Simplifying LA, the CM way – grammar?

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  • Evergreen

    At a CM retreat I went to a week ago, we acted as students for a day, and I saw how much simpler our day could be if we did things CM’s way: copywork each morning, studied dictation most days, grammar lessons integrated with the studied dictation, written narrations weekly for older kids, oral narrations daily for all readings. I’m just not sure how to implement it!

    Last year we used ILL (which we’ve always loved), along with a grammar program and copywork and dictation and written and oral narration (as recommended in the curriculum we’d chosen), phew! The thing is, at the end of the year, I don’t see the benefit of all this overlap and LOVE the idea of making it more simple, for my children’s sake. So now I’m trying to figure out what grammar program could be easily applied with the above method and stay truest to how CM would have done it.

    Is AG or JAG what I’m looking for? The gals who taught us recommended this:

    but I’m not sure about implementing it as the answers are written on the bottom of the workbook pages – I believe they use it orally as they discuss each dictation lesson.

    Thoughts? Thanks!




    I could, most likely, use ILL orally for the most part, integrating the econcepts with studied dictation, skipping ILL’s dictation and copywork lessons unless we chose to substitute those for our own…


    Hi Aimee, 

    I’ve seen you mentioning the retreat you went to a few times and my interest is piqued! I don’t want to highjack your post but I would love to know more about it if you have time to share some details about who organizes it, etc.  

    But, to the main point of your post, your first paragraph detailing what a week of work would look like is very similar to what we did last year and overall I was pleased with the results. The grammar that we did with dictation is just what came up naturally, however. I guess you’d call it incidental grammar. We used Spelling Wisdom for studied dictation and then as they study the passage we would also discuss any points of grammar that needed addressing for that particular student. (We did use a specific grammar program as well but it wasn’t connected to the dictation).

    So are looking for a program that specifically combines dictation with grammar? Or would incidental grammar be enough?


    Jenn, thanks. I’m not looking for a program that specifically combines dictation with grammar, but am trying to figure out how to incorporate another program without too much overlap, if that makes sense. I think they did what you describe, but with intention, using a program to decide which points to concentrate on. I’m not sure if I’d like to do that, or have a specific and separate grammar program and also do incidental grammar. What do you use?

    This was the retreat I attended:

    It was just wonderful, conducted by Laurie Bestvater (the link is on her website)and by Melanie, a teacher (and founder, I believe) of Red Mountain Community School in Alabama. We were able to act as students going through a CM day, and that alone answered so many questions and let us see the beauty of the method in many ways. The second day was devoted to a bit more practice and then discussion of practical applications. It really made me see how much I’ve complicated things, and how much simple beauty can exist in cutting through busywork and curriculum to get to what CM was talking about.


    Aimee, I use Winston Grammar at about 4th or 5th grade and then Easy Grammar Plus in Jr High. And of course we run into incidental grammar pretty frequently. AG and JAG are so expensive that I’ve never seriously considered them — though I do like the idea of intensely studying for a concentrated amount of time at the beginning of the year. I’ve actually considered adapting WG to make finish it in a shorter amount of time like that but haven’t done it yet. 

    Honestly though I think they get most of their real teaching about grammar from the stuff that just happens to come up. 

    The retreat you went to looks absolutely wonderful! No wonder you’ve come back so inspired. 🙂 Thanks for the links, I’ve been doing so reading on the website. 



    Aimee, is the school using Daily Grams by simply choosing appropriate topics and aligning them with the dictation passage from the subject index? This sounds good, but adds a bit to the needed preparation, I’d think. 

    Another option – Bravewriter and their LA programs

    From the Bravewriter website:

    About Language Arts Programs

    Brave Writer language arts programs (Arrow, Boomerang and Slingshot) use classic literature to teach the mechanics of writing (such as spelling, grammar and punctuation) while also featuring literary elements (3rd-6th grade), think piece questions (7th-9th) and poetry (10th-12th).

    • The Wand – early elementary
    • The Arrow – late elementary
    • Boomerang – middle school
    • Slingshot – high school

    We’re currently doing a Kids Write Basic class online and we’re enjoying it. I’m re-looking at these as I’d forgotten them so quickly.


    You can get a 10% discount for BraveWrite on-line and even deeper discounts for their paper curriculum through Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op, which is free to join.

    I have seriously considered Brave Write, so thank you C for mentioning it.

    @Aimee, we are trying to simplify our LA this year too, using PLL for one, some free writing, then ILL and Grammarland for another, and Rod&Staff 7 for oldest. I just can’t justify cost of JAG or AG either.


    Brave Writer ebook is on for 50% until tonight (8/11) at the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op. Just a heads up in case anyone is wanting to purchase. 


    Just looking at the Bravewriter website completely confuses me – I can’t really tell what it’s all about enough to think of why I’d need this. I’d love to hear someone’s explanation of what it is, how it works and why you like it! Thanks!


    Aimee I don’t have time to explain it all right now (Brave Writer) but if it helps you to know whether it is worth your time, the author is very influenced by CM and helped lead a CM homeschool group in her area for many years. When I asked her to explain to me how her curriculum fits into a CM lifestyle of learning, she sent me this link.

