Embracing our Homeschool Differences: the value in variety

Embracing and supporting homeschool differences | homeschool methods & approaches

I’ve been in the homeschooling world a long time, nearly all my life. And one thing that really saddens me is when I discover that some of our biggest critics are those who homeschool right alongside us. We are all so different. Some of us homeschool online, some of us use charter schools, some of us adhere to classical methods, some of us embrace an unschooling and delight-directed approach to learning. And we all obviously believe in what we are doing. But just because someone homeschools differently doesn’t mean they aren’t doing it well. Our homeschool differences are our strengths, not our downfall.

This is not an easy journey, and anyone who has homeschooled for any length of time will readily admit there is a lot of fear and self-doubt, a lot of insecurity. Taking on your child’s education is a huge responsibility. We need all the support and camaraderie we can get. Variety in homeschooling is a good thing! And we can all learn so much from each other as we embrace those homeschool differences.

Each of us has something unique and special to offer, and each of us has much to learn. I can learn from Charlotte Mason how to add beauty and variety to my homeschool, how to give a short lesson with a lot of punch and effectiveness. I can learn to lay a foundation and nurture discernment and debate through classical methods. I can gather ideas for bringing in the wonder and inspiration of nature through Waldorf. I can learn how to tie lessons and learning into everyday activities, how to use life as my curriculum from the unschooler, and how to appeal to my child’s strengths and interests from the delight-directed homeschooler. I can improve my child’s education by recognizing the value of the variety in homeschool.

Personally, we choose a strong classical approach, but as I see and appreciate the strengths in so many different ways to learn and to teach, those strengths find their way into how we homeschool. My kids are better off because you’ve chosen to do things differently. I’m a better teacher because we don’t all do this the same way.

I read lots of great advice reminding us to not compare ourselves to others, but I think an equally valuable lesson to remember is to not validate ourselves at someone else’s expense. We are all on the same team. We equally care about our children and their educational experience. So let’s embrace the variety and learn from each other.

3 Simple Ways to Support our Homeschool Differences

  1. Follow blogs of those who homeschool differently than you do. Read and research about more than just your chosen method.
  2. Ask advice from those who do it differently. Ask your unschooling friend for advice on how to add real-life lessons to your curriculum. Ask your classical friend how to add logic and worldview discussion to your day. Ask your traditionally schooling friend about scheduling and planning routines.
  3. Encourage someone who takes a different approach. Let them know you admire them and that you can see value in what they are doing.

We hear so much discouragement and criticism from so many different sources. Our community of homeschool support should not be a place for more critique. Let’s be a community that embraces homeschool differences—different styles and methods of learning. Let’s be a community who sees the value in variety.

Losing the Labels

Sometimes, labels can be very helpful, allowing us to define our vision or explain that vision in a way others can quickly identify with. At other times, we allow those labels to shackle us to a lifestyle or an approach that maybe isn’t quite the right fit.

Crunchy, organic, homesteader. Attachment-parenting, grace-based parenting, traditional. Classical education, Charlotte Mason, unschooling.

I think to escape the label in homeschooling, a lot of us settle on “eclectic” and call it a day. It’s easier than trying to explain the exceptions we’ve made to this philosophy and that approach. But I will take the time to explain some of our exceptions, just to help you see our journey and maybe bring some clarity to yours.

eclectic homeschooling

We started out hard core classical educators. Lots of memory, early Latin, art and music appreciation. And while I still love the learning levels and cycle of history, some of the rigidity and rigor has slipped away, for our sanity and survival.

I loved everything I read about Charlotte Mason, and was fully prepared to embrace the majority of that educational approach at the beginning of the year. Short lessons saved us this year, transformed our homeschool. My little ADHD kiddos thrived with short intense bursts and learned more than you could imagine from lessons that were no longer than 15 or 20 min.; it fit them perfectly. They could succeed and still be Tiggers. I also loved the connection with people rather than simply memorizing events. We merely discovered the events as we got to know people. My son saw himself in the life of Charles Dickens, saw who he wanted to be in Abraham Lincoln, and saw what he wanted to achieve in the lives of inventors like Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers.

