After publication of their classically-based homeschooling guide, The Well-Trained Mind, mother and daughter Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer continued their streak of parent-friendly curricula with a variety of texts, including Mrs. Wise’s First Language Lessons and, more recently, Dr. Bauer’s first installment in the series The Complete Writer, which is titled Writing with Ease: Strong Fundamentals.
Both are on the first grade book list at my house.
First Language Lessons is a first and second grade grammar text. The lessons are short, but effective, methodically sharing language terms and ideas for a young audience. Complete reviews can be found here and here.
Writing with Ease: Strong Fundamentals is a first through fourth grade writing text. It is the first installment of three writing guides. They are sort of like timelines that provide a detailed, but gentle list of writing skills beginning with entry level narration and copywork. The program will eventually progress through the middle school and high school years. A detailed review of the system and the workbooks, which are available for the elementary levels, can be found here.
First grade at our house uses First Language Lessons and Writing with Ease as the base of the language program. We have elected to use Writing with Ease: Strong Fundamentals without the workbooks that Dr. Bauer has written. Even without the workbooks, the meshing of the two programs has been simple, as they were meant to complement and complete each other.
The books present the same ideas at the same time.
For example, First Language Lessons lesson 3 differentiates between common and proper nouns. Lessons 10, 13, 14, 16, and 18-21 develop the idea of the proper noun as the name of a specific person or place.
Completing three lessons per week most weeks places these lessons of First Language Lessons during weeks 4 through 7 of Writing with Ease, which also deal with proper nouns. The focus here, however, is not to identify a proper noun, but to write it correctly within the context of a sentence.
First Language Lessons is fully scripted. Writing with Ease is not, but the book provides a full week’s example each time the difficulty increases for the student. The example is followed by a schedule that details the copywork and narration for the five to nine weeks until the next increase in difficulty or shift in focus.
At this point, as the teacher, I am charged with finding a sentence in my child’s history, science, or other reading that contains, for example, a proper noun. This is simple, as I can either use a sentence from the First Language Lessons lesson, choose one in our history reading, or create one using a family member’s name and location.
The instructions in Writing with Ease are extremely detailed for the teacher, leaving no guesswork. For weeks 5 to 6 the copywork sentences should contain as many proper people names as possible. Weeks 7 to 8 move on to proper city names; weeks 9 to 10 incorporate the proper names of states. Narration lengths—here of three short paragraphs—are also provided.
Real Learning at Our House
My daughter completes a short portion of copywork most days. I have used a variety of sources, from the Bible to science sentences to artist sentences; I have used things I have bought and things I have made up on the spot. So, it has been very easy to incorporate the sequence of grammatical information outlined in Writing with Ease. Some of the time, the First Language Lessons lesson even contains appropriate sentences. When it does not, I can quickly locate or make up a sentence that fits the bill.
For me, choosing copywork is the most time intensive part of using Writing with Ease without the workbook, and it has been simple and easy.
We narrate daily in our home, too, though it is rarely a formal affair. When Daddy comes home for lunch, the kids tell him about their history lesson. At dinner, we talk about the science reading or recount the read-aloud chapter. A couple of times a week, I do ask my first grade daughter to illustrate her reading assignment and to summarize the reading orally. I have not found it necessary to find extra things for her to narrate, as we have just used what we were already reading.
Because narration is such a natural part of our day and because I have already chosen full length texts as readers, it seemed to me that the workbooks would be repetitive, providing unnecessary and sometimes disconnected additional reading for my daughter.
A quick comparison of the table of contents of both books reveals that the ideas continue to be presented in First Language Lessons, and then fleshed out in Writing with Ease through the second grade year. I do not have the third or fourth grade levels of First Language Lessons yet, but it would surprise me if they suddenly stop complementing one another.
These two books provide an excellent introduction to grammar and writing.
First Language Lessons has been effective and easy to use.
Writing with Ease: Strong Fundamentals has provided the blue print for beginning writing that is just what I need.
Most days find Susan on the couch reading to her children, in the floor “playing” math, and generally in the middle of a good-sized mess. A love for the Lord, a love for her little ones, and a love of learning have led Susan and that wonderful man she married to an educational philosophy that is Well-Trained Mind-inspired classical and Charlotte Mason, with a touch of the traditional.
