We plan to use Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) and Classical Conversations’ Essentials of the English Language next year as part of our involvement with the Classical Conversations community. But this year has been a year of testing some language and spelling programs as we also incorporate our own literature unit studies, since it was too early for Stephen to be involved in Essentials this year.
Because Stephen was an advanced reader that needed just a bit of motivation for writing, we challenged him to complete his first literature study at the beginning of this school year using the Total Language Plus (TLP) approach for The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh. Total Language Plus incorporates the language arts – reading, vocabulary, spelling, grammar, illustration, and writing – all based upon the book being read. It also includes great project and field trip ideas, (many of which are nature study ideas, so this fits in with the Charlotte Mason teaching methods as well). We really enjoyed The Courage of Sarah Noble as his first real chapter book, and the TLP student study guide was fantastic! It was split up into 7 units that we completed over 7 weeks. The English grammar focus of this study guide was sentence structure with types of sentences, capitalization, and punctuation; the character focus was courage; and the final project was to write a book report.
To study our vocabulary/spelling words (which are the same word lists in TLP), we used Scrabble. This was a great way for David to also practice finding his letters. It was wonderful to watch the boys working together, each with his special “spelling assignment.”
After The Courage of Sarah Noble, we moved on to The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman. Whereas Stephen read all of The Courage of Sarah Noble himself, we shared in the reading of The Whipping Boy because the dialogue was sometimes difficult for Stephen to understand. This was such a FUN book to read, as I love to “act out” parts in books just to be silly with the boys. It also fit in very well with our Medieval Period studies and had some great lessons about how to be a good friend and what it means to be “Prince Brat.”
Again, we completed the TLP guide, which you can view samples of for FREE on the Total Language Plus website. This is the best way to evaluate if TLP is a good program for your child. In this study guide, the English grammar focus was adjectives and adverbs, the character focus was obedience and friendship, and the vocabulary was pretty challenging for this age (try mulishness or vagabond, for instance). We actually had a chance to incorporate a new vocabulary word into a real-life experience – mudlarking. Because we had some construction work at our guest house, we were able to dig up all sorts of interesting things. No birdcages, though.
The final project was to complete a character analysis, which was presented in such a way throughout the guide that it was fairly simple to complete when we finished the book. The only drawback for us in using the TLP guides was that, because the spelling words were from the books we were reading, they were not grouped by spelling rules. Because of this, even though we studied the spelling words, our core spelling program was taken from Spelling Power by Beverly L Adams-Gordon. (Again, there’s a free unit study on The Whipping Boy on Homeschoolshare if you choose to do it. We did not complete it because we were already working on a lapbook for the Medieval period, which we blogged about on a previous post.) After The Whipping Boy, we decided to take a break from the study guides and complete a unit study on The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, which we highlighted on a previous blog post.
Another activity we have incorporated into our English grammar activities is called Grammar Land: Or Grammar In Fun for the Children of Schoolroom-Shire, by M. L. Nesbitt. This is a free e-book with a comical presentation of Judge Grammar and his subjects, including Mr. Noun, Little Article, Mr. Pronoun, Mr. Adjective, Dr. Verb, and so on. It is an entertaining way to review (or even introduce) the parts of speech to children. Worksheets to use with GrammarLand can be found here.
Because Stephen loves lapbooking so much, we’re also working on a Language Arts lapbook from Joy Christian School. It includes parts of a book, literary terms, point of view, types of sentences, and an assortment of other language arts material.
We are planning to complete a very thorough unit study (including oceanography and meteorology) on Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr towards the end of this year, but in the meantime, we are using Rod & Staff Grade 3 language arts (reading, grammar, and spelling) at the special request of my son (I’m SERIOUS!). Much to my surprise, he absolutely LOVES it. He enjoys the “puzzle” nature of the worksheets and the map analysis that’s included in the reader workbooks. If you’d like to see samples, they have great sample books for Grades 1 through 6. David will probably start Grade 1 material next year, as we’ve been working through Rod & Staff’s Pre-school A-B-C Series, only to find that Kindergarten is included in their version of “pre-school.” Having said that, it follows that my next posts will likely be on spelling programs and pre-school. Until then, “Ciao! Au Revoir! and Adios!”