The Power in Your Hands is a unique writing program for high school students, and as I am always on the lookout for a good writing curriculum I was excited about this review. I’ve not yet found “the one” when it comes to a writing program, I was really hoping The Power in Your Hands would be it! The Power in Your Hands: Writing NonFiction in High School is written by Sharon Watson as part of the Writing with Sharon curriculum.
The Power in Your Hands is unique in that it is set up in short, topical lessons and can be completed independently or with a teacher’s guide for the child who needs a little more structure. Topics covered include pretty much everything you could want in a nonfiction writing program, from the basics of how to write an essay to self-editing. The hows are broken down into reasonable steps and takes the overwhelming out of writing.
I like this book but there is a big ‘ole elephant in the room that I have to discuss; the religious and political content.
There is a fair spattering of religious (specifically, Christian) content throughout the book, meaning this may not be the best choice for those who seek to provide their children a secular education. While there are religious tidbits scattered throughout, the biggest chapter to be aware of is chapter 7, titled Persuasion: Moral/Ethical.
Normally religious content doesn’t bother me; I either modify it or skip it and move along. I am having a hard time doing that this time. This curriculum has a definite and unapologetic political bent to the conservative side. The letter example used on page 114 broaches the topic and disapproval of “lesbianism, the abortion of innocent babies, and an immoral lifestyle.” The assignment related to this letter was for the student to write about their feelings, whether they agree or disagree.
At this moment I would like to state that I am the proud parent of a child who is part of the amazing, supportive, kind, and generous LGBTQ family. I am offended. The author then writes “It is often the case that readers today turn off their interest if they smell religion.” Then the author goes on to tell the reader about how the Bible defines what is true and how secular resources back that up, all tied in to the topic of abstinence. What? I’m pretty sure I’ve never met a secular person who wants their child to have sex when they are in high school.
Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% for my children developing critical thinking skills and learning to see both sides of the coin and learning how to defend and express their choices. The problem with this curriculum is that it doesn’t give both sides of the coin, and also what the author mentioned about interest being turned off? That. Interestingly the next tidbit of information was titled “I Am Sooo Offended” and gives tips for dealing with people who are offended by what you write and suggests ways to “point them in the right direction.” I would be totally cool if this was a critical thinking assignment, and it is masked as such, but it really isn’t. Again, I’m offended.
Here’s how it is: This book is telling my children to stand up for their beliefs but then tells them that their beliefs are wrong. This kind of message undermines every fiber of my parenting and personal beliefs.
Ok, so all of that aside, this is a pretty strong writing curriculum. I have to be fair and say that if the content I mention above doesn’t bother you, you will probably like this program. My 17 year old and I enjoyed the tone in which it was written, kind of like having coffee talk with a good friend. As of this writing I am undecided as to whether my teens will continue with this curriculum. While I really enjoy the way the book is written and feel it is of value, I’m not sure I can continue using a book that goes so strongly against OUR morals.
Meg Grooms is a long-time homeschooling mother of 6 children, ranging in age from preschool to married with kids of their own. Always a vagabond at heart, Meg and her family have embraced a slow travel lifestyle and currently call Southern California home. Your guess is as good as hers as to where they’ll end up next.
Meg blogs about secular homeschooling and gameschooling at Homeschool Gameschool.