Writing And Rhetoric Review

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With its strong literature-based approach, incremental approach, straightforward instruction, interesting discussions and exercises that manage to balance structured writing/oration and creativity, Writing & Rhetoric is a classical program that can make the process of learning to write and publicly speak a lot more approachable and engaging for students and parents alike. 

What We Like

Approachable and easy to read lessons
Incremental program design builds on previous
Thorough instruction in writing and rhetorical
skills and knowledge
Strong, literature-based approach to teaching
that uses classic texts and works
Teaches students to write in a structured,
organized manner but leaves a lot of room
for student creativity in its exercises
Flexible, encourages adaptation to fit student
needs and homeschool philosophies
Pretty open and go curriculum

But watch out for

Each level only makes up a semester or so
Not the most hands-on or kinesthetic ELA
program we’ve seen

What Is Writing & Rhetoric?

Created by educator Paul Kortepeter and published by Classical Academic Press, Writing & Rhetoric is a classic language arts program designed to help students with their writing and public speaking skills. 

Over the course of the series, the curriculum has students develop and hone their skills through a combination of classic literature, narration, discussion, copywriting, analysis, various writing exercises and much more. 

What Ages Or Grades Is Writing & Rhetoric Intended For?

By and large, Writing & Rhetoric is aimed at students in grades 3-9 and up, covering everything from outlining, sentence structure and basic figures of speech to attention grabbers, thesis essays and logical argumentation.

The series is split across 11 books at time of writing, following the classic progymnasmata exercises (which we will discuss a little later),  although there is a 12th book (Mock Trial) currently in development. 

BookTopicApproximate Grade
2Narrative I3-4
3Narrative II4-5
4Chreia & Proverb4-5
5Refutation & Confirmation5-6
7Encomium  & Vituperation6-7
9Description & Impersonation7-8
10Thesis I7-8+
11Thesis II8-9+

While Writing & Rhetoric does suggest that homeschools begin the program around grade 3, it is important to keep in mind that it is more of a skill-based program, rather than one tied to grade standards or age. 

Consequently, the program can be used by students outside its intended age range, such as by precocious younger students and older students looking to reinforce key writing and oration skills. 

With that said, the series is more focused on writing and rhetoric (as its name implies) and doesn’t really teach much grammar. 

While younger students can certainly make use of the program, it does expect those beginning the series to be familiar with key grammar skills to grade 3, such as the ability to analyze and write sentences, to be familiar with basic punctuation, structure, capitalization and so on. 

Further, the program does make extensive use of classic stories, stongs, poems and other forms of literature to teach, and so potential students do need to be fairly secure on their reading and comprehension skills before starting. 

It is also worth noting that the Writing & Rhetoric series is incremental and sequential, meaning that each level builds on the skills and knowledge of those before it.

picture of the back of writing and rhetoric showing program sequence

While this can make Language Arts study a little more thorough and approachable to students, it can make it a little harder for those shifting into the program to know where to start, particularly if they are unwilling or unable to start with the first book. 

As there is no placement test as of writing, parents do have to do some examination of student ability and knowledge, using the program’s scope and sequence to see how they match up. 

This can be a little time consuming and a bit more challenging to new homeschooling families, particularly those who are also new to classical education. 

What’s Required To Teach Writing & Rhetoric?

Writing & Rhetoric is pretty compact as far as Language Arts programs go, really only requiring a teacher’s guide, a student book and some optional MP3 audio recordings of the course texts. 

Consequently, the program can be considered a bit more user-friendly than many other writing programs we’ve seen, as there isn’t really a lot of different materials for parents to buy, store, organize and keep track of throughout the year. 

One thing that we felt was particularly helpful is the fact that both the student books and the teacher’s guides contain the full texts required during lessons.

As a result, and unlike most other literature-based programs we’ve seen, parents don’t have to go out and buy (or borrow) a lot of different books in order to teach the program. 

Writing & Rhetoric Student Edition

The student edition is where students will spend most of their time when working with Writing & Rhetoric.

