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Rod & Staff Publications Review by Heather Jackowitz(606) 522-4348
Building Christian English Series
If you are looking for a systematic, traditional English program for grades two through 10, then you might want to consider Rod and Staff. This series is extremely solid in the basics of grammar and usage as well as composition skills. Beginning in grade two your child will learn about nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adjectives. He will also be introduced to sentence writing, paragraphs, and basic dictionary skills. Subsequent grades build on previous knowledge with plenty of review as new skills are introduced and practiced. Sentence diagramming begins in third grade and continues throughout all levels, and poetry also is studied every year. Grades nine and 10 are brand new and consist of two books that may be studied in either order. Both books review previously studied grammar concepts as well as introduce new ones, but the focus of these books appears to be on composition style. Book One covers outlining, argumentative essays, poetry, and letter writing; Book Two teaches expository essays, stories, descriptions, and parliamentary procedure. At the time of this review, Book One is still in the testing phase. As previously stated, however, Book Two may be studied first.
Each grade level offers a hardback student text, teachers manual, optional worksheets, and tests. Student texts are non-consumable, so students must do their work on separate paper or a whiteboard. The inexpensive worksheets offer a convenient supplement. Teachers manuals have reduced student pages and answers to all exercises, worksheets, and tests, in addition to teaching tips. I would not try to do without the teachers manuals unless you are extremely confident of your own knowledge of English and have a lot of extra time on your hands!
Most of the grade levels I have used or reviewed follow a similar format. Each lesson teaches with a new concept followed by an oral drill, written practice, and review of a previous concept. I read the lesson with my child, then we do the oral drill followed by a bit of written practice on our dry-erase board. I pick and choose review exercises as necessary. I prefer to work one-on-one with my young children and only require a bit of written practice, but older children should be able to complete most of the lessons independently. Unless you have a child who loves grammar and begs to complete every exercise, you will probably want to skip quite a bit of the practice. That is one of the benefits of having a non-consumable text: I feel less bound by the exercises and don't feel guilty about skipping over some of the busy work.
Exercises are based on Bible stories as well as science and history topics. Strong families, hard work, and obedient and respectful children are frequent examples at all levels. If you like Pathway readers, you will probably like Rod and Staff English! Rod and Staff is a Mennonite publisher, but I have only noticed distinct Anabaptist doctrine in the upper levels (grades nine and 10). For example, the Swiss Mennonites and the doctrine of nonresistance are presented in an exercise on outlining.
I like this program very much. I am confident that my children are receiving an excellent foundation in English, and I am pleased that the content of the books is wholesome and Bible-based. Contact Rod and Staff at (606) 522-4348 to request a catalog and free samples by grade level.