Update: While we think this is a solid program, it failed to sell for us, and after the publishers released a 2nd edition, we decided it made more sense to discontinue than to reorder the new versions. We are open to reevaluating that decision if we hear of more demand!
The Writing & Grammar books commissioned by Stephen Hake and written by Christie Curtis and Mary Hake aren't published by Saxon Publishers, but they follow the same format as the math books. Hake's Saxon Math textbooks apply the incremental approach to learning, and the grammar and composition books that bear his name do as well. They aren't flashy or particularly engaging, but they're full of in-depth grammar study for students in grades 5-8.
The authors stress the need to complete entire problem sets, do the practice work, and not skip any lessons. Since each lesson builds on those before it, skipping any part may lead to gaps in understanding. As far as straight-up grammar instruction, this is one of the most comprehensive courses we've seen, starting with the basics of sentence construction and moving to research and essay writing.
How Do These Work?
Each level includes a student textbook and workbook and a teacher packet. The textbook focuses on grammar and mechanics and contains 107-112 lessons. Students read text and complete a practice set followed by a 30-problem review set. Information doesn't seem as bite-sized as in the math texts, but the incremental approach is still followed, so material is ordered in a spiral.
The student workbook focuses primarily on composition. There are some problems for them to complete, but they also write essays and organize research papers. Some of the material isn't covered until high school in other courses, but it is so plainly and clearly presented here that most students won't have a hard time grasping it. The teacher packet includes answers to textbook and workbook problems, test masters, and test answer keys; there is no presentational material included.
Students with no prior grammar instruction will be able to jump right in, though basic information about parts of speech and punctuation would be helpful. Lessons are typically longer than those of the average grammar course, but if your kids grasp the concepts you probably won't need to do much if any once they get to high school. This is a thorough program that cuts to the chase without worrying about making the content particularly "palatable" for kids—you won't find happy animal pictures or fun (but usually not very educational) activities here.
Our Honest Opinion:
A lot (even most) grammar courses are more fun than this one—few are as comprehensive or instructive. The same approach that has made Saxon Math a standard for home school education has been employed here, so while students might not have a good time learning grammar they will certainly understand how it works and why. This foundational knowledge will be invaluable in high school and even college, since they will have learned to think clearly about language and writing and will thus be able to write clear, well-constructed papers. This is an excellent course for a necessary subject.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and 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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