A consumable, black and white softcover book, it is something of a mixture between a textbook and workbook and contains the essential instructional and practice material that a student needs to work on their writing and public speaking skills. 

They include lessons, full texts, a variety of activities and exercises, space for writing responses, dictation and copywork, checklists and more. 

Past the introduction, which provides an overall explanation of the program’s methods and some suggestions for lesson planning and pacing, the books are written directly to the student, which makes sense given the intended age/grade range is generally more capable in reading. 

screenshot example of teaching in writing and rhetoric student texts

The writing in the books is fairly clear and straightforward and, we feel, written at a level that most students should understand. 

At the same time, we never felt as if the books were talking down to the student and they generally do a good job at introducing and using all the proper vocabulary and conventions one might expect from a thorough writing program. 

Interestingly, although written text is the main focus of Writing & Rhetoric, its books are lightly illustrated, with hand drawn artwork dotting their pages here and there. 

example of illustrations found in writing and rhetoric books

Although not the most colorful or fantastically interesting to look at, these illustrations are fun and do help to break up the text, which is always appreciated. 

Parents should note that, while the student edition is pretty comprehensive, guided and easy to read and while older students may have little issue reading them on their own, they are designed to work in tandem with the teacher’s edition and alongside a parent or teacher. 

The student books lack, for example, the program’s dictation material, answers and discussion questions and so really can’t be used as a self-study course. 

Teacher’s Edition

Unlike many other Language Arts programs we’ve looked at, the teacher’s edition of Writing & Rhetoric is nearly identical to the student book, containing the same student-oriented instruction, explanations, exercises, text and even space for writing. 

The main difference between the two books comes from the additional teaching materials and resources printed in the teacher’s edition, which are usually contained in gray boxes located on the margins of a page or floating atop the student response areas.  

example of teacher's edition in writing and rhetoric offering answers to parents

These additional resources include things like lesson objectives, tips for teaching, discussion ideas, dictation exercises, troubleshooting, answers to exercises and more. 

Because the teacher’s edition contains much of the same material as the student book and is written to the student, rather than the parent, it tends to encourage parents and students to work through lessons and discuss ideas together , rather than adopting a more top-down approach, which can be quite nice. 

We also feel that it is fairly well-scripted and structured, owing to the lessons being quite in-depth, student-oriented and conversational in tone. 

As a result, Writing & Rhetoric is pretty open and go, meaning it doesn’t really require parents to do a lot of prep work before each session. 

It is important to note, however, that although the lessons are easy to teach and follow, the authors have still left a good deal of open-ended discussions and exercises in each lesson, meaning it doesn’t always provide a word-for-word dialogue to follow, which leaves a bit of room for parents and students to interact more naturally. 

This can be very beneficial for those who like to put their own spin on teaching, although it does mean that, at times, new homeschoolers might need to plan out what they want to say or think about how they want to approach a certain task or discussion that has been left open to interpretation. 

Optional MP3 Recordings

In addition to the student books and teacher’s guides, parents can also pick up MP3 recordings of each level’s texts. 

These are more or less read alouds of the lesson source material and are really designed to make things a little easier for students  to understand and go through.

The recordings are fairly professionally developed, being recorded by founder of Classical Academic Press Dr. Christopher Perrin, his wife Christina and others. 

The readings are clearly recorded and generally easy to understand, with the narrators going through the text slowly and steadily and with a minimum of distracting background noise or special effects.

Overall, we feel that these MP3s can be a welcome way of adding a bit more multisensory learning to the program and can help make it more accessible, particularly to students with reading or visual processing difficulties, which we always appreciate. 

Approach To Teaching 

A Focus On Writing And Rhetoric

As can probably be inferred by the program’s title, Writing & Rhetoric is a language arts program that focuses on, well, writing and persuasive oratory skills. 

Throughout the program, students are exposed to and are eventually expected to create narrative, expository, persuasive, comparative and descriptive writing.

