The plethora of curricula available to homeschoolers today is dizzying. While wading through the options and recommendations, I eventually made charts of my top three to four choices for history, math, grammar, writing, and spelling to narrow them down. I thought I’d share my research with you. I hope it helps save someone else time!
Some of the curricula that I’m reviewing I have not seen in person or used. The thoughts shared here are my own personal thoughts based on what I’ve read. I noted price, description, and what I perceived to be the weaknesses and strengths of a curriculum based on our philosophy of education, users’ reviews, and practical aspects of our family.
If you are researching curricula, Cathy Duffy’s site is helpful to succinctly describe how a specific curriculum works. For actual user’s reviews, look on The Well-Trained Mind forums or Homeschool Reviews.
Today I wanted to begin sharing my personal curricula comparison chart for grammar. I don’t know how helpful it will be for others, since grammar is so connected to your philosophy of education–whether you believe in solely teaching it through literature, whether you think it should be taught rigorously in elementary (classical) or “gently” in elementary and more meticulously in junior high (Charlotte Mason or relaxed). I am not sure how firmly I hold to my position, but I think for now that I would like to teach grammar in elementary (including diagramming), at least from third grade on.
So for me, just looking at the “Grammar” stage of classical education (concentrating more on grades 1-4), my top four choices were ABeka, Rod & Staff, Primary Language Lessons, and First Language Lessons.
I’ll start with my thoughts on ABeka’s language program.
Most traditional curricula include “grammar” in their language arts programs in 1st and 2nd grades, which is why ABeka made the cut for my top four choices. I use ABeka for phonics and handwriting, so whatever grammar instruction is taught to 1st-2nd graders, it is included in the teacher’s manual for language arts (encompassing phonics, language, spelling, poetry, and reading).
This is straight off their website for grade 1:
“Designed for use during seatwork time, this write-in text provides one page per day to help your child increase his thinking skills, improve his reading comprehension, and develop his creative writing ability. By the end of the year, your first grader will be able to write in complete sentences; capitalize the first word of a sentence and of the days and months; place a period at the end of a sentence; know and use suffixes and prefixes; and alphabetize words. Lively reading comprehension and creative writing exercises appear throughout the book.”
And for grade 4:
“God’s Gift of Language A emphasizes usage and the writing process. Students are given extensive instruction in writing book reports, letters, and an encyclopedia report. There are also a number of creative writing exercises and an excellent section on using the dictionary and the encyclopedia. Traditional grammar training continues as students learn to recognize all eight parts of speech; identify simple and compound subjects and verbs; diagram subjects, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs; and learn simple rules for correct word usage and subject/verb agreement.”
- A good choice to use if you are already using their phonics or handwriting instruction, as it reviews and integrates the subjects all together.
- Combines grammar with composition. Comes with workbooks only in grades 1-2; teacher’s manual and workbooks for grades 3 and following.
- Combines grammar with composition. (This is a weakness if you didn’t want their composition, because it increases the price.)
- Grades 1-2 are consumable workbooks. They are nice to have; but you have to buy them new for each child, making them not as cheap as the other choices.
Comments or Modifications:
I respect ABeka’s grammar (and phonics) over the other subjects they publish. They do a great job at thorough, incremental instruction with nice, colorful workbooks. You also must remember when comparing the prices of ABeka’s language programs with other programs that ABeka includes composition instruction in their language package, so you can’t separate them. If you are deciding between good programs based solely on price, recognize that with First Language Lessons (FLL) or Primary Language Lessons (PLL), you would usually want to purchase a separate writing curriculum.
I grew up with ABeka’s grammar instruction for grades 7 through college level. I won a state competition for grammar in twelfth grade and then tested out of English 101 in college. ABeka is excellent for grammar. I feel that ABeka’s instruction in composition was lacking, however. I personally would want a separate course for composition.
1st & 2nd grade language workbook $15.40 (The instruction is included in the teacher’s manual for phonics. You could probably do without the TM, if you only wanted to use the workbook, but it really is all integrated; so I’m assuming that if you buy the language workbook for 1st and 2nd grade you are already using ABeka for phonics.)
3rd grade-$16 workbook + $40 teacher’s manual= $56 (There are also test books, keys, answer keys, etc.)
I will continue to post my thoughts on my other top three choices for grammar every week for “Trivium Tuesday.”
You might also be interested in my History Curricula Comparison.
Two comments: #1 Even if a person only chose to use ABeka solely for the language in 1st and 2nd grades (even though the teacher’s manual includes all the other subjects you mentioned), they still need the teacher’s manual for teaching language. It would not be wise to simply buy the child’s workbook because everything you’re supposed to teach in a lesson for language is not included on the work pages each day.
#2 I know I’ve only gotten through 4th grade, but as far a I’ve looked ahead, at least for elementary, all the students’ workbooks are consumable for math and language, not just 1st and 2nd. Writing is consumable through 3rd grade and technically 4th grade as well, although the penmanship book in 4th grade is designed to be like the reading books so I’m keeping that for the girls and not purchasing that new each year. Spelling, starting in third grade, although still supposed to be consumable per grade/child, is again designed smaller like the reading books; so, I instruct my children to do the one spelling exercise per week on notebook paper so that I am not purchasing a new spelling book each year.
I understand you are mainly talking about language, but thought that since these other subjects are included in the teacher’s manual, I would describe the make up of these items as well. Sent from my iPhone
Thanks for chiming in! I agree. I don’t think teaching language with ABeka without the TM would work well or be practical, though I suppose people have tried it. And you’re right–the workbooks are consumable past 2nd grade. I’m glad you posted in case anyone’s confused by my comments. I think I wrote it that way because two of the other curricula I mentioned (Rod and Staff and First Language Lessons) also have workbooks for grades 3-4 that could be consumable, so the way ABeka handled grades 1-2 seemed different–more necessarily integrated with their other subjects than grades 3 and up when they make it its own subject with its own TM, etc.
Have to agree with the nod to Abeka’s grammar; I had it K-12.
Yup, it’s thorough!
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