A year ago the WTM forums were buzzing everyday with discussions about the Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts curriculum. I took one look, noticed it was for gifted third-graders or normal fourth-graders and ignored all the posts. A year later, after my daughter acquired the equivalence of 3rd/4th grade language arts, I noticed that some people were using them with their advanced six year olds. So I thought we’d give it a try.  The Level 1 Elementary – consist of Grammar Island (grammar), Building Language (Vocabulary), Music Hemispheres (Poetry), Sentence Island (Writing) and Practice Island (Practice). This post will cover the only book we’ve worked in so far – Grammar Island.

It’s an expensive program, especially if you purchase the MCT Level 1 Island Complete Package ($190), which consists of the student book and teacher manual for all the books.

  • Grammar Island student book
  • Grammar Island teacher manual
  • Building Language student book
  • Building Language teacher manual
  • Music of the Hemispheres student book
  • Music of the Hemispheres teacher manual
  • Sentence Island student book
  • Sentence Island teacher manual
  • Practice Island student book
  • Practice Island teacher manual

They also offer a Basic Homeschool Package for ($150) that offers only the teacher manuals, except where you absolutely need a student book. Some families just buy one or the other and are happy with that option. I’ll start off showing the differences in the Grammar Island book so you can see for yourself.

Here is the Grammar Island student and teacher books laid out side by side for comparison. The Student book is on top. The Teacher’s Manual is exactly the same, but has a few colored boxes of discussion notes to raise Socratic questions to discuss with the child. It will also have the answers if there is any work to be done. The color of our books were not matched up, the words that were red in our TE were orange in our Student book.

Here’s a closer look at a Teacher’s Page, here there are two extra notes for the teacher. You can also get a good idea how simple they present the concepts.

The book is divided into four parts. The end of the book will have the child doing a 4-part analysis on the sentence, including all four parts.

  1. The Parts of Speech
  2. The Parts of the Sentence
  3. Phrases
  4. Clauses

We are just finishing up the biggest section, The Parts of Speech, in which we learn the eight kinds of words (noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, interjection). They often color the more important words, such as nouns in blue, verbs are red, and pronouns aqua. This section then has the child doing the first level analysis, in which they label each word with the proper abbreviation (n., pron., adj., v., adv., prep., interj. and conj.) The sentences below were after we learned the first five parts of speech.

We have both books, but if I had a tight budget, I’d just get the Teacher’s Manual. I would write the sentence work out on the whiteboard or in a notebook for Satori to do.

The whole series is a wonderful, cuddle-up-on-the-coach, warm fuzzy reading time. MCT means “Making Cuddle-Time” for us in this early stage. We actually started doing our lessons in bed at bedtime, but now we’ve moved it into the reading library or loft. The program focuses heavily on stories such as below. It’s fun to figure them out.

At the end of Grammar Island, it is now time to do the 4-level analysis in sentences. We haven’t gotten to the last three parts yet, but the child will also identify the different parts of the sentences, any applicable phrases and clauses.

Grammar Island is meant to take just a few months. Many families finish it in one month. After that, it’s on to Practice Island and the rest of the books! Practice Island is simply a workbook in which there are 100 sentences to work through, in the exact same manner as above. It is suggested to do one sentence per day. The rest of the books are then rotated in and I’m working on our intended schedule this week. I can share it on the blog once it’s done.

The only thing that throws me off is that there’s absolutely no lesson schedule, no appropriate breaks in the books, and it’s very open-ended. People suggest to just go with the flow and open up a book and just go through the pages until you feel the right time to end. The website does have a 57 page PDF on the MCT Elementary Curriculum Design, which suggests which books to introduce when. But other families noticed that by doing certain books (or parts of books) first, the child will be better able to notice the concepts and techniques used. For a perfectionist planner like me, I’ve been spending days reading up on people’s suggested schedules to tackle all the books and have come up with a schedule that works for us. Like everything we do, we adjust as we go. Some days we might go through two lessons, some just halfway, so I’m not too worried about being too strict to an MCT schedule.

So far the program is very unique and effective. At first it looked super easy and simple, but the deceptive simplicity hides a more rigorous method. MCT makes it fun to learn about language together!