I just bought both books a few weeks ago. I will have a 1,2,5 and 8th grader next school year. I have looked them over a little, but haven’t dug into them yet. You mentioned using the grammar 3 days a week to mesh with the writing. Will that get you through the grammar in a school year? It looks like the workbook in your picture is the other language lesson series, which we used this year. Do you like First Language Lessons better? Thanks!
Susan S. says
First Language Lessons covers both 1st and 2nd grades. There are 100 1st grade lessons and 100 2nd grade lessons. Completing 3-ish lessons per week takes 33 or 34 weeks. We usually did more than 3 lessons a week, so we finished the 1st grade section early. Since Jessie Wise suggests not completely stopping grammar for the summer, we are continuing to review using memory work and reading grammar-content picture books by Brian Cleary and Ruth Hellar. We will pick up with the 2nd grade lessons in the fall.
The workbook that my daughter is using for her copywork (in the picture) is another language book called Language Lessons for the Very Young. It is by Queen Homeschool. We have used it this year, too. I have especially liked the picture studies that it contains. The two books are different, but cover the same material. LLVY contains extra copywork and lovely picture studies in addition to the grammar teaching.
Enjoy your grammar and writing!
I thought it was, we have enjoyed using it, and I just got one in the mail for our K going into 1st for the summer. Thanks!
.-= Samantha´s last blog ..Sweet Shot! =-.
I purchased the Writing With Ease workbooks sothat, as mentioned above, “I’m [not] charged with finding a sentence” or exerpt of a story to narrate & dictate. I didn’t have time to search for quotes from literature for 3 out of 4 weekly exercises– and the workbook includes ALL the lessons. The workbooks include a variety of sources for narration & copywork; my sons have enjoyed the stories. I ordered mine from Peace Hill Press, the publishers of these texts. We use our workbook as a text and do our writing in a notebook so I can reuse it for all four of my sons.
Susan S. says
I am glad that the workbooks have been working well for you, Christine. They appear to be a wonderful tool. My friends who have them are very pleased, loving the ease of their use.
I have appreciated using the overall text, as it has allowed me to pull from what we are already using in our other subjects. Contrary to what you might think, it hasn’t been difficult or time consuming.
It seems that both strategies are winners!
I purchased “First Language Lessons” and “Writing with Ease (lvl 1)” at a recent homeschool convention somewhat on a whim. I usually agonize over these decisions, but desired an integrated approach to language. I’ve used Abeka in the past, and there are separate reading, penmanship, phonics, spelling, and (weak) grammar lessons. I noticed that the First Language Lessons book indicates I will need to supplement with additional handwriting, phonics, and spelling. Much to my surprise, I purchased only the student workbook of Writing with Ease, so my hope is that it covers more than writing and penmanship. I plan to order the teacher text for that, I’m just wondering if I’m back where I started with teaching separate lessons for all aspects of language. If that is the case, are there spelling and phonics lessons out there that integrate well with the Wise/Bauer books?
Susan S. says
First Language Lessons is a beginning grammar text. It also includes material appropriate for copywork and handwriting practice. The Writing with Ease workbook that you purchased includes beginning writing work in the form of copywork, short reading selections to be narrated, and further work in grammar. Everything is included for you in those areas and you do not have to pull material from other areas.
If your student still needs phonics work, you will need to get something. As for spelling, these books do not cover it either.
With my daughter I used Modern Curriculum Press Plaid Phonics through Kindergarten, in conjunction with The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. Then, in first grade I dropped the phonics and picked up spelling. My daughter completed the first and second grade spelling books from Modern Curriculum Press this year. They were fine, but I think that I am going to do spelling on my own this coming year. I will pull words and groups of words from her readings and organize them using spelling patterns.
There are lots of great options out there, so someone else may want to chime in and offer Rachel advice.
Gina D says
My daughter is starting 1st grade and my oldest son is starting 3rd grade this year. This will be my first year to use First Language Lessons and Writing with Ease. I bought FLL 1,2 and 3 and WWE 1 and 2 workbooks because I didn’t know which level to start with my 3rd grader. I will be using FFL and WWR 1 with my 1st grader. I haven’t received the books yet so I haven’t had a chance to look through them. Should I start him with level 2 on both? Or FFL3 and WWE2? I didn’t want to push him too much but I don’t want to bore him or get him too far behind either. When we switched to Abeka at the end of his 1st grade year I had him redo the first grade workbook over the summer so “mommy felt better” that I didn’t cause him to miss anything, but now that we are switching curriculum again I hate to keep having him repeat stuff. Any suggestions?