I can't say enough good things about Mrs. Bradrick's Understanding Writing. Before we began using this composition manual, our daughter's writing skills were very poor. Consequently, she hated any kind of writing. We started using the program in 7th grade, and in a year's time, the change was dramatic. We have used Understanding Writing for four years now, and I am so pleased with the continued improvement we have seen. Our daughter loves to write, and does well at it.
The manual consists of over 300 pages in a ring binder. It covers grades 1-12. Mrs. Bradrick claims that nearly every student will need to start in Level 1 or 2, regardless of age/grade. (There is a diagnostic chart at the back of the book to help determine where to start.) She is probably right: we started at Level 1. Older children simply move through the levels at a faster pace.
The plan is to use letter writing to teach writing skills. If you cannot think of lots of people for your children to send letters to, don't let that keep you from using this book. As with most materials, you may need to modify the instructions a little to fit your family's personal needs. We wrote some letters, but sometimes I assigned writing projects that weren't sent as letters.
I really love the Christ-centered attitude that Mrs. Bradrick takes toward writing. She emphasizes that we write always for the glory of God, and with a humble spirit of desiring to bless others. She discusses wrong heart attitudes that may show up in our writing, or in how we respond to writing assignments, and what to do about them. The all-for-Jesus, dying-to-self message comes through consistently.
Another great feature of this book is the no-stress approach. The lessons can take as little as 20-30 minutes a day. There is no pressure to accomplish a certain amount of work within somebody else's time frame. No more, "Come on! We have to finish 20 pages of this workbook every week or we won't get done by the end of the year!" What a blessing to be able to accomplish what God wants us to accomplish in His time frame. The relaxed approach was very freeing for us.
Mrs. Bradrick suggests several grammar handbooks from A Beka and Rod and Staff which she believes are necessary purchases in order to use Understanding Writing successfully. If you and your children already have a pretty good grasp of basic grammar and you own a good college English handbook (such as the Harbrace College Handbook) you may not need these.
Mrs. Bradrick is a former English teacher and home school mother of nine children.