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 Rod & Staff Building Christian English. Last week I wrote about Primary Language Lessons, and this week I’ll review my final top choice for grammar for the younger grades, 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 read of First Language Lessons (FLL) in The Well-Trained Mind, a large book written by Jessie Wise and her daughter Susan Wise Bauer to describe and explain the practice of classical education. I described my delight at the invaluable thoughts and advice in this tome in my article What Is Classical Education? Jessie Wise wrote a grammar series for grades 1-4 titled First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, and that is the obvious grammar recommendation for the “grammar stage” in The Well-Trained Mind (TWTM).
Scripted texts include grammar, memorization assignments, picture study, and narration exercises (which encourage the child to express thoughts in complete sentences), poem memorization assignments, and copywork and narration exercises designed to reinforce grammar learning. Review of all concepts and memory work is built into the lessons. First grade work is primarily oral, with optional writing; second grade includes slightly more writing.
- First and second grades are cheap and non-consumable; no workbook for 1st-2nd grades.
- Scripted texts for teachers. These are very helpful to guide the teacher exactly what to say, especially if teaching narration for the first time.
- First and much of second grades are primarily oral, with only some writing.
- Combines Charlotte Mason’s ideas (such as using pictures, poems, and short writings to teach reading comprehension, narration, and writing) with classical education elements (such as memorization and recitation).
- Offer cheaper PDF downloads of the student workbook and instructor guides.
- Can order an audio companion for levels 1-2.
- Review of all concepts and memory work is built into the lessons.
- No worksheets for 1st-2nd grade. (This is absolutely not a weakness if you consider grammar worksheets in 1st-2nd grade unnecessary “busy work.”)
- Some users complain that it is too simplistic and repetitious in the 1st and 2nd grade levels.
- Poems may have been shortened or tweaked.
- The pictures for picture study are in black and white.
Comments or Modifications:
TWTM says, “Many language arts programs fold the study of grammar into complex programs that require too much writing and often do not present grammar clearly and sequentially.” That is why Jessie Wise developed these grammar books. At one time Peace Hill Press (publishing company of all of Jessie’s and Susan’s textbooks) was also coming out with Advanced Language Lessons for the logic stage (grades 5-8) to follow up on the FLL series; however, they felt that there were many adequate resources for grammar but fewer resources that taught writing according to their philosophy, so they have been concentrating on finishing their writing course (The Complete Writer series) first.
I love Peace Hill Press materials. I feel that they understand homeschoolers! Most of their materials are affordable, well-done, scripted and well-laid out, and non-consumable. They allow you to copy the student sheets for all of the children in your family. They also give flexibility in several of their programs regarding how many of their suggestions to use. And they allow homeschoolers to teach a classical education at home without having to invent a curriculum themselves.
I have been using FLL 1 for several weeks now, and I am enjoying how it’s laid out. It is thorough, flexible, pick-up-and-go, and doesn’t require much handwriting. We will continue with FLL 2 before (probably) switching over to Rod and Staff for grades 3-4.
For a wonderfully helpful explanation of FLL and a short comparison with PLL, check out Cathy Duffy’s review of FLL.
From Peace Hill Press: Levels 1-2 $15 each, with the PDF download versions at $12. Levels 3-4 have an instructor guide $30 (PDF $24) and a student workbook $19 (PDF $15).
I’ll be writing more about my reasons for which curriculum I chose for grammar shortly. Also, I’ll be adding a spreadsheet to the grammar curricula comparison tab at the top of my blog so you can see all of the curricula comparisons side by side if you like.
You might also be interested in my History Curricula Comparison.
I enjoyed reading your thoughts about grammar. I have been doing some thinking about grammar and this was helpful.
Great, I’m glad!
I think I forgot to memtion to you that my 7th grade boy is going through 2 lessons a week in his R&S book 7. He will finish it during his 8th grade year, then move on to book 8 in high school.
When my high school daughter did book 8, then tested, she scored fairly high (for her). I like R&S English.
My 2nd grader is listening in on the 3rd grade lessons. Sometimes we do the lessons orally – sometimes he runs off and plays while the older 2 do the written part.
I forgot to mention, I do it this way so I can keep the one room school plan going. The youngers and I do school all together as much as possible. AND my oldest is in 8th – not 7th. I have too many kids apparently. LOL
The only thing they do at grade level is Math, Spelling, Reading. . . All the rest we do together until 8th grade. Then high school Science is introduced. (Reduces checking when I don’t have 5 different grades to check in 5 different subjects. ) Keep in mind, grammar rules don’t change – so I think it is one that can be grouped together.
Love reading your thougts on curricula.
Could you advise me on how you would group my children? Would you use R&S 3rd grade book when Caleb and Colin are in 4th and 2nd grade, for example? And what would Caleb do until then?
This is our second year using FLL. We started with FLL 3 and now we are doing FLL 4. When we did FLL 3, there was a time we gave up because I thought that it isn’t common for ESL (English as a Second Language) students using a grammar curriculum like FLL. ESL students usually use harder resources with a lot of drilling. We changed into such kind of resource. However, that common ESL method didn’t work for us and at the same time kids started to build up sentences using subject, verb, adjective, and adverb spontaneously. There were still some mistakes of course, but the way they did it was just like diagramming the sentence based on the parts of speech emphasized in FLL. I thought it must be the result of the FLL 3 that we had done. Therefore, we returned to FLL 3 (now with FLL4) without any doubt. We just add a couple of days using Grammar Times (tend to be for ESL).
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