The end of grammar instruction isn't the knowledge of grammar—it's the application of that knowledge in writing and speaking. Students don't need to rehearse the same information year after year, they need solid instruction the first time around so they can be freed for more important study later in their academic careers. Robin Finley has created a course primarily for homeschool use that keeps all these elements in mind and gets students the information they need in timely fashion with a minimum of pain and suffering.
How Do These Work?
The two main elements of this curriculum are the Junior Analytical Grammar and Analytical Grammar sets. Each one includes a teacher's edition and consumable student workbook and together they cover middle school and high school. Instruction is found primarily in the student books, with teacher editions acting mostly as exercise and test answer keys, though the teacher books also include limited teacher notes to help you teach your kids.
Junior Analytical Grammar is a gentle and fairly brief introduction to English grammar for 5th graders. The course includes 11 weekly units for roughly one semester of study, and covers the parts of speech and classic sentence diagramming. Junior Analytical Grammar: Mechanics follows up with 15 weekly units dealing with punctuation and usage. Both books lay a solid foundation for more in-depth study in Analytical Grammar.
Analytical Grammar can be used anywhere between grades 6-12, though the author advises implementing it in the three years directly following use of Junior Analytical Grammar and Junior AG: Mechanics. This by no means implies you need to use Junior AG beforehand; Analytical Grammar is a stand-alone course that teaches students everything they need to know about grammar, usage and mechanics to make them good writers.
The student book is divided into three "seasons" or time periods in which the content is to be learned. A total of 34 units can be taught on one-, two- or three-year plans, though the longer your student takes to complete the text the more review they will be required to complete. The recommended timeline has students completing about 10 units per year in grades 6-8.
When students aren't working through the main texts they should be keeping fresh with the exercises in the Review and Reinforcement workbook which keeps them from forgetting everything they've learned between "seasons." After completion of the Analytical Grammar course, students can work through four literature based review texts with Shakespeare, American, British and world authors themes.
Diagramming is heavily emphasized throughout this series. In Analytical Grammar, the student exercise and test pages are meant to be removed from the book, leaving only the notes which then form an uninterrupted guidebook and grammar reference for years to come. Because the workbooks aren't cluttered with a lot of needless repetition some parents may wonder if their kids are getting all the grammar they need; realistically, they're probably getting more and better instruction than most courses (even much longer ones) offer.
The most recent products from the folks at Analytical Grammar are the Beyond the Book Report series, to be used in conjunction with the Analytical Grammar program. Over the course of three "seasons," middle- and high-school students are taught how to write a basic book report, a pamphlet book report, and a news article book report, provide a basis for literary analysis and teach basic expository writing (essays and research papers). Three-, two-, and one-year schedules are provided for getting through all three seasons depending on the grade in which students begin the course.
For each of the three Season One modules, students choose which book they're going to read and report on; Charlotte's Web is used throughout as a guide with sample lesson/assignment answers. All the content for the course is included on a CD-ROM which provides PDF lesson pages and lectures. In the basic book report module students learn to paraphrase and summarize; in the pamphlet module they construct a more in-depth report in pamphlet form; in the news article module they conduct the book report as though they were writing a news article.
This is pretty basic book reporting, without much of a focus on analysis, though these lessons pave the way for more detailed literary study. Beyond the Book Report is designed to provide a literary analysis supplement to the grammar instruction provided in Analytical Grammar. Kids will need to study literature more thoroughly in high school, but these programs offer a solid basis on which to build, and introduce modes of study that will help students not only in their English studies, but across the spectrum of their school curriculum and experience.
Teaching the Research Paper and Teaching the Essay are two student packet/audio CD sets helping parents direct their students in the basics of expository writing. Parents and teachers looking for drawn-out writing programs should remember that grammar is a means to an end, and just as Analytical Grammar cuts to the chase and teaches what kids need to know to become capable writers, these sets show them how to be good communicators without a lot of unnecessary material.
NOTE: Once the Beyond the Book Report series is completed,Teaching the Research Paper and Teaching the Essay will be obsolete, replaced by content in the Beyond the Book Report program.
Our Honest Opinion:
These aren't exciting or attractive books—just black and white text with no illustrations. But if you want your kids to have a good education and don't care how entertained they are, you couldn't do much better for a grammar course. Each concept is presented in logical order, and instruction is brief but thorough, so kids don't have to struggle with poorly written sentences that obscure rather than illuminate meaning.
For ease of use and quality of instruction the only comparable series we've seen is Rod & Staff English, though Analytical Grammar is much shorter without sacrificing content. Kids need grammar to understand the language and its uses, and Robin Finley gives it to them straightforwardly without strings attached or more information than they need. Highly recommended!
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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