Rod and Staff's English program is a God-centered grammar and composition course for grades 2-10. The authors self-consciously designed lessons and exercises to reflect Christian truths, stating at the beginning of each text that the chief purpose of writing well is to effectively spread the Gospel. This is part of a larger, complete curriculum from Rod and Staff and fits well within that context, though it is also easy to use independently.
How Do These Work?
For each grade there is a hardcover student text, hardcover teacher edition, test book, and worksheet booklet. (Grades 9 and 10 are covered in two volumes that can be studied in any order.) There are a number of additional consumable workbooks with review and reinforcement exercises. Intended for use in a classroom, the series is easily adaptable for homeschool use. The number of lessons ranges between 115-133, making it ideal for use 2-3 days a week over the course of a normal 36-week school year.
The student texts are pretty basic, black and white with some line drawings. Students read explanatory text and complete an oral exercise or in-class activity; there is always a written assignment. At the end of each unit (usually five units per year) are a number of review lessons. While the text isn't "exciting," it is readable and clear. Each lesson relates the topic to the Christian faith and stories always feature a moral or virtue.
Teacher editions include reduced student pages and answers to all exercises. Beside and beneath the reduced student pages are the lesson goal and guidelines for presentation of the material. Lessons aren't scripted, but you won't need to do any outside research; prep time should be minimal. A note at the bottom of the page alerts you whenever there's a corresponding workbook page.
Students start from scratch. They learn how to structure sentences and form paragraphs, the parts of speech, digramming, etc. The content is fairly comprehensive. There isn't much talk of style, but the focus is straightforward composition and students who use this course will get a better technical understanding of writing than many who learn from more interesting texts. Many lessons contain review, and combined with the workbooks and unit reviews this insures kids don't learn important concepts only to forget them.
This doesn't have to be a teacher-intensive course. However, English and writing are areas that most kids need extra help in. Unlike history where students are primarily learning to retain facts, writing teaches them how to communicate effectively and organize their thoughts in a way others will understand. These books aren't expensive, and it's a good idea for parents to buy the teacher editions and walk their kids through each lesson.
Our Honest Opinion:
This isn't a particularly exciting course, and the attempts to relate everything to the Bible can get annoying (simply because the authors are willing to make some pretty long stretches to do so), but this is one of the better English courses for solid composition skills. The regular review and clear explanations make the student texts good for kids—they tend to feel like they're learning more if they can figure outa lot of the material on their own, and this course certainly helps them toward that.
The lack of stylistic instruction can be a downfall. However, this isn't a huge deal since the course ends halfway through high school, which is the ideal time for teaching writing style. If you feel your kids need more stylistic help you can always supplement by having them read Strunk and White's Elements of Style (recommended for middle school and high schoolers, not elementary kids).
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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