Writing & Rhetoric

Creative Approach to the Classical Progymnasmata

Writing is a vital tool used throughout a lifetime to express creativity and original thought. A strong, creative, and engaging approach to writing will grab students’ attention and equip them to use this tool to great effect. With our Writing & Rhetoric series, we are changing how students learn writing. Using tested content, beautiful design, and proven classical pedagogy, we have developed this series to provide students with a clear path to mastery.

What are the progymnasmata (progym)? Derived from the same root for “gymnasium” and “gymnastics,” the word means “preliminary exercises.” It is a writing system so dynamic, so effective, that it outlasted the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, and has even survived into early modern times. The progym will prepare your students to enjoy transforming that blank sheet of paper into a spectacular view from atop the pinnacle of their own imagination.

The goal of the progym is to prepare students for the art of writing well and speaking persuasively. Through the Writing & Rhetoric series, students will not only learn these skills but also enjoy the journey to mastering modern composition—including narrative, expository, descriptive, and persuasive writing—while simultaneously developing unique rhetorical muscle. This series builds a solid foundation of mastery, imparting new skills incrementally while blending those taught in preceding books. The exercises are arranged from simple to more complex, and what’s more, they are cumulative, meaning that later exercises incorporate the skills acquired in preceding exercises.

Our hope is to provide you with resources and tools that will accompany Writing & Rhetoric. Please scroll through the options below!

Video Overview of Writing & Rhetoric

with author Paul Kortepeter

Writing & Rhetoric Sample Lesson
The Progymnasmata: History & Methodology

Series Overview

Students are often expected to write with no clear model before them. Modern composition scolds traditional writing instruction as rote and unimaginative. It takes imitation to task for a lack of freedom and personal expression. And yet, effective communication from writer to reader always requires some sort of form and structure. Many of history’s greatest writers learned by imitation. In other words, writing takes the same kind of determined study as ballet or diving. Creativity uses conventional form as a stage or a springboard from which to launch grand jetés and somersaults. Too often students are expected to tackle complex writing assignments without learning the necessary intermediate steps. The assumption is that because most everyone can speak English well enough to be understood, and form letters with a pencil, that everyone should be able to write well. Yet how many of us would expect a child to sit at a piano, without piano lessons, and play a concerto? Writing is never automatic.

The Writing & Rhetoric series method employs fluent reading, careful listening, models for imitation, and progressive steps. It assumes that students learn best by reading excellent, whole-story examples of literature and by growing their skills through imitation. Each exercise is intended to impart a skill (or tool) that can be employed in all kinds of writing and speaking. The exercises are arranged from simple to more complex. What’s more, the exercises are cumulative, meaning that later exercises incorporate the skills acquired in preceding exercises. This series is a step-by-step apprenticeship in the art of writing and rhetoric.

Placement in Writing & Rhetoric is based on the student’s current experience in writing. We first suggest looking through the table of contents included in each of the free Writing & Rhetoric samples (found on the individual product pages). Reviewing both the table of contents and the sample lessons will help you determine a good starting level for your student.

If you have a student in 4th–7th grade and are considering Writing & Rhetoricthe initial identifier of placement is to evaluate whether your student can acknowledge the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why) in an essay or is comfortable writing 6-paragraph essays. If not, we recommend looking at Book 3: Narrative II. Starting here will provide review from the first 2 books in the series, as well as more age-appropriate material with longer stories and more thoughtful questions in the lessons.

If your student is confidently working through the 2 skills mentioned above, we would then suggest looking through Book 5: Refutation and Confirmation. In this book, students begin to support a cause or refute it. This is the beginning mark of persuasive writing (pre-thesis work) and helps them to begin research for an idea they will support in an essay.

Click here to listen to a special podcast with series author Paul Kortepeter that addresses this subject in more detail (along with other important notes on the Writing & Rhetoric series). Thank you to Jennifer Dow and Ashley Woleben from The Classical Homeschool Podcast for sharing this!



When You’re Finished with Book 10 . . .

Writing and Rhetoric Book 11: Thesis Part 2 and Writing & Rhetoric Book 12: Declamation are currently in production. For updated descriptions of Books 11 and 12 and estimated release dates, please see the question “When will the rest of the series be available?” in the FAQ section on this page.

For additional suggested tracks of study while these two final books are in production, please see our PDF guide. These recommendations are dependent on what your student has previously studied and mastered.

