English. Love it or hate it, it’s essential to life in the Western world (and important in a lot of the Eastern world as well). It’s never been my strong subject and now Tristan is at the age of having to learn his participle from his elbow. What’s a homeschool mom to do? Then the postman rang with a parcel from Logic of English that contained their new Essentials 2nd Edition to review and English lessons are now something we look forward to! Honestly!
I don’t know about you but I can get by pretty well with what I’ve remembered from English class. Mrs. Wolfe did a very good job. However, I had to work really hard at it, and I wasn’t always successful by any means. Now trying to think back and remember the ‘rules’ of spelling and grammar and teach them in a way that Tristan will understand…it was a challenge to say the least.
Essentials 2nd Edition has become a friend, and I’d like you to join us. Go get a cup of tea, a biscuit, and relax. This will be a lengthy post, but there’s just so much to this package, and so much to say!
One of our first Schoolhouse Review Crew assignments had been to review the Rhythm of Handwriting, Manuscript, and we found the program painless and fun. In fact, we still use it several times a month as a little review and for penmanship improvement. So we were elated when we were chosen for the Essentials 2nd Edition review.
When the parcel arrived in the mail, the kids set about opening it…it took a while…there’s a LOT in the complete set!!
What did we get in the Essentials 2nd Edition set?
- Essentials Teacher’s Guide, Volume 1 (Vol 2 will be published in Jan/17)
- Essentials Student Workbook, Volume 1
- Spelling Journal
- Morpheme Cards, Set 1
- Basic Phonogram Flash Cards
- Spelling Rule Flash Cards
- Grammar Flash Cards
- Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards
- Phonogram Game Cards: Bookface as well as Cursive (also available in manuscript)
- Phonogram Game Tiles
- Spelling Analysis Card, which is used when teaching the vocabulary and makes a handy bookmark
- Phonogram and Spelling Rule Quick Reference
- We also received these optional downloadable items:
All of these items will be used throughout the course which is divided into 15 weeks of work with 5 days planned in each week. Don’t fret about the size of this bundle and how you’ll get through it all – your child will take a placement test before beginning to see if they can jump right in at level A, B, C, or if they need a little catch-up work on phonics and handwriting before officially beginning (the pre-lessons are also included, but you may decide to purchase some additional resources for these if need be).
This program is aimed at children 8 years and up. If your children are younger, they recommend using Foundations as it has more games in it. Tristan just turned 8 while this was in transit to us; he took the assessment and we found that he would be best starting at Level B. These materials can be used for the same student for all 3 levels by going through the book again after it’s completed. The workbook and Spelling Journal are designed to accommodate all three levels, too.
I’ll admit it was a bit daunting to see the size of the teacher’s book! But it’s easy reading and all laid out very well. I read through the introduction material and then we jumped right in and started our lessons.
The book is set up such that it can be taught in either a ‘school’ or at home (or anywhere, for that matter). It provides you with all of the dialogue you’ll need to explain to your students what they are doing/learning. You can even teach any or all of the 3 levels from it at the same time. Most of the lesson would be done together, but the vocabulary for each lesson varies in difficulty. It would take a little longer to go through each lesson this way, but it’s completely possible!
How are we learning about spelling and grammar?
Day 1 is for Essential Concepts. Tristan learned new phonograms and spelling using the flashcards and his notebook. Instead of using a whiteboard as would be done in a classroom, we used his notebook and then he has it to refer back to when he needs a refresher.
Day 2 is all about Building Words. The day starts with a review. Depending on your child, you can do one or all of the options that are given. Some options are bookwork such as highlighting vowels, and others are card or board games.
Then the week’s spelling analysis takes place. It’s like old-school vocabulary lessons, but the words are broken down into syllables and sound segments. Help is given with transferring phonograms into letters if needed (/k/ tall /k/ is for the letter k). Each level has its own set of words.
Day 3 is Words in Context. There’s another review of material learned in previous lessons. Then it’s on to learn about grammar. This is where learning about nouns, plurals, and article adjectives comes into play. This is where I really have trouble. But I’ve been learning/relearning along with Tristan. It’s good that he can see that I may not have remembered everything from way back when, but I’m willing to keep learning. Life-long-learning is so important!