    I actually haven’t looked through it all yet but thought I’d pass it on.



    It’s actually quite good, but the samples aren’t enough to give a good feel. It is very CM in nature. The thing I’m unsure of is if it covers the most frequently used words. I may alternate with spelling wisdom or something.




    Aimee, I agree. I had bought Writer’s Jungle, Jot it Down and several back issues of the Arrow last month. I actually forgot I had them. I am blaming my brain fog problem. 

    I’ll try to explain as best I can, but bear in mind that I’ve not yet used it. I can only say I understand it because I have it in front of me. 

    The Wand, Arrow, Boomerang and Slingshot are LA programs for their respective grades. They are set up similarly. I will use the Arrow as the example since it’s what I have handy.

    Once per month, you’re emailed an issue (unit) based on a novel which is recommended to be read aloud during that month. This example is from Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes. Each unit is meant to take 1 month and is broken down into weeks. Each week includes copywork and dictation from a passage in the novel. It helps to work on spelling, punctuation, grammar and literary elements using quality living books.


    • Each week – “The passages are accompanied by notes that detail spelling, punctuation, grammar and literary style elements found in the passage. These notes are designed to make it easy to pre-teach the passage (no advanced preparation necessary).”
    • Each issue (unit) – “Each issue also highlights a literary element of the month. These are elements like assonance, alliteration, dialog, onomatopeia, powerful verbs, rhyme and more. Examples of the element are included in the issue and are taken from poetry, other novels or the novel featured in the Arrow.”
    • Each literary element – “Each literary element is accompanied by a writing tip or exercise that gives your kids a chance to play with the element in their own writing. The goal is to help kids notice quality writing and why it is successful. Then they can practice using the element so that eventually, they will naturally incorporate it into their original writing.”

    “Brave Writer is unique on the market because we put such a strong emphasis on Literary Elements. These elements make writing pop. Your kids need to know how to use them in their own writing to be powerful writers (far more than they need to learn formats).”

    The Bravewriter Lifestyle – this is a very CM idea and the more I read about it, the more I love it. Making LA an interesting, natural part of everyday life. You can read about the various elements on the page linked. Poetry, nature journaling, copywork, dictation, games – all are detailed a bit more. She recommends having a LA routine – Poetry Tea Times on Tuesdays, Freewriting on Fridays, etc. 

    Jot It Down – this is lesson plans for using either the Wand or the Arrow. It is written for 5-8 year olds, but easily adaptable for the older ages. It tells you how to incorporate poetry tea times, weekly movies/shows, nature study, art appreciation, music discovery, read alouds, word play and more. 

    • Weekly Sample Routine that adjusts per term (adapt to your child’s skill level as need be)

    TERM 1 TERM 2 TERM 3

    Mon. copywork* copywork copywork

    Tues. poetry teatime & handwriting page poetry tt & hw page poetry tea time only

    Wed. copywork & library French dictation* & library French dictation or reverse dictation*

    Thurs. handwriting page & nature exploration hw page & nature exp. hw page & nature exp.

    Fri. Art or Music or Movie Art or Music or Movie Art or Music or Movie

    Daily read aloud, learn to read read aloud, learn to read read aloud, learn to read


    * Copywork – many things mentioned that work. Scripture passages, passage from literature or historical book, foreign language, song lyrics, lists of lego sets wanted, math forumals, etc. BW does recommend using the same passage for copywork and dictation as “Familiarity breeds better results in dictation.” Also recommends allowing some copywork to be typed.

    * Dictation – “Don’t make the mistake of treating dictation as an option. If you must omit a subject for the week, drop the grammar exercise book or the spelling pages in order to make room for dictation. The fruit is far more substantial even though it doesn’t look like it initiallhy.”

    • French dictation: 1 – Write one sentence for your child omitting one word. 2 – Teach spelling by leaving blanks for multiple words. 3 – Add sentences to the initial one but leave several more words blank. 4 – Dictate the entire passage withou any clues. (It is mentioned that in French high school long dictation passages are given w/o prior acquaintance with the material.)
    • Reverse dictation – giving a passage with errors and omissions and having the child correct it. BW recommends paying a penny for each correct correction. No penalties for missed ones. (My note – While I’m only skimming Writer’s Jungle, this seems to promote seeing the wrong thing which CM did not recommend.)

    See summaries of each chapter in Writer’s Jungle (main teacher guide/handbook) here.

    All quotes are from the above mentioned BW materials.

    Does that help? Overall, it looks like a well put together program that utilizes many methods that Charlotte speaks about in her volumes. I am going to review it more and see how we might implement it.



    Aimee – Analytical Grammar is  a great way to teach formal grammar in middle school. Earlier than that I just teach very relaxed grammar as we work with our other school material.


    Christie, thanks for that detailed breakdown of the BW materials – it makes a lot more sense seeing it that way. It does sound like a fascinating program, and I’ll check out the links. Thanks Jenn, for the link you sent as well.

    And Hidden Jewel, thank you for weighing in on AG.

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