Review: The Basic Cozy Essay Course
Thesis. Composition. Theme. Essay. These are the words that strike fear into the hearts of high schoolers of every generation. “I hate writing!” and “I don’t know what to write!” are as commonly heard by parents of teens as “Mom, where are my socks?” and “Dad, can I borrow the car?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone could simplify the whole writing process, making it clear exactly what ideas are required and in what order to present them?
A delightful, soft-spoken, retired English teacher, Marie Rackham, has done precisely this with her Basic Cozy Essay Course. Consisting of a 177-page online notebook and 50 minutes of on-camera instruction, this self-teaching course introduces the student to the standard formula for constructing more than a dozen different styles of essays, including research, character analysis, and admissions essays.
The notebook includes detailed explanations of what an essay is, how to outline and prepare information for your essay, how to include footnotes and a bibliography, how to format and present an essay, and samples of each kind of essay discussed. (Most of the samples revolve around the subject of tigers, making this course an interesting tiger unit study, as well!) Each style has its own introductory page where the style is defined and example notes given, a properly-formatted sample essay, and a summary page.
The heart of this program is the beautifully produced instructional video. From her impeccably landscaped front yard to the nearby shore, Mrs. Rackham discusses the proper format for all essays. She begins by giving a brief history of her own experiences learning to write, and reminds us that, “No one fails if they have the tools.” She then goes on to give her students the tools necessary to complete the task, pointing to superimposed text on the screen to demonstrate her examples. The serene beauty of the landscape and Mrs. Rackham’s deliberate presentation are accompanied by beautiful selections of classical music. The video lecture is a joy to watch, and can be repeated and referred to as often as necessary for each student to fully comprehend the lessons.
This course is intended for grades 7 and above, but the video is so well done it can easily be used with younger children. While the examples given in the notebook are far more extensive and detailed, the video’s research essay on Life Cycle of Plants is a simple, five-paragraph essay that is easy to follow, even for third and fourth graders. These younger students would only need to substitute their own facts when writing their research paper, while learning and practicing the basic formula for all future writing assignments.
A student should watch the video first, then review the course information in the notebook as he follows the steps in organizing his own facts and ideas into a coherent, well-written paper. Together, the video presentation and the reproducible notebook provide a simple, yet thorough, course in constructing essays, themes, and compositions. As this is a non-consumable resource that a homeschooling family can use with all children, it is an excellent investment as well as a truly enjoyable experience.