Like all LIFEPAC materials, the Language Arts program is designed for use by students K-12 and in conjunction with the other AOP subjects for that grade level. It covers a broad range of topics, from phonics and basic reading skills, to grammar, to reading comprehension, to parts of speech, etc. The approach is incremental rather than systematic, so it takes some patience—you can be sure important topics will be covered thoroughly, just not usually all at once.
This is a workbook-based course. Early grades are teacher-intensive, requiring a lot of direction and interaction; later grades are more student-guided (though the publishers still encourage plenty of teacher involvement). For each year there are ten consumable student workbooks and a single teacher's guide, except first grade which has two teacher's guides. Each workbook is divided into a number of lessons; students can move at their own pace (or at mom's own pace), or relevant lessons can be assigned for remedial work.
How Do These Work?
Grades K-1 are mostly beginning reader programs. There are aspects of both phonics decoding and sight reading, with rules, sound identification, and lists of words to memorize. There are also comprehension activities to stress critical thinking. The first several levels (K-4) require quite a bit of teacher involvement, though only the K-1 teacher's guides contain extensive teacher information.
The 5th-12th grade books branch into grammar, reading comprehension, punctuation, etc., though the approach is somewhat haphazard. This is not the mastery method of learning, in which students study one topic till they have it down pat then move to another related or similar topic. Students cover all the basic material in this course, but not in any apparent order.
Each book contains extensive vocabulary lists for kids to learn. This is probably the best part of the course, since many of the words wouldn't be covered until later grades in other curricula. However, since the phonics instruction in the first two levels is inconsistent in its approach, many students may actually have a hard time grasping or remembering the vocabulary words.
This is a Bible-based course. Many of the stories contain morals or are paraphrased Bible stories to encourage character-building. Some of the stories are meant to be read aloud by the student, others by the teacher; questions to encourage creative and logical thinking follow which the teacher and student should discuss. Exercises in the earlier books are simple—letter tracing, writing small words, identifying sounds; later exercises include analyzing stories, identifying parts of speech, and inserting proper punctuation.
The workbooks weren't designed primarily to be visually appealing. Some color, cartoony illustrations do add some fun to the early ones, though illustrations lessen as the series progresses. The emphasis is on learning, so the pages of each workbook include mostly text and exercises.
Since the early grades (K-3) require more teacher preparation than later ones, the teacher's guides for those levels include a fair amount of information for the teacher on how to guide lessons. Reduced student workpages in each teacher's guide make grading written work easy and uncomplicated; reproducible tests appear in the teacher's guides as well. None of the guides include much background information—there is enough material to teach the course without too much trouble, but if you want to know more than your student you're going to have to do outside research.
Our Honest Opinion:
If you can commit to using all 13 levels of this curriculum you shouldn't have too many problems. Coming in from another program or leaving it for something else could be difficult—the seemingly erratic ordering of material makes student assessment hard. A possible way around this is just to buy all the workbooks and have your student complete related lessons before moving to a new general topic (though this would require a lot of extra work on your part).
This isn't as flexible as other programs. In the high school level students are briefly introduced to a smattering of American, British and French literature (through excerpts and a few full-length supplementary readers), but not enough to make it a literature course. While you could easily supplement with your own reading list, the strict workbook formula of the course makes it difficult or impossible to integrate extra material with the official content.
Overall a competent course, the Language Arts LIFEPAC appears to try to cover too much. Not quite grammar, not quite spelling and vocabulary, not quite literature, in trying to embrace them all this program lets some important information slip through. However, this could be an excellent choice for remedial work, reinforcement, or as a formal supplement to a self-built language arts/literature curriculum.
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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