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Category: Grammar

We are using two different grammar programs both of which offer features that we like.

First Language Lessons

First Language Lessons is a program we started at age five with Level 1. The program is very gentle and emphasizes memorization techniques, repetition, minimal writing, and is completely scripted. We found Levels 1 & 2 to be very easy for Satori who is a bit language-arts-advanced, and would do 2-5 lessons at a time, but we’ve finally found a comfortable spot with level 3. We now do just one lesson in about 15-20 minutes, twice a week, which is perfect for us.

FLL Level 3 comes with two huge components – Teacher’s Manual (468 pages) and Student Text (352 pages). Normally I have been buying their PDF versions and printing them out myself, but not with these colossal books. Instead, I got them on Amazon at 34% off. The student text is necessary and is consumable. The pages are perforated so I took them out and ProClicked them so we have an easy-to-use workbook that lies flat. I kept the Teacher’s book as-is, the pages stay open.

There are 89 Lessons plus an additional 21 Lessons covering Writing Letters, Dictionary Skills, and oral Usage. The book includes three sample schedules. It uses a Four-Strand Approach.

  1. Memory Work – memorizing poetry, rules, and definitions
  2. Copywork and Dictation – For Copywork a student copies a quality sentence. Dictation means student writes down a sentence said aloud, without looking at the written model.
  3. Narration – Student retells a passage she has heard or read and puts it in her own words. Precursor to original writing.
  4. Grammar – Rigorous yet gentle scripted lessons. Level 3 introduces sentence diagramming as well

I’m going to go over a lesson in each program that covers Adjectives That Tell Whose. In FLL3, that would be Lesson 14, and it’s 4 1/2 pages long. (click for larger image) As usual, we start off rattling a few grammar definitions. We have to say the definition of an adjective three times.

An adjective is a word that describes a noun or pronoun.

Then we get into the actual lesson and the completely scripted lesson has a script for the teacher and expected student response. The student will be directed to her workbook to read some examples of adjectives.

And so on… It’s very thorough. There is sometimes an Optional Follow-Up activity. We didn’t do this one, but it consisted of taping labels on to items (Mom’s purse or Smiths’ table).

Here’s the student workbook for Lesson 14, which is four pages long. Most of it is reading, but there are a few exercises that requires writing.


I realize that this lesson didn’t have any diagramming exercises, so I included a lesson that did. In First Language Lessons, the lines are drawn for the child, making it pretty easy to diagram.


Growing With Grammar

Now for Growing With Grammar Level 3.  First huge advantage, it can be done independently! A second benefit to us is that it offers more written practice on the grammar concepts in each lesson.

We also do one lesson, which takes about 10-15 minutes, three times a week. This program is very straightforward and easy to do. Like FLL, there are two books, but this time they are both for students – the Student Manual and the Student Workbook. Both books are spiral bound so lie flat nicely. The manual is small and two can fit in the size of the workbook. We like it as a reference book when we need to quickly look up a grammar concept. It’s much easier to do that with GWG than FLL. Level 3 has 105 lessons and 5 review lessons, for a total of 110 lessons.

There are five chapters, each with roughly 20 lessons. See the Table of Contents on their website for additional detailed information. They also show a sample lesson.

  1. Growing with Sentences
  2. Growing with Nouns and Pronouns
  3. Growing with Verbs
  4. Growing with Adjectives and Adverbs
  5. Growing with Words and Punctuation

Lesson 4.4 covers Adjectives That Tell Whose. Lessons are pretty much always just two pages.

That takes just a few minutes to review, usually I am sitting there next to Satori to be sure she understands it all. Then we whip out the Student Workbook. Again, there is just two pages. The first page has practice problems that cover the day’s lesson.

The second page is a review. You can see here the diagramming exercises do not include lines like FLL, but we are okay with that.

So now you have an idea of what it might be to use First Language Lessons or Growing With Grammar Level 3 (grade 3-ish). My goal was not to say one is better than the other, but to let you decide what might work better for your family. Since we love language arts, we do both – Growing with Grammar on M/W/F and First Language Lessons on Tu/Th. I think they both cover grammar in different but complementary ways. First Language Lessons explores grammar and language arts more in-depth, in the classical style, and includes poem memorization (see previous blog post). Growing with Grammar is independent, more to the-point and got us up to speed on grammar very quickly when we needed it last fall. It has more writing and practice in the early years, which is what we enjoyed. We just love both programs. 🙂

First Language Lessons Level 3 starts off Poem Memorization with the poem “The Land of Nod” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Satori loves to memorize poems and here she is reciting the poem for her blog.


