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Language Lessons for Children Primer One Set (grades 2-3) Review by Brittney Rutherford

Language Lessons for Children Primer One Autumn
Language Lessons for Children Primer One Winter
Language Lessons for Children Primer One Spring
Language Lessons for Children Primer One Teaching Helps
Kathy Weitz
Cottage Press
P.O. Box 603
Round Hill, VA 20142

Cottage Press offers classical liberal arts curriculum that uses a Charlotte Mason foundation for language arts in the early levels. Language Lessons for Children Primer One is designed for 2nd-3rd grades, thought it can be used with older students as well.

Primer One consists of three student workbooks, and Teaching Helps for the parent or teacher. The workbooks follow the seasons, and are labeled Autumn, Winter and Spring. The material used, such as poetry and nature study elements, do frequently correspond to the season, and the skills build sequentially, but the books can still be used out of order if necessary. To place in Primer One, students should have early spelling and phonics proficiency, and be comfortable with beginning chapter books. They should also be able to copy words and sentences.

My third grader has strong reading and narration skills, but I wanted to solidify his spelling and build up his writing endurance. I have found Primer One to be a good fit for this purpose. Each book contains twelve weeks of material, and each week consists of four daily lessons, so it offers flexible scheduling options.

Teaching Helps explains how to implement the copybook passages, dictation, spelling and grammar, narration, nature study, and picture study exercises. The book also has notes and answer keys for the daily lessons, and occasionally there is additional information needed to complete the lesson. I do find the pedagogy to mostly align with the Charlotte Mason philosophy. The key differences would be that some methods, like dictation and grammar, would not start until around age ten with a pure Charlotte Mason approach, which is typically after the target grade level of Primer One. However, these lessons are gentle reinforcement that compliment or supplement phonics instruction for the most part, rather than explicit instruction. My third grader does not find them intrusive of his time or difficult to complete, and since this level can be used with older students, the inclusion is not out of place.

Every week introduces a short poem or prose selection that will be utilized throughout the week in different exercises. Additionally, each student book has accompanying literature.  In Autumn, students use Aesop’s Fables.  The readings in Winter are from 50 Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. In Spring, you are are using the book The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse by Thornton Burgess. All of these are quality living book selections that are appropriate for early elementary. They are available in the public domain, and courtesy links are provided through the Cottage Press website.

The weekly lessons follow a predictable routine. Days One and Three begin with a reading and narration from the accompanying literature, so in the Autumn book, we are reading two fables per week. There is also a list of vocabulary words from the story. We simply read through the list and discuss the meaning of words as necessary. There is also blank space to illustrate the story. My son loves doing these in storyboard format.

The second day of the week is nature study. The same topic is covered for several weeks, so students really have time to develop a relationship through observation. Some of the topics included are cardinal directions, trees, mammals, the night sky, birds, and insects. With the additional information in the Teaching Helps and the idea that nature study is the foundation of science in the early elementary years of a Charlotte Mason education, younger students could certainly use this as the basis of their science curriculum as well.

The final lesson each week is a picture study. There are free picture study resources available through Cottage Press, and the author recommends studying two artists per student book, thereby covering six artists per year. This can easily be tweaked to follow your family’s picture study rotation. Teaching Helps contains a few open-ended questions to encourage thoughtful observation and narration. The student is then encouraged to draw the painting, or to paste a copy into their book.

The first three days include a copybook passage taken from the poetry or prose of the week. The final day is for dictation. The daily spelling, grammar and word usage lessons are also connected to the passage. For instance, a passage might take a word from the passage and review the phonograms used in spelling that word, also applying it to other words. Another day the student might practice making words plural or adding suffixes. This program does not systematically teach spelling and grammar, but the mild reinforcement is great for my child who jumped quickly into chapter books and didn’t complete a full phonics program. The last page of the week is a blank Drawing Page, and I let my son use it as a free-draw exercise.

My overall impression is that Primer One is a quality language arts program with a strong Charlotte Mason inspired foundation. I appreciate that even though each lesson includes several activities, they are all short and varied. There are no busywork activities. The workbook itself is black and white and does not include illustrations or cluttered pages. The space for writing is large enough for younger children to write comfortably, which is important. I also appreciate that nature study and picture study are woven into our language arts curriculum, making them more likely to be accomplished. My third grader genuinely enjoys this curriculum, and we find it a solid and developmentally appropriate program for the intended age range.

Product review by Brittney Rutherford, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May, 2018