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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.

Advantages

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…

If I could describe a day in the life of Satori lately, half of her waking hours would be spent writing! She started the day writing a story in an entire 28-page Bare Book. She then wrote in her new Animal Journal. In the afternoon, she gave me a few letters. And so on… I’m very proud of her to do all this, but it also overwhelms me. Should I be concentrating on giving her the skills to write better? In particular, all this makes me want to go faster in spelling so she spells her words correctly… go faster in grammar so she knows how to write proper sentences… go faster in writing so she knows how to organize her thoughts… My perfectionist tendencies are making me very anxious about all this, I feel like I’m going too slow for her in certain subjects.

But she’s only five, so I should just relax, right?

We follow the Well-Trained Mind philosophy closely, and they discourage creative writing until 5th grade I think. We are using their curriculum on both 1st grade writing and grammar and these are very gentle and appropriate for this age. But I’m wondering if they are too slow for our situation, with a very eager little writer. I rarely talk about these new programs we started using this year on this blog, but I’ll go over them now.

FIRST LANGUAGE LESSONS

For grammar, we are using First Language Lessons (I refer to this as FLL). This was easy enough to start a year ago, but you’re supposed to start when the child is reading at a certain level, so we stopped and then officially started again this spring in January 2010. We do it a few times a week and all spring we only covered nouns. Only this week did we start pronouns! We also covered several poems, which Satori memorizes very fast. I think it goes very slow and has lots of repetition, so I’m wondering if we could use a different curriculum. Or perhaps just go at a faster pace? As of this month we are going to do FLL 3-4 times a week instead of just twice a week, we’ll see how that goes. Below is the lesson we did today, we are on Lesson 50. The book we have covers both Year 1 and 2, and there are books that cover Year 3 and 4.

This is the only grammar program with which we have experience, so I am not sure how I feel about FLL. I’ll try it throughout the summer and hope it picks up. We are not doing any of the copywork it has in the book, as we do enough of that in other subjects. However, today, Satori wrote down the pronouns we’ve learned so far on her own accord.

Although I’m not 110% gung-ho on First Language Lessons, it is doing the job and it is one of the easiest things I teach her (as is anything by the WTM team). It also is nice as it covers things such as days of the week, months, poem memorization, and more. If it sounds appealing to you and you want to use this program, a new version is coming out this September, which is supposed to go better with the writing program I’ll be discussing next. The main difference is that they took out the redundant copywork that is also covered in the writing book.

If anyone has any suggestions on a good grammar book that might be more fast-paced and engaging, I’m all ears! Oh, I forgot I do have Painless Grammar Junior, which supposedly is meant for grade 3, and I do think we’d need at least one more year before we start that one. Oh, and I can’t wait to re-learn grammar myself, I used to love diagramming sentences. (Is that nerdy?) Anyway, it’s been such a long time and I think I forgot a lot. Am I putting apostrophes in the right place?

WRITING WITH EASE

For writing, we started The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals which also covers 4 years. I’ll refer to this program as WWE, everything has an easy acronym. Another very gentle and super easy-to-teach program. You’re supposed to do it four days a week and each week covers a piece of quality children’s literature. (We only do this two times a week.) The first day you do Copywork, writing a simple sentence, pointing out the sentence structure such as capital letters, end marks, capitalizing proper nouns, etc… You get a choice of two sentences, one very short and simple and the other a little longer.

The next day you read an excerpt from the literature and there’s a short series of questions your child answers in complete sentences. Then you ask her to narrate one thing she remembers from the story. All pretty easy, although I sometimes I end up reading the passage two times for her to answer the questions correctly. Her narrations started out as summarizing the entire passage, but lately we’ve gotten that down to one sentence, which is the point anyway when first starting out.

Here’s her copywork. You don’t need their student workbook, but I downloaded a PDF so I had them all printed out. You could just as easily use your own paper. Obviously Satori doesn’t pay attention to the lined paper they use.

I love getting the teasers of the literature they use as well as the practice listening and narrating. I do enjoy the copywork, but hope it will rub off soon in her own writing. I’m just not sure it’s enough in our particular situation. She just writes so much, I want to formally go over sentence structure with her. You’d think she’d understand what a sentence is after all this copywork, but she says she doesn’t understand what a sentence is when she writes on her own.

So in one of my next posts, I’ll talk about a new writing program we’ll be easing into this summer. I think we’ll still do Writing With Ease a few times a week.

During the time it took me to write this post, I got 3 pages of letters/drawings from Satori. She asked me what my teacher’s name was when I was a little girl, and then she presented me with “Your Old Class”, subtitled “Miss Osin” and a picture of me in a classroom with Miss Osin. Then she drew a picture of the Scooby Doo gang and they all had something to say about me. Daphne says “I think Angela is so prity!” Velma says “Angela is smart”. Shaggy says “Shes with me”. Scooby says “Shes a heerow!” Ah, a nice little laugh before bedtime.