Reading great books

On the other hand, even though the idea of teaching language the Charlotte Mason way really appealed to me, it was a colossal failure in practice. My son simply hated learning spelling through dictation; and while I enjoyed teaching the language lessons, I did not enjoy the fact that the method was so teacher-dependent. We gave it a try for quite a while and then I realized it was pointless to continue something that wasn’t working for my son simply because I was idealistic.

I learned this year, with all of our personal challenges, to be flexible, perhaps a little more realistic and a little less idealistic. I learned that no approach to education is the right approach for every child (after all, isn’t that why many of us homeschool to begin with?). And I learned that what I’m doing has to be a fit for BOTH me AND my child.

I’ve learned that labels are for canned food and toothpaste, not people.

Losing the labels

Implementing Charlotte Mason, baby steps

Classically inclined, Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooling

We’re applying Charlotte Mason in our homeschool these days, implementing some of the methods in baby steps. And since I’ve waxed super philosophical lately, I thought I’d take a break for some practical thoughts today.

The nice thing about CM is that it is a method not a curriculum, so I’m really not making huge curriculum changes mid-year. I’m using all the same materials; I’m just using them differently.

Short Lessons

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but this has been #1 on my list of changes. In order to require strict attention to lessons, short lessons are recommended, before your child’s attention is lost. What does this look like?

We still do A Beka Math. We still do Logic of English (Foundations B for Middlest, Essentials for Oldest). We still do Tapestry of Grace. However, I’m making intentional decisions to keep each individual lesson no longer than 15-20 minutes. For some of our Tapestry reading, that means that we may come back in an hour to read some more, but my kids get the brain breaks they need. For some Essentials lessons, that means it may take us more than a week to get through a single lesson. That’s okay. He’ll actually learn more by doing less.

Copy Work

We’ve started doing copy work lessons 3-4 times a week. Copy work reinforces good handwriting, spelling, and mechanics as the kids copy passages from quality books. What does this look like?

Implementing Charlotte Mason

Well, for Middlest I cheat and actually have her writing the sentence that is a part of her Foundations lesson. It’s a start, and she is only kindergarten after all. For Oldest, I downloaded the free copy work lessons from the AmblesideOnline yahoo group. Even though he’s technically 2nd grade, we are just starting copy work, so I have him copying from Book 1. The passages he’s copying are from a favorite book of his that we read earlier in the year; he loves it. And on the days we are not doing copy work, I let him illustrate his copy work page. It’s a win for both of us.

This takes us 5-10 minutes. That’s all! I know some kids may take longer to write, but I was blown away by how little time it really took us to implement some of these things.

Living Books

I’m much pickier about our books, even our “Tapestry” book selections. I’ve seen the difference between fact-filled books (even the ones with all the cool pictures—think Usborne and DK Eyewitness) and really, truly living books—books that have a storyline and an enthusiastic author, books that make the facts come alive with people and narrative and ideas. What does this look like?

I double-check my book selections through the SimplyCharlotteMason.com bookfinder. If it’s not on that site, I find an Amazon preview and read a few pages. I’m getting better at detecting the good stuff. And IF I get a book from the library that is not living, it’s only for the pictures. The kids can look through those pictures while I read the living books. The difference is that my son tries to steal these books to read on his own; he devours them. The other kinds of books sit on my shelves, unless someone’s in the mood for pictures.

Narration

I’ll probably delve into this a little further in future posts; it’s a huge part of both classical and CM, though the technique is a little different in each method. For the Susan Wise-Bauer method, you ask specific questions to elicit a specific answer. You’ve chosen the key ideas you want your child to retain. With the CM method, the child retells the story back to you. He does the mental work of remembering, of selecting the points that resonated with him, of putting that information in order. It is the process of composition, but it occurs in the child’s head. What has this looked like?

