English Lessons Through Literature (Updated version, Secular)

English Lessons Through Literature is a secular language arts series. The general approach and most of the content is the same as a previous edition; the only difference is that any faith-based content has been removed. This makes this secular version somewhat unique since most of the Charlotte Mason language arts programs have faith-based content.

The seven levels (Aspiring, Blossoming, Cultivating, Discerning, Enlightening, Flourishing, and Growing) can be used for grades 1 through 8. The author recommends starting Aspiring in 2nd grade but 1st is also an option. The Volumes are designed for the teacher and provide three lessons per week for 36 weeks (108 lessons per level). Each lesson follows a similar format. In each level, whole books are provided as read-alouds, with chapters to be read daily as the first lesson item. Fables, stories, excerpts, and poetry are also regularly used. Occasionally, the student is asked to think about something from the reading, but the author avoids comprehension questions. The instructional nugget is next and "nugget" does seem like the best description particularly in Aspiring/Blossoming. In the upper levels, the "nugget" is something more like a "chunk."

Systematic grammar instruction starts in Blossoming and is pretty impressive, covering everything from punctuation to parts of speech to types of sentences and includes diagramming beginning in Cultivating. In fact, in Blossoming and up, the lesson title reflects the grammar covered (i.e. #38 in Blossoming is titled State of Being Verbs; Review: Pronouns) leaving no doubts about the general grammatical scope and sequence. In Discerning & Enlightening there is an appendix that provides additional writing lessons for older students. The appendices in each Volume include valuable information – memory work lists, a segment on the correct use of words, diagramming references, and sometimes literature passages as well as additional writing lessons and writing/editing protocol in the upper levels. The author also encourages the use of a personal spelling journal.

Writing instruction incorporates the classical progymnasmata (a bit unusual for a Charlotte Mason program). Aspiring through Flourishing focuses on fables and narrative while Growing explores chreia and maxim.

Workbooks are available for Aspiring through Flourishing and provide all the exercises and copywork. Though technically optional, they are a major time-saver for the teacher. In the lower levels (Aspiring through Discerning) they are available in several handwriting styles (Manuscript, Slant Cursive, Vertical Cursive, Basic Italic, and Cursive Italic). In the Enlightening and Flourishing levels, workbooks are provided in a print font.

There is very little teacher prep in this series. You will want/need to get a copy of the read-aloud books and make a copywork master (if not using the Workbooks), That’s about it! The daily lessons are pick-up-and-go. Full-color versions of the picture studies (black and white in the volumes) are available on the author’s website, so you may want to provide access to those just to make the whole study more enjoyable for both of you. Your student will ultimately be compiling a notebook to include copywork, definitions, exercise. Although prep is minimal with these courses, the daily lessons are based on teacher-student interaction.

You can probably tell that I’m enthusiastic about this series. It’s well-constructed, easy-to-use, has a strong emphasis on literature plus an equally strong emphasis on systematic grammar and mechanics as well as writing skills. You only need to add phonics/reading instruction and perhaps a systematic spelling to have a well-rounded approach to English and Language Arts. The author's series Reading Lessons Through Literature is an excellent complement providing, phonics, spelling, and reading. ~ Janice


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