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Susan Wise Bauer

MCT language arts: Convince me

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I tried to teach this program, and I will be starting the middle school series with a fourth child this year simply because that is what the online provider we use has chosen.  MCT serves a purpose in showing the "big picture" as many have mentioned, and is a great introduction, but it isn't a full curriculum for my kids.  The retention simply isn't there when it comes to grammar, and they all need much more specific instruction when it comes to writing.  I've seen experienced teachers struggle with the program, and with errors in the materials, so I have concerns about suggesting it without caveats.

 

I think that MCT falls into the same category as AoPS in that they were designed with a small population of students in mind, and deserve recognition as such.  That doesn't mean that there isn't value in using them with kids outside that population, but that they may not be enough for every child to establish mastery of the material without additional resources and instruction.  I think we do a disservice to those kids in expecting them to be able to do so.

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Man, I haven't been here in a long time, but this is a topic dear to me, so I'd like to comment on it from the perspective of a family that has used all 6 levels of MCT with success.

 

Those who say it's not a good choice for parent-teachers who are not the best in language arts themselves are probably right. It has a high level of presupposition of teacher knowledge and comfort. I am a professed language nerd. Although I had not the benefit of the best grammar *instruction* growing up, I had the advantage of hearing flawless grammar *usage* in my home, and of being exposed to a wide, wide variety of really good literature, children's and adult, in my own homeschooled experience. MCT gave me names and understanding of WHY things that are correct are, but nothing in it was new to me in terms of actual usage. So for ME, it was easy to jump into and use, but I realize my experiences are not the norm. OTOH, I have recommended it to several friends IRL with backgrounds far different from my own and they too have been using it with success. It's really the ultimate YMMV curriculum, I think.

 

As to whether it is appropriate for non-gifted learners, ie ordinary bright kids, I think it is. I used Voyage level this year with my ds13 in 8th grade and another student, a sophomore who had struggled with LA in the past. For him it provided a level of instruction in the grammar, vocab, and poetry that appropriate for him, and I was able to use the writing portion to good effect with him in combination with the LToW level 1. I think that the idea to keep in mind is that it's vital to use the level that is suited to your student, without regard to what grade it's "supposed" to be for. In the case of my student, it was just that he was not ready for Voyage level material before 10th grade. Good. Start there with it, and keep moving ahead. The important thing is not to have completed all the levels, but to find the student's level and begin instruction there.

 

But. But. But.

 

Yes, I'm a confident writer, and yes, I'm good at critique. But using MCT gave *me* language to use to help direct students toward beauty in their writing; I felt that the direction he gives is sufficient for that for me. This is likely not the case for everyone, and I see and appreciate that. However, and no offense to you, SWB, I couldn't have used WWE, WWS, or FLL if you'd paid me to. I found the approach to writing incoherent, and the scripted lessons stultifying. I love your history books, and I love the WTM approach, but we just approach language skills differently, I think. The oft-quoted maxim of "the best curriculum is the one that gets done" certainly applies here! 😊

 

Now, my dds17 have used all the levels except Island, and they have told me that they have found MCT valuable and easy to use. They are NOT LA types--they're heading into the sciences--but used one of the three secondary levels for each of their three years of high school. We had done the first two levels together, and they did the second three independently. They are not my best writers, but they are proficient enough. (They would not be my best writers, regardless, I think. They're just not interested in English the way I am; but one of them said wistfully on the way to church today, "I can't wait to start calculus. I miss Ms. S, and I just love math!" 😂) Given the people they are, proficient enough writers satisfies me.

 

The last thing I want to say about MCT is that I think his focus is on beauty in expression in a way that no other program's is, and it is that that I find most valuable and outstanding. Nothing else I have seen is as focused on choosing the very.best.words in your writing, on tightening up your prose till it sings. Beautiful expression is so important, and it can easily be lost through worry about the number of adjectives or variations in verbs of speaking. (This last is one of the ways in which I eliminate novels at the library--I open to a passage of dialogue and if there are more than two verbs of speaking on the page, I won't check it out. Life is too short to read bad prose.😛) I find that MCT increases awareness of really good writing by drawing attention to what makes it beautiful, and how the author achieves that goal.

 

This small treatise has taken me an hour to compose, and that'll have to do, but the TLDR: do please include MCT in your recommendations; it has many strengths which are unique to it, and it can be valuable for a wider audience than is sometimes supposed.

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I tried to teach this program, and I will be starting the middle school series with a fourth child this year simply because that is what the online provider we use has chosen. MCT serves a purpose in showing the "big picture" as many have mentioned, and is a great introduction, but it isn't a full curriculum for my kids. The retention simply isn't there when it comes to grammar, and they all need much more specific instruction when it comes to writing. I've seen experienced teachers struggle with the program, and with errors in the materials, so I have concerns about suggesting it without caveats.

 

I think that MCT falls into the same category as AoPS in that they were designed with a small population of students in mind, and deserve recognition as such. That doesn't mean that there isn't value in using them with kids outside that population, but that they may not be enough for every child to establish mastery of the material without additional resources and instruction. I think we do a disservice to those kids in expecting them to be able to do so.

I think we do a disservice to the *other* kids in expecting them to be able to establish mastery with FLL or R&S.

 

This goes back to my plea that there be a very significant recognition of different learning styles (and those styles being successful with other curricula and approaches) in the next edition of WTM.

 

 

Not picking on you, melmichigan, just saw the opportunity to make a point.

