Grammar. Bring it.

In CategoryHome Schooling

All right, people. I’ve been threatening to talk about this long enough, let’s do it.


a) Should I even be teaching this at the age of 7? Is this one of those things where I can hammer it into his head for a decade OR do it for one year in middle or high school and end up with the same result? Grammar is fairly abstract, can he even grasp it at this age?

b) We are using Easy Grammar Grade 2. I don’t love this book, quite frankly. I mean, the one-page-a-day idea is good, and the exercises are short and sweet, but this is one area where I should have purchased the Teacher’s Manual, which I did not even realize existed until I started writing this post (Super! Homeschooler!). I normally eschew the TMs because hello! I’ve been to college, I should know second grade for crying out loud! On the other hand, there have been a couple of instances where I felt like I wasn’t explaining things clearly enough and a TM would have been helpful.

c) Diagramming? That’s obsolete, right? Gross.

Maybe I am using the wrong program. Easy Grammar is supposed to be, um, easy, and I thought it would be the perfect compromise between being the Sentence Diagramming Police and being the Unschooler Who Don’t Need No Grammar, Man.

Maybe I just need to stick it out and see what happens. I suppose a real grown up would at least finish the book before passing judgement.

I have read some very compelling opinions on the pointlessness of teaching grammar to elementary school kids, and I also have friends who believe in starting early. I don’t know which way I lean.

Here’s the thing. Every once in a while, Big will get his notebook out and write a story. I don’t correct anything he does for pleasure, unless he asks. When I told him we would be doing grammar, and told him a little bit about what grammar is, he flipped out and thought he would need to go back and fix all of his stories. Naturally, I told him that was not the case at all, that he wrote and spoke fine (well?), and that grammar was just going to help us categorize the words we already know. He didn’t really buy it.

That is the reaction that has me questioning teaching grammar. I am not afraid to tell my kids to suck it up and deal if they don’t like something, but I don’t want it to stifle his creativity. I don’t think Easy Grammar will do that, necessarily, because it’s not the end of the world to learn about capitalizing sentences. But I think it is a risk if I choose something more rigorous. I don’t want him associating something he doesn’t like with something he does like and have it ruin his fledgling interest in storytelling.

Not to mention, do I need to teach grammar before I even ask him to write anything? Isn’t reading well and speaking properly enough for now? Won’t that give him a leg up when he does write? Shouldn’t grammar be taught within the context of writing? I don’t remember learning grammar at all, and I certainly never diagrammed a sentence in my life, and I turned out okay

yes, I realize that is the same logic old people use about everything – “we never needed a carseat with you-uns, ‘n yer awwright. We jes’ wedged ya inna dashboard ‘n lit up a ciggy when we broughtcha home from the ‘ospital.”  I’m old. I don’t like learning new settings on the DVR, either

– But maybe I’m being overly dramatic. Maybe people who are interested in writing aren’t deterred by grammar, and I shouldn’t take that into consideration.

So. What do you say?

Stick it out? Switch to something else? Growing With Grammar looks good. Analytical Grammar looks interesting but gets mixed reviews. I know there are some Rod & Staff devotees out there…

Or should I wait until later?

Maybe Just Shut up and Make a Decision, You Big Weenie?

20 Responses to “Grammar. Bring it.”

  1. Lisa Rose Says:

    We used First Language Lessons for the Well-trained mind and started the girls at 5/6. They loved books 1 and 2 and I did too. Book 3 was OK but it got into diagramming too and I just didn’t see the sense at their age so we didn’t continue onto book 4 with Miss now 10. Miss 8 is still working on Book 3 but that’s only because I now only get her to do one lesson a week as I think there’s plenty of time for her to learn it all and there are so many other things I’d like them to learn.
    Lisa Rose´s last blog post ..Classic Kids Books

  2. Kristy Says:

    “Is this one of those things where I can hammer it into his head for a decade OR do it for one year in middle or high school and end up with the same result? Grammar is fairly abstract, can he even grasp it at this age?” Yes, this has always been the philosophy I have heard presented and discussed within our homeschool group by veteran’s that have done this for a billion years.
    Kristy´s last blog post ..Thanksgiving 2012

  3. The Fairly Odd Mother Says:

    I am about to embark on a DIY approach. I mean, frig, I should be able to teach my kids about nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc. . .right?? I could even handle clauses!

    This is because I spent $$ on Michael Clay Thompson and it makes all of us SO TIRED to use. It’s just taking up space at this point.

    You know what I think helps a child learn how to write and speak properly? Reading good books. The end. (this doesn’t mean my kids are reading the classics, it’s just that I truly believe that reading is the key to learning to write—and learning to spell too) (though I hesitate to write that last part b/c of my failures with AAS.)
    The Fairly Odd Mother´s last blog post ..The older mom

  4. Lily Says:

    Ok, I’ve never heard of diagramming grammar before, and after a fairly brief Google search, it looks confusing. So, I vote no. LOL. I do think kids should know the parts of a sentence: verbs, nouns, etc, and how they fit together so people can understand what they are saying and writing. And so they can speak and write more descriptively.

