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Writing with Ease has been my favorite elementary writing curriculum for the past few years. I recently started looking into other writing curriculum options for my upcoming 4th grader. Brave Writer is also a popular option for some homeschooling families. This article compares and contrasts basic components and philosophies of the Writing with Ease curriculum with the Brave Writer curriculum. As my current experience level involves teaching children in the Kindergarten through 4th grade levels, this review will be limited to Brave Writer and Writing with Ease curriculum materials for the same age/grade range. The purpose of this comparison article is to help families decide which of these popular writing programs would be a better fit for their children and homeschool style.
Overview of Brave Writer and Writing with Ease
Writing with Ease
The Writing with Ease program has an instructor book called, “The Complete Writer” that explains the philosophical basis for the program and provides specific directions on how to implement the curriculum at each level. There is also an excellent chapter about why traditional writing programs fail. For the elementary grades (which is the focus of this article), there are 4 levels, with the 4th being optional. General information on how to teach writing in the middle grades and high school are also included in this book.
The Brave Writer overview curriculum book is called, “The Writer’s Jungle.” CLICK HERE to read my complete review of this book. “The Writer’s Jungle” provides a detailed overview of the methods and components used in the Brave Writer curriculum from the primary grades through high school. The sample schedules and activities for each level are included in the index. Without this additional information from the index, it would likely be difficult to synthesize all of the information presented in the text and actually plan out what to do.
Key program features of Brave Writer and Writing with Ease
Writing with Ease
Children develop writing skills by practicing narrations and dictations. In narration activities, children are specifically and systematically taught to summarize information from a passage. Initially, children dictate their answers to be recorded and progress to writing their own. In dictation activities, which also gradually increase in difficulty, children are systematically taught to remember and write down sentences. Both of these skills are critical components of writing about original thoughts and ideas.
Brave writer strives to provide a language arts lifestyle. There is a large focus on oral language development through discussing poetry, movies, nature, art, music, and books. The program also includes monthly writing projects. Recitation and memorization activities are encouraged. Regularly scheduled writing activities include copywork, handwriting, and dictation. Copywork involves selecting a passage and having the child copy the sentence(s) or paragraph. Dictation activities can include French dictation and reverse dictation. In French dictation activities, a child is given a printed copy of the passage with various words removed. As the instructor reads the passage, the child fills in the missing words. In reverse dictation, the child is given a copy of the passage with punctuation and other errors. The child then edits the passage and makes the needed corrections.
A Comparison of Preparation and Implementation for Brave Writer and Writing with Ease
Writing with Ease
Writing with Ease can be implemented by parents after reading “The Complete Writer” instructors guide book. Preparation would be required for selecting passages for narration and dictation. If a parent wants an open-and-go type of curriculum, this work as been completed for them already in the Writing with Ease leveled workbooks. There are 4 levels available for purchase, each one covering a full school year’s worth of material. A PDF format is available from the publisher (welltrainedmind.com) and can be reused within the same family for multiple children.
“Jot It Down” is Brave Writer’s Language Arts plan for children ages 5-8. This book includes descriptions on how to implement the Brave writer lifestyle with this age group. Descriptions and sample schedules of how to develop oral language through discussing poetry, movies, nature, art, and music. This book also includes age-appropriate writing projects that can be covered in a 10-month period. For copywork and dictation activities, Brave writer has two series “Quiver of Arrows” (for 1st-2nd graders) and “Arrow” (for 3rd-5th graders). These series can be purchased as a subscription or by individual issue. Each issue takes lessons that include writing elements, copywork, and dictation from a published work of literature (e.g., Charlotte’s Web). Daily lessons and activities are laid out for the parent, so the preparation work is done. Each issue covers 4 weeks of activities and a writing project.
It is my opinion that the Writing with Ease program is easier to implement. I feel like the program components are more straightforward when comparing Writing with Ease to Brave Writer. The Writing with Ease leveled workbooks remove preparation work that many parents do not have time for. I consider Writing with Ease using the workbooks to be a true open-and-go type of curriculum.
