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How necessary is the formal study of grammar?


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#1 raisingainsley

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 12:15 AM

My eldest DD is 2nd grade. We did GWG last year and FLL the year before and it was fine, but I've found myself at a place where I question the purpose of formal grammar study at this age. I went to a small private school as a child and never learned grammar that I can recall, but I was a hugely avid reader and knew the form grammar should take by the time I got to high school, leading me to become the grader for the English honors classes at our high school. I could diagram the heck out of a sentence at that point, but what was the real purpose? To me the only point is to be able to write well and correctly, and certainly I did that without grammar study. Just looking for input. Thanks!



#2 Catwoman

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 12:21 AM

I think grammar study is important, particularly in the elementary grades. Your dd is at an age where she needs to learn basic grammar rules, and IMO, it's much easier to teach those rules with formal lessons than it is with a more casual "learn as you write" approach.

I'm not saying you have to go crazy with super-complex diagramming -- but at your dd's age, she wouldn't be doing anything more than the basics, anyway.

I would definitely include grammar study as part of a child's English/Language Arts program. Good grammar skills may have been intuitive for you, but that isn't the case with every child.

#3 loesje22000

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 01:56 AM

Here grammar starts in grade 5 (although we started slightly earlier), but then you talk about sentence syntax and parts of speech.

Grammar is necessary in studying foreign languages, and I shouldn't know how to talk about language without grammar.

 

I got the impression that punctuation is also a part of grammar in English, here we consider it as part of spelling, and that starts in 2nd grade here.

 

HTH

 

 

 



#4 Laura Corin

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 04:49 AM

I think it depends on the child.  Some children learn as you did and just need a bit of tidying up around the edges.  Other children could read copious good literature and never absorb the structures.

 

As far as foreign languages are concerned: it depends on the teacher/materials.  When I learned French, starting at eleven, my teacher assumed that the class had little background in grammar.  She taught accordingly.

 

L



#5 Mom0012

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 05:10 AM

In my experience with my own kids, an intense grammar program wasn't necessary at such a young age. My son did some grammar early on, but the lightbulb didn't really come on for him until about 5th grade. Because I saw this "readiness" come at a later age for my son and then I saw how well he picked up the rules at that point, I followed the same path with my dd. She pretty much did the grammar in WT 1 & 2 for 3rd and 4th and then got more intense instruction with Hake in 5th.

I will say the instruction she did have was extremely helpful when we started a Latin class last year.

Lisa



#6 Dialectica

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 07:40 AM

My kids are the same age as yours. I am not sure how necessary the formal study of grammar is at this point. It is possible that we would get similar results from a shorter, more intense grammar study in later grades. It is also possible that studying grammar now will ensure that the skills and knowledge gained in the process will stick with them for life, and free up time for more interesting things in later grades. 

 

For now, we all enjoy doing grammar together. It does not take long. I believe it helps their writing skills and the ease with which they can pick up new languages. 



#7 threedogfarm

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 07:48 AM

We are in our third year of homeschooling and our third year of grammar (FLL4).  I can understand where the OP is coming from--really is this necessary so early?  But we kept on with our lessons because they were short and painless.  Now that we're in FLL4 and starting up with sentence diagraming almost immediately (we did this last year but things are ramping up quickly this year) and I am so happy that we introduced grammar in little bites over the past two years.  My children know their basic parts of speech, punctuation, sentence types, etc.  Now we're getting into the little details but the basic structure is there so it isn't overwhelming.  

 

Also, grammar is a part of their school day, every day.  It always has been so there is no argument about why we're doing this now.

 

One more thing, having this very basic structure from two years of simple instruction has changed the way my children read.  My daughter especially likes to point out when things don't make sense in a book she's reading (choice of word, verb tense, etc.).  They are also eager to learn more about a word because they have a framework to construct around it.  I can't imagine starting to learn vocabulary on a more formal basis or even in a casual way without having a good understanding of the parts of speech.

 

So, is learning grammar essential at a younger age?  I think it is because it makes things so much easier in the future.  I kept telling myself that it was just a few minutes a day and now I can see that those few minutes really paid off.  FWIW, I did like how FLL combined memorization, letter writing, dictionary skills, etc. all together.  Now we're even getting into proofreading marks.  Wow!  There's no way I could have pulled all of this together myself.