Students learn the fundamentals of plot, dialogue and script elements, develop strong outlining and summary skills, practice writing based on classic texts and excerpts, work on sentence composition and amplification/expansion, develop strong self-editing skills using checklists, develop strong essay writing skills, develop stronger elocution and presentation skills, share work aloud,recite, playact and debate written works and much, much more. 

The program is fairly comprehensive in its scope and, along with focused workbook-style exercises, generally gives students plenty of opportunity to hone their sentence, paragraph and essay writing skills. 

Further, the program explains writing and public speaking concepts in a fairly explicit, in-depth manner, generally using plain and understandable English to ensure student understanding of structure, mechanics and style and offering quite a few helpful and usable tips on speaking and oration.

One thing parents should note, however, is that Writing & Rhetoric is not a complete Language Arts solution and doesn’t really touch much on formal grammar instruction, which will need to be added to the program. 

Literature-based Approach

Throughout Writing & Rhetoric, students are exposed to a wide variety of classic literary works and texts (and from time to time even artwork and pictures), such as: 

  • Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
  • The works of Rober Frost
  • Various classic, American songs
  • Aesop’s Fables
  • Scripture
  • The Legend of John Henry
  • Indian Boyhood
  • Slovenly Betsy
  • The Autobiography of Fredrick Douglass
  • And much more

Not only does the program use these texts to help foster stronger critical thinking, analysis and comprehension skills, but they are typically used as a model for proper writing and structure, somewhat similarly to programs such as Lightning Literature and others.  

The texts serve as the basis for in-lesson instruction and discussions, sentence and parts of speech exercises, dictation and copywork exercises, outline and summary practice, oral narration and, notably, writing exercises. 

Rather than giving students free reign, a general prompt and a blank sheet to work with, students use these works and their ideas as the basis for creating sentences and paragraphs through modeling practice. 

In later levels, students even analyze and respond to many of the ideas, arguments and concepts presented in these works through various essay writing exercises and persuasive speeches.

This literature-based approach, rooted as it is in classic works, can have a number of benefits. 

It can, for example, give students tangible examples of well-crafted and respected writing and speeches from which they can learn things like figures of speech, common tropes, proper structure and organization, effective use of language, logical argumentation and more. 

picture of famous speech used as model in writing and rhetoric

Further, the use of classic songs, poems, legends, short stories, famous paintings, essays and more exposes students to and helps them better understand a good variety and diversity of classic works, which is always a good thing in our opinion. 

One thing we like about the program and its use of modeling is that student’s aren’t simply expected to blindly copy and imitate the texts they read. 

Instead, during written exercises students are often given an opportunity to add their own ideas, stylistic details, dialogues (particularly during amplification exercises) or even freely respond to and critique the ideas presented therein in later levels. 

examples of structured creative exercises found in writing and rhetoric

Consequently, there is some built-in creativity and self-expression in the program’s approach, which can help address a concern that some parents have with model-based writing. 

At the same time, the use of texts as a basis for writing exercises and prompts can provide essential structure and guidance to students, giving them a more “real” foundation to build on that can be very helpful for reluctant writers and those prone to anxiety when faced with a prompt and a blank page. 

example of structured writing approach favored by writing and rhetoric

It is important to keep in mind, however, that not every homeschooling student will be a huge fan of classical works and may prefer to work with more modern materials, becoming bored or failing to connect with some of the works presented during lessons. 

Further, although students do have some creative input in this program, parents should note that it is not an open, freewheeling writing program and the use of modeled texts may, at times, feel a bit too structured for some families. 

Progymnasmata Exercises

The core of Writing & Rhetorics approach and overall structure is a set of classical rhetorical exercises rooted in ancient Greece and Rome known as Progymnasmata, or the “fore-exercises” in plain English.

These are a series of 14 instructional exercises designed for students of rhetoric that were designed to teach them, through the use of literary and rhetorical models, the very basics of effective storytelling and carry them through to the creation of effective, persuasive argumentation and oration. 

As we discussed previously, the Writing & Rhetoric has structured its series around the progymnasmata, with each level roughly corresponding to a particular exercise (although it has merged a couple here and there to produce 12 books rather than 14). 

