Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review: EDUDPS (Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services)

Fluff-free products. It is an uncompromising standard of EDUDPS. Jill Dixon, author of EDUDPS products, combines this standard with her belief in the 5 R's (Relationship, Real Learning, Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic) to provide products that are "easy on the students, easy on the teacher, easy on time, hard on confusion, hard on delay, and hard on ignorance." Mrs. Dixon, a veteran homeschooler of 16 years, packages her expertise and experience (see her qualifications here) in over a dozen products, from diagnostic tools to a complete writing curriculum.

I recieved four EDUDPS products for review: Write with the Best Vol 1, Write with the Best Vol 2, Roots and Fruits, and The Complete Career, College and High School Guide for Homeschoolers. A summary of each product follows. Overall, I liked what I saw. The no-frills and straight-forward approach fit in well with my style.

Write with the Best Vol 1
Grades 3 -12
e-book - $19.95*
printed pages only - $22.45
printed pages w/binder - $24.95

Write with the Best Vol 2
Grades 6-12
e-book - $24.95*
printed pages only - $27.45
printed pages w/binder - $29.95

Each volume, designed to be a semester long, teaches writing through modeling of great writers. Volume 1 focuses on descriptive writing. Nine different genres are covered:

  • Describing an Object from Jules Verne - a Place from Charles Dickens - a Character from Daniel Dofoe
  • Dialogue from Kenneth Grahame
  • The Short Story from O. Henry
  • Fables from Aesop
  • Friendly Letters from Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Poetry - Rhyming Verse from William Wordsworth
  • The Ballad or Narrative Poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Volume 2 focuses on expository and informative writing. Eight different genres are included:

  • Poetry - Free Verse from Emily Dickinson
  • Business Letters from Helen Keller
  • Persuasive Essays from Thomas Paine
  • Expository Essays from Francis Bacon
  • Literary Critiques from Edgar Allan Poe (That's right! Poe was a superb literary critic at one point.)
  • Newspaper Articles from Ernest Hemingway (Yes, indeed! In his early career, Hemingway was a newspaper article writer.)
  • Speeches from Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • Dramatic Monologues from William Shakespeare
True to the "fluff-free" standard, the curriculum spends only about eight pages of introduction and instructions before getting to the bulk of the program. Each unit is written directly to the student with very clear daily instructions, the first step being to read the model piece. The length of time varies with each genre; most of the units in Vol 1 were structured for about 10 days long, though some Vol 2 units were as much as 20 days. Each volume includes additional literary passages, grading criteria and proofreading checklists, "How to Write" guides for each genre and an answer key.

While at first glance this program seems rather simplistic, further investigation found it quite meaty. Students analyze and dissect the writings of great authors in order to develop their own writing. Researching the author, underlining main points, looking up vocabulary and explaining what makes excellent writing excellent are all part of the process. Lessons are are targeted to take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. Some of the daily assignments were substantial enough that students may want to do them over a couple of days instead.

The steps for each unit is incremental. For example, the first day's work for a short story unit involves reading the story and looking for particular elements (e.g. setting or plot). Day 2 involves a reread and writing down all the elements. On day 3, the student simply decides what the topic of his or her own short story and writes down a characters, setting and theme. Each day the student focuses on one or two aspects of their writing until they eventually have a finished product. In the end they proofread their own work, rewrite and place the piece in their portfolio. While the curriculum provides the parent with grading criteria, the step-by-step approach is meant for minimal teacher involvement.

I like the step-by-step approach combined with the literary analysis. I especially appreciate that the proofreading checklists give students the tools to self-edit and revise their papers. The overall tone is not that of a textbook and the approach reminds me very much of one that we received from service that provided a paid writing consultant. The student is required to have ownership of their work and the process.