Published Reviews

Customer Testimonials

“We are really enjoying your Writing & Rhetoric program. Besides being very visually appealing, it hits just the right balance for us in terms of age-appropriate instruction and lively fun activities. Even my 7-year-old wants to join in sometimes. This is our most successful writing program so far and I am looking forward to continuing with this series.” —Elissa, homeschool mom

“I just wanted to tell you that we are all enjoying W&R Book 2 very much. Today we are finishing lesson 2. This is the only program in 6 years over which my 6th-grade son has not cried and he even said today that he likes it. I like the pace and understanding it is teaching. My 4th-grade daughter is doing great too. Thank you!” —Monite, homeschool mom

“I am working through Writing and Rhetoric Book 1: Fable with my 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son. My daughter asks every day to get started on her writing! My son, who was constantly saying ‘I don’t know’ and ‘But it’s too hard,’ is absolutely amazing me with his creativity. No whining!! It is restful learning! Thank you!!” —Keri, homeschool mom

“I am currently using your Writing and Rhetoric series. I LOVE that you maintain the positive elements of classical education without requiring the tedious repetition and copious problems that so many classical curriculum models fall prey to. When a child is so preoccupied with getting quantity done, he has no time left to ingest, process, and assimilate concepts. Your books manage to accomplish this, so I always look forward to seeing what else you have published. Thank you for the value you add to homeschooling!” —Wendy, homeschool mom

“We started using the Writing and Rhetoric books this year. WOW. My kids no longer complain about writing. It’s something they look forward to doing. Thank you!!” —Victoria, homeschool mom

“I wanted to thank you all for putting your Writing & Rhetoric curriculum together. My 5th and 3rd grader have just finished up Narrative I and I am impressed with how painlessly their writing has improved. I’m also impressed with how they have naturally taken on the voice of the stories they’re imitating and how they have merged stories together. My youngest 3 will definitely be using it all the way through. I wish it had been around for my older kids. It’s been awhile since I’ve been so pleased with a curriculum.” —Brandie, homeschool mom

“Since my 9-year-old completed the first 2 books in Writing & Rhetoric a few weeks before the official end of our school year, his lessons I’m assigning are now lighter without the CAP program. While my son claims to hate writing, this is what he shared with me today: ‘I’m actually kind of bored without Writing & Rhetoric. I enjoyed working on those stories.’ Wow! I am a former public school teacher and searched long and hard for a high-quality writing curriculum that would inspire my son to be creative while also teaching him structure. I wanted something different than the dull, formulaic programs I was accustomed to in the public system, but didn’t want to neglect the process by choosing something that focused solely on creativity. Since writing has been the subject he’s struggled with the most, I searched for a program that would spark his interest and not dampen his spirits. As I’ve shared with many friends, I’m impressed with CAP. This series is working well for my son.” —Amy, homeschool mom and former public school teacher

“My dream writing program!” —Chelli, The Planted Trees blog

“My [students] love this book. The stories are wonderful and engaging and we have had so much fun with it. They are making great progress and have moved from dreading their writing assignments to eagerly anticipating them each week.” —Teren, Cottage School director

“Your Writing & Rhetoric program has inspired my 9-year-old son! Before beginning Book 1: Fable, he had been a very reluctant writer. After only the first lesson, he wrote an outstanding original story completely on his own. My husband and I were amazed, and humbled, at how much was stored up in that little mind of his, just waiting to come out. I knew that the progymnasmata would provide for the needs of our classically trained children, but was completely intimidated by the few resources available to teach those exercises. Thank you, Classical Academic Press, for this program. Please continue the good work of providing excellent classical materials that are manageable for home educators.” —Tricia, homeschool mom

“I just want to say THANK YOU for the Writing & Rhetoric program. After dabbling for years in [other] programs . . . I have never been satisfied with how I was approaching writing (and I’m a writing instructor for high school and college students by trade!). These other programs were too boring or dry or complicated; they sucked the life out of the subject and my kids were bored. I have 2 kids in Fable and 2 kids in Chreia, and they LOVE our time in these books each day. The tone is conversational, but the information is complex; the exercises are creative, yet rigorous. I love how the books are introducing cultural literacy and logic while teaching writing. THANK YOU for this series of books. With 10 children (and one on the way), I’m so glad to finally find a language arts track that is satisfying; I’m anxious to use this with all my future students!” —Kristin, homeschool mom and writing instructor

“This is a very well-thought-out, creatively constructed, effective writing program. Not only did I see my kids really thinking and improving their writing skills, they actually enjoyed it along the way!” —Cassandra, owner/writer at The Unplugged Family

“This is such a well-designed series of books and I have been so impressed to see how the curriculum builds from Book 1: Fable to where my children are currently, in Book 6: Commonplace. I love both the content and method of this curriculum. The method and design provides students with enough guidance and skills practice to ward away writer’s block, and yet offers each student plenty of room to flex their creativity and find their own voice. Regarding content, the readings that lay the foundation and provide inspiration for each lesson are wonderfully rich and thought-provoking. Many interesting discussions have stemmed from the readings, essay assignments, and formal discussion topics. The thought has occurred to me many times that experiences like these are exactly the reason I love the freedom of homeschooling.” —Brandi, homeschool mom

