The most difficult curriculum for me to pick was, and continues to be, grammar and writing. Language skills are incredibly important. It does not matter how much science, history, and literature you know – if you cannot effectively communicate, what good is the knowledge?
I love to write, and I want my children to grow to enjoy it and communicate effectively through the written word. Texting, email, Facebook, and Twitter have had a profound effect on the way people communicate. The plethora of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and format mistakes can be overwhelming. I want a good foundation for my children.
After reading The Well-Trained Mind, I selected Rod and Staff English because it was a full grammar and writing curriculum in one. This seemed like the easiest and most financially sound choice. We have since added Institute for Excellence in Writing to our studies, and we now skip most of the writing in Rod and Staff.
How do I use the curriculum?
Rod and Staff seems to require a lot of handwriting. If you do everything as presented, a second grade student would be writing out 10 sentences everyday, sometimes more. I had a writing-averse child when we started level 2 (we did this level in 1st grade with no problem, but his reading level was advanced). He is my oral learner, so I chose not to require him to write anything. We talked through every lesson and did all of the exercises orally. This worked great! Grammar studies were quick and easy, and he seemed to be picking up on all the concepts. Then I gave him the California Achievement Test at the end of the year. He was weak in punctuation and capitalization. Those needed to be addressed in written form.
I still did not want to require extensive handwriting for grammar, so I purchased the worksheets to go with level 3 for second grade. We still did all of the lessons orally, and then he did the written practice in the workbook. (It provided the opportunity to write in the punctuation and fix capitalization and circle the parts of speech without having to copy 10-20 sentences a day. I found this more effective for my child.) If the assignment was writing a letter or paragraph, we did that on paper. By the end of the year, his punctuation skills were on track.
For third grade I decided we needed a bit of a change. He was not gaining much from the writing assignments; I needed a different approach. I listened to a presentation on IEW’s Student Writing Intensive at a convention, but the price was high. I ruminated on it for a couple of months and then bought the first level.
For third grade, we did Rod and Staff grammar orally, skipping all of the writing assignments except poetry and letters. I purchased the workbook again for all written practice. My son loved every moment of the IEW program. He found Mr. Pudewa very entertaining, and the instruction was easy to follow. As he learned a “dress up” or “sentence opener,” we discussed how it was related to the grammar we were studying. The programs complemented each other nicely. Another element that made the year go much smoother was to allow him to type all of his final drafts.
For fourth grade we will continue with this pairing. I allowed him to choose the themed writing program he wanted to do. (I opted not to use another DVD program this year in an effort to keep our costs down. I may move onto the next DVD series in a year if the themed program does not work for us.)
I have found this combination of programs and method of presentation to be great for my son. Will it work for my daughter? Maybe; maybe not. I will start with this plan because I have the programs, but she likes to write so she may do more written practice and less oral work than my son. On the other hand, she may need a different program altogether.
This is not THE way to do grammar and writing. This is the way that works for my son. The important thing with grammar and writing is to find the program that fits your teaching style and your child’s learning style. Don’t feel stuck. If you like part of one program and part of another – feel free mix and match. Planning takes more work, but you do what you need to get the most effective program for each child.
Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.