In Writing & Rhetoric students begin with Fables, where they use these famous short stories as a basis for learning to narrate, retell/rewrite, compare, expound and elaborate about what they hear and read, as well as learn to more effectively construct and modify sentences.

From there, students move on to the Narrative, where they learn more about narration and narrative elements, writing organization and structure, conflict and resolution, identifying and analyzing main ideas and more.

After this, students move on to Chreia and Proverb, where they make use of short, useful sayings to learn to construct a six-paragraph essay, learning to hone their summary skills, analyze an idea or concept, compare and contrast ideas and craft a proper introduction and conclusion along the way. 

The next level in the series is Refutation & Confirmation, where students identify a written narrative or text’s central argument and create and structure essays where they analyze, criticize and/or defend a piece’s core ideas, refute or confirm its tenets with sound arguments and quotes, and more. 

 Following this level, students move on to Commonplace, where they learn to create full essays that argue for  virtues and against vices, learning to craft and support a thesis statement with supporting logical arguments, learning about supportive soliloquies, editing techniques, as well as working on oral presentation of written work. 

After Commonplace, students then begin work on Encomium and Vituperation, which continues a student’s journey in persuasive writing by tasking them with research projects about remarkable individuals, often using interesting biographies and autobiographies as texts. 

Throughout this level, students learn how to create and organize a research paper, how to craft an appropriate thesis, how to incorporate background and details on their lives and characters, analyze their positive and negative traits, create convincing arguments and conclusions, how to outline, source and cite supporting arguments and quotations and much more. 

Following this, students move on to Comparison, which has students work on developing comparison essays, where they compare a wide variety of subjects and ideas from Early Modern American history, learning how to create topic sentences, how to use rhetorical devices to punch up their work, how to create powerful analogies, how to create supporting arguments from facts and, ultimately, how to present the material more effectively through public speaking. 

Next, students move on to Description and Impersonation, where the focus of the level is in descriptive and expository writing, where students first learn to describe things using vivid and gripping language before imitating the persuasive writing styles of famous writers, such as Churchill and Henry Williamson.  

To make their writing more effective, over the course of the semester students learn  to appeal to emotion, credibility and logic, learn more effective rhetorical devices and written flourishes, create tighter arguments with effective and supportive arguments and facts, work on convincing oral delivery and so on. 

Finally, students approach the Thesis, where they learn to hone their essay writing by crafting a proper thesis, developing supporting arguments, mastering hooks and vivid language, working on judicial, ceremonial, political rhetoric through persuasive speech writing and, ultimately, learning to synthesize all of the program’s previous learning to craft powerful written and oral work. 

Overall, Writing & Rhetoric’s use of the progymnasmata makes it quite thorough, touching on a wide variety of important skills as it goes along, such as analysis, paragraph creation, outlining, summarizing, rhetorical devices, figures of speech, various essay styles, critique, style, structure, sourcing and citation, complex oration, persuasive argumentation and more. 

It also teaches these skills incrementally and sequentially.

Each level integrates and builds upon the material introduced in the previous books, which allows students to review and master skills over time and also prevents students from being overwhelmed by new information.

Perhaps most interestingly, throughout the progymnasmata  Writing & Rhetoric includes a good deal of exercises that get students to critically examine ideas and texts, which can help them hone their critical thinking skills in addition to their speaking and writing.

One thing parents should know, however, is that each level in the progymnasmata is only about a semester or so long, meaning that families will need to purchase two levels to build out a full year’s study.

Further, as we mentioned previously, the program’s incremental and sequential approach does mean that it can be a little harder for older students to jump into. 

Classical Education With Elements of Charlotte Mason

Finally, Writing & Rhetoric takes a classical approach to developing writing and oratory skills but has incorporated certain elements that fans of the Charlotte Mason approach will also appreciate. 

As mentioned, the program exposes students to great works of literature throughout its lessons.

It largely teaches them to write by modeling their writing on the works of great authors rather than relying on open-ended prompts and free-writing exercises, with students often asked to narrate, summarize, rewrite and build off of various sentences and paragraphs. 