    I think I will teach it earlier rather than later. I found it annoying that after all the years of teachers having me write papers, it wasn’t until grade 9 that a teacher actually gave me a detailed set of lessons on it. That is a cart-before-the-horse kind of thing for me.

    Anyway, I need to go – my kids are crying….

  5. Tressa Says:

    Well, you know how I feel about grammar. Yes, it is important. No, it isn’t too hard. Diagramming sentences doesn’t have to be painful.

    Do you know what I say to my high schoolers when they write a terrible sentence? I say, “Can you diagram that thing?” I get a sheepish look because they know that they can’t. Rewrite. Haha.

    I like grammar programs that start with the basics and build on that a little every year. It isn’t like I am introducing them to adverbial clauses in second grade.

    If you have plans of introducing a foreign language at any time, you will be glad that you taught grammar.

    I am starting to feel that I may be in the minority. I am OK with that. 🙂
    Tressa´s last blog post ..Random Monday

  6. Karen@Candid Diversions Says:

    We’ve used First Language Lessons since our oldest was in 1st grade. We’ve enjoyed it. I skip parts that are boring (to me). It’s not an every day subject and so far my two oldest have enjoyed it and so have I.

    But then, I’m one of those crazy types that actually LIKES diagramming sentences. My oldest does too (“It’s just like a puzzle, Mom!”). We are happy in our Grammar Geekiness.

    I do NOT correct their free writing stuff – and trust me, there’s too much of it to correct anyway since they write stories all the time. I do not require written papers from any of them – we rely on narration for that sort of thing. I hated having my stories & reports marked up with red pen and I refuse to do that to my kids. (And, by the way, I was homeschooled. Guess I’ve never forgiven Mom for that dang red pen…)
    Karen@Candid Diversions´s last blog post ..WWW Wednesday

  7. Melanie Says:

    Come ON, Deb. Grammar takes all of twenty minutes a day, and that’s if you’re being thorough. Just do it.

    I wrote something about grammar in 2009. I added a quick update for you.
    Melanie´s last blog post ..Nailed it or Failed it Pinterest Challenge: Pineapple Bird (or) Happy Halloween

  8. Rose Says:

    We don’t do grammar until 3 or 4 grade anymore, my kids are not great readers so we put that off until they are better at reading. Then start with FLL, The Princess is doing FLL 3 this year in fourth and she likes it and is learning a great deal!!! We have used GWG and it was ok, but we missed the poetry of FLL, I think I’ve used almost every grammar program out there and still like FLL the best!
    Rose´s last blog post ..Twitter Talk~ a bit riske~ read at your own risk!!!

  9. alicia Says:

    Yes, just decide. (: If you punt it for now, this would be great timing. As in, “Big, we are going to work on this until Christmas/winter Break, & then we’ll be done with it for the year!” Then it would kinda sound like you planned it that way all along. Yes??
    By the way, my big (also 7 year old boy) does not do grammar & we’re okay with that. We casually talk about capitalization, punctuation marks, etc. while reading & writing a bit. He’s still learning to read. I, too, hear of plenty of kids who do 1 year’s worth of intense grammar when older, and then they are done with it. You should also know this is coming from a former 5th grade teacher (me!), who is fairly convinced there is an excessive amount of needless repetition in the whole “schooling” business. Learn it & move on I say! (:

  10. Donna Says:

    Don’t worry. You’ve got a book and that book is just fine for 2nd and 3rd graders. Either use it or don’t use it.

    We used that same book, probably an earlier edition, and that was 15-16 years ago.

  11. Nan | Says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time and a great deal of money on various grammar programs and texts. None worked for us. If I had it to do over again, I would skip it all and focus upon the task of making my boys into great readers.
    Nan |´s last blog post ..Warp Speed Wednesdays: The Christmas Gift List Edition.

  12. Stacey Says:

    Oy, I’ve been meaning to respond to your email about the grammar. Google Grammarland. Found it through another homeschooler. Public domain (yay free!!) and fun. You gotta read with a bunch of different English accents, but that can be fun too. My boy is 7 and LOVES it. We’ve done FLL and bought Rod & Staff 2nd grade. R&S is good and will cover what he needs to know, but is very dry and has quite a bit of busy work. I do feel that it should be introduced, att the very least. Continue reading out loud whenever you can and try not to cringe at attempts with creative (free) writing. Mind you, I’m the worst Judgy Mcjudgy Pants when it comes to stuff like that so I’m really preaching to myself. 🙂 Tressa’s right about the foreign language thing. Grammar is GOLDEN when it comes to that stuff. Let me know if you check out Grammarland. 🙂

  13. Sarah Says:

    My two cents : )
    We use Analytical Grammar.
    We didn’t do anything until middle school. The idea is that they can learn it all in a few years during middle school, and then just review as needed after that. The program is for middle and high school students but she has a version for elementary students if you want to start earlier. I say wait. Read lots of great books, and pick up grammar in middle school. Reading good literature really demonstrates good grammar, and kids pick that up. Enjoy the elementary years, because there will be plenty of time to buckle down in middle and high school. My recipe for elementary years is lots of good books, lots of time outside, and lots of time being creative and exploring ideas and interests.

