English Lessons Through Literature (Original version, Christian content)
"Through literature" is the operative phrase in this series. It's what you would expect, after all, of a series incorporating a Charlotte Mason approach to language arts skills. Together the teacher and student travel through literature - poetry, well-loved books, fables, and stories. You pause along the way, of course, taking time to appreciate the story and learn the grammatical structure of the English language, giving the student opportunity through copywork and some narration to become immersed in quality writing models. Picture studies complement the literature and provide the means for students to put their thoughts into words and develop their observation skills. Just for good measure, the author has included some memory work - grammatical lists and definitions. Taken altogether, the result is an easy-to-use, holistic approach to English that is thoroughly consistent with Charlotte Mason, and yet meatier than most programs with a similar bent. It also has a more updated "feel" than many CM language programs even though many of the literature selections are "timeless" (i.e. a little old-fashioned).
English Lessons Through Literature is on its second version. The original (Levels 1-5) is now out of print, and has been replaced by a secular version (Aspiring, Blossoming, Cultivating, Discerning, Enlightening, Flourishing). The general approach and most of the content is the same; the only difference is that any faith-based content has been removed in the second version. This means that some exercises/activities have been tweaked and a few changes have been made in the Literature selections. But, all-in-all, the two are comparable in terms of course content and rigor. And, it makes the secular version somewhat unique since most Charlotte Mason language arts programs have faith-based content.
The six levels available can be used for grades 1 through 8. These 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. Next is the instructional nugget (probably 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 in Cultivating – Flourishing. 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. Due to its length, Flourishing does not include an answer key or appendices in the curriculum text. Instead, a separate answer key with appendices is available. The author (from her website) provides a free download full of worksheets that can be used with any level for extra practice. The appendices in each book 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.
There is very little teacher prep. You will want/need to get a copy of the read-aloud books and make a copywork master (StartWrite font software would be a help with this.) That’s about it! The daily lessons are pick-up-and-go. Full-color versions of the picture study black and white pictures 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. Optional workbooks, previously available only as downloads from the publisher’s website are now available for all levels. 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 and an equally strong emphasis on systematic grammar and mechanics. Level C, Cultivating, begins to introduce writing instruction, so that is covered as well. You only need to add phonics/reading instruction and perhaps spelling (the author encourages the use of a personal spelling journal) to have a well-rounded approach to English and Language Arts. ~ Janice