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Language Lessons Through Literature Review by Jennifer Harrison

Barefoot Ragamuffin Curricula

Having homeschooled multiple children over many years, I have experimented with several different grammar programs and different styles of teaching. I have drilled students through the classical method and eased students through the Charlotte Mason method, knowing that both had their merits but never content with the programs I found. The classical method programs we used gave me impressive 1st graders, but the material didn't stick with them very long and had to be consistently re-taught. The Charlotte Mason materials seemed to swing to the opposite extreme and simply had no direction. There was no apparent benefit to either method before my students reached third grade, when their minds were more capable of grasping concepts rather than just memorizing them, particularly since third grade grammar programs begin with the basics again anyway.

I had decided that the best method would be to wait until students were older to begin grammar introduction, until my daughters came along and insisted otherwise. They both started writing stories almost as quickly as they learned to read stories. I knew they would not benefit from any of the grammar programs I had used before. But their stories were beginning to make me cringe, and I knew some direction was needed. Even if it wasn't necessary for formal instruction, I decided that I still wanted to introduce them to the beauty of language earlier than third grade, and reading good books just didn't seem to be enough. At the rate they were learning and writing, I was concerned they would become too familiar with poor grammar habits and have to unlearn things later.

Happily, I discovered a Charlotte Mason method that is beautiful and gentle yet methodical and thorough. Language Lessons Through Literature was created by a talented homeschool mom who experienced similar struggles in her search for an effective grammar program for the early years. As a result, Kathy Jo DeVore compiled a work that includes grammar studies, literature studies, poetry memorization, and even art appreciation! It is a two-year course designed for 1st and 2nd grade levels, and it comes as a textbook with downloadable workbooks that can be saved and printed for multiple students. Lessons are brief and easy yet very enjoyable for students and teacher. Each lesson includes a reading session from a favorite classic, such as Peter Rabbit or The Wind in the Willows. The books chosen are in the public domain and available for free online. Many of the Peter Rabbit stories are even available on YouTube. After the reading session, a portion of the story is examined for the purpose of learning a grammar concept, such as capital letters or quotation marks. Students are then given a copywork assignment that practices the new concept. An Aesop fable is included for reading, as well as periodic art appreciation and poetry selections.

The workbooks are available in multiple handwriting fonts to match whatever handwriting method you might be using, such as Handwriting Without Tears, D'Nealian, Italics, and classic Ball-and-Stick. The workbooks are an optional addition to the lessons. The book alone gives everything a teacher and student would need. The recommended copywork sentences are given in the book and teachers can write these out for students on any paper. However, the workbooks contain the art selections, poetry with room for drawing, and copywork selections so nicely that the convenience makes them worth every penny. This is especially true when you consider that you can choose your favorite handwriting method and that you can print as many copies as you need for as many students as you like.

This has been a favorite lesson for my daughters and I to do together each day. We do most of our lessons on the couch together and then take turns with copywork. I supervise one writer while the other draws a picture of the story we read. There is a space provided on the copywork page for drawings. This gentle yet thorough program is intended to be taught three times per week for 36 weeks, totaling 108 lessons per year in the two-year course. However, my daughters beg to do extra work each week, and I usually agree. I enjoy it every bit as much as they do!

Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2011