I’ll be frank—Oldest has resisted this a little. The open-endedness scares him because he’s used to giving me what I want. That, and he’s not much for change. But I’m sold on this aspect of the CM methods; I totally see the value, especially as preparation for composition later on. So I’ve mentioned the value of what he’s doing to him, and then reassured him. The reassurance is gradually drawing him out. And I’ve been creative with how we do it. Sometimes, he retells. Other times, I’ve let them draw pictures or act out the stories. And though I have not required anything from Middlest (because she’s only 5), she has whole-heartedly jumped on board with it.

That’s it. That’s all we’ve changed right now to make CM a part of our homeschool. It’s nothing scary, nothing drastic or expensive or traumatic. But it has been revolutionary. I can sense it changing not just how we do things, but who we are. And I love it! I feel like a caged bird set free.

Freedom with Charlotte Mason

Classically Charlotte Mason

Classically Charlotte Mason homeschool | follow our homeschool journey!

I believe in the trivium, the chronological study of history, and classical education in general. But lately, I’ve felt the pressure of keeping up and have been on the search for some inspiration. I found it, surprisingly in Charlotte Mason’s ideas, and I wanted to share some of the ideas that have been inspiring me (including a list of free ebooks available through the SimplyCharlotteMason website.) I love both classical and Charlotte Mason ideas so much, that I’m blending the two as we move forward in our homeschool. From now on, we are classically Charlotte Mason in our approach.

Short Lessons

This single concept has made a world of difference in our day. Charlotte Mason proposes short, concentrated lessons, about 15-20 minutes max. for my oldest. That seems impossible at first, but it is amazing how much you can accomplish in that amount of time and the QUALITY of what is accomplished in those moments. Charlotte Mason’s thought was to teach concentration. By prolonging a lesson, we are inadvertently teaching our kids to daydream and drift during a lesson. But when you end a lesson before the daydreaming starts, everyone stays focused for those few precious moments of learning; and my child is taught to put all of his mind into that subject.

Another benefit is that my child’s brain gets the breaks it needs in each particular discipline. For instance, with short lessons, I’m not exhausting one particular area of his brain. We don’t read for an hour. We don’t stare at math problems for 40 minutes. Instead, we quickly move through 20 min. of math, a 20 min. read-aloud, 20 min. of copy work and memory chants, another 20 min. for independent work, etc. What happens if something doesn’t get finished? Come back to it later, in another 20 minute segment after the brain has had a break. Or, come back to it on another day! But before you say it will never work, try it. Try it just for one day. You will be stunned at the difference.

Atmosphere, Discipline, Life

Charlotte Mason defines education as an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life. The questions and thoughts inspired by the free ebook Education Is have been most helpful in centering my thoughts on what is important to our family. Another freeing thought is that our homeschool routine is not my only avenue for teaching discipline when it comes to time management and scheduling. A little freedom here will not ruin my children’s characters because their training in these areas is (or ought to be) supplemented in other areas. So if I give us a little freedom in the morning to learn casually, that doesn’t mean they will never be able to make it to work on time as adults.

Habit-training

I wasn’t expecting parenting advice when I researched a homeschool method. On one hand, it makes sense since one is merely an extension of the other. But the resources on habits and character-training have been very inspiring and helpful. Charlotte suggests choosing one character trait to make a habit and concentrating my effort in that area. Instead of nagging, decide on a non-verbal reminder with your child so that the decision and mental process becomes part of the habit, forming a new route of thought for your child’s brain. Acknowledge the difference between the want and the will. (This was huge for me since I have a child that REALLY struggles with this.) A “strong-willed” child is really a “weak-willed” child since the child does not have the will-power or strength of character to deny his want in order to make a right choice. Suggestions are also given for strengthening the will of a child intentionally through positive instruction.

One word of caution here to be a discerning reader. Charlotte Mason, from what I understand from some of her writings, believed that children are neither good nor bad but are a blank slate influenced by environment. I, on the other hand, believe the Bible teaches that there is no one good, not even one, and that our only path to “goodness” or “righteousness” is through Christ and the regenerating of the Holy Spirit. Does that mean we don’t need good habits? Hardly. I see habits as preparing the soil for the seeds of the Holy Spirit’s fruit. Character is the fruit, and I can’t MAKE character grow, but good habits can water and nurture those seeds of God’s grace.

