Hope Tolbert
By: Hope Tolbert
April 25, 2019

5 Things I’ve Learned Working at Essentials in Writing

Whenever someone asks me what I do, and I tell them I’m a curriculum creator, they immediately respond with, “Oh, cool. Wait, what does that mean?”

“You know those workbooks you had as a kid that would tell you to find all of the nouns in a paragraph or whatever? I write those.”

“Wait, that’s a job?”

I don’t know if people think that workbooks randomly materialize out of the clouds, or if it’s a side-hustle Santa has his elves working on during the off-season, but yep! Creating curriculum really is a job—and it takes a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of people to get those workbooks into homeschool students’ hands!

For me, it’s finally coming to a close—after working at Essentials in Writing since graduating from college, I’m leaving to go full-time at my own business. While I think I should be overjoyed to strike it out on my own (and don’t worry, I am for the most part!), I’m sad that I will have to say goodbye to all of the amazing people at Essentials in Writing. Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned a lot about homeschool curriculum, seeing a project through to the very end, and what it takes to get a quality product out into the world. I felt that something would be amiss if I didn’t use my final blog post to share about my experience at Essentials in Writing, so here’s an inside look into what it’s like to work as a curriculum creator.

1) The rumors are true. Everyone who works at Essentials in Writing is as quality as they come.

Before I ever turned in my resumé, I heard that the employees at EIW were some of the very best. As soon as my first day started, I was greeted warmly by all of EIW’s employees. Every person I’ve had the pleasure of working with has been kind, fun, and pretty darn awesome at their job. Mr. Stephens (or Matt, as I know him!) takes the quality of his curriculum seriously; in turn, he hires quality people who work hard and contribute to a fun and inclusive company culture.

2) Coming up with different names for lesson activities is exhausting.

I would always laugh at some of the weird names that popped up in my workbook activities when I was in grade school. One sentence might say, “John Smith is nice” while the next might be “Dexter Duckworth the Third fell off the swing.” Now I’m the person who comes up with those weird names. I’ve included the name of every person I know in my personal life at least twice in my workbooks. At one point, I had a document where I kept the most popular baby names from the last one hundred years just so I had useable ideas at hand. It takes more effort than you would expect to not just write “Sally went to the park” a hundred times over in a workbook.

3) One’s writing can always improve.

I received the department award at my university for my English degree, so I showed up on my first day with nothing to learn and everything to give… or so I thought. It turns out that quite a few grammar and writing rules that I learned in grade school had faded away. Essentials in Writing’s concrete and simplified method of writing and grammar instruction has stuck with me in a way that the writing curriculum I used as a kid never did. At this point, I’m pretty confident that even parents helping their homeschool students with Essentials in Writing will improve their own writing skills just by interacting with the material.

4) Each workbook is a team effort.

After I drafted my first workbook, I thought I would receive a printed and bound version of my work within a few weeks. I was wrong. After each workbook is planned and drafted, it goes through a process we refer to as “filtering,” which means another employee looks over every single page in detail, looking for problems ranging from blurry icons to ineffective activities. After the workbook is filtered, it goes through a round of revisions until it’s approved. After this, it goes to our grade school specialist who judges its effectiveness for the age level the workbook covers. Once the workbook has been fully reviewed, it’s revised by the curriculum creator once again until it is approved. Next, the draft goes to Mr. Stephens and our curriculum supervisor. As Mr. Stephens teaches on-camera, he uses his practical perspective as an educator to make a few final adjustments that make the workbook student friendly. He and the curriculum supervisor work together to finalize these revisions. After this, the workbook goes to our in-house editor who can find grammar mistakes in even the most hidden of places. The entire file is then formatted for print and edited again to ensure that no mistakes have made it through the extensive process. A lot of time, thought, and energy goes into every product, but most of all, teamwork plays an essential role!

5) Essentials in Writing is pretty awesome.

I’ve already handed in my resignation, so you can be sure that I’m not being paid to say this. Every week the team gets emails and messages from parents who are using EIW, and I’m always shocked by how many parents tell us the curriculum has changed the way their students write. Kids who have always hated writing actually learn to ENJOY writing after using our curriculum, and honestly, that’s what makes the countless hours of planning, drafting, and revising worth it. My older sister, a master homeschool parent with four smart kids at home, started using EIW with her youngest. She’s picky with the homeschool writing curriculum she uses, and her kids are all exceptional writers, so I felt anxious to hear what she thought about it. She ended up loving the curriculum, and so did my nephew!

Ultimately, I’m so excited for my new adventure, but I will always look back at my time at Essentials in Writing with happy memories! Each project—and each person—I encountered during my time here has taught me and shaped me, and I couldn’t be more grateful.