Homeschooling in Oregon, the boys test on their 3rd, 5th, 8th and 10th years. The test covers Math and English. We have done quite a bit with English, Writing, Spelling and Grammar – several curriculums and styles. Some times we take breaks in curriculum to focus on unit studies. Sometimes the writing is more of a journal narration, and I do not grade/test the writing, but rather encourage creativity and volume.
However, to keep competitive in the English Grammar Area we have found that the mechanics must be brushed up on a daily basis. Daily Grams, by Easy Grammar Systems seems to be the answer for that, now that they have learned these basics.
Daily Grams has about 7-10 questions covering Capitalization, Punctuation, Parts of Speech, Spelling and Sentence Structure. The boys do a page or two a day on their own. If they have a question – they are to look up their question in one of our helping books, or circle it and move on with their work. As I go back and check their sheets, we work on the questions together.
This happened yesterday – an example to give why the Daily Grams are worth the Daily Effort. We were swimming right along, when we came across a couple of comma issues up in the punctuation section, and in parts of speech, there was a question about irregular verbs. At first glance, neither Nate nor I could give an example of 5 irregular verbs. So we looked it up in one of our “helping books.”
Painless Grammar is a book I picked up at Costco for $5.99, along with a book called Punctuation Made Easy, these two books seem to answer what ever question arises. I had ordered Grammar Made Easy, but I ordered the wrong one (there are two) and never re-ordered the one from the series.
We zipped to the index in the back of the book and quickly found Irregular Verbs, then headed to that section. Within seconds, we saw examples of Regular Verbs and Irregular Verbs. Nathan was back on track with his lesson in no time.
Sometimes – people who call themselves unschoolers will say that they do not use “curriculum”. But in the same way that we use a phone book, a dictionary or a Betty Crocker cook book – there are tools that we can rely on for our needs. I have found that Daily Grams, Punctuation Made Easy and Painless Grammar are great books for the boys to use on a daily basis, or for reference. I have Daily Grams 3 for Jon this year. We don’t do a page every day – but often enough to find little things like irregular verbs and punctuation scenarios that need a bit more polished attention.
If you are a relaxed learner or unschooler – what tools are you using in the middle school years to keep their Language Mechanics well oiled?