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“Not to engage in the pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of like men.”

~ Mortimer Adler

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

~ C.S. Lewis

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

~ G.K. Chesterton

“If [the gospel] is dull, then what, in Heaven's name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore-- on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe.”

~ Dorothy Sayers

Suggested age range: 13-15

Class meets: Weekly

Class length: 75 minutes

Number of classes: 32 weeks

Tuition: $479

Graded: Yes

Required books: The Lost Tools of Writing Level One Student Workbook (email the teacher for a 20% discount code) and McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, 2nd Edition

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Essays I


“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 are the end result of a series of writing classes stretching back to 2008 and covering hundreds of students and thousands of essays. Originally intended to simply prepare students to write adequate papers in other Living the Answer classes, the essay classes became one of our most consistently popular offerings. Students as young as 10 and as old as 18, ranging from experienced writers down to first-timers, have taken the classes and benefited from the personalized review of each assignment. Beginning in the fall of 2014, we've responded to requests from parents who wanted a more comprehensive and more systematized writing curriculum.

Both levels of essay classes will use The Lost Tools of Writing curriculum, combined with weekly live lectures and personalized, detailed review of every assignment. In Essays I, students will learn to construct an excellent persuasive essay, a form which provides a solid base for future development. They will follow 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. Moving on to Essays II, students will build on their knowledge by digging deeper into particular types of essays that are tailored for specific purposes. Though each individual lesson in Essays II will be focused on a particular kind of essay, taken as a whole, the year will instill a deeper understanding and appreciation of how to communicate through the written word.

In general, students who have fairly solid grammar skills but little or no experience writing essays should take Essays I. If your child is already pretty familiar and comfortable with the essay format, and especially if they are older, they should go ahead to Essays II. Please note that The Lost Tools curriculum is marketed for slightly younger students than this class is intended for. That is because we'll be working within the Lost Tools framework while incorporating more advanced concepts and expecting higher-level work. In particular, we'll focus on understanding the principles behind parts of the essay format so that students can have more freedom and less formula, while still benefiting from the curriculum's excellent framework for learning Arrangement.

The Lost Tools of Writing uses 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, the three canons of classical rhetoric that are relevant to writing are:

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 full 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 with suggestions for future improvement. Essays I uses The Lost Tools of Writing Level One Student Workbook and 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). Registered students will receive a 20% discount code for The Lost Tools.