We can all agree that teaching our children to write well is a worthy goal for home education. Some of us, though, may confess that it is easier said than done. "Writing well" can be a vague or difficult goal. So, how do we accomplish it? One possibility is Matt Whitling's program, Imitations in Writing. Whitling, a teacher at Logos School, asserts that by imitating fine writing, students can become excellent writers themselves. Giving examples from 17th century England and Benjamin Franklin, he shows that this is a historical method that has proven itself through the high quality of writing in previous centuries.
The basic method is easily followed. Starting with careful reading and oral retelling of the chosen story, the details are then clarified with a list of characters, vocabulary word definitions, and a plot outline. Then, the student covers up the original story and uses only his or her outline to rewrite the story. Editing is encouraged, with a final draft being the end result.
While this is a structured program, intended to teach through imitation rather than original material, there is plenty of room for creative writing. As Mr. Whitling himself says, "I allow my students to change the characters and some of the incidentals of the story in their rewrites as long as the original plot is identifiable. The exceptionally good writers in the class will thrive off this opportunity to be innovative. The students who are less comfortable with writing will tend to stick to the same characters and incidentals; that is fine." As a mother of one student who loves writing and one who is more reluctant, I like a program that can appeal to both.
There are several volumes in this series - Aesop's Fables, Fairy Tales, and Writing Trails in American History (written by Laurie Barrie) -and are recommended for grades three and up. Greek Myths and Greek Heroes are recommended for grades five and up. The Grammar of Poetry is another volume using the skill of imitation, but also teaching the many details that are specific to the study of poetry. This is a terrific start for a lifetime of poetry enjoyment.
For more information on Imitations in Writing, and to see the other offerings from Logos School, visit them at www.logosschool.com. If you share my goal of helping students become first-rate writers, but aren't sure where to go for help, Imitations in Writing is a worthy addition to your plan for writing excellence.