A reader just sent me a question:
What grammar book/series do you use? As you've noted on your blog about your dissatisfaction with pre-packaged science curriculum, grammar is my (and my husband's) "thing", so we're probably hoping for something that doesn't exist out there (grammar is so much my husband's "thing" that when he started teaching Latin at the local Catholic seminary, he wrote his own textbook because he wasn't satisfied with any out there).
But I long-distance respect what you do, and I just thought I'd ask. We register at Kolbe Academy, entirely for the paper-trail it affords us, and then proceed to apply their "principle of subsidiarity" to substitute just about every single thing in their curriculum--either for same-series-but-higher-level, or for completely-different-book. I'm not averse to supplementing, cobbling together, etc.
Oh goody, here is a question I can answer.
The big disclaimer here is that H., my English-major partner in co-schooling, has always managed the grammar. She teaches it from the (free! online!) K.I.S.S. Grammar books by Dr. Ed Vavra.
(Warning: the website looks like it was designed in 1995.)
You can download workbooks from the website and then print them. We printed them double-sided and took them to a copy shop to be spiralbound, and then worked with them as if they were conventional workbooks (which makes them not exactly free, I guess, by the time you pay for binding). The grade levels are not exact and have to do more with the reading level of the texts used for analysis
I personally find it hard to navigate the website. It is probably easiest to choose which workbook to use if you just download the workbooks as .doc files from the links on this page and then open them in Word and page through them.
I don't think H. even bothered to print out the answer key pages for the books, because she didn't need them, but they are there if you want them.
Check them out and let me know what you think. I really think the K.I.S.S. Grammar is a hidden gem. We have been particularly pleased with how well it dovetails with teaching Latin. I recognize that a traditional, analytical grammar curriculum doesn't please everyone, but if you're doing Latin or a similarly heavily inflected language, it really saves teaching time overall, I think.
UPDATE: Here is a little extra information from H. who does the actual teaching, answering a mutual friend who was asking about using it for her 10-year-old son.
...It should work well to learn along with the kids. The first few levels of KISS are a level of grammar that any person literate in English will be familiar with, so the learning part will be to learn the marking procedures and vocabulary if that is rusty. Once you get the hang of the marking, it should be smooth sailing. Either review the provided answer key before he does the sheet or complete the exercise yourself and use that as the answer key. ( I cheat and don't often use the answer key because of unnecessary grammar nerdiness).
In the first level, he'll only be explaining the basic 'skeleton' of the sentence: subject, verb, and the broad class called complements which includes direct and indirect objects, predicate adjectives and predicate nouns. KISS adds to the level of analysis fairly slowly. The kids get to watch themselves being able to explain more and more of the words in the exercise as they move through the program. [Our kids, age 12 and 11] have been working through it for three years. When they began they explained only two words in each sentence. Now they have gotten to the point that they can explain all the words in most sentences, even ones written by people like Jules Verne and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.
KISS doesn't spend a lot of time on explaining analysis-- it spends most of its time on making them perform the analysis, which is why I love it.
The material covered with the program is found in the links at the bottom of the "workbooks" page that are called the Master Collection of Exercises. The material is divided into six levels, which are subdivided into concepts.
- Level One covers basic grammar, like subject/verb, prepositional phrases, adjectives and adverbs, pronouns, complements to the verb, compounding, and punctuation.
- Level Two helps the kids through problems they may have encountered when applying the concepts in Level One. It introduces concepts like understood subjects, embedded prepositional phrases, phrasal verbs, and infinitives.
- Level Three is primarily concerned with main and subordinate clauses in all their variations, and the function of subordinating conjunctions.
- Level Four covers gerunds and infinitives (in all their grammatical functions as single words, and also when they function as ellipsed or reduced clauses in the conditional or subjunctive)
- Level Five practices everything they have previously learned and teaches the noun absolute as an extension of appositives.
- Level Six allows for integrating their grammar practice into their wider reading, writing,and literature studies.
The grade 2 workbook covers levels 1 and 2. The grade 3 workbook also covers levels 1 and 2 plus a few constructions from other levels. The grade 6 workbook covers levels 1-4.
The main difference between the grade levels is the type of text they are given to analyze. A typical grade 2 text is taken from Beatrix Potter, Thornton Burgess, etc. A typical grade 6 text may be from Howard Pyle, Longfellow, Frances Hodgson Burnett, or Robert Louis Stevenson.
The main thing to remember is that if you start with the grade 3 workbook, you *won't* repeat level 1 or level 2 when you move on to the grade 4, 5,or 6 workbook. You will skip the pages of that workbook that introduce level 1 and 2 concepts. You'll start at the level 3 exercises unless you think he needs review of the last concepts studied. They should never quit marking the things they've already learned about as they learn new things, so practice of older concepts is built-in.
...There's no particular reason to start [a 10-year-old] in [the 4th grade level] if his comprehension and vocabulary are advanced. I bet you could start with the 6th grade book. Here is the first question of the first exercise from four different grades:
1. The three little rabbits lived in the woods.
1. Grethel shared her bread with Hansel.
1. A King and Queen were perfectly happy.
1. Her appetite grew amazingly.
So, not much difference there.
However, by the eleventh lesson in the sixth grade book the selections are more like this one:
Perseus wondered at that strange cloud, for there was no other cloud all round the sky; and he trembled as it touched the cliff below. And as it touched, it broke, and parted, and within it appeared Pallas Athene, as he had seen her at Samos in his dream, and beside her a young man more light-limbed than the stag, whose eyes were like sparks of fire. By his side was a scimitar of diamond, all of one clear precious stone, and on his feet were golden sandals, from the heels of which grew living wings.
The vast majority of the texts are taken from classics, and I can't think of objectionable material off hand in the sixth grade lessons outside of fairy tale violence like "Bluebeard", etc. I'm using a mix of 6th, 8th, and 9th grade lessons with the 11, 12, and 14 yr olds I'm teaching. Last year they all used the 3rd grade workbook, and they've had no trouble jumping from that to the higher grades material.
So there you go.