#8 Ellie

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 08:16 AM

IMHO, native speakers of English do not need to study their own grammar for 12 years. It is not necessary for good writing skills to be able to diagram. Knowing grammar terms is helpful when discussing how something might be written differently, or why something is incorrect, but it is still not necessary to study grammar for 12 years.



#9 GailV

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 08:26 AM

I never had much formal grammar, yet I typically did extremely well in composition class because I had absorbed enough through reading.  However, I almost always am aware of my inadequacy in the grammar department.  I know when things sound right, but I usually have no idea why, and that bothers me.  Every time I write something, I'm pretty sure I'm somehow doing it wrong.  Should that last sentence have had a comma?  I've no clue.

 

My dd probably would've been the same as me (able to absorb enough to get by), but we studied grammar from an early age.  She turned out to be really, really good at it, and seems to enjoy it (plus she got a 36 on that part of the ACT, which is pretty cool).  She'd be able to tell me instantly if my "Every time..." sentence needed a comma.  I feel like that gives her more options at this point.

 

My younger dd is totally different.  This is not her "thing", and if we hadn't started learning grammar in the early years, I'd hate to think what sort of mess we'd be in right now.  Those short daily sessions with FLL are really paying off now in middle school -- she's able to navigate a grammar assignment with relative ease in spite of her lack of interest and her suspicion that the whole subject is some sort of twisted plot to oppress her.  As an interesting bonus, all the memorization in FLL as paid off in an unexpected way -- we've discovered that she has an ability to memorize huge chunks of poetry and prose.  She can quickly move off book in theater productions, which means she can spend more time developing her character.  

 

We've front loaded grammar, so to speak.  We study it early, and then move on to other things in the high school years.



#10 Korrale

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 09:40 AM

I never formally studied any grammar until I studied Japanese in 5th-12th grades. But we only touch on the bare basics in relevance to studying Japanese. I have since found a grammar class or a test out is often a requirement in college. Personally I wish I were familiar with all the terms, cases, tenses, clauses and all before I did it at college level just because it was a lot to take in, even with the smattering I had already learnt.

So, even if it is for that reason alone I teach my son grammar.

#11 Ellie

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 10:02 AM

My older dd has a degree in English Lit, graduating with a 3.9 GPA. We never studied English grammar at home. She took one grammar class, the last semester of her senior year in college.



#12 tammyw

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 11:21 AM

We use Arrow lessons, which include gentle grammar lessons. I have had the MCT first level for over a year and we just keep "forgetting" to do it. I keep thinking I need to get on with it, but sounds like we have time. Dd is starting 5th grade. She's a voracious reader, a natural speller, and enjoys writing. I'm hoping it comes easily when we finally focus on this area.

#13 maize

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 11:34 AM

Some grammar study is helpful, but not necessarily in the primary grades nor necessary every year.

#14 Chelli

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 11:46 AM

With my oldest I started grammar in first grade and studied grammar with her every year. She didn't really "get" it until 3rd grade though. She could repeat definitions of the parts of speech and rattle of the lists of verbs, prepositions, etc. thanks to FLL, but true understanding hadn't happened yet.

 

With my other dc, I'm planning on not really doing any grammar except for basic mechanics until 3rd or 4th, then I plan on diving in with MCT Island. So many more important things to focus on from K-2 than grammar, IMO.



#15 Korrale

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 12:41 PM

I teach grammar informally as we read and go for walks. I have found it to be the easiest way. The sentences he reads are simple.
As we read I will point out what a noun is, explain it, and then have him pick out the nouns in sentences. We makeup silly sentences as we walk and do likewise.
So far my son can mostly tell me the nouns (naming words), verbs (doing words), adjectives (describing words), adverbs (word enhances.) He can tell me if a thing is a past present and future tense. He can also tell me the subject of a sentence and the predicate.
We will do more formal grammar when he is older.

#16 Spy Car

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 06:26 PM

IMO it is essential.

Being "formal' does not mean it has to be boring or dreary (although goodness knows it is too often the case), but there are inspiring approaches too, like the MCT program (Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts) or the fun introductory book Grammar-land

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#17 twoxcell

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 06:36 PM

I start grammar with my kids around age 7-8. My oldest was 8 and in 3rd and my second oldest started this year for 2nd but she will turn 8 in the fall. I don't think it is necessary until the child is reading well and basically finished with phonics. Before we officially start grammar my kids are introduced to the parts of speech through Mad Libs and Grammar Rock. Oddly enough both of my kids that are studying grammar enjoy it.



