Jan 5, 2014

Our Grammar Path

I am joining in the annual Virtual Curriculum Fair, where each week in the month of January, various homeschool moms are talking about how they do things and what works for them. This week, the topic is Playing with Words which encompasses Language Arts of any sort: spelling, grammar, reading, phonics, writing, literature, etc. as well as related topics like Foreign Languages or Latin. I chose to share our history of grammar with you...

Grammar is one my biggest struggles when it comes to our school. It has always been an awkward thing for me. I know basic bad grammar when I see it. I can speak and write fairly decent grammar by instinct. I believe that this came from the prolific amount of reading I did even as a young child. But when it comes to more complex grammar, or to teaching grammar, I'm a little bit lost. Maybe even more than a little bit.
There are a lot of different philosophies on just how grammar should be taught or even if it should be taught at all. I'm not a huge fan of the "caught, not taught" methods, mostly because they didn't work well for me at all. But most of the other methods I have dabbled in here and there. We've done workbooks, we've done textbooks, we've done living books and we have both liked and hated all of those methods. Oh, we could muddle through them alright, but I hate doing a bunch of work only to find that the kids have no long-term retention of the material.

In the past, we have used:

First Language Lessons: This is what we started with. I had Kaytie and Nate do it together. We all heartily disliked it. It seemed so repetitive and boring. And I felt as though they weren't learning anything. We got to where we skipped it more and more often until I realized that we weren't doing it more than we were. A few years later, I tried it again with Daniel and Abbie, with the exact same result. They hated it and I was bored out of my mind trying to force it onto them. The only difference was, it didn't take me as long to drop it the second time. I've heard so many people say they love this book, so it might have just been us.

Rod and Staff: Kaytie and Nate did an entire year of this. They heartily disliked all the writing required. They disliked handwriting in general and felt that this book expected a lot more than they wanted to do. We did at least half of the work orally, and I wrote out some of the sentences for them to label/ fill-in-the-blank/ answer the questions themselves, but they still grumped when I asked them write any part of it at all. At the end of the year, however, I did feel as though they had learned something. Enough to justify all the writing? I still don't know. This is a curriculum I recommend, though, to moms whose kids don't whine about writing. And I can see us using it again. Probably when they are older and really ready for grammar.

Grammarland: This was our next attempt. The kids enjoyed the story. I read it aloud to Kaytie and Nate and then we would chat about it. I'm not sure how much they retained. Someday, we will read it again.

Painless Grammar Jr.: I loved the look of this, and, honestly, I still do. We tried to do it as a group, but after only a couple of weeks, it fell between the cracks. I don't know why it didn't work for us. Probably because, despite their loathing of it, my kids really need the visual/ hands-on component of writing when it comes to grammar.  I think it would have gone over better if I had bought the physical copy instead of the Kindle edition.

Easy Grammar: This was Kaytie and Nate's favorite, so far. We used the workbooks on their own and skipped a lot of pages that seemed redunant to me. They whipped through their work each day with no grumbling and I felt that the retention level was high. I would have liked a little more in-depth instruction. I would love to have a combination of the Easy Grammar workbook and the Rod and Staff rigor.

This year, I started off with declaring a grammar-free year for everybody. Mostly because I just couldn't find something in which I really wanted to invest any of our precious time and/or money resources. We are moving more and more toward a Charlotte Mason philosophy anyway, and she advocated no grammar at all until the child is around ten years old. I agree with her thinking that grammar is abstract and kids under the age of ten are not ready to grasp abstract concepts. At the beginning of the school year, three of my kids were under the age of ten.
A few weeks into this school year, I discovered that our library has most of the Ruth Heller books. There was also another series of grammar books that looked fun. I checked these out and read them to the little kids, a little bit at a time. I had the big kids read and narrate them. This worked well for us. It introduced Daniel to nouns so well that he all of a sudden started pointing them out whenever he read aloud to me. And not just, "Hey, Mom, this is a noun!" But also, "This is a common noun." Or, "This noun starts with a capital so it must be a proper noun!"
I also wrote out some sentences on our white board and had the older kids label all the parts of speech they could find.
I am still looking for grammar ideas. I know we can't dodge it forever. But at least I know we learned something this year, even if it was just one kid recognizing a noun.

Below are links to the other moms participating in the Virtual Curriculum Fair:

3 Reasons to Read to Your Teens by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Language Arts {Virtual Curriculum Fair} by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

A Classical Take on 6th Grade Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

The Power in a Word by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays

The Latin Road to English Grammar Volume 1 by Kristi K. @ The Potter's Hand Academy

Starting a Foreign Language in Elementary School by Amy @ Eclectic Homeschooling

These are the words we say by Christa @ Fairfield Corner Academy

A Peek into our Homeschool: Language Arts by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Our Curriculum Choices 2014 ~ English by Renata~Sunnyside Farm Fun

Virtual Curriculum Fair: A World of Words by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

It Starts with the Alphabet by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

Playing w/ Words-Charlotte Mason Style by Lynn P @ Ladybug Chronicles

2014 Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Playing with Words: the Language Arts by Jennifer @ a glimpse of our life

Our PreK-1st Grade Language Arts Mix by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

Fun (or Not) With Spelling by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

Word Nerd Love by Lisa N@Golden Grasses

Our Favourite Resources For Teaching Elementary Language Arts by Kim @ Homestead Acres

Unconventional Reading Lessons While Homeschooling by Lori@My Journeys Through Life

My Favorite Writing Curriculum for our Boys by Monique @Living Life and Learning

Virtual Curriculum Fair: Playing With Words - Language Arts  by Stacie @Super Mommy To The Rescue

Fun With the Language Arts by Mary @ Winecup Christian Homeschool

Our Grammar Path by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

Virtual Curriculum Fair !!! by Jessica @ Modest Mama

Creating a High School English Course (or two) by Debra @Footprints in the Butter

Language Arts in Our Homeschool This Year by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World


Jennifer said...

The freedom to change when something doesn't work is one of the lovely things about homeschooling. I'm going to check our library for Ruth Heller's books.

Leah Courtney said...

I love Grammarland. We read it together as a read aloud a couple of years ago.

Susan said...

Love the Ruth Heller books. I've been a bit waffly on grammar as well. I have found that, now that I have an older child, it is beneficial to wait until they are a bit older to get into the abstractions, and to just focus on reading and copying well written prose. Once they have an intuitive grasp, it's easier to add in the whys and mechanics.

Thank you for sharing your grammar journey!


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