Climbing to Good English Series
In Illinois we owe the homeschooling freedoms we enjoy to a 1960's court case that involved the Amish. In using this English program - produced by the Amish - your family will enjoy systematic and comprehensive coverage of language arts skills - grammar, phonics review, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and composition - at minimum expense. Designed to be used in multi-grade classrooms, students are expected to help themselves - particularly in grades 5-8 by learning to work independently with minimal teacher help. Students are taught - beginning in the earliest levels - to use the dictionary for pronunciation and word meanings rather than expecting the teacher to supply such information. Proofreading marks are taught beginning in grade 5. The overall goal of the series is to improve communication skills; to understand what is heard and read, to express oneself clearly in speaking and writing. This goal is accomplished by systematically teaching, practicing, reviewing, and reinforcing the building blocks of grammar, usage, and mechanics.
The early grades (1-3) provide one lesson per day that include phonics review, penmanship practice, reading comprehension, beginning punctuation, word usage skills, and the introduction of basic grammar concepts. One interesting and rather unique aspect of this series is the emphasis on dictionary proficiency. This is underscored by the use of the respelling cards introduced in the second grade and reviewed in the third grade. These cards provide practice in mastering dictionary pronunciations (i.e. respelling the word to reflect the pronunciation such as one finds alongside dictionary word entries). The upper grades provide three lessons per week and the emphasis shifts from phonics review to writing (composition) and continued strengthening of all related skills. All aspects of grammar - parts of speech, types of sentences, parts of a sentence - as well as all aspects of mechanics - capitalization, punctuation and effective word usage - are covered thoroughly. Various forms of writing - both practical and creative - are introduced and practiced. Sentence diagramming is introduced in grade 4 and expanded each year thereafter. Also starting in grade 4, extra practice sheets are available. These are reproducible or sold separately by grade level (about 70 sheets per grade).
Student books are consumable paperbacks. Grade 1 has 156 pages gradually increasing to 286 pages in grade 8. Extra pages in the grades 3-8 books include unit tests and an end-of-term test; grades 5-8 also include a student handbook and thesaurus. There is no teacher's edition for Grade 1 - all instruction is included in the student text. Grades 2-4 TEs are student books with answers printed in red along with teaching notes. The Teacher's Editions for grades 5-6 and grades 7-8 are combined and include reduced copies of student pages with answers supplied along with teaching suggestions, ideas for extra practice, tips on scoring, and space for the teacher's own notes. These two TEs are hardback. An interesting feature of the grades 5-6 and 7-8 courses is that they are designed to "travel together." Both grades study the same concepts at the same time although the older grade is at a harder level and often includes more work - another example of the multi-grade friendliness of this series.
As one would expect from an Amish-produced product, the overall appearance of these books is plain and utilitarian but pleasing nonetheless. The black and white illustrations as well as the written content tend towards rural and biblical themes. ~ Janice