Hopeful, Expectant, Serene and other parenting tips

These three words literally have the ability to change the mood and direction of an entire day. When I’m about to correct my children, these words have continually come to mind. Am I going to be negative and critical with what I’m about to say, or do I have a hopeful, expectant attitude? Am I anticipating obedience or disobedience? Are the kids picking up on my own anxiety and tension, or am I communicating a peaceful, serene attitude? Am I at peace? Oh, my goodness! There is a wealth of wisdom here that has been very equipping and empowering.

Simplicity and Nurturing a Love for Ideas

“When more is actually less” is a Charlotte Mason principle I’m trying to consciously implement. It will be very freeing when I grasp this. For instance, I don’t have to teach every artist of the Renaissance to be effective. The CM method suggest three artists and three composers a year, giving your child a chance to form a relationship and connection with the people and their work. I’ve seen the difference this makes, to really take our time and explore someone rather than plow through all of the bios. It really comes down to facts versus connections with people and ideas. Both have their place. I’ve just got to wrap my mind around where that place will be. I know I haven’t done justice to a lot of the ideas, but really my intent was to spark curiosity, to maybe send someone else on their own journey of discovery and inspiration and freedom. There is a lot to be gained here, even if CM is not entirely the direction for you.

Classically Charlotte Mason

So what does this mean going forward for us? How do these principles of Charlotte Mason blend with ideas of a classical education? Beautifully, and nearly seamlessly, these two philosophies compliment each other so well. We still will keep the 4-year cycle of history and the learning divisions that are key to a classical education: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. We’ll still emphasize memorization, worldview, and Socratic discussion. But I’ll have an opportunity to add beauty and variety to our day, flexibility and freedom. I’m so looking forward to this merger. Classically Charlotte Mason, for us, is really the best of both worlds; I’m getting to have my cake and eat it, too!

Finding Grace in Charlotte Mason

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Finding Grace in Charlotte Mason methods

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been on a very unexpected journey, delving into the depths of an educational method called Charlotte Mason. And while I don’t want to bore anyone with irrelevant tidbits, I have to blog about this: it’s been too life-changing not to.

I’d read a few brief summaries about the Charlotte Mason method of educating several years ago when we first got started homeschooling. I thought I knew the “gist” of it, and I thought I knew it wasn’t for us. But the more I’ve really understood what Charlotte Mason (CM) is all about, the more it appealed to me. And the more I realized how much I originally had misunderstood and misjudged this method and those who followed it.

Here’s my disclaimer: I’m not an authority on this method, by any stretch, and I whole-heartedly advise you to go to the source to get an accurate picture. But with that said, here’s a glimpse of what I’m discovering.

What Charlotte Mason is NOT

  • It is not unschooling or delight-directed, not even close.
  • It is not undisciplined or unstructured.
  • It is not merely about making your student happy in everything.
  • It does not abandon memory work.

I start with this because these were some of my assumptions, and even some of the assumptions I’ve read on other blogs. But do some research from those who are the authorities, and you will discover something totally different.

What Charlotte Mason Is (in an extremely brief summary)

  • It is a form of classical education, in the sense that it is a modern adaptation of the classical approach. According to Susan Wise Bauer of the Well-Trained Mind, that’s all any of these classical approaches really are, an individual’s adaptation of those principles. We are all neo-classical, in all honesty. For me this explained a lot of the similarities between both classical and CM, and also explained those differences.
  • It is very structured and disciplined. Charlotte Mason’s ideas encourage complete concentration to a subject. There is no time for day-dreaming. And her emphasis on habit-training is excellent; proof that she did not believe in a student ruling the day.
  • It encourages critical-thinking skills.
  • It is a paradox of simplicity and “feasting.” The method and curriculum are extremely simple and economical, yet it does not skimp on the quality of the lessons or the range of subjects offered. Truly an amazing, beautiful paradox.