There’s also a little dictation at the end of the day using words from the spelling analysis.
Day 4 is putting Words in Action. There’s time for a little review before moving on things like suffixes, prefixes, and such. A little more dictation follows.
If you’re using the Essentials Reader (the downloadable extra I mentioned earlier), this is where you will use it. Some days we read the short story from the PC monitor, and other weeks I print out the materials and we take them out to do at the library…or on this particularly beautiful day we sat out under the cherry blossoms for our lesson:
The Reader starts with some vocabulary. There may be some work to do with it such as dividing it into syllables, etc. Then there’s a poem or a story to read. Next comes some work from the Essentials Reader Activity Book. There may be illustrations to draw, questions to answer, and then there’s some copywork to do (both manuscript and cursive options are provided). There are also additional ideas provided for extensions and cross-curriculum connections.
Day 5 will Check Your Understanding of the week’s lesson. Reviewing of the key points will be done, and then a longer dictation exercise after which the students may be asked to label the parts of speech that are in each of the phrases.
There are times when particular vowel combinations that are tricky come up…ee, ea, ae, ie, or any other words your child may have difficulty with. This is when you take out the Spelling Journal and they write any troublesome words in it to help them keep a collection of tricky words for future reference. They’re creating their own phonics dictionary!
What do I love about this curriculum?
I really do LOVE Essentials 2nd Edition a WHOLE lot! It breaks down English grammar and spelling into small parts and explains the rules. Did you know there’s a rule about when you use k or ck at the end of a word? I didn’t, but now Tristan and I both do!
I love that the course is just pick-up-and-go! It’s very user-friendly.
There is a boatload of learning to be had in each lesson, and it can be somewhat frustrating to Tristan at times. Almost once a week he breaks down because he doesn’t immediately understand a new rule…but then the light bulb goes on and you can see the look of understanding spread across his face as it transforms from frustration and near-tears into a smile:
I love that LOE has made this product so adaptable to so many situations. If you want to go deeper into the lessons, there is additional information provided in boxes in the margins of the Teacher’s Guide. There’s extra work to do if your student needs some extra help, but you’re also free to pass over anything that your student doesn’t need.
We are still trying to move ourselves from a 4-day week into a 5-day school week, and we have used these lessons in both ways, so don’t feel restricted by the 5-day lesson plan structure. There are nice breaks in each lesson in which you can either stop for the day before the end of the day, or continue on and combine two days into one.
I love that one book can be used for up to 3 terms/years with the same student, and that multiple levels can be taught at the same time from the same book. That takes some planning and thought, and LOE has delivered. The initial cost outlay is greatly diluted when this is taken into consideration and it is well worth the cost to find something that works so well. All we’ll need for Kallista to do this course for 2-3 years is to purchase a new Student Workbook and Spelling Journal.
What would I change about this curriculum?
The only thing that I would change about Essentials 2nd Edition is that I’d add an answer key….yes, I know we should be learning the grammar along the way, but when one word can be used in multiple ways it’s sometimes difficult for this tired mom to figure out if my son’s answer is correct….I talk it through with him and we come up with the best answer (he’s probably correct), but I don’t want to accidentally lead him down the wrong path and leave him confused in the future if he discovers I’ve told him the wrong thing.
If you’re looking for an open and go curriculum that explains things in clear language, is flexible, includes some fun, and a curriculum that works; then Essentials 2nd Edition is for you. If you like to learn alongside your children and see the look of understanding cross their faces in front of you, you’ll enjoy this.
This is my personal favourite spelling and grammar curriculum that the kids have used yet! Perhaps it’s because the main structure of it reminds me of the English classes I taught in Japan which means I’m also easily able to take things like reading the grammar rule cards and make Tristan do things like spin around in between the three readings…or do jumping jacks. The basketball game and grab the tile games were actually two of the games I used to use in class with children of Tristan’s age.
Or perhaps I just love this curriculum for the simple fact that it works.
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