#18 My3girls

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 10:05 PM

I think grammar study is important, but like someone else said, it doesn't need to take place every year. I'm doing FLL with my youngers, and as long as they get it, that'll be it. Dd11 is doing AG because she didn't have formal grammar in ps school. They just touched on it. She knows what nouns, verbs, and adjectives are and has a general understanding of punctuation. She, however, has trouble with run-on and passive sentences. Through grammar and diagramming, she can learn how to make her sentences stronger and more accurately express her thoughts.

#19 Carrie12345

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 07:51 AM

I feel it's essential, and that it should be done in the early years so that it's near-mastered by high school. My goal is to have my kids concentrating on the content of their high school papers without having to split their attention too much with mechanics.

My oldest isn't a "perfect" example b/c he was only independently homeschooled for a few short years, but he picks up rules easily. Now, as a public high school student, he blinds his teachers with flawless mechanics and they're often distracted fromm his content flaws. ;-p

My 10yo is the only one who has ever balked at grammar study, and that's simply b/c I was trying to move too quickly for her needs. Once we slowed down and I put up some visual aids, she got a better handle on it. My 11yo was thrilled to have her Practice Town book signed by MCT.

I can't see a single drawback unless one insists on believing there's no choice but to make grammar dry and boring and last an hour a day. Then, yeah, it's going to stink!

#20 5LittleMonkeys

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 09:09 AM

I think the drill and kill of yearly formal grammar instruction, especially in the elementary years, is unnecessary, and I think formal grammar in isolation at any time proves only to test well on a grammar exam.  I'm basing that on my own experience of coarse.

 

Dd15 started out with Easy Grammar and then moved onto R&S. After 2 years of that torture(according to her) she wasn't any better at writing than she had been before.  She could fly through a grammar test and diagram a sentence...but so what...I didn't see it make any marked improvement on her writing. We don't do testing so I found no benefit whatsoever to her being able to rattle off 150 prepositions or give me the definition of a gerund phrase. The mechanics of her writing have always been exceptional so she stopped formal grammar (much to her delight and my relief) around 7th grade. 

 

Dd14 followed the same path but with different results.  She didn't seem to be able to retain any of the information drilled into her with those programs.  She wrote poorly before those programs and she wrote poorly after those programs...no improvement in the least...see the pattern here - the formal programs weren't making a difference in their writing. ;)  We dropped the formal stuff and started concentrating on grammar as it pertained to HER writing and BAM...immediate improvements. I eventually purchased Analytical Grammar for her to work through because I knew it could be done in a short amount of time, and I knew she needed some type of grammar instruction to help her improve her writing (we also used Killgallon on and off).  I have to make sure she uses the grammar concepts in her own writing for them to stick though...she has to see it in the context of something that has relevance to her.

 

Dd10 did 1/2 year of formal grammar in 2nd grade before I realized that I was wasting my time.  It held no meaning to her because she wasn't really writing yet.  Once she started writing more - late 3rd grade.  I started teaching grammar as it pertained to her own writing (IEW does this really well) and it started to click. Now, in 5th grade, she writes fairly complex sentences with ease and knows the basics of how and why sentence parts work or don't work all without using any type of formal - text or workbook type grammar program.  I'll probably have her run through AG once she reaches 6th grade just to shore up any holes that I might have missed. It seems to me that middle school is a better time to more formally study the logic of how words fit together. 

 

Ds7 is still just doing copywork right now so we mostly just discuss basic parts of speech and punctuation within his copywork.  We might focus on adjectives if it's a descriptive passage, or proper nouns if that applies.  I never have separate grammar time though...our discussion of grammar lasts all of 2 minutes.  As he writes more we will discuss more grammar.  We'll end up playing with grammar when we do some Killgallon and when we do our year of IEW...but always as it applies to his own writing...never in isolation. 

 

Dd4 isn't cooperative at all and still insists that an H is an 8 so I'm a long, long way from grammar with her.  :p

 

 

 

(and please don't judge my ability to teach grammar based on my writing above...I'm not going back to edit. ;)  )

 

 

 

 



#21 2_girls_mommy

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 09:16 AM

Essential IMO.  2nd grade doesn't have to include diagramming.  That comes later.  But some basics won't hurt.  My Prima Latina kids got a kick out of setting up two chairs as our "trees" and using a stuffed animal to demonstrate prepositions.  The bear is under the trees.  The bear is above the trees, etc.  The same went for physically and visually demonstrating adjectives and adverbs.  I showed them walking clumsily vs. walking slowly vs walking quickly, etc.  Then they all got a turn using advs. of their choice.  It doesn't have to be torture. 



