Stop searching! In my opinion, Donna Reish has created the perfect language arts curriculum. Truly! You can stop searching, planning and trying to pull it all together. Mrs. Reish has accomplished what I previously thought impossible through Character Quality Language Arts (CQLA).
Her efforts began over six years ago when she set out to create a program that incorporated the best parts of her favorite programs. She looked at the best parts of Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Play 'n Talk, Spelling Power, Editor-in-Chief, Jensen's Grammar, Easy Grammar, Institute for Excellence in Writing, Writing for 100 Days, and Understanding Writing, and sought to create an all-in-one program that could be taught to multiple levels of children. Sound impossible? We thought so, too, until we studied this fabulous program and chatted with its author.
There are four levels of CQLA and it can be used from primary grades through high school. The goal of the lessons is to foster excellent communication skills while focusing on character. A certain character quality is focused on each month with all the language arts instructions, samples, practice sentences and writings taken from the Bible, character resources and biographies.
While we are accustomed to seeing science and history programs offered for large families with multiple ages, CQLA is a revolutionary language arts program designed to meet these needs for this subject area. All of the disciplines of language arts are located in one volume for each year.
First the disclaimers: CQLA does not teach the following:
1. Literature: It gives suggestions for reading that correlate with the character quality/principles, but it doesn't "teach" literature.
2. Reading: It has a lot of built-in comprehension and study skills, but it does not teach a child how to read; a child should be able to read picture books (non-vocabulary controlled) before beginning CQLA.
3. Research papers: The author is in the middle of developing a booklet and tape set for that.
Let's look at what this looks like:
One year of language arts instruction is contained within each CQLA book. As stated, there are four levels: Pre A (ages 7-9, second and third grade levels), A (ages 9-11, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade levels), B (ages 11-14, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade levels) and C (age 14 and up high school levels). Each level has three yearly volumes. Therefore, your child could spend three years in Pre A, three years in A, three years in B and three years in C-all in different volumes of books with different character qualities.
Each CQLA book is broken down into eight monthly units with four weekly lessons each month. Completion of any one volume is one year's work in English or language arts. (It doesn't matter which volume you begin with; the volumes are based on which eight character qualities you would like to study. The levels (Pre A, A, B, and C) determine the levels. All the scheduling is done for you. You can complete the assignments on a 4 or 5 day schedule.
Each weekly lesson and each volume is laid out the same, so no matter which level you are instructing, you don't have to relearn the program. Let's take a look at what is contained in each weekly lesson:
1. Each lesson starts with passages for copying, dictation, studying, and comprehension. They have been carefully selected from the Bible or character based books. The passage is available in three formats: Basic, Extension, and Further Extension, allowing you to further customize the lessons to your child's abilities. Vocabulary words based on the passage are given for your child to study. The student uses this passage to read, write an assignment based on the passage, and take a dictation quiz on the passage at the end of the week.
2. Each lesson has spelling words from the passage, based on phonics and word families. Students copy and study the words, use them in their writing and record them in a spelling notebook grouped by phonetic sounds.
3. Each lesson has one or two editor duties to allow the student to review grammar concepts and to practice finding errors. Students also have at least one lesson on grammar and those skills are practiced throughout the week.
4. Students practice study skills and prewriting. They learn to take notes in a keyword outline or by other methods in preparation for the writing assignment. Each weekly lesson then contains a composition or creative writing task based on the character quality. Extra writing ideas are also provided. At all times, your student will be working on either a rough draft or a final edition of writing assignment.
5. A checklist challenge is provided to help students insert revisions in their essays. The items on the checklist include skills taught in the lesson and previous lessons. Once a grammar skill is taught, the Checklist Challenge forces the student to use the skill in his writing assignment (i.e. sentence openers, semicolons, quotation marks, etc.).
6. Penmanship practice sidebars are included related to the character topic for your child to practice in the work text or his own notebook.
7. Lots of extra practice assignments and extensions are provided for the student who needs a challenge, or some extra time on a topic.
8. Teacher helps are located at the end of each monthly unit (after four weekly lessons) that summarize each weekly lesson, so the teacher can see at a glance what is being studied. Answer keys follow each week's assignments.
While this may sound overwhelming on paper, seeing the program in action will ease your fears. The ease of supervising multiple ages with this approach will amaze you. We especially appreciated two things: the focus on character; and the emphasis, even from early ages, on the development of writing skills. You don't need to be intimidated by language arts.
Other products available from the Reish family include some fabulous teaching tapes for parents, a book on teaching speech and debate, and a composition-only curriculum for the parent who has the other aspects of language arts under control.
If you want to investigate this, you can download samples at the web site that will give you a good flavor for the program. Mrs. Reish also has an audio tape explaining the program, and a video tape showing her going through a week of work with two of her children. Order the Teacher's Guide and the video tape and you will be as convinced as we are that this is the answer to the prayers of many parents. Bar none, this is the best language arts program we have ever seen.
-Product Review by Christine Field, Senior Contributing Correspondent, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, June, 2006