Postponing Formal Grammar Instruction


The ladies over at Analytical Grammar recently sent out an excellent post in support of delaying formal grammar instruction until the student is at least 10 years old—just as Charlotte Mason advocated.

Read Erin and Robin’s timely advice and be encouraged that Charlotte Mason’s ideas really do work!

Here is their post reprinted by permission.

Should you start teaching grammar by age 3?

If you speak English correctly in your household, you ARE teaching grammar from the time your child is born. Kids are fantastic mimics and learn a LOT by simply hearing and reading the language used correctly. Most toddlers know the difference between “Mommy is eating ice cream” and “Ice cream is eating mommy.” They’ll laugh. The only difference between the two sentences is the grammar, right? Why then are so many people teaching formal grammar to first graders? Do they really need to understand the intricacies of adverbs at that age? More importantly … CAN they?

Grammar is not a large body of knowledge. If you start very early, there’s only so much you can cover before it becomes too complex. That being said, just covering the easy stuff doesn’t have much of a payoff and it’s much faster to teach those concepts once a child is really ready to learn the “rest of the grammar story.”

So when is the right time? We recommend teaching FORMAL grammar beginning in 4th or 5th grade. We want students to be good readers and have the ability to do some multi-step analytical thinking. Our Jr. Analytical Grammar programs, JAG and JAG: Mechanics, are specifically designed to introduce formal grammar study, followed by punctuation and usage, to a late-elementary student. After that students move to the Analytical Grammar program.


  1. I completely agree with this statement. Grammar does not make any sense whatsoever to a child below the age of 9 or 10 years old, they might memorize the rules but it will not make any sense whatsoever if they do not understand what they are memorizing and how they are suppose to apply it. It leads only to frustration which could be completely avoided if taught at the right time.

  2. We are starting CM…sort of, this year. We are easing into it! What if you have an 8 year old who is VERY mature and well read, reading comprehension is not an issue, and is asking about grammar, because she wants to write? I am struggling with this, because I feel like it MAY be a bit confusing for her (although my 6 year old is listening in and memorizing!!), but she is asking for it. She knows what a sentence needs, and wants to know about adverbs and adjectives and prepositions, and wants to write using them.

    • Hi, Kari. I would encourage her to go ahead and write. If she can talk without formally studying the parts of speech (which I assume she can), she can write without formally studying the parts of speech. These years of reading good authors and gleaning from their styles is priceless and will lay a rich foundation. We don’t want to start pulling apart those rich sentences too soon; we want her to have many years of feasting on and absorbing the use of language as a whole before analyzing it to pieces. Tell her not to worry about the names of categories of words for now; just focus on choosing words that will help her communicate exactly what she means.

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