In this way, the program gives students a strong, proven base of high quality models from which to learn and practice figures of speech, rhetorical devices, proper structuring and more. 

In later levels, students then begin to critically analyze, contrast and even argue for or against concepts presented in these works, learning to write more analytically and with an eye towards structured, organized and persuasive writing and speech. 

example of critical thought and organization found in writing and rhetoric lessons

Further, as is typical of a classical writing program, there is a strong emphasis on structured and organized writing throughout the program, with students getting a lot of practice summarizing, outlining, structuring arguments and learning to edit their own work. 

At the same time, Writing & Rhetoric also incorporates a few elements from the Charlotte Mason approach to writing and public speaking, with students doing quite a bit of narration/retelling exercises, parent/student discussions, copywriting, dictation and so on to help strengthen a wider diversity of skills. 

example of copywork found in writing and rhetoric

That said, although it does include a good deal of auditory exercises (e.g. listening, oration, discussion, dictation, etc.) and some ideas for activities, Writing & Rhetoric is largely based on reading and writing exercises and so isn’t quite as multisensory as some other programs. 

For example, there aren’t really a ton of integrated arts and crafts or hands-on activities in its lessons as there might be in programs such as Brave Writer and others, which can be something of a downside for some families.  

How It Works

Each level of Writing & Rhetoric contains between 10-15 lessons and are each designed to last about a semester long working at a 3-4 day a week lesson pace. 

For the most part, parents and students work through each day’s work together, with parents working from the teacher’s guide and students from their own book. 

As we’ve discussed the levels are incremental and the lessons become progressively more challenging and the work more complex as students move through the series.

The first few books (1-4 or Fable through Chreia & Proverb) tend to have a good deal of consistency in their overall lesson structure, although the individual exercises they include may vary. 

At these earlier levels, the first day generally starts with an introduction to the overall concept or skill that will be introduced or discussed. 

Written to the student, the introduction usually explains and defines key terms and writing/rhetorical elements in a casual, understandable way and often tries to relate them to things students may already know or be familiar with.

Parents then read that lesson’s text to the student, who listens and follows along in their own book before reading it back aloud to the parent. 

Following this, there are generally a few sections with dedicated exercises that students go through in a step by step manner throughout the week.

These include:

Tell It Back – Narration – In this exercise, which is usually done after the initial readings to keep things fresh, students retell (or optionally play act or possibly rewrite when that skill becomes more fluent) what they’ve heard or read about in their own words to their parents (or, as the curriculum suggests as an option, into a recording device). 

A popular activity in Charlotte Mason approaches to writing, this exercise can help students better process and remember what they’ve heard or read, learns to summarize its main points and can help them learn the main structure of a text (beginning, middle and end). 

Talk About It – With Talk About It, parents use their teacher’s guide to introduce a series of pointed discussion questions as a way of getting students to think more critically about what they are reading or hearing, as well as getting them to engage with what they are learning by connecting ideas from the reading to things students are familiar with, such as personal experiences and relationships, the Bible, previous readings and more. 

example of talk about it exercise in writing and rhetoric

These discussions are usually open ended and, beyond making sure that students get the basic ideas correct, Writing & Rhetoric doesn’t often provide a lot of strict rules for these exercises. 

This can allow for a good amount of creative back and forth between parents and students, which can actually provide parents with a good deal of insight into how their student perceives the world around them, which can be kind of cool. 

Go Deeper – The Go Deeper section is designed to hone a students understanding of both the text itself, as well as mechanical and writing elements, such as vocabulary, root words, parts of speech, rhetorical flourishes, figures of speech, sentence structure and so on. 

Although they do vary, the exercises often take the form of workbook-style questions where students match concepts to certain sentences, derive key ideas from excerpts, identify writing styles and conventions, do dictionary work, answer multiple choice questions and much more. 

example of workbook style exercises in writing and rhetoric go deeper section

On the second day, students begin with a section known as Writing Time. 

