I was very pleased when I had the opportunity to review First
Language Lessons, Level 3 and 4. My nine-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son had only done the first level of First Language Lessons. I was afraid that level 2 would be too easy for them and wanted something a little more rigorous.
Using the Classical Method of educating, the author does a wonderful job of incorporating narration, copywork, dictation, and memorization into the study of grammar. When I first started homeschooling, I was a little intimidated about teaching grammar. I didn't feel like I had a strong enough background to teach it to my children. Thankfully, Jessie Wise, co-author of The
Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home put my fears to rest.
There are two parts to this curriculum, the Teacher's Manual ($29.95) and the Student Workbook ($18.95). The Teacher's Manual is the heart of the curriculum. While you may be able to get by without using the student workbook, you will definitely need the teacher's manual. If you choose not to purchase the student workbook, you will have to make up your own worksheets as you go. Using scripted lessons, Mrs. Wise guides you through short ten- to fifteen-minute lessons for Level 3 and about 20-minute lessons for Level 4. This program is very teacher intensive in that you have to work alongside your child. You can't just read the directions and let your child finish independently. The student workbooks have no directions in them.
In Level 3 there are 89 mandatory grammar lessons with 21 optional end units. The mandatory lessons cover the following grammar topics: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, sentences, articles, prepositions, and prepositional phrases. Rules for forming plurals, commas in a series, direct address, and direct quotations are also included. The three optional end units cover letter writing, dictionary skills, and oral usage, with seven lessons for each. Diagramming is also introduced. Incorporated with the grammar lessons are narrations and poetry memorization. A sample schedule at the back of the teacher's manual shows three different options for scheduling the lessons in a 36-week school year.
Level 4 has 85 mandatory lessons with 16 optional end units. As in Level 3, there are suggested schedules in the back of the teacher's manual. The mandatory lessons cover nouns, forming plurals, proofreading, personal and demonstrative pronouns, adjectives, articles, adverbs, direct and indirect objects, conjugating verbs, prepositions and prepositional phrases, conjunctions, compound subjects, compound predicates, compound sentences, contractions, quotations, and comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs. The optional end units cover contractions, writing letters, and dictionary skills.
It is believed that students do well at memorization during the grammar stage of a classical education. The young mind is like a sponge that can absorb information, and most children at this age find memorizing fun. Ms. Wise has included definitions of the different parts of speech for children to memorize, various rules, as well as poems that they will love. Built-in review helps children retain what they have learned. I found that there was a lot of memorization. For some children it may be too much. For my daughter it wasn't too bad, but it was too much for my eight-year-old son. I fear that there may be too much emphasis on memorizing and not enough practice.
Your child needn't have gone through First Language Lessons 1 and 2 to use Level 3. Many of the topics covered in the first book are covered again in Level 3, just in more detail. If you child hasn't already memorized the material covered in the first book, he will be able to memorize it in Level 3. After you've finished Level 3, you can move on to Level 4, which follows the same format. If you have an older child who has not completed Level 3, I would recommend doing so before moving on. Level 4 covers a lot of information, so your child will need the foundation that Level 3 provides.
First Language Lessons has been an easy-to-implement curriculum for me. Jessie Wise has taken the intimidation out of teaching grammar. All I have to do is open the book and read. I think this curriculum will work well for those who follow the classical method and understand its philosophy. However, for those who don't, it may take a while to get used to the methods in this curriculum.