This past September, I made my biggest curriculum mistake yet. I had researched and thought and finally purchased a curriculum. But when it came time to start school, I realized that I would have to do heavy editing to make the curriculum match my student’s level. I set it aside and bought another curriculum–happily, one that we have been making progress in all year long. In fact we were in the market for a new language arts curriculum before we finished out this academic year.
So I returned to Living Literature Grammar Packs by Cindy West. Yes, returned. This was the same curriculum that looked like such a mistake at the beginning of the year. After almost a year spent learning and growing, my student was ready to meet this challenge.
What originally attracted me to Cindy West’s work was that Living Literature Grammar Packs are Charlotte Mason style lessons built around picture books. Each week a new picture book is shared, and then the grammar lessons come from the text of the story. Lessons are spread out over a week or two and include
* Reading comprehension
* Critical thinking
* Writing skills
* Poetic devices
One caveat–the Grammar Packs do not contain explanations of the grammar. Rather, it’s a place to review and solidify basic grammar knowledge that the student already has. We have found simple review to be effective so far and have Nitty, Gritty Grammar on hand in case we need further explanations.
Our shared learning time is the richest part of our day. And I treasured the thought that we would all listen to these stories together across the range of ages. Then, my daughter could continue through the lessons herself within the context of our shared reading. It reminded me of the quote from Charlotte Mason:
We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can (Vol. 6, p. 183).
I love that the lessons are an instant download–no shipping fees, no waiting. I love that the price point makes it easy to include in even the tightest budget. But what I love most of all is that conversations naturally rise up from our shared reading. We find other books by the same author and talk about the characters in the books. These aren’t just cursory answers to reading comprehension questions. Deep discussions about virtue that rise up from the stories. From Alejandro’s Gift we talked about generosity and the gift of the natural world. From Aunt Chip and The Nickel Creek Dam Affair we talked about keeping books and t.v. in balance. These are the sorts of conversations every parent wants to be having. And the picture books are creating the context for rich conversations.
Living Literature Grammar Packs are suggested for use in grades 3-5. The beginning of 3rd grade was too soon for our student, but the beginning of 4th grade seems to be just about perfect. All of us are enjoying the rich and varied feast that the stories give us. And my daughter is gaining mastery of grammar in an approachable, gentle, enjoyable way!
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