Wordsmithy Review: Homeschooling and Writing

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review of the product. I received no other compensation.

An honest review of Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life

I have written here before about how to teach writing. Or, more accurately, how I have taught my children to write. I believe in delaying formal education and letting children learn and grow in a prepared environment in the early years. There comes a time, however, when writing needs to be taught.

I have been homeschooling kids for fifteen years and tried a variety of books. I was excited to have the chance to review Wordsmithy for Timberdoodle since I am busy planning Kalina’s 10th grade homeschool year.

Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson is a small book (only 120 pages) that (according to the back cover) will provide: “indispensable guidance, showing how to develop the writer’s craft and the kind of life from which good writing comes”. 

This book contains seven chapters each offering a tip on good writing. I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t like this book. Wilson’s writing style is wordy (ironic, right?) and difficult to read. Chapter one starts out: “Real life duties would be preferred over real-life tourism. Taking care of your preschoolers or being deployed with the Seventh Fleet is far to be preferred over purchasing a backpack and heading off to find America, or even worse, yourself.”

I honestly have no idea what that sentence is supposed to mean.

Wilson uses word pictures and metaphors that I just don’t connect with. His entire book is written in this style with pithy statement after pithy statement. Yes, he offers tips, but for me personally, it is not worth wading through his long, meandering sentences to find them.

Now, just because I didn’t like the book, doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. Hopkins Homeschool reviewed and loved it.

This book does indeed cover seven topics to help with writing. There is no homework, so for the right student, this just might be a great choice.

I will follow-up next week with a list of resources we have used and loved.

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11 thoughts on “Wordsmithy Review: Homeschooling and Writing”

  1. I’ve used this book before and then gave my copy away. I agree with much of what you said about the author’s writing style. In a schoolbook especially, I like a more direct approach, and it certainly can only be used as a supplement and not a primary teaching tool. I did find that some of the recommended reading lists were useful, and I did like some of the advice, “use what you read, don’t show off with what you read”. I have a couple of older kids who might enjoy it now, so I wouldn’t mind giving it another shot.

  2. As a teacher of writing to homeschoolers, it sounds like it might be a good resource for the right student.

  3. I appreciate your honest review! So many times I read a review from a blogger who left an “honest” review that is a bit too glowing for a product that’s a bit too lackluster (“How did I LIVE without these brand name 2-ply zipper top sandwich bags. Our marriage is finally happy!”). All because of a free whatchamacallit. Anyway, I myself have an emerging homeschooled writer and we’d love to give this book a whirl. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be just the thing!

  4. The sentence you quoted makes me sure I wouldn’t buy the book! No humor–or not my style of humor. But I love the following books, and think you might like them for your kids or yourself:

    Strunk&White, The Elements of Style. The basics from the man who wrote Charlotte’s Web and his teacher.
    Karen Elizabeth Gordon, The Transitive Vampire. Excellent, basic instruction with humor
    Annie Lamott, Bird By Bird. The title comes from a moment when Lamott’s brother was crying over a school report he had to write on North American birds, and their father, a writer, said, “Why don’t you just take it bird by bird?”
    William Zinsser’s On Writing Well is supposed to be wonderful.

    1. I’ve read The Elements of Style, Bird By Bird, and On Writing Well, and highly recommend all three! Elements of Style and On Writing Well were both required reading in one a grad school journalism class (which I loved), and also easily accessible to high school students. They are already on my required list for high school writing…and my oldest is just starting kindergarten. Thanks for reminding me of Bird By Bird, and I’ll have to check out The Transitive Vampire.

  5. Was one of his tips how to plagiarize and get away with it? (Go ahead and google it. You will have a full days worth of reading.) The dude has no business trying to teach others how to write.

    1. Nickey, interesting. I have never even heard of Doug Wilson, before reviewing this book. Reading about him now.

  6. I like long wordy sentences (obviously born in the wrong century) – it’s a matter of taste, so I would like the book, especially if it’s free :).

  7. A great review of a product you did not find helpful. Not only were you honest, (which is rare and refreshing in the world of blogger reviews, present company excepted, of course!) but you were also gracious, which is even more rare and refreshing 🙂

    1. Thank you. In my opinion there is no reason to “review” a product if you are only going to say nice things. When I have companies ask if I will review their products I tell them straight out, “I will be honest. If I don’t like it or feel it is cheap or flimsy, I will say that”. Most companies actually want honestly, not flattery.

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