideas in writing.