#Schoolhouse Review Crew - Review of The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School

Posted on April 24, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Finding pleasure and delight in penning thoughts is my premier goal for my sons in a writing curriculum. So during the last few weeks, I have been absolutely thrilled that The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School by Writing with Sharon Watson has been our writing mentor because it has surpassed my expectations.

I was apprehensive at first when I chose to review The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School because Mr. Awesome would rather tell a lively story with a few of his close friends gathered around than to write about it. Because I do not want to extinguish his love for a well told story, it has been almost impossible to find a writing curriculum that fosters in him a desire to balance his story telling skills with the skills vital for nonfiction writing. Exploring options in writing curriculum that do not use a matter-of-fact approach to teaching nonfiction writing is a second goal. If you are looking for a writing curriculum that abandons the lack luster approach to teaching nonfiction writing then The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School by Sharon Watson is a great tool.

From my homeschool teacher's view, I am inspired by all the evaluation forms, samples and step-by-step instructions. However, more endearing to me was hearing the constant chuckles from Mr. Awesome when he used the curriculum.

One of the most appealing features of this writing program is the witty remarks found throughout the student workbook. For example, in the first page or two of the book there are self-checking boxes to aid your teen in identifying his writing self. A couple of the descriptions are: I would rather walk across a burning desert at high noon with buzzards circling overhead while I drag a bone-dry water bottle than write anything whatsoever and You gotta be kidding. Checking this box is enough writing for me for one day.

Mixing in the right amount of humor but not turning writing into a comical event makes The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School stand apart from the many homeschool writing curriculums I have used from Kindergarten till now. Showing how humor can be an effective teacher, it sets the bar for other homeschool writing programs.

{crazy kid}

Did I mention too that you do not have to have a DVD to inspire laughter and create a fondness for writing? The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School has a teacher's guide and student workbook, but it is not DVD based.  Simple and clear to understand, the student workbook is a refreshing change to learn about how to write.  An unexpected remark from Mr. Awesome was that when using the DVD based program that we presently have, he has to constantly refresh his memory on where he is at in the program. The pick up and go style used in The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School is another unique feature. I have learned through this experience with Mr. Awesome that some changes in the homeschool world to create DVD based writing programs are not always good. DVD based learning can be an aid but too it can turn into a crutch for both parent and child. When I started homeschooling, teaching writing was much more hands-on. I desire to continue that but with the format used by The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School because it appeals to my son's strengths.

Because I don't want to miss one important detail, here is what is included with the format The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School curriculum.

Student Workbook

  • Font and type style are easy to read and beautiful
  • The student is easily able to see the difference between a practice session and instructions because contrasting colors of soft black and soft gray are used
  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Over 100 daily lessons
  • Complete instructions for 22 essays and reports with a checklist for each assignment. Examples of some essays and types of assignments are a biography, newspaper writing, devotional, literary analysis and SAT essay. Instructions for assignments are included for all nonfiction writing modes: persuasion, exposition, description, and narration
  • It uses an incremental approach that includes a beginner writer all the way to preparing him for college readiness
  • Plenty of room on the side margins allowed Mr. Awesome to not fret about always having to retrieve an extra sheet of paper for the practice that day
  • A reference section or toolbox that encourages your student to be his own editor, nonfiction evaluation form, a how-to/process writing evaluation form, do and do not list for persuasion and many more
  • It is designed to be used as a college readiness program but it is a solid and rigorous writing program to use in the high school years too
  • There is no guessing as to the meaning of skilled and advanced writing because examples of professional writing are placed throughout
  • Appealing to the visual learner in each of us, icons are used in the student workbook so that the student is clear as to whether he is digging deeper into a topic or if it is time to use the toolbox
  • The book is designed with a tight binding and is 422 pages. Like my other curriculum, I use coil binding on our copies because we prefer for them to lay flat

Teacher's Guide

  • Major writing assignments are listed in the beginning to help you plan and to guide your teen if they need assistance
  • Objectives are clearly stated. If you have to record keep in your state, I find this section a handy reference. If you are new to teaching writing, study this section and learn right alongside your teen
  • How to give grades is one area parents of high school teens struggle with. Explaining how to earn an A, B,C, D or F are sections that are extremely practical and useful
  • Included are writing prompts called 14 minute power surges. It is like having another whole curriculum built into this program because it can be used aside from the program. Writing prompts are listed from September to May with four weeks for each month
  • A lot of teacher guides are practically useless, but with the details and extras found in this teacher's guides you don't want to miss it

One more feature dear to my heart is the fact this writing program is written by a homeschool mom. The longer I homeschool, the more I value my homeschool roots. When I review programs where an author has produced a curriculum to gain a market in the homeschool world then he quickly moves to becoming a homeschooler, it is quite obvious. That is not the case with this program. Sharon Watson has homeschooled all of her children for 18 years and has taught high school composition, fiction writing, and literature to local homeschool students. Though, not all features of a program where the author has recently turned homeschooler is a deal breaker for me, politically correct writing prompts and essays designed to evoke independent thinking from the Creator are. Again, you will not find that in this curriculum. Ms. Watson's curriculum reflects a Christian worldview but her Christian-based content is sprinkled ever so lightly that I feel a secular homeschooler would not be offended. It certainly has a lot of flexibility in topic choices if you choose to substitute another one. I declare my obvious prejudice for curriculum written by homeschoolers for homeschoolers.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, but more so because Mr. Awesome has decided to switch from his present DVD based workshops to using it as his writing coach. Writing is an art and The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School has given him the impetus to challenge himself further. When you have tasted excellence such as The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School it is hard to not become queasy at other mediocre writing curriculum. Thank you Sharon Watson!

Product Name: The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School

Website: Writing with Sharon Watson

Price: Student Workbook $39.98 Teacher's Guide $14.98

Grades/Ages to use it for:  Highschool. The Teacher's Guide states: Students in classrooms and co-ops will most likely finish this course in one year. Students in homeschools can use this course for two years if they pause the lesson for the week it takes to research and write their essays.

Type of Product:  Physical Books bound

E-Book Format: Not Available.

Free things you'll love:  The Author is online! Visit the website,  Writing with Sharon Watson, for weekly writing prompts and tips.

Customer Service: My books arrived in secure shipping packages in excellent condition and was received at the time it was promised.

Hugs and love ya,

All product information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Categories: TOS {The Old Schoolhouse} Curriculum Review , Review of Homeschool Products, Composition Curriculum/Wkbooks/Tools/Planners