A Reader Asked..{Is there a Spiral or Mastery Approach for English?}

Posted on February 14, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Jennifer writes "I know that you wrote about Spiral VS Mastery programs for Math, but is there a such thing for English. My daughter has used 1st language lessons (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and then Rod and Staff for (4th-7th). We are pulling our hair out! Writing and English is not my thing, I would take math any day. I need help knowing what kind of learning those two Englishes are so that I can doing something different. I was thinking about Alpha Omega Life Pacs but would love some insight. Thank you for your time. I appreciate your thoughts and your response."

The answer to your question directly is YES. There can be several approaches to how we teach grammar and writing.

{But indirectly, it matters more how we use it than the approach we choose.}

Demystifying the language arts process too by understanding that grammar and writing are two very different skill sets will help you to weigh curriculum differently.


Grammar a Tool or Ruler

At times it seems that grammar can be complicated to understand. However, just like math, grammar is about learning and understanding rules. Some rules in math are more simple to understand some not so simple. Does everybody master these rules? I don't. I need constant reminders. Do these rules ever go away? No, they build on each other. There are also exceptions to the rules in math and we make allowances for them. Learning the English language is similar. So texts tend to be "graded" in grammar meaning they go from very simple to complex rules. Most texts, whether spiral or mastery, add some type of review.

The best way I found to use a text for grammar should be like we use a ruler to measure. Do we have the need to measure on a daily basis if we have basic skills in grammar? Absolutely not. Grammar should be studied in use with writing to show the importance of it in the writing process. If we study grammar separately it may not hold any meaning to a child or to us.

Writing a Process

Writing on the other hand is a process. More important than memorizing a set of rules in grammar is that our children develop a strong writing foundation and equate writing with pleasure. Writing is about communicating ideas that are important to us. Ideas can be serious, heartbreaking or even hysterical . Communicating ideas effortlessly builds meaning on the definition of the terms subject and verb.

In the writing process there is room for creativity.

{Grammar rules are just explanations not creations.}

Both texts you are using are very good resources but they don't always work well with every learner or teacher. Rod and Staff takes a more mastery approach while First Language Lessons seems to be down the middle because it uses a more incremental approach or step by step. Most grammar texts serve well as reference tools only.


Teaching writing by using something laid out like Institute for Excellence in Writing or WriteShop can bring relief when we are struggling. Rod and Staff is also a writing program with grammar but at times it can be hard to measure progress.


One more source that I think is so worth the download is a language arts e book written by Jimmie. She has a strong language arts background and as a homeschool moms she understands struggles in this area. The 53 page download helps you to understand the components to language arts and it makes it easier to make better choices for curriculum when you understand them.


Because good speech and writing well don't just happen, we all need practice daily and models to follow. I don't think you need any more grammar books but need help to apply the grammar she has learned to a writing program that will give you ways to chart her progress. A writing program that gives you more direct instruction will put the emphasis back on why we learn the grammar rules and breathe life into language arts.

Your turn. Do you have any other insight or tips to share with Jennifer?

Hugs to ya'll..

Categories: New Bee Articles-Curriculum/How to's/Teaching/Subjects, New Bee Articles-Homeschool Approaches, New Bee Articles-Proving Homeschool Progress