Writing Time is where students get practice at writing in different ways. 

Frequently, they may be asked to do copywork and/or dictation exercises, with dictation exercises focused more on having students hear and copy down the flow of a written piece rather than on its traditional use for spelling. 

Following these, students may tackle Sentence Play, where they are given sentences from a text and then are asked to fill in, rewrite or complete sentences, often being tasked to expand on a concept, modify them to suit some situation, or, eventually, create their own work. 

They may also see a section called Copiousness, where students identify certain sentence components or elements and then change things around, replacing elements with some others, amplify a sentence by introducing new vocabulary, flourishes or their own dialogue and even completely rewrite things to suit a particular prompt. 

Finally, students may encounter a section called Summary where they work on taking a text, removing its extraneous language and details and ultimately paring it down to its most fundamental ideas and key sentences and rewriting it in as few words as possible. 

The final days of the week’s lesson are often dedicated to oration and corrections/editing. 

In Speak It, students are given an opportunity to memorize and recite their summaries or written Copiousness work aloud. 

Here students pick up key skills in elocution and presentation, skills that will come in handy during later speech writing and recitations.

It is also at this point that parents can go over written work with students, encouraging them to rewrite things as necessary.

example of elocution tips provided by writing and rhetoric

In later parts of the series, levels 5 and onwards (Refutation and Confirmation through Thesis II), things get a little more challenging as students shift from descriptive writing and narration to more sophisticated persuasive and expository essay writing. 

Consequently, families should be prepared to budget 4-5 days for a lesson. 

By and large, however, the overall structure of the lessons should be familiar. 

On the first day, the parent can read the text aloud to the student, who follows along in their book.

This, as in previous levels in the series, is often followed by Tell It Back – Narration and Talk About It

These exercises are broadly similar in design and intent to those found in earlier levels, although at this point students should have more tools and should be able to go through them with more aplomb, for example with more sophisticated and persuasive oration skills, written summaries and outlines, annotations, more sophisticated arguments during discussions and so on. 

At these upper levels, students are introduced to a new exercise, called Memoria, where students work on their memory skills, memorizing lesson-relevant quotes, poems, excerpts and more, which are to be recited back to the parent.

Students are encouraged to highlight particular words or phrases they enjoy, define new vocabulary, note their thoughts and feelings towards it and even critically analyze it or compare it to other works or events in the student’s life. 

On the second day, students continue with Go Deeper, where students get focused practice on the skills they’ve learned during the lesson component, and Writing Time, which (in addition to Sentence Play and Copiousness exercises) now includes comparisons, persuasive arguments, analysis, a lot more critical thinking exercises and, of course, multiparagraph essay writing. 

As with earlier levels, students also engage in Speak It exercises, where they memorize and recite their written work, integrating many of the rhetorical flourishes and skills they’ve developed in previous editions.

Finally, on day 5, students work on their proofreading and self-editing skills in Revise It using their own essays and work, leaning on various guidelines, checklists and exercises provided by the program before seeking feedback and revision notes from parents. 

Our Thoughts

Overall, we feel that Writing & Rhetoric can be a very interesting and effective way for students to develop stronger and more organized writing and speaking skills. 

The program uses a diversity of very high quality literature, exposing students to a wide range of well-respected songs, poems, stories, narratives, essays, speeches and more, which serve as a ready base for modeling their writing and oration. 

Further, the program places a strong emphasis on incrementally developing a student’s organization and structure, teaching students to identify main ideas, craft a thesis statement, develop an outline, hone their arguments, create a strong conclusion and, ultimately, learn to systematically edit their own work. 

Consequently, it can help students learn to write fairly impressive works in a clear and logical way.

Yet, despite its emphasis on structure and organization, Writing & Rhetoric still allows enough room for student creativity, allowing students a good deal of freedom to adjust, modify and add their own style to the works they model their writing on. 

It’s also important to note that the program, while it does provide a lot of exercises in its suggested schedule, doesn’t really lay out a lot of hard and fast rules for doing them.