What I’m Discovering and Loving about CM methods

I stumbled upon a blog that raved about Karen Andreola’s book The Charlotte Mason Companion. The review was so enthusiastic that I had to read the book for myself, especially since it was available for free through my local library. So while my husband was having back surgery, I sat in the waiting room and literally devoured this book. As in, I started and finished the entire book in that one afternoon. It was the answer to all our current homeschool dilemmas.

From there, I read every free resource at Simply Charlotte Mason. Then, in God’s divine timing, Cindy West published her new ebook Charlotte Mason Homeschooling (affiliate link).

What did I discover that totally rocked my world? I found simplicity, where classical tends to be extremely complex and taxing. I found grace, when I was really discouraged and overwhelmed by the rigors of classical. I found beauty, which I felt had been beaten out of nearly every subject with the classical approach.

So am I abandoning a classical approach for Charlotte Mason? No. There are still tenents of the classical education that I firmly hold to. I’m working on blending the two approaches into the perfect fit for our family. And while I can’t say what will work best for you, if you are in need of simplicity, grace, or beauty in your homeschooling or parenting, the CM way might hold some answers.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you make a purchase through my link, I receive a small commission that I use to offset the expense of maintaining this blog. Thanks!

Logic of English Essentials review

Logic of EnglishI’ve grown up with phonics all my life—learned it, used it, taught it, explored variations of it. And yet, I have absolutely been blown away by the Logic of English phonics.

I received the Essentials Teacher Manual, one Essentials cursive student workbook, and one set of Basic Phonograms flashcards to review with my children. And every time I open the book I have a new epiphany. This program is hands-down amazing.

  Logic of English Essentials curriculum

“The Logic of English Essentials curriculum includes 40 lessons, introducing 74 Basic Phonograms and 30 Spelling Rules. While the spelling list includes 480 of the most frequently used words, students learn thousands of additional words with the lessons as they learn how to write compound words and add prefixes and suffixes to form derivatives.”~ from the website

In other words, this program is very comprehensive and thorough while breaking the concepts down into easy-to-handle lessons. It’s phonics, spelling, and grammar all in one.

Logic of English
The Teacher’s Manual provides detailed scripted lessons that require minimal teacher prep and are easy to teach from. Plus, it’s a beautiful, high quality hard cover book.
The student workbook, available in cursive or manuscript, is a soft cover book with perforated pages.
The student workbook, available in cursive or manuscript, is a soft cover book with perforated pages.

The lessons are not intended to be completed all in one day. Rather, you can take as much or as little time as your student needs to master the material. Each lesson is divided into three parts: phonics, spelling, and grammar. While the program is intended for older students and adults, there are plenty of helps and suggestions for younger students.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working through the Essentials program in two different ways. Middlest is working on the material through the Intro of the book before Lesson 1. We’ve been working on phonemic awareness activities and phonograms. Oldest has been working through the complete program, taking roughly 10 days to finish a lesson (working 15-20 minutes a day).

Unique features of curriculum:

  • The most obvious is that it really explains and makes sense of the language. The curriculum claims that 98% of all the English “exceptions” can be explained with phonics; and I’m now convinced that’s true. Her approach to phonics is very logical and progresses steadily, eliminating nearly all of the traditional “sight words.”
  • This program has suggested activities that appeal to all modes of learning. A lot of curriculums claim that, but this particular curriculum makes it easy to see and choose the activities that fit your child. Even the layout of this curriculum makes sense! Activities are coded for each learning style.
  • The program blends phonics, spelling, and grammar into each lesson. The phonograms are incorporated into the spelling list, the spelling words are incorporated into the grammar lesson, and the spelling and grammar is solidified with simple dictation and composition activities at the end of the lesson.
  • This program is intended to be user-friendly for any age, young to adult. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities, but the curriculum and the material would not be insulting to an older student or adult. The author has provided sample schedules for dividing the lessons into daily assignments based on the age of your student.

The author Denise Eide, in her video presentations, describes readers as either intuitive or logical. Intuitive readers have a feel for language, and usually do not struggle when presented with an exception or variation on a rule. Logical readers, however, need all the information up front and struggle considerably when a word does not follow a memorized rule.