  14. Sarah Says:

    ps Analytical Grammar is dry as all get out, but it gets the job done. I used the program as written for my son, and it worked great. I adapted the program for my daughter, but that’s because she’s completely different.

  15. Tina H. Says:

    Okie-doke, Deb – you told me you were going to ask about this and wanted my opinion: Do not to Easy Grammar now…or anything that is really obviously grammar and NEVER worry about diagramming! Ironically, I’ll be starting (our first ever) Easy Grammar book with my daughters in January – when they will enter “6th grade” – and I don’t regret it for a minute. Now, we have been doing something light the last two years – Queen Language Arts – and I think that’s been good (starting in 3rd grade or so). But that is very different even than Easy Grammar. Your instinct about formal grammar instruction at your son’s age being too abstract is right – there will be no point to it other than stressing him out (and I don’t think you want to do that, given what you’ve said about his strong will before). Really, really, really, you can put it aside. I do think – and have always thought – that it’s good and fine to teach grammar later on (as long as that’s not the sum total of one’s “writing instruction,” which is too often the case), once a child is an abstract thinker. But before then it’s really pointless, IMO.

    So, for now…until at least “6th” or even “7th” or “8th” grade:
    – work on spelling (a really big help with composition and age-appropriate especially using AAS as you do);
    – do narration (orally and then starting in 3rd or 4th written);
    – allow him to be creative with stories as he as been;
    – consider something VERY light and not grammar-like, such as Queen.

    – add in formal composition (we are really liking Institute for Excellence in Writing, though I’m glad we waited till 5th grade on it);
    – continue spelling;
    – make narrations formal and add expectations (I’m able to transfer IEW techniques to the girls’ history narrations and it’s been seamless);
    – do some more formal grammar (again not till at least 6th).

    Never (and I mean never!) do diagramming. There is no need for that…and it has never, ever been of use to me as a professional writer. I promise.
    Tina H.´s last blog post ..Words Just for Me Today

  16. Tina H. Says:

    Upon reading other comments:

    The Fairly Odd Mother is spot-on: reading aloud (every day – well, realizing that life happens) even after the kiddos can read well on their own) is a tremendous language-builder (vocabulary, structure, etc.). I recently read advice to read aloud every day until a child leaves for college. Yep.

    I think Tressa has it backwards: teaching grammar early will not help with foreign language study. Rather, foreign language study will help a child/teen understand the structure (grammar) of his/her first language. I did not really understand anything about English grammar – despite being “gifted” in language arts and being forced to diagram starting in 7th grade – until I started studying Spanish (in 9th grade). It made sense to learn grammatical constructs in that context and then I transferred the knowledge to English. But it’s still abstract so waiting until a child is an abstract thinker is better either way.
    Tina H.´s last blog post ..Words Just for Me Today

  17. Tina H. Says:

    Sorry for the misplaced parenthesis above; I know it should not be there (I know my usage rules, lol), but I didn’t proof before posting. Didn’t want Tressa to think I don’t know my stuff. :^)
    Tina H.´s last blog post ..Words Just for Me Today

  18. Delinda Says:

    I learned diagramming in the 8th grade and LOVED it, but yeah, I’m an English geek. I somehow managed to get a degree in English without taking a Grammar class in college. GO ME!
    My boys do Rod and Staff and I was really surprised to see diagramming in the 3rd grade, but you know what, he did it easy peasy. I’m doing the 2nd grade book with my 7 year old and we just go slowly, mainly having him do exercises orally with some written work, just so he doesn’t forget how to write. (I don’t do “handwriting” or copywork. gag.)
    Reading is the numero uno way to learn to spell, and hearing someone speak properly is the only way kids will learn to speak with proper grammar. I know kids who have been in pubic schools reading good books and doing grammar daily, who in highschool STILL say, “I seen…”.
    Therefore, my long rambling answer/opinion is this: Read, Do some grammar, write occasionally, and talky chat it up as much as possible. (As much as our brains can talk their constant. talking. about. kid. things.)

  19. michelle Says:

    Former public & private school English teacher … I don’t even do formal grammar as a subject anymore. Mad Libs, editing her writing, lots of reading. I think it’s enough for now. I didn’t diagram a sentence until college! It was fun then, like a puzzle. But I’m not fighting with my 9yo over it. We have way too many other things to fight about.
    michelle´s last blog post ..Hang in there . . .

  20. Jamie Says:

    We used Easy Grammer with my 7th gr daughter. I can tell you, she has had no intense grammar training (really). She has learned the majority of her speech and writing etiquette from the extensive reading she’s done throughout her life. (FYI she speaks and writes at college level). We purchased this book as an “easy” refresher for before high school. You know, in case she needs to diagram sentences! Lol just kidding! We were bored and done with it after 2 weeks. She will happily complete an exercise page should I ask. But, I wish I would’ve searched a little longer for fun grammer learning.
    Jamie´s last blog post ..Wednesday WOW!