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My 14 yo ds is taking Mr Turnbull's Writing the Essay and History of the Christian Church tutorials.  We are very happy with his classes and plan to take more next year. Matthew Turnbull is a wonderful, nurturing teacher. What, in specific, would you like to know? Assignments are emailed weekly and there are online quizzes a couple times each semester. Here is a sample email:


Dear Discupuli,

Please read up through chapter XXX in Ivanhoe.  This brings you to page 259 in the Dover edition.  Enjoy the dangers of castle battle.

This week you get to write a short two- or three-paragraph story (it can be longer, if you wish).  Take one of the menial tasks you perform each day.  For example, you might write about brushing your teeth.  Make sure you include some dialogue in your short story.  For example, when brushing your teeth you might encounter one of your siblings.  With this in mind, describe your task and conversation as though it were a chapter written by Sir Walter Scott.  Write in his style.  Dramatize the event with rich description.  Include noble speeches.  Include as much danger and moral reflection as you can.  As it is with many excellent stories, you want yours to contain some good tension that resolves at the end.  

Next Tuesday, print a copy of your story and ask your mom or dad to make comments on it.  Ask them to be the tutor.  Ask them to comment on your description, dialogue and to suggest any improvements in your writing style or mechanics.  Also, please send a copy to me so I can enjoy your writing. 

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Thank you so much for posting. It really helps to get a feel for the class.


It sounds like there are weekly writing assignments, then? 

Are there also longer writing assignments for each of the works read in the course? 


Does Mr. Turnbull give feedback on the longer assignments, if there are any? Or is it usually up to the parent to review/give the student feedback on assignments?  I'm actually trying to avoid that sort of situation because I've found that my children tend to be super-sensitive to any comments I make, however innocuous. It's been interesting because when an outside instructor has given them exactly the same feedback, they take it completely in stride...no emotional reaction at all. They just incorporate the changes and move on. 


Thanks, again, for posting.  (If anyone else has any btdt experience with Alexandria, I'd love to hear more. Feel free to private message.)



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There is usually a writing assignment every other week. Occasionally Mr Turnbull has them do peer reviews under his guidance, but he gives feedback most of the time. Like you, I don't like giving feedback on ds's assignments unless he asks me to. So far the longest essay required has been 5 paragraphs. They also read some of the paragraphs or essays aloud during class and there is a "word of the week" they are encouraged to use in their essays. Mr Turnbull also incorporates some IEW techniques. Here is part of my ds's last essay with feedback from Mr Turnbull:


        In Charles Dicken’s acclaimed novel, A Tale of Two Cities, we learn a great deal about Sydney Carton, the titular character of the novel in question. Griffin, your phrasing in this opening sentence is superb.  Your voice has a sound of confidence.  (I am pretty sure "titular" means that the character's name is actually in the title of the book or movie, etc.  Otherwise, it is a wonderful word.) He is introduced as a cold and distant man, but it’s hinted at that there’s something more to him. As the reader continues, it is revealed he has an underlying layer of emotion. After a great amount of development, he is shown to be arguably the deepest character in the entire cast.<These three sentence form a clear and logical progression of Carton's development. And they provide a logical progressive structure to the introduction.  Bravo.   During the climax of the novel, he is imprisoned and later executed, a phenomenon that is marred by but a single catch: Sydney Carton’s death ultimately held no real value.What a wonderfully surprising thesis.  Your reader (and your tutor) is gripped.  


        Sacrificing something that one doesn’t value is an action of little significance. Your topic sentence is a clear and direct support for your thesis.  Rarely is it difficult to part with a thing of little value. It is described early in the novel that Sydney Carton places scant value in his life, therefore it must not have been difficult for Mr. Carton to part with it. This is a clear if/then argument.  Good work striving to be logical and clear. One shouldn’t place much importance in the execution of Mr. Carton, as it is likely he himself didn’t.  He describes his life as a pointless existence, a struggle without a purpose. If you quoted here from Carton's own words, it would give your argument even more persuasion. Even after confessing his feelings for Lucie Mannette, he thinks himself worthless. To be sure, the court wasimplacable, but Mr. Carton had opportunities to save himself if he wanted to. This is a strong argument. 

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