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!

Did I mention we are currently using three separate Grammar programs? Satori’s a bit advanced in Language Arts, and this past year I had as a goal to focus on grammar so we could tackle more sophisticated writing courses.

We are working in Growing with Grammar Level 3, which has us use a separate Student Manual and Student Workbook. I chose to start with GWG last fall to get her up to speed the quickest with grammar, and allow her some hands-on practice. We breezed through Levels 1-2, doing two lessons a day, everyday, and now we’re slowing down just doing one lesson a day. It’s so easy to do that we still do it almost everyday.

She retains what she’s learned and applies it in her own independent writings. The Student Manual is very handy, as she can quickly and easily refer to a concept she’s learned. We cannot do that with First Language Lessons (the second grammar program we use).

It takes about 10-15 minutes to complete a lesson. We start out reading the manual out loud.

Then Satori’s let loose to do the two sides of the worksheet for the lesson. The first page practices the concept learned, and the second page usually has some sort of brief review. I was excited to start diagramming in this program, but so far it’s been pretty simple.

We have come back to First Language Lessons 2 as it has a more thorough approach in which we orally discuss the lesson. I love the memorization of grammar terms. We’re not memorizing their suggested poems this time around though, I’d like to choose my own.

We’ll be finishing up FLL 2 next week and starting Level 3 in June. Level 3 is where we start diagramming. Like GWG, we’ll have a separate student workbook. This is a first for FLL, and I’m kinda looking forward to that. The first two years of FLL specifically do not have the young child do much writing, but we don’t have to worry little hands getting tired in our household. She would write all day long if she could.

FLL has us memorize this entire list of prepositions. Since we’ll be covering it all over again in Level 3 this summer, I just wrote them out on our whiteboard. We both take turns reciting the list, and we’ve said it almost everyday for a few weeks, so I think Satori almost has it all memorized. (I do not.)

We also did start in on MCT Island, the Grammar book. I forget to take pictures of what we’re doing as it’s never at our desk, but I’ll share soon. I introduced this one time at bedtime, so now Satori insists on doing our lessons in bed. She even insists on being the teacher, so she gets the Teacher’s Manual and I get the Student Manual. It’s an expensive program though, especially buying both teacher and student books. Some families just get by with one book, but I’m not sure which one we’d prefer. I purchased the entire Island series already though, so I guess we’ll have time to decide once we get closer to the next level.

Since Satori has such an enthusiasm for writing, I’ve been looking for more challenging writing programs, but they all require advanced grammar. The Latin programs I want to use after Song School Latin also require grammar skills above the Grade 1-2 level. Satori says she loves learning grammar and the subject does come easy to her, so I think we could go at a faster pace than normal. First Language Lessons 1 (which we finished last year) started out too gentle and slow-paced for us, even though we did up to 5-6 lessons per day. We were so glad to finish it and decided to keep FLL2 on the shelf for a bit while I researched grammar programs that we’d be able to do at an accelerated pace, suitable for a bright, early elementary (grade 1-2) child.

I believe this is my first post about using Growing With Grammar (GWG) program, which we’ve now been using since September 2010. Although I wouldn’t consider it the most rigorous grammar program, we’ve been quite happy with it for now, especially in the early years. The first two levels of Growing With Grammar consist of the Student Workbook with optional answer key and tests. I didn’t bother getting the tests for the first two levels, and we didn’t need the answer key. It is definitely a workbook type program, but Satori enjoys such workbooks, so this has been a pretty good fit.


GWG is a program that is super easy to do every day. We find ourselves even doing it on the weekends sometimes. Some pages require a small bit of writing a word or sentence, but mostly it’s circling, underlining type work. Level 1 and 2 both have 96 lessons each plus several review lessons. Each lesson is two pages (one page, both sides).  The first lesson page describes the lesson, and then has an exercise. She almost always does 2 lessons per day. Here’s a page from the Level 1 book, showing the lesson explanation.

The second page continues with exercises for that lesson, and often includes a short review problem.

Every major section concludes with a Review that takes up 3 lessons (in addition to the small review spattered throughout the normal lessons).

Here’s a sample lesson Satori did a few days ago in Growing With Grammar Level 2. (The complete Table of Contents is online on their site.)

