Tuesday, June 1, 2010

English/ Language Arts

In my Year 3 plan, I had mentioned the Language Arts books that have worked well for us so far. But I didn't have a chance then to expand on why we like them so much. Lately, a couple of friends have asked about our choices for learning grammar and writing mechanics. And I realized that I haven't put up a booklist for this area of learning yet. So here's a little more detail about books that have been successful here as well as a few new finds I'm excited about.

Grammar-Land (Yesterday's Classics) by ML Nesbitt was the first book that got the kiddo very excited about learning the parts of speech. He just loved following the stories with Mr Noun, Little Article, Sargeant Parsing, etc. I recently found this website where a very obviously hard-working mom has compiled worksheets you can use with the text. Grammar Land is also available as a free download from Google Books (I believe this is for US users only?).

Grammar Cop (Funnybone Books, Grades 3-5)
Grammar Cop (Funnybone Books, Grades 3-5) and the No Boring Practice Please workbooks like Parts of Speech, Sentence Structure and Fairy Tale Grammar were helpful because they offered the sort of quirky, humorous proofreading and practice exercises that he loves. Because he loved giggling over them so much, he would usually complete these workbooks during his free time.

Once the kiddo started Year 2, I tried including a little more "serious" grammar instruction so we've tried Grammar Works! (Grades 4-8) and Teach Terrific Grammar, Grades 4-5. He and I both like the former more than the latter. Grammar Works! contains a good mix of humor with quite high level practice and diagramming questions. However, Teach Terrific Grammar is helpful in the sense that it offers quite a lot of practice at each level of instruction and the practice involves solving little codes.

The Giggly Guide to GrammarVery recently, I found The Giggly Guide to Grammar by Cathy Campbell. Now this 275+-page text is both a bit of a hoot and a lovely way to gently introduce Grammar concepts. I wish I had known about this 2 years ago (but it was only produced in 2008 so perhaps I wouldn't have found it anyway LOL).

It's quite similar in style to two other Grammar manuals we really like: Nitty-Gritty Grammar: A Not-So-Serious Guide to Clear Communication and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar but includes practice exercises after each topic and really cute and silly ones too :).  At the time this post was written, there was no Search Inside function on Amazon for the Giggly Guide so here are a few snapshots to give you a sense of thickness and content:

We may one day also check out the Nitty Gritty Grammar Student's Book and Nitty Gritty Grammar Teacher's Manual and I'd love to hear reviews if you've already used them.

The kiddo hasn't required any specific spelling instruction because he is a natural speller but I like to throw Spelling Works! (Grades 4-8) at him just for the fun of it and since it has some pretty neat and silly proofreading exercises, he laps it up.

For Vocabulary, we did try English from the Roots Up, Vol. 1 but it got a little tedious for us after a while.Instead, he was very excited to work on Words on the Vine because it has, as you may have guessed, funny exercises in it :)

Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises that Are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, NOT Boring!For Writing, nothing has come close to being successful as Unjournaling. I can't stop singing its praises. The prompts given are exactly up the kiddo's funnybone alley. I am keeping an eye on this packet from Cottonwood Press on more Unjounaling-style prompts as well as  DownWRITE Funny for future practice.

So this has been the crux of our "learning proper use of English" journey so far. And it hasn't been easy finding these books, let me tell you.

It should have been easy for me to teach Grammar, being an English major and all. But it wasn't. I admit to disliking Grammar modules very much in college. It didn't make sense to me to learn something in such a dry, unimaginably complicated way, and from professors who obviously weren't passionate about teaching it. Yet, I knew I could write passably well and enough to get myself a job in advertising copywriting and later, as a healthcare writer. Of course, these days, I don't mind my Grammar as much as I should, but writing feels a lot more enjoyable and comfortable when I'm not feeling worried about tenses and clauses and stuff like that. I am starting to see it in the kiddo too. When he feels deeply about something and communicates it via writing, he does it really well, without needing mechanics and structural instruction. This is also very possibly due to his love for reading. Since we try to choose higher quality books all the time, he sees good writing in application.

However, he still needs practice. So that's why I still assign some English every day via these hilarious materials because really, learning should be fun! And I'm done calling it Language Arts. I'll just call it English from now on, thank you very much. :)

With a learner like he is, it just didn't work to use highly structured or narration-based programs such as those recommended by Well Trained Mind and Charlotte Mason lovers. But if you think you might like to still have a lookie at the materials we've tried but haven't been able to stick to, here they are:

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise

Simply Grammar: An Illustrated Primer by Karen Andreola

English for the Thoughtful Child, Vol. 1 by Mary F. Hyde et al

Primary Language Lessons and Intermediate Language Lessons by Emma Serl

Language Lessons for the Elementary Child Vol. 1 by Sandi Queen

Reposted at 7.20pm: I forgot to add that the kiddo simply didn't take to the Michael Clay Thompson Grammar Island/ Town curriculum that so many homeschoolers have raved about. I am in two minds about it as a curriculum. I find the books interesting in approach but am not altogether sure how to use them in practice. Perhaps I will be after learning more about them later. 

All the best!


  1. The Grammar land link worked for me up here in the Canadian Hinterland. Interesting. So many things don't that I feel suspicious, as though tomorrow it won't work!

  2. Thanks so much for the link to Grammar Land on Google and the worksheets. I am going to add it to our grammar curriculum for the new year. We are using Easy Grammar grad 5-6 and loving it too.

  3. Hello,

    I've been enjoying your ideas and book suggestions. I plan on taking a look at many of them when we go to the States.

    In my own experience -- and my children's (though their experiences are different because they have been multilingual since birth) -- there is nothing like learning a foreign language (especially a Romance language) to learn English grammar. Just thought I'd put that out there if you hadn't thought of it -- you probably had. :-)

  4. Glad it worked Sheila! :)

    Diane, thanks for mentioning Easy Grammar. It's always good to have options!

    Sydney, glad you're enjoying the blog! I agree about learning more languages. We've been experimenting with Greek and Latin (more the former than the latter) but being so child-led in these areas, I'm just going with his flow :) Hoping very hard he'll eventually take to learning them in more detail.

  5. Just wanted to comment how helpful your posts are! I've been reluctant to buy any curriculum knowing we probably won't stick to it. We tried English Roots Up but it is a bit dry. Might have to save it for later. I've always hated grammar so these fun resources will be a treat! Grammar-land sounds like something K would like! Thank you for all your hard work and sharing.

  6. You are welcome M! I've just started researching English curriculum again after a hiatus of about 1.5 years. We might use the Kilgallon Sentence Composing books (available on Amazon). Kiddo liked the elementary book a few years ago but we stopped due to lack of time. I'll write a review if it's a successful project! :)


Comments are moderated and I will approve your comment as soon as I can. Thanks for taking the time to write a note!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...