The program encourages parents to adapt the pacing, number and even the methodology of the exercises to suit a student’s needs, such as by allowing students to playact, rather than recite, a narration or by letting them recite into a recorder rather than to the parent.

Although it can take a little thought, this does mean that the program is very adaptable and customizable, which is something that we feel many homeschools will appreciate. 

Finally, we liked the fact that the program features a good amount of critical thinking throughout its books, which can help students develop and sharpen their logical and analytical abilities on top of their writing and rhetorical skill. 

On the downside, Writing & Rhetoric isn’t the most multisensory program out there.

Although there is a fair amount of listening, discussion and public speaking on top of its reading and writing exercises, and while the program does suggest some get up and go activities from time to time, there isn’t a ton in the way of built-in hands-on learning or kinesthetic activities that certain, more wiggly, students can benefit from. 

Further, although the books are written to students and are fairly easy to read and understandable, it doesn’t really support independent study. 

The program does involve a good deal of discussion, dictation and back-and-forth between parents and students, which can mean a good deal of parental involvement, something that busier homeschools may have a hard time budgeting time for. 

Is Writing & Rhetoric A Secular Curriculum?

Writing & Rhetoric does periodically use Scripture and Biblical quotes and ideas as part of its instruction, exercises or, at times, model texts and so can’t really be considered a 100% strictly secular program. 

example of biblical references in writing and rhetoric books

That said, although the program seems to lean more towards Christian passages, it also includes numerous respectful mentions of other religions, holidays and even includes passages from sources such as Confusious or the Jewish book of ethics, Pirkei Avot, that students will read and think about, which is always nice.

screenshot of writing & rhetoric examining the beliefs of other religions and faiths

Further, it is important to note that the emphasis of the program is really on writing, analysis, critique and rhetoric, rather than faith-based learning or Bible study.

Consequently, we feel that the program can be a good language arts option for neutral and faith-based homeschools, as well as secular homeschoolers who don’t mind reading a few faith-based passages alongside classic works. 

Pros and Cons



Writing & Rhetoric is an incremental language arts program that slowly but surely builds on and integrates the skills learned in previous levels to strengthen and hone a student’s toolkit. 

As such, the program doesn’t flood students with information and does allow students to review and refresh their knowledge of certain concepts and skills as they go, which can make it more approachable and less intimidating to all involved. 

Thorough writing and oratory skill development

From outlining and summary skills to formal essay planning and speech organization, Writing & Rhetoric is a very comprehensive and thorough program that can help students master a wide range of critical writing and public speaking skills and knowledge, allowing them to create some very impressive and persuasive work. 

Uses classic literature

Writing & Rhetoric is a literature-based writing program that uses classic works of literature as a model for student writing and public speaking. 

As a result, students learn to write using highly-respected and renowned texts, from poems and short stories to autobiographies and narratives, and in doing so are also exposed to a wide variety of important ideas and influential works.

Strong, structured approach with some creativity

Writing & Rhetoric places a strong emphasis on helping students learn to write in a structured, organized way, with students spending a good deal of time learning to analyze, model, outline, summarize, craft thesis statements, organize their arguments for maximum impact and/or persuasiveness and, of course, revise and self-edit. 

This organized approach can be of great benefit to students who have a tendency towards disorganized or chaotic writing.

At the same time, the program frequently allows students, through its Sentence Play and Copiousness exercises, to expand on and/or modify modeled text, and eventually develop their own works in response to a textual prompt. 


Although it does provide a good number of exercises in its lessons, Writing & Rhetoric is pretty open when it comes to how these exercises are accomplished (as well as how many are included in a lesson), often encouraging parents to adjust lesson pacing and structure to fit their homeschool philosophy and student needs. 

Open and Go

Generally speaking, and beyond briefly going over a lesson in order to figure out what’s expected of them, parents don’t really need to do a lot of prepwork with Writing & Rhetoric and can largely open it and start reading along with their student.

This is particularly true as, unlike most literary-based programs, lesson texts are actually printed in the course material and don’t require parents to go out and buy or borrow a ton of books each week.  