#22 SweetMissMagnolia

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 11:09 AM

I'm finding myself questioning  this lately....my son hates doing the same thing over and over and over....he's a natural/self taught speller,early reader...while I want him to know good grammar,I'm questioning if it's something to spend so much time on....



#23 albeto.

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 11:18 AM

To me the only point is to be able to write well and correctly, and certainly I did that without grammar study. Just looking for input. Thanks!

 

I fall on the same side of the fence as you. I think the time could be spent pursuing other, more valuable interests. 



#24 craftyerin

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 12:35 PM

I went to a conference and heard Andrew Pudewa of IEW speak on the topic of grammar.  It was FANTASTIC!!  His perspective (which I wholeheartedly agree with) is that analytical grammar (parts of speech, parsing sentences, etc) is really more a logic stage skill.  He actually joked that he wanted to write an article called "No grammar in the grammar stage!" but that he didn't want to be eaten alive. :lol: He said that grammar is best taught at the point of application, so teach mechanics (capitalization, punctuation, etc) as you teach writing, copywork, dictation, etc in lower elementary.  Absolutely.  But you don't need grammar curriculum to do so.  He said that as you approach logic stage, you can start to teach more formal grammar, but that he believes (and my experience confirms) that the most straightforward way to do that is through Latin or some other foreign language.  He asked how many of us (in the audience) had learned more English grammar through foreign language study than we ever had in English class.  Defintely true for me.  So, now that Mr. Pudewa has given me permission, I plan to not do formal grammar with my kids in lower elementary.  I am perfectly comfortable with that.  

 

He has a sort-of shortened version of the grammar lecture I heard in this youtube video about the English products that IEW sells and recommends, if you wanted to listen: http://youtu.be/30-EwsFKKAI



#25 Mandy in TN

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 01:21 PM

Hmmm, it probably just depends on the child.

Generally speaking, IMHO YMMV (are there some other disclaimers I can add ;) )I tend to agree with Andrew Pudewa. Introduce grammar through writing and reading and (as loesje suggests) during spelling. I see no need for a big, formal, time-consuming grammar program in the lower grades. OTOH, if you find that grammar introduction just isn't happening informally through other things, then why not do something light like others suggested? Whether through instruction during other programs or instruction through a gentle program, shouldn't the goal be to lay groundwork and build vocabulary rather than having a third grade grammar guru? Some kids may remember everything and need no further instruction, but that isn't really the goal. Is it? Isn't the goal simply to make middle school grammar instruction easier?

HTH-
Mandy

#26 8FillTheHeart

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 01:44 PM

We study grammar all the way thru in some way starting in 1st grade. In 1st it is as simple as subject/nouns and verbs. My kids have never had any problem grasping grammar concepts and by 4th grade they can typically identify verbals, prep phrases, etc.

Where we all tend to struggle is finding our mistakes in our own writing where something isn't quite parallel or the way it is phrased throws us off into the wrong # or case.

I do take our grammar studies very seriously. (ETA:  rewording this b/c my multitasking made it unreadable) NOT knowing how to instruct them in writing in active voice or proofreading for mistakes means you end up relying on"ear".  If you aren't well-educated in actual grammar rules, I don't know how you catch errors.  (I still have to look up all kinds of rules when I am unsure, so it is an honest question.) That is contrary to the way I want to grade. We sit together and beak apart sentences to ensure they are grammatically correct.

I still miss errors. :p


Edited by 8FillTheHeart, 08 September 2013 - 05:45 PM.


#27 Spy Car

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 05:28 PM

I'm becoming convinced that I disagree with Andrew Pudewa on just about everything.

How does one teach "the mechanics" of capitalization, for instance, if one doesn't know what a "noun" is, or the difference between proper and common nouns?

And, if we are going to learn through "applicatation," I surely think grammar-school aged children are writing sentences whose structure they ought to understand. His perscription makes no sense to me.