Potential Disadvantages

Although we’re enjoying Growing With Grammar, it does seem a bit easy. Some people have mentioned their children don’t have good retention with the program. Kids can easily just fill in the blanks and circle without reading the lesson description. For children familiar with speaking and reading our language, some of the exercises are easy to figure out, even without learning the lesson.

Below is an example of Satori flying through a recent lesson without reading the instructions. I really make sure I sit down with her at the start of each lesson, read it to her (even though she could read it herself), and then set her loose. Every now and then we talk about the grammar we’ve learned, so I can gauge her retention.

GWG and FLL Combo

A few weeks ago we also started back in again with First Language Lessons 2. We’re now getting a great combination of oral grammar discussion/memorization and written practice. The two programs seem to complement and reinforce each other well. I love the combination of FLL and GWG. We still don’t take much time doing both programs, usually 10-15 minutes or less a day.

Growing With Grammar Level 3 program starts with diagramming and those books just arrived today. They look great. Our schedule has us starting Level 3 the end of this month, so later next month, I’ll blog about how that’s going. In the meantime, I’ll try to get up a post comparing a similar lesson in both GWG2 and FLL2.

Works for Now, But How About the Future?

I know Growing With Grammar isn’t for every family, no curriculum can claim that. For us, GWG has been working out great for now, we learn a little grammar and do some practice everyday. It gets done willingly by Satori and it’s obviously easy to teach.  I feel we’re getting up to speed in grammar very quickly (our goal for the year), and thus, we can start those advanced writing programs Satori needs. Once we have the intermediate grammar and sentence diagramming skills, I may be on the lookout for a more challenging program. Then again, we may keep doing Growing With Grammar alongside another rigorous program.

Today we finished the 100th lesson of First Language Lessons, which concludes Level 1 (Grade 1 equivalent) of the First Language Lessons grammar program. As I mentioned earlier, this program moves slow, but does an excellent job in getting the grammar-stage child to memorize important grammar terms, as well as memorize poetry. So we started moving at an accelerated pace, sometimes 5 lessons in one day.

Here’s our latest poem Satori memorized. I hope to get her on video saying all the poems she’s memorized. For now, we made this page with the poem, and Satori drew a picture. The girl understandably, has blushing cheeks, as she blames a dropped plate on “Mr. Nobody”. The squeaking door is also there, left for Mr. Nobody to oil.

Today we reviewed our fourth type of sentence, the Exclamation! Satori had a giggling fit when Mama demonstrated various exclamations to express excitement, surprise, fear and anger. 🙂 We then drew a few sentences on our little whiteboard, remembering to add the exclamation point!

We look forward to continuing to use First Language Lessons Level 2, and my plans are to use it 2-3x a week, and do as many lessons that fits in a 10 minute period. I expect us to do 1-2 lessons at a time, but if they’re over in less than five minutes, we’ll add another lesson if I think Satori can handle it. In FLL 2, we’ll go into more depth with verbs, as well as learn about adjectives, conjunctions, adverbs, prepositions, and much more. We’ll memorize more poetry and do picture narrations on fine art. I have downloaded the new First Language Lessons 2 in PDF version which is easier to read than the 2003 book that combined the first two years.

We’re also adding a new grammar program, Growing With Grammar, that will give Satori more practice in writing instead of just copywork.

That’s it. I am finally convinced that we’re going to continue to use First Language Lessons, but we’re going to ZOOM through it! Satori’s got a good memory, she memorizes the poems after I say them a few times, she’s got the grammar definitions down and understands it all.

I thought we started a bit early with this program, so we were only doing a few days a week. This month I pushed that up to 4x a week, and today I decided to do TWO lessons at a time. Each lesson only took a few minutes anyway. Life is getting more exciting now that we moved out of nouns and learned two new things, woah! Satori now knows about pronouns, and easily picks them out of any sentence I read. We’re just started verbs, with an introduction to action verbs. That’s Lesson 54.

I wrote a few sentences on the white board today, and Satori marked them with an “n” for noun and a “v” for verb.  It was easy and kinda fun!

After we finish FLL 1/2, I think we will be moving to MCT Grammar Island, perhaps this winter or next spring. This program starts at Third Grade, but I’ve seen a few families who started it early. The sample pages look easy enough for us to start, but I’m open to advice here if anyone is using it…