A Comparison of Content within Brave Writer and Writing with Ease
Both Writing with Ease and Brave Writer are writing programs for children. Both programs seek to take quality children’s literature as a source for their different dictation activities.
Writing with Ease program focuses on expository types of writing. This is the type of writing children need for academic success. The Brave Writer Lifestyle and projects seem to include a broad base of writing activities and projects that include creative writing, poetry, and other types of compositions.
Writing with Ease implements traditional style of dictation activities. A parent or instructor reads a sentence or passage and the child writes it down. The purpose of this activity within the Writing with Ease program is to help the child develop sufficient memory skills to then write the information down. This skill is important for both writing original content (remembering what you want to say long enough to write it down) and for note taking skills that will be required for success in later education. The dictation activities implemented in the Brave Writer program seem to have a different purpose. The French Dictation method is used to develop listening skills (filling in the missing words while listing to the instructor read the full passage) and spelling skills (remembering how to spell vocabulary terms). The reverse dictation activities (which do not seem to be included in the Quiver of Arrow series) are really editing activities. I would think that this skill is important for revising one’s own writing and for helping the child become more aware of grammatical and other writing format rules.
Language Arts Components
If you implement the entire Brave Writer lifestyle, the child is developing oral language skills through discussing poetry, nature study, art, music, and movies. The writing activities (if using the Quiver of Arrows or Arrow series) will also address grammar, punctuation, copywork, and various writing projects. One of the Brave Writer Projects within the Jot It Down book includes a narration type of activity, namely, summarizing a story. The Writing with Ease program only includes narration and dictation activities. The focus of this program is narrow compared to Brave Writer. If a parent wants a full Language Arts Curriculum, the Well-Trained Mind press also has a grammar program called, “First Language Lessons” that can be used simultaneously with Writing with Ease. The Grammar program does include copywork, memorization, poetry, art, oral language development, and grammar study.
Affordability of Brave Writer and Writing with Ease
When comparing the main program books for Writing with Ease and Brave Writer (The Complete Writer vs. The Writer’s Jungle), the Writing with Ease book is more affordable. The Arrow and Quiver of Arrow individual issues can be purchased for about $8 to $10 each. Each one include a month’s worth of lesson plans/writing activities. If you compare how many issues you would need versus the price on a Writing with Ease level (covering a year’s worth of work), Writing with Ease is much more affordable. A single year in Writing with ease costs about the same as 2-3 Arrow or Quiver of Arrow issues. Overall, the Writing with Ease program seems to be the more affordable option.
Conclusion on Brave Writer and Writing with Ease
When I compare Brave Writer with Writing with Ease, I feel like I am comparing apples to oranges.The Brave Writer Program attempts to be a full Language Arts Curriculum. Writing with Ease is not intended as a full language arts curriculum. Although the required components seem to be included for a full language arts curriculum in the Brave Writer Program, I feel like the Writing with Ease program is more systematic in their scope and sequence of skills taught. In Writing with Ease, skills are deliberately and specifically taught in appropriate increments. In Brave Writer, I could not make sense of the organization behind teaching specific skills within their series of books and lesson plans.
Final Recommendations on Brave Writer and Writing with Ease
If you want a comprehensive language arts curriculum that is organized in a systematic way and easy to implement, I would recommend using the Writing with Ease program with First Language Lessons. Both programs are published by the same company (Well-trained Mind Press) and can be used simultaneously. If you want your child exposed to a variety of writing and language activities and don’t mind the preparation and time required to 1) piece together how to implement Brave writer program components and 2) actually implement the Brave Writer language arts lifestyle, then Brave Writer may be a good fit for your family. It has personally taken me months to read through the various Brave Writer program materials and figure out how to go about implementing this program. Lastly, I would think that components of Brave Writer program could be used as a supplement to other writing programs, including Writing with Ease. Brave Writer’s Quiver of Arrow and Arrow series do seem like they would be fairly easy to implement after reading through the issue. If you want to try Brave Writer, it is frequently available at a significant discount through Homeschool Buyer’s Co-Op. The Co-Op is free to join and provides discounts to homeschoolers on a variety of curriculum sources. CLICK HERE to go to the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op website.
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