“Our homeschool program has been using Writing & Rhetoric in our language arts program going into our third year. First, I can tell you that I LOVE this program. . . . [It] has created the richest writing by students that I’ve ever experienced. (In my own humble opinion!) And as an added bonus—it’s EASIER!!! I can go on and on about my own 2 children, who have thrived using W&R: my son, who is a struggling reader/writer at age 13, doesn’t cry anymore about writing essays; and my 14-year-old daughter, who is a typical girl who likes to read and write, finds the program challenging enough to write well—and she is proud of her work!” —Kristi, ROCK Academy director

“I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for offering such amazing products and classes. I have a previously reluctant academic writer who started Writing & Rhetoric Book 3 this term, and I am amazed at how much she loves it. We had completed all the writing activities in the third lesson, so I told her she didn’t need to write her own fable if she felt like it was too much. She begged me to do it and worked through 3 revisions of it without a single complaint! (She does love to write outside of school, but it has always been hard to get her to write for school, so this is such a victory!) Not only that, but I LOVE to teach from the teacher’s edition. It is easy to implement, interesting, and just enough work to challenge but not frustrate. I’m so thrilled to have found it!” —Christine, homeschool mom

The Writing & Rhetoric student editions recover a proven method of teaching writing, using different forms and models of writing to teach young writers the craft of writing well.

Each student edition lesson includes:

  • Narration/telling it back (creating a natural sense of outline/sequence)
  • Analogy—learning how this story is like/different from other stories
  • Comprehension
  • Sentence play/word play
  • Rewriting (gaining a sense of internal structure of a piece of writing)
  • Summary
  • Amplification
  • Rewriting given stories
  • Speak It—experiencing the story from your own mouth (orally) with an audience for a different point of contact, often with some sort of change than the first time you heard it.

See the “Extras” tab above for a sample suggested schedule and sample rubrics.

This is a consumable item. For more information on this product’s copyright, please refer to our General FAQ section here.

Writing & Rhetoric teacher’s editions include the complete student text, as well as answer keys, teacher’s notes, and explanations. For every writing assignment, this edition also supplies descriptions and examples of what excellent student writing should look like, providing the teacher with meaningful and concrete guidance.

See the “Extras” tab above for a sample suggested schedule and sample rubrics.

The Writing & Rhetoric audio files allow students to engage their sense of hearing and their listening intelligence as CAP staff members deliver the readings aloud in a thoughtful manner. By listening to the audio files, students will enjoy and internalize the stories before they enter them more deeply.

Writing & Rhetoric Teacher Training Videos

with author Paul Kortepeter and Writing & Rhetoric educators!


Expand All

Writing & Rhetoric FAQ

Q: When will the rest of the series be available?

A: The Writing & Rhetoric (W&R) series has been on a 2-book-per-year continual release for the past 4 years. Currently books 1–10 are available for purchase. In the publishing industry, book projects can be ahead of schedule or behind schedule due to a variety of factors. We are working very hard to release the last 2 books in this series while meeting educators’ expectations with superior pedagogy and student results. Below are the projected release dates for books 11–12; they are deemed reliable but not guaranteed:

Writing & Rhetoric Book 11: Thesis Part 2: publication date to be decided
Writing & Rhetoric Book 12: Declamation: publication date to be decided

For additional suggested tracks of study while these final 2 books are in production, please see our PDF guide.

Q: Do you have a scope and sequence for the entire Writing & Rhetoric series?

A: Yes! Our updated scope and sequence for the full Writing & Rhetoric series can be found here.

Q: Can I use Writing & Rhetoric and Well-Ordered Language together?

A: Though the Writing & Rhetoric and Well-Ordered Language books are not specifically designed to be used together, the two series can work well in combination. Writing & Rhetoric contains a light treatment of various grammatical concepts that are covered in more depth in the Well-Ordered Language series. Additionally, most of the fables and tales found in Levels 1 and 2 of Well-Ordered Language are taken from Books 1–3 of Writing & Rhetoric; thus if you are using the series simultaneously, your students will be able to study both the writing method and the grammar concepts.

Q: What sets the Writing & Rhetoric series apart from other curricula?

A: The following are key features of our series.

  1. Writing & Rhetoric emphasizes whole, interesting stories and excellent literature.
  2. The series carries an underlying priority in experience for the student. Ultimately, students are being taught to enjoy and think about writing. Language and writing are delightful and should be talked about likewise.
  3. Students are able to move smoothly from one book to the next—the progression is layered, graduated, and incremental.
  4. Writing & Rhetoric emphasizes imitation but leaves plenty of room for student imagination. We want to provide a writing pathway while also encouraging the student to approach and explore writing using his or her own creativity.
  5. Writing & Rhetoric is very simple to execute. It is an “open-and-go” text and gives teachers the option of how fast students will move through the program (by using 1 or 2 books per year).
  6. Students are critically engaged through a complete story at the levels of word, sentence, and analogy, while simultaneously being engaged in creativity.
  7. Writing & Rhetoric has a rhetorical component in which students use oral presentation and elocution as part of the process of learning to write well. They are taught to hear what they have written, to become their own editor, and to keep in mind that their writing is for an audience. They learn early to write with a target in mind.