The No Grammar Year

This year, thus far, is a no formal grammar year for us here at the rowhouse and I don’t anticipate adding any grammar in later either.

Up to this point, we’ve done a few different things for grammar:

  • Fun, light grammar in kindergarten and first grade, including things like Mad Libs, Schoolhouse Rock, and the Ruth Heller and Brian Cleary books.
  • Grammarland in second grade. I recommend waiting on this book until at least third or even fourth grade, but it was so sweet and my kids got a lot out of it.
  • Random, light grammar worksheets in second and third grade, mostly from Scholastic Dollar Deals books like the No More Boring Practice series.
  • MCT Grammar and Sentence Island in fourth grade, though this turned out to be a good program that was all wrong for us. And, in fact, made me rethink teaching grammar at all.

I do have some grammar resources hanging out on the shelf, including The Giggly Guide to Grammar and Killgallon’s grammar, which we’re using mostly just for good model sentences, but I decided to just stop with the grammar for now. Probably for a couple of years.

Overall, I don’t feel like we completely wasted our time learning grammar. I don’t think grammar is a waste of time at all. There is something really fascinating and wonderful about being able to really understand the structure of language and the rules. I’m glad that there are people who do study and learn grammar on a deep level. And anyone who loves it, should do so. For my kids now, they have a very basic vocabulary to talk about sentences and words, which I think is useful.

On the other hand, I’ve come to see how some of the struggles to get the kids to understand what is a verb or when should I use a comma could have been saved and taught much quicker, much more painlessly down the line a little bit. If we had only waited a couple of years instead of trying to understand some of these things at younger ages, then it would have taken half the time at most. If we had just stuck with Schoolhouse Rock and Mad Libs for a little longer that would have been fine. In fact, it probably would have been perfect.

Also, I have always known and believed that being able to parse a sentence or correctly fill out a grammar worksheet doesn’t translate to good writing or even to grammatically correct writing much of the time. Yet I still – for some reason that in retrospect makes me wonder if my head was screwed on all wrong – felt obliged to give it a try with my kids. They didn’t hate it or anything. Doing a few which verb tense or circle the error worksheets was never a battle. Nor was MCT Grammar Island when we gave it our best shot. But they never seemed to learn anything that could be remotely applied to their own writing.

In the end, I believe it’s their own writing that really matters. We never spent a ton of time on grammar, but what time we spent would probably have been better spent playing around with words and writing more. Or, if we wanted to focus on something more practical, it would have been time better spent on spelling or typing.

So now I am trying to throw our time and resources toward the things that we can actually apply and only tackle grammar in terms of mechanics through dictation and occasionally editing their own writing. And then, in a year or two, or maybe more, we’ll pick grammar up again as a formal subject and see where we stand with it for a little while.

Homeschoolers tend to have a bit of a mania for grammar. There seem to be more grammar programs than any other sort in homeschooling. If you want a homeschool geography or science or literature program, there are a handful of options, but if you want grammar, there’s a warehouse of them it seems. But it doesn’t mean that we all need to jump on the bandwagon, especially in elementary school.

In other words, we’ve decided to let grammar lie.

Or is it lay?

Either way, we’ll figure it… in a few years once spelling and writing voices are stronger.

5 thoughts on “The No Grammar Year

  1. I learnt grammar when I was about 15, and picked up a book called Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I had absorbed a lot from reading, of course, but that book started an interest in the nuts and bolts of the grammar system. Grammar isn’t really taught in English schools and you can tell – errors abound in the adult world. Learning foreign languages was what helped me understand the rules of my own language, interestingly. Your kids will have an advantage there; they’ve already met the concepts of tenses and cases and rules for how to use words.

  2. Totally agree. We didn’t do much grammar with my oldest, esp. since she is a huge reader, loves to write, and didn’t seem to need it. I didn’t want to squash her love for writing (we didn’t do a formal writing program either). About 8th grade she did a year of Easy Grammar (and Writing with Skill). She started high school this year and is doing great!

    There is a charter elementary school around here that is HEAVY into grammar/diagramming sentences, etc. I just don’t feel that that is necessary. I remember the first ‘formal’ grammar I had was in middle school, I HATED it, but it was super easy to ace since I was a reader. It wasn’t until high school german that I realized why I needed grammar study…so I want my kids to have SOME to make their foreign language go smoother, but at this point (my boys are 9 and 12)… skylander madlibs for the win! 🙂

  3. Totally agree as well. I’m finding that these younger years are best spent just playing around with language and having fun with it. : )

  4. I like MCT for the attitude… but I find it advanced WAY too fast. Like, the paragraph stuff (I think?) had grammar in it I didn’t really know… and I was employed as a writer and I’ve studied 3 foreign languages. Like, seriously, I know gerunds but the rest of the stuff in that section I couldn’t keep track of.

    Maybe we don’t HAVE to do grammar every year, you know? I think there are plenty of things you look at a few times here and there. Like you don’t have to do ancient history every year, but you come back around to it in a few years when they can get more out of it or go deeper or whatever. Grammar can be the same way.

  5. Meant to ask…have you ever heard about grammar land? That one was new to me. Or is that the stuff you had, about the island…..maybe Michael clay Thompson, or something like that?

    Sent from my iPad


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