I am learning this first-hand. My son was definitely an intuitive reader; he could easily read words and phonograms we hadn’t even covered yet. He had a “feel” for language. My daughter, on the other hand, is apparently a logical learner. She struggles with exceptions, and  I long gave up trying to teach her any sight words.

How has this curriculum worked for both of my learners? My son’s spelling frustrations have turned to absolute delight as he explores and understands the language, and my daughter has absolutely flourished.

Logic of English Essentials curriculum

Here’s a break-down of a daily lesson in Essentials.

Phonics

The phonograms lessons are a mix of drill and experiencing the sounds. In other words, the student is allowed to really understand what the sound is doing and why. Vowels are the sounds we can sing or sustain, the sounds that can be made louder and softer. For instance, I asked my daughter if she would be able to yell /b/ or /m/ from across the yard and have me hear her inside the house. No, of course not. But if she yelled /a/, I would definitely hear her (and often do, I might add).

This experiencing the sounds has been phenomenal with both of the kids. We talk about what part of our mouth is actually making the sound (tip of the tongue, back of the tongue, teeth, or lips) and whether the sound is voiced or unvoiced (s and z; b and p, for instance). We’ve even gotten a mirror and looked to see what our mouths are doing. It has really helped her with some of the tough-to-tell-apart sounds like e and i.

There is also a terrific emphasis on phonemic awareness, a concept I really knew very little about before we began this program. I always thought that phonemic awareness had to do with “reading readiness” and whether your child was interested in reading. But these exercises really help a child to understand how to break a word into its individual sounds and how to “glue” those sounds back together. Game ideas include variations on “I Spy” and “Charades” and more.

Doing these exercises has solved a lot of the reading issues I was having with Middlest, like random guessing at words rather than sounding them out. What I thought was a personality conflict between the two of us was actually a gap in her learning! And she has loved our time together with these game and activity ideas.

Logic of English

In addition to drilling the flashcards (or we often used their Phonics with Phonograms app), the student is given several suggested kinesthetic and auditory activities to reinforce those sounds.

Phonograms Bingo
Phonograms Bingo is a favorite that we play often.

Spelling

Here’s where I could park for a long time. The method for teaching spelling is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I love it!

The spelling words provided, about 15 for each lesson, follow both the phonograms and the spelling rules introduced within the lesson. In other words, not only are the phonograms taught to help the student read the sounds, but spelling rules are also taught in the same lesson to help the child know when to use those sounds in writing and spelling.

The student is taught how to think through the sounds in a word before he attempts to spell it. “How many syllables?” “Let’s sound out each syllable.” You then coach your student through the phonograms and the letters that make those sounds, having him mark the word as he spells it.

The student book provides a place for the words to be written, a page that is similar to his own dictionary page. The student writes the word by syllables on the blanks provided. Then, throughout the lessons, he refers back to this page to add more information: the part of speech, the plural spelling, and the past tense spelling of the word.

There are also suggested activities for making spelling cards on 3×5 cards that can be used in the grammar lesson. We did both of these activities on different days during the week. As my son becomes more comfortable with the process, I could easily assign him to do his spelling cards independently after we have done the list together.

As in the phonics approach, the spelling rules are both drilled and explored. In other words, there is a flashcard for the rule that you will review and require the student to learn. However, the exercises are geared toward exploring the rule and learning how and why it works. For instance, several similar words will be shown, and as the student studies the words, you help him to see the similarities in those words. (Deck, duck, stick, lick—”CK is used only after a single vowel which says its short sound.”) Then, several suggested games and activities allow him to think of his own words that follow the rule.

One area where my son has really struggled this year is understanding when and how to add suffixes. A terrific feature of this program is that in addition to learned rules, there is also a flowchart that allows a student to ask questions and logically follow a process for deciding how the word should change.

The rules are very thorough and can, in some instances, tend to be complicated. But the combination of both memorizing and exploring the rules through a variety of activities helps to make even the more complicated ideas memorable.

There are both spelling rule and grammar rule flashcards available for purchase. However, we made our own to fit our 3×5 card system.

