Life of Fred Language Arts

There's a bit of a disconnect as you first look through these books, expecting high school language arts. Unlike anything you've seen before in that category, your first thought will likely be that there has been some mistake. The font size is mostly 16 pt. (or thereabouts), and there are zillions (to coin a "Fred" term) of fonts within the text of these books. They look like a 2nd grade reader. In typical Fred fashion the story line is quirky, and through it the reader encounters all sorts of miscellaneous information along with grammar, etc. So really? High School Language Arts? I was not a believer as I started reading these language arts episodes of Fred's adventures. Adventures that started in Sunday School, took him to Australia to "teach" with a mission board, and finally brought him back home to KITTENS university, learning he has been fired. When the first "Your Turn to Play" segment covered indenting paragraphs and sentence end marks, I was shaking my head and concluding that author Stanley Schmidt should have stuck with math. However, I had to write this description, so I followed Fred's inter-continental journey a little longer and found myself realizing a few things that surprised me. 1) I was understanding some grammar concepts that I had never really "gotten" before, 2) there was broad and comprehensive coverage of all things pertaining to English grammar as well as other aspects of language arts, 3) the Your Turn to Play segments provided consistent and continual review, and 4) I was very likely going to remember the grammar from this course because of the quirky Fred connection.

The smallish (125 pgs, hc) books titled Australia, Begin Teaching, Classes, and Dreams are meant to be used in that order – and you’re helped in remembering that by the alphabetical order of the titles. There are 19 chapters in each book; each chapter is a daily four-page lesson ending with a short collection of questions – Your Turn to Play. Perhaps this series should be subtitled “The Texter’s Guide to English Grammar.” At the very least, it will give you understandable reasons for why the texting shortcuts should not be incorporated into all of your writing.

So exactly how do these books fit into a high school education? The author suggests that all four books (done in one year) should be covered each high school year. I presume this is for the review and repetition but I’m not entirely sure how well Fred’s story will wear after several years. I do see value, though, in going through them at least once. In addition to thorough grammar coverage, there is also vocabulary, spelling rules, literary analysis terms and a jumble of miscellaneous and interesting educational tidbits. Partnered with a good literature program that included composition, they would nicely round out a high school English credit. That being said, I really don’t see why these would not also be very usable – and enjoyable - at the middle school level.

Those to whom it matters have probably noted the mention of Sunday School and mission boards. There are enough references to church-related activities that our charter school friends will not be comfortable with the purchase, but I wouldn’t consider these books to actually have religious instruction – it’s more like cultural references. There is, of course, the author’s standard book dedication [for Goodness’ sake or as J.S. Bach often expressed it – Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (to the greater glory of God)]. ~ Janice

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