How Many Years of Grammar Do You Need?
As I talk to homeschool parents at conventions and via e-mail, I am often asked, “How many years of grammar should I be requiring of my student?” or “Does the Grammar Made Easy: Writing a Step Above (sadly, this excellent book is no longer available — Analytical Grammar is a good alternative) course cover all the grammar you need to teach your child through the twelfth grade?” Connie Schenkelberg and I answered that question rather thoroughly in a pair of e-mails I thought I’d share with you today. As usual, there are few announcements immediately following the body of the post.
All the grammar you need?
A mom e-mailed to ask: “Does this course seem to cover all the grammar you need to teach your child through the twelfth grade? I am not certain how complete it is and whether or not I would need to continue with another grammar course when this course is finished . . .”.
My (Janice’s) response:
Thank you for writing! I’m going to give you my opinion, but I’m also going to forward your note to Connie Schenkelberg, the author of the course. I think she will have even more insight on all the course covers.
If you’re familiar with my writings (on the website and my blog) about the learning lifestyle and teaching your student to write, you probably know that I have what I would consider a relaxed blend of the Charlotte Mason, classical, and Thomas Jefferson approaches to schooling. I believe that all language arts instruction must begin with copious reading followed by copywork, narration, dictation, and composition (you can read more about that at You Can Teach Your Child to Write, a two-part article at my Everyday-Education.com site.
Grammar Made Easy was the only formal grammar we used, and I felt that it was a perfect overview of grammar terms and sentence construction methods, and was a great foundation for the study of a foreign language. Based upon my own education, extensive reading, and the education of my boys, I believe that once the grammar foundation is laid, further grammar study should be done contextually through writing and the study of foreign language.
Move on to using grammar in context
It seems that the only truly effective way to make grammar “stick” is to actually use it. It’s not necessary to remember all the grammar terms — just learn how to use the language properly. Through regular reading, listening, consistent writing practice, and steady use of correct grammar in other academic studies, your student will gain proficiency in English.
I firmly believe that grammar should be fully learned before high school, and once through is good enough for most* students. To go even further, it’s my opinion that yearly workbooks are a waste of academic time that could be much more profitably used in content studies (e.g. history, literature, science, etc.). I hope that helps with your decision!
*When I say once through is enough for most students, I am including students who consistently hear and speak standard, grammatically correct English. If your student is frequently exposed to non-standard English, he or she may need extra exposure to formal grammar. Even then, it is often more effective to include plenty of audio resources, such as audiobooks and classes, in your curriculum, rather than adding more workbooks. Audio resources help the student hear and internalize well-spoken English in a memorable context.
Connie Schenkelberg’s response:
First, I’d like to thank you for being interested in my grammar book. I’m honored. Second, Janice did a really good job answering your questions. I would only add this:
While in elementary school, children need regular grammar lessons on regular/irregular verbs, subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, etc. Once the student reaches sixth grade, you can forgo that instruction and make minor adjustments (corrections) as necessary. Around 7th or 8th grade, a good, functional grammar course that has immediate, practical application is best. Then, as Janice said, you don’t do grammar in high school.
Something Janice did not mention is that in addition to being a home school mom, I am also a former public school teacher. What I said in the above paragraph is what you would have found in my middle school last year. We simply didn’t teach grammar. I was a “dinosaur” for teaching Grammar Made Easy; that didn’t bother me because my students wrote so much better than most 7th graders.
Finish grammar instruction before high school
Also, having taught high school in the past and having friends in the high school now, I know that grammar isn’t taught in the public schools at that grade level. I know that as homeschoolers, we’re not particularly concerned about how things are done in the public schools; however, it might reassure you to know that you are indeed giving your children a good foundation.
Regardless of the way you go, blessings to you and your family.Thank you again for being interested in Grammar Made Easy.
If you’ve ever doubted the importance of proofreading, take a look at what can happen — even to professionals!