The spelling words are further taught within the grammar lesson, so I will continue explaining that process below.

Grammar

Within each lesson, one or more grammar concepts are introduced. For instance, in Lesson 1 the concept of both nouns and singular/plural were introduced. Again, I loved how the spelling words were the foundation for this lesson.

The student is asked to find the words in his list that are nouns, label them on his spelling list, and/or draw a red box around them on the spelling cards. Another suggested activity was to allow the student to illustrate the nouns in his list. Then, an exercise in the student workbook had him spell both the singular and plural form of the spelling words using the grammar rule that had been given.

To me this was priceless. The student is not simply memorizing a list of words but actively using those words in their different variations.

Other activities include creating phrases by combining words from the spelling list, either by dictation or by copying phrases made with the spelling cards, providing opportunity for both copywork and dictation depending on the your child’s level of ability.

Oldest is arranging his spelling cards into his own phrases and copying them into his student workbook as a "composition" activity.
Oldest is arranging his spelling cards into his own phrases and copying them into his student workbook as a “composition” activity.

The grammar rules introduced in the next lessons not only apply to the current list for that lesson but also refer back to previous lessons. For example, in Lesson Two, adjectives are introduced. The student labels adjectives in both List 2 and List 1. Everything in this program builds logically and smoothly.

Assessments

The program does not come with tests and quizzes per se, but assessments are worked into the curriculum every fifth lesson. Even this, however, really reflected the teacher’s heart that the author has. Her assessments require the student to show not just that he can repeat a drilled list of words but that he can use those words in various forms; and built within the assessments are lots of additional activities to reinforce trouble spots.

You are not simply drilling and testing. You are teaching and assessing and teaching some more.

On the Logic of English blog, Denise has also provided alternate lessons, either to add more challenging words or to help a student who might need a little more practice with a particular rule. Again, to me this really reflects her heart for those using her material. She has a passion for helping students understand the language.

Summary

Logic of English Essentials curriculum makes sense, in every way! From the phonograms and rules to the layout and teaching methods. Your child will never again complain that English is a language that doesn’t follow the rules.

Is there anything I didn’t like? Not really, but there are a few points that might be an issue for some.

Cons:

  • There is not an easy way to go back to lesson material for reference. There is no index, and the table of contents provides only the lesson number. When trying to find information, I instead went to the website to the teacher training video which provided page numbers for the teacher manual.
  • There are no readers that accompany the Essentials curriculum. This would be one reason why I would hesitate to recommend this for younger beginning readers; reading practice is limited. For those first-time readers and pre-readers, I would recommend investigating the Foundations curriculum that Logic of English is currently working on.
  • This is a curriculum that will require teacher involvement, particularly with younger students. That said, the lessons are well scripted for the teacher; and as the teacher and student become familiar with the process, there are opportunities for the student to work independently. The lessons also allow the teacher to customize how long the lesson will last each day and over how many days the lesson will continue.

Bottom line, I love this program. I was impressed by the website and videos and have been equally impressed by the curriculum. I have learned a ton, and I’ve been surrounded by phonics my whole life!

In fact, I love this program so much that I am discontinuing our current program (phonics, language, and spelling) with Oldest and switching him to this next fall. And I’m seriously considering switching Middlest to the Foundations curriculum, geared for the younger students, when it prints. (That’s saying a lot, folks, since I have a very long-standing relationship with our current program.)

Want to see more? The Logic of English website provides great samples of both the teacher manual and the student workbook (available in cursive or manuscript) as well as a video tour of the lessons. Also, the teacher training videos available for free on her website give you a very comprehensive look at the program’s approach to both phonics and spelling.

Whether you are looking for a spelling/language program for your young reader, a remedial program for your older reader, or a literacy program for adults, Essentials is a fantastic solution. And if you are needing a curriculum for your beginning or emerging reader, be sure to investigate the Logic of English’s new Foundations program.

Disclaimer: I received these materials for free for the purpose of review. I was not paid or compensated for a positive review, and all the opinions in this post are my own.