There are a lot of grammar and language arts curriculums for homeschoolers to choose from. Even so, I have found the hardest time finding one I loved. I will admit, I am a hard-sell for grammar curriculum. As a grammar-nerd, I’m extremely picky. But I love First Language Lessons from Well-Trained Mind.
I began using First Language Lessons last year with my then second grader, beginning with the Level 2 book. She was struggling tremendously with writing and several dyslexia-typical issues. I really loved that, at her level, most of the grammar work was oral. We read or recited together. And it was fast. The lessons took us about 5 minutes, never more than 10.
This year, I continued with the program both with her, in the Level 3 book, and my oldest, in the Level 4 book. And while the Level 3 book begins requiring more writing as part of the lesson, there is still enough oral work that my daughter has continued to do extremely well with it this year. I’m thrilled with the program for both of them. It is remarkable.
- It makes sense. The order, the pace, the presentation, the exercises—it’s logical, easy to use, and the perfect amount of material at a time. And the fact that my analytical son, who learns language subjects instinctively and intuitively, and my right-brained creative daughter, who struggles with every language subject, both do well with the same program really blows my mind.
- It emphasizes memory work while keeping it fun. My kids love the chants and movement suggestions. Even my four year old is learning his helping verbs by listening to his older siblings chant and clap.
- It keeps lessons short and sweet. The lessons take about 10 minutes and are intended to be scheduled 2-3 times a week. There are usually 4-5 sentences on the topic we are working on, then the lesson moves on to a new concept, 4-5 more sentences, and then we are done. The repetition is well spaced, so my kids are learning a ton without it becoming burdensome. The lessons are sometimes several pages, 3-5 usually, but much of it is done orally (read these sentences; read this list; say these verbs and do the actions) and goes quickly.
- It includes diagramming! I love diagramming for teaching grammar. I’m not sure if it is the grammar-nerd in me or the fact that I am a visual learner. For me, diagramming is a visual of what is going on in the sentence. I love it! Levels 3 and 4 both contain lessons on diagramming throughout, and I have been so impressed with how the diagramming is included. In Level 3, the diagrams are already drawn and progress slowly as each part of speech is learned. It is taught as a means of showing how the word is working in the sentence. In level 4, diagrams are provided at first, progress to traceable diagrams, and then the student draws one or two of his own. Again, the student is not diagramming more than a few sentences per lesson; or if there are several diagrams, he is only adding a word or two to each one.
- It includes poetry! There are poems for memory work spaced throughout the book. The poem selections are wonderful: “The Land of Nod” by Robert Louis Stevenson, “Ozymandias,” and “Afternoon on a Hill” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. My kids have loved this part of the curriculum.
There are dictation exercises included throughout and a few narration activities, but we skip nearly all of these for a couple of reasons. For one, I am also doing the accompanying Writing with Ease books with my kids, which includes plenty of narration/dictation/copywork. Also, as I mentioned earlier, writing and copying is extremely challenging for my daughter, so I’m very intentional about what I choose to have her do.
First Language Lessons is a scripted curriculum. You can literally read the entire lesson off the page, word for word. I wasn’t sure how I’d like a scripted curriculum and hesitated trying the program for awhile because of this; I’m usually an unscripted homeschooler. But it really hasn’t bothered me at all. Sometimes I read it word for word, and sometimes I take the idea and run with it. On the other hand, the scripted lessons mean that you can teach a great lesson even if grammar is not your strength. It’s clear and easy to understand.
While Level 2 simply had a teacher book we worked through together, there is both a student workbook and a teacher book for Levels 3 and 4.
- This is not a colorful, flashy, gimmicky curriculum. It has enough elements to present the information in a way a variety of learning styles can relate and is written in a fun, interactive manner encouraging a conversational lesson between teacher and child. But this is the economy car of grammar, not the flashy red convertible.
- This curriculum currently only goes through four levels. We are using the Level 4 book for fifth grade and find it to be quite adequate and sufficiently challenging. I used Level 2 for Middlest last year in second grade, and Level 3 with her this year for the third grade. While there are rumors that more books will be produced, there is nothing yet.
- This is just a grammar curriculum, with a few add-on sections on usage, mechanics, letter writing, and alphabetizing. For me, this was more of an advantage than disadvantage; all I wanted was a grammar curriculum. But if you are look for a program that incorporates writing and reading, that is not included in First Language Lessons. There is a book that teaches some writing skills from a classical methodology of narrating passages (Writing with Ease).
- Works for a variety of learning and teaching styles.
- Would appeal to Classical and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers best.
- Provides short, scripted lessons in the teacher book with an accompanying student workbook.
- Suitable for both grammar-nerds and grammar-rookies.
- Requires no prep.
- Functional, not flashy.
- Secular program, no religious affiliation.
- Currently only available in Levels 1-4.
- Grammar curriculum only.
- Reasonably priced at around $20 a book.
First Language Lessons is available through the Well Trained Mind website as well as through Amazon and other homeschool curriculum suppliers. If you want a more in-depth look at the curriculum, the Well Trained Mind website provides some pdf previews of some of the individual books.
This review is my own honest opinion about a product that I’ve loved in our homeschool. I received nothing in return for this review and the opinions are my own.