Let’s start with a maybe not so obvious point – grammar is important. Why is it important to know a direct object from an indirect one? A prepositional phrase from a state of being verb? Well, besides understanding what just happened when someone corrects your grammar, grammar is the basis for all (western) languages. If you understand the grammar of your native tongue, you can learn another language – to understand it and write it, not just to parrot phrases you have picked up. Plus, if you have learned the fundamentals of Latin, the basis of the western languages, you will quickly gain understanding of Spanish, French, German, etc.
I started each of my children in the First Language Lesson series by Jessie Wise.
|First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 1
By Jessie Wise / Well-Trained Mind Press
It is a gentle foundation in grammar. My girls enjoyed the cuddly time on the couch with me. My friends with larger families have expressed, though they love the curriculum, they find it difficult to find the one-on-one time needed. For large families it may be better to teach several children at once “class style”. We are going to try it in our co-op setting next year. Co-op is a great accountability measure to make sure we get done whatever we find difficult to complete or boring to teach at home.
If you follow the suggested course First language Lessons will take you from first to fourth grade. Then I assess any weaknesses or gaps in my kids’ English skills. For my younger, more kinestetic learning daughter I chose to review editing and language usage skills for one year, utilizing these two workbooks:
|The Language Mechanic, Grades 4-7
By M.A. Hockett / Critical Thinking Company
|Editor in Chief Level 2 (B1-B2 Combined)
By Critical Thinking Company
And then, when they are ready, in middle school my children use this:
|Analytical Grammar Set
By R. Robin Finley / Analytical Grammar, Inc.
Here is why I love this curriculum. At first it may seem a tad pricey, but when you realize that it is comprehensive for three years, it grows ever more appealing. Designed to be used in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, all in the same book, it covers grammar in a way that you cannot help but find relevant and useful. I love the way each assignment is based on an informative article. The student is parsing and diagramming each sentence until she is zooming off on her own.
I read the lesson along with my daughter and work the first exercise with her. If she does well, I leave her to do the rest of the exercises and test on her own. It is designed for one lesson per week, but I slow it down a bit because grammar is one of the subjects we work on all summer, too. If she does not show comprehension on the first exercise, then I work through subsequent exercises with her until she appears to have mastered the concept.
The concepts are constantly reinforced by parsing and diagramming so that kids know the parts of speech and common patterns like the back of their hand by the time they are through the first year. There is a schedule to speed up the program if you start it later in the student’s school career, but we took it slower, always aiming for mastery.
Analytical Grammar moves systemically and thoroughly. After this program my oldest daughter needed no more grammar. She was ready to move on to foreign languages and picked up Spanish quite easily. The strong background in English grammar, working in tandem with her Latin studies paved the way, just like was promised to us by all the classical education gurus we read when our kids were still learning to speak English.
A thorough study of grammar is taking a long term view of your child’s education. Grammar is slowly and systematically understood, but it is a carefully built foundation for languages, writing, and argument. Glossing over grammar is like rushing through arithmetic so you can teach fractions. No grammar means no foundation. No grammar means teaching a child to speak, read, and write a language they do not understand. So you tell your child not to end a sentence in a preposition (okay, sometimes you must or you sound like a snob). Without grammar you cannot tell them why! When they have parsed a few dozen sentences with prepositional phrases, they will know why.
Whatever program you choose, do not neglect grammar. Never confuse then and than again. Then yo will know more than the average social media consumer. I saw that one guy just scratch his head – tell him it is an adverb v. a conjunction.
You can find more of my ideas about teaching language arts and the tools that I use here.
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