Because it can be used with multiple levels, Write with the Best is especially an economical choice for those with large families. However, I felt that Volume 1 was a bit of a stretch of most in the 3rd-5th grade range. If your student can't identify adjectives, verbs and adverbs, extra practice work will be needed to fully utilize this program. The author gives recommendations to accomplish this as well as suggesting that students should not rush through the curriculum. In fact, the author emphasizes mastery of each needed skill before moving forward without a set time limit. She also makes suggestions on how to make this curriculum work for various learning styles and limitations (e.g. not expecting students with motor difficulties to take dictation).

Write with the Best Vol 1 - Free Sample Download (complete through Unit 2)
Write with the Best Vol 2 - Free Sample Download (complete through Unit 1)

Roots and Fruits

Grade K-12
e-book - $14.98*
printed pages only - $17.48
printed pages w/comb binding - $19.98

Roots and Fruits is a comprehensive vocabulary curriculum with uses the English forms of Greek and Latin roots and prefixes. It covers 673 roots and prefixes and 1716 vocabulary words. The end result will be improved vocabulary, reading and spelling skills. It is also excellent preparation for the important tests, e.g. at the SAT.

This is not a workbook but a hands-on approach that will take around 15 minutes a day. Students will look up vocabulary words, regularly review roots, use words in sentences and play fun games to aid in learning each week. This curriculum holds to a Charlotte Mason approach that young children are able to learn more than most give them credit for.

Jill Dixon provides a weekly schedule with a daily break down. Younger children should study only one root per week and older children two. For older students just starting the program, she suggests 3-4 new roots a week in order to master them all before the end of high school. This program can be used with all levels, making it another non-consumable economical purchase.

Roots and Fruits - Free Sample Download (includes instructive section and everything under "A")

The Complete Career, College and High School Guide for Homeschoolers
Middle school through adult
e-book - $34.95*
softcover - $39.95

With this career guide students explore their learning preferences, personality profile, work/service preference, and work environment criteria to narrow down possible career choices to suit the student. After calculating the results of the four self-administered assessment tests, students are to view lists of majors in each assessment area and select two per area that are of interest. From there the student is guided to possible occupations and goal-setting. The guide directs students on questions to ask when considering a particular career, exploration whether post-high school options, and potential interview candidates to learn from those in a field of interest. Suggested middle and high school course work, as well as activities and extracurriculars, for each area put students on the right path to achieving their career goals.

How I wish I had something like this before I graduated high school. I had little direction in not only my strengths and preferences, but my options. Having selected a career that was likely not the best fit, I wonder what had been my path if I had a tool like this for direction. My daughter enjoyed taking the assessment, though the results were not surprising. For years she has proclaimed that she wants to pursue writing as a career and the results were true to that desire. However, there were several other areas to explore that were presented. By viewing some of the assessments, I also determined that having more group learning environments would be beneficial. While we have been on the right path with some of the coursework and activities, there are gaps. One particular course not yet studied showed up in the high school plan for several of my daughter's career choices, prompting me to consider this subject in the near future.

The Complete Career, College and High School Guide for Homeschoolers - Free Sample Download (includes beginning of the guide through first page of "Work Preference Survey")

I received the e-book format for all of the above products. In the end, I ended up printing all but the last item. Because these are non-consumable items that can be used over the years, the printed products work best for me. Those that like the convenience of e-books need to be aware that the download versions come with very strict security features. Only two print-outs are allowed and you may not download to more than one computer nor put the file on a memory stick for copy store printing. Having experienced piracy of their products in the past, EDUDPS has good reason for going this route. You can read their story here and learn more about the e-book restrictions at the free download page. If these restrictions may pose problems, you may want to consider purchasing one of the printed versions instead.

In addition to the above products, EDUDPS also has several diagnostic products and guides available. To find out more, visit the EDUDPS website.

*For a limited time, all e-books are 25% off. Prices listed above do not reflect the discount.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew's blog to read more reviews on this product and others.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew, a team of 100+ homeschooling parents. While the product was provided at no expense to me in order to provide this review, I have not received any other compensation. Furthermore, receipt of the product does not guarantee a positive review. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

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