Primary Language Lessons~Grammar Comparison

When I was researching homeschool curricula, I made charts to compare my top three or four choices for history, math, writing, spelling, and grammar. Lately I’ve been working on sharing my comparison of grammar curricula, starting with ABeka language arts and then Rod & Staff Building Christian English last week. My top four choices for grammar for younger grades were ABeka, Rod & Staff, Primary Language Lessons (which I am reviewing today), and First Language Lessons.

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.

I had not heard very much of Primary Language Lessons until I began researching My Father’s World for history, which I chose to use, thus encouraging me to take seriously their recommendations for language arts, which is Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serl for 2nd-3rd grades and the second level, Intermediate Language Lessons, for 4th-6th grades. Most of my description of Primary Language Lessons comes from MFW’s website, where they explain why they recommend what they recommend for language arts and math.


“A Charlotte Mason-style approach with short, easy-to-teach lessons cover English usage, composition, punctuation, poem memorization, oral language skills, letter writing, and dictation. Fables and writings by famous authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and William Shakespeare are included. Prominent paintings are included, and used to develop observation and discussion skills. It is not a workbook, but contains a wide variety of oral and written activities that may be used exactly as written or adapted to a child’s specific needs and learning style.”


Here are the strengths of PLL, as MFW sees them:

  • The moral content is excellent. Primary Language Lessons and Intermediate Language Lessons are reprints of public school books from the early 1900s. Intermediate Language Lessons even begins with a story about Moses.
  • The programs are very efficient and quick to teach. They teach skills without a lot of “fluff” and “extras” that really aren’t needed. …Primary Language Lessons takes about 15 minutes and is only taught three times per week.
  • They are very flexible. You can adjust lessons to your child’s needs or a particular day’s responsibilities. If a child has already been writing a lot in one day, you can often give the Primary Language Lessons assignment orally. This REALLY speeds up the lesson, too!
  • They are cost-effective….

And here are PLL’s strengths, as I summarized them:

  • CHEAP!!
  • More flexibility to adapt to your student’s needs.
  • A gentler approach.
  • Used along with their reading for comprehension and oral exercises.


  • Nothing for 1st. Begins in 2nd grade with no worksheets for any grades. (This is absolutely not a weakness if you consider worksheets and grammar in 1st grade “busy work.”)
  • No tests or teacher’s manuals.
  • Discusses nature or farm life that may be difficult for the average modern child.
  • Is not overt in grammar instruction; more is taught through attention to detail in copywork and dictation. Charlotte Mason-style grammar.
  • The pictures for pictures study are in black and white.
  • More teacher intensive; not independent study.

Comments or Modifications:

MFW believes grammar (parts of speech) should be taught at a later age (following a “Charlotte Mason approach better than any other program we know.”) They teach more grammar apparently starting in 6th or 7th (up to you). That’s why they combine this suggestion of PLL for grammar with Writing Strands, as Writing Strands doesn’t require grammar knowledge. They call PLL a “gentle approach, less stressful for children and parents. We are concerned that so much energy goes into language arts that children are worn out for the day, before you even get to the ‘good stuff’ in homeschool.”

I bought the book as well as a teacher’s manual for them (which MFW says is not needed).  I did read through much of it, but coming from a traditional background, and leaning more classical than Charlotte Mason regarding grammar (at this point), I felt that it was not as blatant in grammar instruction as I would like, nor as scripted for me. Also, several of the pictures or exercises involved American flora and fauna that not only did I not know, but also my children wouldn’t have a chance to experience. A small part of me wishes that I felt brave enough to try the Charlotte Mason philosophy of grammar. But for now, I haven’t given my heart to it!

Those who want more updated poetry or pictures for the picture study in color may want to check out Hillside Education’s reprint (Catholic). Here is a workbook someone made to go along with PLL. Living Books Press’ version is said to be likely most easiest to use.

Some have said that PLL is free on Google books. I cannot say for sure because that is only true for those in America; being in South Africa, I can’t get it. You may try my link but will probably have to change it from…etc. to…etc. That would be great if it is! Even if you did want a hard copy, it would afford you the chance to peruse it in detail without purchasing it, like I did!


From MFW: PLL (for 2nd-3rd)$11. (one textbook) 4-6th uses Intermediate Language Lessons (one textbook) $16. Awesome price, isn’t it? MFW’s price even beats Rainbow Resource.

I plan to post my thoughts on my final choice for grammar next week for “Trivium Tuesday.”

You might also be interested in my History Curricula Comparison.

About Amy

I'm Amy, a missionary wife and homeschooling mother of five children, blogging about our lives and perspectives on culture in South Africa.
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2 Responses to Primary Language Lessons~Grammar Comparison

  1. Pingback: First Language Lessons~Grammar Comparison | Ita Vita

  2. Pingback: What I Chose for Grammar | Ita Vita

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