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Learning Language Arts Through Literature – The Gray Book Review by Dawn Oaks

(Teacher and Student Editions)
Common Sense Press
8786 Highway 21
Melrose, FL 32666

Over the years, we have migrated between using an all-in-one language arts program and pulling the different aspects together using different programs. I was excited to have the experience of using The Gray Book from the Learning Language Arts Through Literature Series with our son. Part of the motivation, honestly, was being able to share with him the news that he was now going to have language arts in just one book rather than all the different sections to manage each day.

The Learning Language Arts Through Literature curriculum offered by Common Sense Press provides a complete language arts study for students in first grade through high school, with high school courses in American Literature and British Literature. The Gray Book is geared toward students working at an eighth grade level.

The Gray Book set we received had both a Student Activity Book, as well as the Teacher’s Edition. The Student Activity Book contained spaces for the student to record their responses to questions and activities. Longer writing exercises and essays are done on separate notebook paper. The Teacher’s Edition has copies of the student pages with answers for those pages in the left and right sidebars. There are very explicit directions provided on how to lead each day’s work and things to look for in your student’s work. There is also an appendix in both the Student Activity Book and the Teacher’s Edition that contain helpful resources such as:

  • Glossary for the reading units
  • Word Parts Lists
  • Prefixes
  • Suffixes
  • Roots
  • Commonly Misspelled Words List
  • Spelling Rules
  • Capitalization Rules
  • Comma Rules
  • Personal Spelling List

In addition to the Student Activity Book and the Teacher’s Edition, families are also responsible for obtaining copies of the literary works: A Lantern in Her Hand, God’s Smuggler, Across Five Aprils, and Eric Liddell.

The Learning Language Arts Through Literature curriculum is a full language arts program meant to be completed in one academic year. Within the contents of this particular level, the student will be exposed to exercises in grammar, vocabulary, Latin word study, complete works of literature, as well as shorter works and writing instruction related to narrative essays, persuasive essays, compare and contrast papers, and research papers. The student will complete these writing assignments utilizing a revisions checklist before a final copy is submitted.

After homeschooling our children for almost a decade, I have come to realize that different curriculum packages put emphasis on different skills at varying paces. This does not make one better and another less desirable. It simply makes them different. Some of the things our family really appreciated with this curriculum are:

  • It covers all the different aspects of language arts (Our son was thrilled to have just one book rather than a spelling program, a grammar program, literature studies, and a writing curriculum.)
  • The answers to the daily work on identical pages in the teacher’s edition in the sidebars (My son and I were able to review his work much more easily.)
  • The incorporation of dictation to really focus on spelling and punctuation
  • All of the great content in the appendix
  • The incorporation of studies in full length novels as well as poetry and shorter writing passages
  • The variety of writing assignments as well as the projects for further study related to the book studies
  • The clear materials list at the beginning of the study for planning purposes
  • Assessments placed throughout the curriculum to assist in determining your student’s mastery of the material

Some areas of adjustment for our family were:

  • The lack of reading comprehension and analysis questions for the book studies. Our family has previously used book studies that require the student to answer questions about the books as well as analyze elements of the plot, theme, and character development. This is done to some degree using this curriculum through the different research topics students choose from after reading the full work.
  • The lack of a matrix to aid the parent in knowing if the student is writing at the desired level while completing the assigned writing units. I have always struggled with knowing if I was asking enough or too much of my child in his essay writing. Having a matrix or checklist would be helpful. I did find myself reviewing the checklist provided in the Student Activity Book as a guideline to see if he had met those requirements.

All in all, it is my feeling that The Gray Book from Learning Language Arts Through Literature was a good fit for our son. Our desire is for him to have a solid language arts background to present himself well after he graduates high school. I feel that this curriculum accomplishes this with a reasonable amount of effort each day without being overwhelming. The “grading” side of the curriculum is approached from a softer side, which is appropriate for some children, especially when considering writing projects in which they have emotionally invested themselves.

-Product review by Dawn Oaks, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2015