Each level only makes up a semester

Each book in the series is designed to take about 15 or so weeks to complete and therefore doesn’t make up a full year’s learning.

Parents will therefore either need to purchase two levels per year or supplement the second half of the year with grammar or another language arts topic not fully covered by the program. 

Not the most multisensory

Although the program suggests some activities to try at times, Writing & Rhetoric generally focuses more on reading, writing, listening and speaking and doesn’t really integrate quite as many hands-on or kinesthetic learning activities as some other programs out there. 

May be a bit time intensive for parents

Although the student texts are written to the student and are fairly easy to understand and read, the program does require parents to occasionally clarify points of instruction and includes discussions and dictation exercises (as well as editing and proofing tasks) that usually require the presence of a parent, meaning it isn’t always possible to use as a self-study program. 

Who Is Writing & Rhetoric Ideal For?

Those looking for a classical writing and oration program

Writing & Rhetoric takes a strong, classical approach to writing and rhetorical skills, teaching students to write based on classic models, helping them learn to write in a systematic, organized way and with an eye towards critical analysis and thought. 

Consequently, it can be a good fit for those following a classical education approach to language arts. 

Those looking for a thorough and structured approach to writing

Writing & Rhetoric teaches students a wide variety of writing skills and, perhaps as importantly, spends a good deal of time modeling proper writing and teaching students how to organize and structure their thoughts, be it on paper or for a speech. 

Those looking for a program that encourages critical thinking and analysis

Writing & Rhetoric spends a good deal of time encouraging students to analyze and think through what they are reading or writing about, which can hone their logical and analytical skills to a fair degree over time.

Fans of literature-based learning

Throughout the program, students will be exposed to a wide number of classic songs, poems, stories, Scripture, narratives, essays, narratives and even biographies/autobiographies, both as a way of demonstrating proper writing structure and style as well as introducing them to important and thought-provoking concepts. 

Who Is It Not Ideal For?

Those looking for a self study-program

Whether its engaging in discussions, proofreading student pieces, reading texts or explaining and going over concepts with the student, parents are generally fairly involved in Writing “& Rhetoric lessons and it really can’t be said to be a truly self-study program. 

Those looking for a complete language arts program

Although it teaches writing and speaking skills pretty thoroughly, Writing & Rhetoric doesn’t really dive deeply into formal grammar and so really shouldn’t be used as a complete ELA solution. 


Note: Prices correct as of writing. All prices in USD. 

There are two components to Writing & Rhetoric, a student edition and a teacher’s edition, and while these can be purchased separately it is usually a better idea to purchase them as a bundle. 

The prices for each level can vary, but in general parents can pick up a complete semester’s worth of learning for between $55.85 and $62.85. 

As always, parents should check for the latest prices for the series, as well as for any deals or offers that may be available. 


Is It Worth The Price?

Overall, we feel that Writing & Rhetoric can offer a lot of value to the right homeschooling families.

The series offers students very thorough and comprehensive classical writing and rhetorical instruction and practice, with a strong emphasis on organized and structured writing, but manages to do so in a way that’s easy to understand and in a way that avoids overwhelming them due to its incremental, step by step structure. 

In addition, the program exposes students to great works of literature, helping them develop their writing skill and understanding of writing elements and conventions by initially modeling their work on highly respected written examples. 

The discussions and analysis included in the books, even at early levels, can also serve to help students better connect to what they are reading and writing about, as well as help them hone their logical and critical thinking skills to a fair degree.

Finally, we feel that homeschools will appreciate the fact that the program doesn’t really require a lot of prep time, has a lot of in-built lesson flexibility and generally encourages parents to adapt its exercises and methods to suit the student, rather than the other way around. 

Bottom Line

With its strong literature-based approach, incremental approach, straightforward instruction, interesting discussions and exercises that manage to balance structured writing/oration and creativity, Writing & Rhetoric is a classical program that can make the process of learning to write and publicly speak a lot more approachable and engaging for students and parents alike. 

Picture of our author and editor Anne Miller

About the Author

Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.