I'd also rather start the process before grammar (as a subject) is tarnished by the odious reputation it sometimes carries negatively impacts the perception of what can be (but often isn't) a fun and engaging feild of learning.

Wait until adolescence (for the burgeoning hormones) to kick in, and you may get a kid who hears terms like "possessive pronoun" like the kids hear the teacher in Charlie Brown: "Wha, wha, wha."

No thanks!

Children are using language in grammar school. There is no good reason they shouldn't (in fun and engaging ways) begin to cultivate an understanding of the formal aspects of language.

Bill



#28 Catwoman

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 05:50 PM

Hmmm, it probably just depends on the child.

Generally speaking, IMHO YMMV (are there some other disclaimers I can add ;) )I tend to agree with Andrew Pudewa. Introduce grammar through writing and reading and (as loesje suggests) during spelling. I see no need for a big, formal, time-consuming grammar program in the lower grades. OTOH, if you find that grammar introduction just isn't happening informally through other things, then why not do something light like others suggested? Whether through instruction during other programs or instruction through a gentle program, shouldn't the goal be to lay groundwork and build vocabulary rather than having a third grade grammar guru? Some kids may remember everything and need no further instruction, but that isn't really the goal. Is it? Isn't the goal simply to make middle school grammar instruction easier?


I don't think so. Personally, I wanted to be sure my ds had a strong grasp of grammar skills long before middle school. If our children are going to be writing sentences and paragraphs in elementary school, shouldn't we teach them how to do it properly right from the start?

I'm not saying we need to spend an hour a day on grammar with our little ones, but I'm also not sure how we can teach them to write and spell without teaching them the grammar rules as we go along. How can a child learn to write a proper sentence if he doesn't know a noun from a verb, when and which words to capitalize, or how to use the right punctuation mark?

I think waiting until middle school puts far more of a burden on children than if we'd taught them a little at a time all the way through elementary school. There is a lot to learn, and I see no benefit in waiting until a child is older to get started.

#29 momto2Cs

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 06:36 PM

I like Julie Bogart's words on the topic: "I recommend hitting it three times over the life span of a student: once in elementary school, once in junior high, and once in high school. Foreign language instruction will cover anything you miss and will do it more effectively anyway."

 

I do think reading good books, well-written ones and not just "Great Books" necessarily, is more important than formal study, overall. I do correct my children's grammar when they speak, and in their written work, and we talk about why it works the way it does. We are studying grammar this year (Prufrock Press' Hot Fudge Monday), since we haven't done much in the past, and I have grammar planned again for around 10th or 11th grade. But it isn't something I plan to have them study incessantly, year after year.



#30 Mandy in TN

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 07:56 PM

I don't know. I think FLL and MCT are studying grammar lightly.

OTOH- I do think that you can cover basic grammar, usage and mechanics through/ in conjunction with composition. If you watch TWSS, you will see how Andrew Pudewa does this. I do think you can cover proper nouns and their capitalization through spelling. You could also do this through reading and copywork. The rules of grammar can be taught without a formal grammar program.

All I meant is that if you are hitting grammar hard in k-3 don't be surprised if you still need to cover it in middle school (4-8). If you spend hours and hours on grammar in k-3, you probably will not end up with a grammar guru and that is fine. Relax. Realize that it is a process.

Mandy

#31 Monica_in_Switzerland

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 02:41 AM

Children are using language in grammar school. There is no good reason they shouldn't (in fun and engaging ways) begin to cultivate an understanding of the formal aspects of language.

 

 

Yes, this. 

 

We started with FLL.  After two weeks, *I* could not continue.  The tedium! The drudgery!  I remember learning to diagram sentences in 7th grade, but figured there was nothing so complicated about it that I could not start teaching it to my six year old.

 

After a week of diagramming, he BEGS to do grammar.     It has become his favorite subject by far.  Diagramming is such an approachable way to understand structure and syntax.  It is so much easier to explain words like adjective and adverb after diagramming them. 

 

I made a video of his progress after ONE WEEK, just to show how easily kids can learn diagramming.  Now, obviously, we're in the beginning stages here, but still, the progress is amazing and beats any of the "gentle" elementary grammar curricula hands-down IMO.

 

As a bilingual family, it is really important to have an accurate, descriptive vocabulary for comparing language.  I use English grammar to introduce concepts, and follow up with the more complicated case of French grammar. 

 

Grammar is essential IMO! 




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