“Mr. Vogel is wonderful at providing personalized feedback and constructive criticism for each assignment, making his comments both helpful and encouraging. That's not always an easy balance to strike, but he does it beautifully. Our girls are rapidly gaining both confidence and proficiency. In just a few weeks, I've been very impressed at the change in their writing.” ~ Kim, homeschool blogger at Life in a Shoe
“Once again, thank you very much for instructing her. She very much enjoyed the class and profited from it. Halfway through the semester, she said to me, 'I don't want to say this too loudly, but I actually enjoy writing essays now.'” ~ Gail, homeschool mother
Essays I and Essays II each cover a full year of writing and are worth a high school English credit. While the classes focus on writing persuasive essays, the principles your child will learn will apply to every kind of writing, and in fact to any kind of critical thinking or communication.
Both classes combine weekly live lectures with personalized, detailed feedback on every assignment. In Essays I, students learn to construct an excellent persuasive essay, a form which provides a solid base for future learning. They learn to use the three canons of classical rhetoric--invention, arrangement, and style--to develop interesting and useful ideas, organize them in a logical and compelling way, and polish their final product to engage and please the reader. Essays II continues the learning process, deepening students' understanding and teaching them new techniques within the three canons.
The classes are designed so you have the option to integrate them with a concurrent history or literature class. The persuasive writing assignments ask students to investigate the plans and motivations of historical or fictional characters of their choice, making the essays perfect for digging deeper and exploring ideas from the material they are studying in other classes. Students have enjoyed choosing topics like, "Should the old man in The Old Man and the Sea have fought the marlin?" or "Should Harry Truman have authorized the atomic bombing of Japan?" Here are three sample essays written by students at the end of Essays I on the Treaty of Versailles, Old Yeller, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Essays I and Essays II use the framework provided by classical rhetoric to target exactly the areas with which students regularly struggle: "I just don't have any good ideas" is addressed by the canon of invention, "I just don't know how to put it all together so it makes sense" is the focus of the canon of arrangement, and "It just sounds stupid / boring / like a little kid" is what style is all about. While the principles of rhetoric can be intimidating for students and teachers alike, David Vogel's experience as a instructor of writing, debate, and philosophy, as well as a newpaper reporter and author, helps students take theory and turn it into application---in the form of well-crafted essays they can take pride in and enjoy.
In a bit more detail, these are the three canons of classical rhetoric around which the classes are organized:
Because the material covered in Essays I is valuable for writers of any skill level and is foundational for the material in Essays II, we strongly recommend that all students take Essays I first, unless they have taken Level I of The Lost Tools of Writing program, which is one of the main influences for these classes and is similar enough to substitute for Essays I as a prerequisite.
Students will attend weekly 75 minute lectures, either online or in person (depending on the class). Afterward they will work on weekly writing assignments, with a five-paragraph essay typically due every three weeks. All assignments will be posted on the private class forum, where each one will receive a detailed, individualized critique, along with a grade and suggestions for future improvement. Both classes use the McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, 2nd Edition (it's important to get the McGraw-Hill book even if you have another grammar reference, because grading comments will refer to particular sections of the book).