This is another (I have lost count) installment in the Tressays Virtual Homeschool Convention. I have had a stall because I had writer’s block and wasn’t sure if I felt like doing anymore. Then I remembered that I really wanted to talk about English. Mostly in part due to Deb’s post over at Not Inadequate today.

(Son just realized that I didn’t leave much coffee for him. “Why don’t you share? Didn’t you ever go to Kindergarten?” Hahaha. You want coffee? Get up and get it. Snooze you lose and all that.)

English Grammar. I don’t pretend to be very knowledgeable in this subject. In fact, I am sure that you can edit my posts and find many mistakes. I do however believe that I have found the program that will solve all your grammar problems. Many would probably disagree, but I believe with all my heart in its merits. I don’t like to tell people which programs to use, but I make the exception for Rod and Staff.

When my kids were little I started with First Language Lessons. I liked it. It was easy and required very little work from me. The lessons took about 15 minutes and we moved on. It focused on memorizing the definitions of the parts of speech. Now, you may think that is unnecessary, but do you know how easy it is for a 6-year-old to memorize? Make a funny little song about it, and it isn’t that difficult. My kids still sing their prepositions. There was only the first volume at the time my kids went through it. I can say nothing else about the other volumes.

In third grade I moved my kids to the Rod and Staff English program. I never wavered from that program.  We work  through the 8th grade book. I found it to be sufficient grammar instruction. I don’t feel that my kids need grammar in high school because we are still doing Latin. You have to know grammar very well to work through the Latin.

Yes, Rod and Staff make the kids diagram sentences. Yes, Rod and Staff is a text-book. Yes, it is legal to tweak the program to fit your needs. Yes, my kids score very well in grammar sections of standardized tests.

When I started using Rod and Staff 9 years ago, (Oh, my gosh. 9 years ago!) I had no idea of its merits. I only knew that people on the Well Trained Mind forum loved it. I saw it at a homeschool convention and picked it up. It worked so well that I never found any reason to change.

Why do I like it so much?

  • Everything is done for me. We open the book and do the next lesson.
  • Much of it can be done orally. I never made my kids write the problems much especially in the early years. Do you know how fast you can get through 10 questions when you do it orally? In the early years it never took us longer than 30 minutes.
  • It is heavy on diagramming. I know people hate diagramming, but I think it is valuable. We didn’t diagram every sentence in the book, but we did enough. We did a lot of it on a dry erase board together. If you diagram 5 sentences and see they get it, move on.
  • It made the study of Latin much easier. My kids had no trouble with conjugating or finding the appropriate case in their Latin because they had a firm grasp on them from their grammar.
  • It follows the same pattern every year. Each year we do the same parts of speech in the same order just with increasing difficulty. Let me tell you. The eight grade book is challenging.
  • You don’t have to do every single problem. Use your best judgement. If your child understands it. Move on. If he doesn’t need the review questions, skip them. Make it yours. It is very easy to do with this program.

The only other Grammar program I have any experience with is Shurley English. I lovingly call it “Hurly English” if that tells you how I feel about it. I am not saying it a terrible program. No, I am saying that. I hate it. I make no apologizes for my feelings. My kids had to suffer with Shurley English the year they were in private school. Their teacher was just shocked that they did so well with it because it is such a challenging program. My kids aced it. Thank you, Rod and Staff. Anyway, Shurley is similar to Rod and Staff because it teaches the kids to ask the right questions to find the proper parts of speech, but the homework is formulaic and painful. Do you know how creepy it is listening to a bunch of 2nd graders read a sentence in unison and then ask the same questions for every sentence? I get chills just thinking about it.

The boy kicked the ball. Who kicked the ball? Boy. Subject noun. What boy? The boy. The. Article Adjective. The boy kicked what? The ball. Direct object.  What ball? The Ball. The. Article adjective.

See? Burned into my brain. It is terrible. It was like a room full of robots.

I am not saying they didn’t learn their grammar. But oh, the pain! The pain!

Long story short? Kids need grammar. Even if you have no plans to study Latin, your child may want to study a foreign language someday. A firm grasp of grammar will be beneficial. It doesn’t have to be scary. Rod and Staff takes all the scary out. Get the teacher’s guide. You will be fine.  I will tell you the truth. My kids correct my grammar. Embarrassing? Yes. Rude? Maybe. Does it make me proud? You betcha.

Deb also suggested a Q & A day for this little convention. I would be more than happy to answer any questions. I am not a homeschool guru. I can only draw from my own experience. There are a lot of things that I would do differently if I had to do them again. (No, I would still do Rod and Staff Grammar.) I  do think  that I can point someone in the right direction. Ask away.