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I feel that MCT deserves a place as an option in TWTM, as it is an excellent grammar / vocab / poetry program for some parents and their students. I have used MCT in combination with WWE (having first tried FLL for two years), and have been impressed with how much the program inspires delight in language. My daughter is particularly word-hungry, and the richness of MCT was exactly what she needed. Like others have said, MCT is to LA what Beast Academy is to math -- not necessarily for everyone (what program is?), but for some it's necessary.

 

 

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Man, I haven't been here in a long time, but this is a topic dear to me, so I'd like to comment on it from the perspective of a family that has used all 6 levels of MCT with success.

 

I hope it's O.K. to sidetrack this thread a bit. You are the only person I know who has completed all the levels of MCT. I know Magic Lense 1 has new material. Can you tell me if Magic Lense 2 and 3 just repeat the information of do they teach new concepts? I am asking because I think the Voyage level grammar didn't really teach us anything new. I am hoping upper level books aren't that repetitive.

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I hope it's O.K. to sidetrack this thread a bit. You are the only person I know who has completed all the levels of MCT. I know Magic Lense 1 has new material. Can you tell me if Magic Lense 2 and 3 just repeat the information of do they teach new concepts? I am asking because I think the Voyage level grammar didn't really teach us anything new. I am hoping upper level books aren't that repetitive.

The ML books are the most repetitive of the level 2 books, but each one is more detailed than the last. Dds say, "more implementation, deeper detail."

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The ML books are the most repetitive of the level 2 books, but each one is more detailed than the last. Dds say, "more implementation, deeper detail."

So if we do ML 1, then take a break for a year and come back to ML 2, we won't be missing much? My son  really complains when new material is absent. 

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Wish I were on my computer, instead of my phone, so I could say more. Love MCT, because it engages my boys in a way that other programs have not. They enjoyed the narrative style of the first three levels. It is a big picture program that goes from the wide view down to the tiny details. The poetry portion is fantastic. My kids recognize the vocabulary words in our read alouds.

 

I will say that I was a little confused about how to use it at first, but basically, you just pull out the books and start reading them with your kids. This method has led to some great language and history discussions.

 

I willl agree that the practice sentence booklets should correspond more to the actual lessons.

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It's really been wonderful for my accelerated kid. That being said, I can see why you have reservations including it. It is open and go, but not in the way most curriculum is. I also agree with the writing complaints.

 

I'm not any help! :)

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I want to like it. I feel like I should like it. (I used to teach middle school language arts.) But when I get my hands on it, as I have a few times... I'm just not impressed. It's not that I think it would be hard to do--I'm a fan of Miquon, BFSU, etc.--just that MCT doesn't quite look worthwhile.

 

This summer, I've read DS Grammar-Land (he loved it!) and we've sung along to Schoolhouse Rock. It's working: he made a conjunction joke in the grocery store today. :) Soon we'll use Treasured Conversations, and the grammar that comes up in Spanish, and if any of the grammar in LOE Essentials sticks, that's fine, too.We'll eventually do some Warriner's and DGP (Daily Grammar Practice by Dawn Burnette). And I will probably wind up looking over the MCT materials *again* to make sure I really don't want them. I don't think that I can get them cheaply enough to justify using them as a supplement to textbooks.

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I want to like it. I feel like I should like it. (I used to teach middle school language arts.) But when I get my hands on it, as I have a few times... I'm just not impressed. It's not that I think it would be hard to do--I'm a fan of Miquon, BFSU, etc.--just that MCT doesn't quite look worthwhile.

 

 

 

I think "looks" may be deceiving, especially if the approach of using Grammar-land met with success. I think just "looking" at MCT it is hard to judge just how engaging and inspiring it can be for the right student (and teacher).

 

I could not have hoped for more effective learning (that really penetrated deeply) that was so much fun to use.

 

For me MCT is brilliant. 5 Stars. Best of the best.

 

Bill

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I want to like it. I feel like I should like it. (I used to teach middle school language arts.) But when I get my hands on it, as I have a few times... I'm just not impressed. It's not that I think it would be hard to do--I'm a fan of Miquon, BFSU, etc.--just that MCT doesn't quite look worthwhile.

 

This summer, I've read DS Grammar-Land (he loved it!) and we've sung along to Schoolhouse Rock. It's working: he made a conjunction joke in the grocery store today. :) Soon we'll use Treasured Conversations, and the grammar that comes up in Spanish, and if any of the grammar in LOE Essentials sticks, that's fine, too.We'll eventually do some Warriner's and DGP (Daily Grammar Practice by Dawn Burnette). And I will probably wind up looking over the MCT materials *again* to make sure I really don't want them. I don't think that I can get them cheaply enough to justify using them as a supplement to textbooks.

 

That's exactly how I felt - we also are Miquon lovers and also really enjoyed Grammarland. And then I found an amazing deal on it used and we tried it for half a year... and found that it was much better than I had thought. It has many fine things about it. But it was completely wrong for my kids. :)

 

Basically, all I'm saying is... you can see there are a lot of mixed feelings about it. You don't have to drink the kool aid on it if it doesn't appeal to you.

 

(FTR, I do think it belongs in TWTM as a recommendation in some way... just because something isn't right for me doesn't mean it's not right for everyone...)

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Others have expressed exactly how I feel about MCTLA. We have used the first three levels and love it. I do not do the writing assignments though. We read through the writing portion of the curriculum, but we need more for writing, as not all of my kids are natural writers.

 

For me, the most important aspect of the curriculum is the whole-to-parts approach. I graduated high school, tested (via an essay I wrote) into an honors English/Writing program in my college, and functioned in life without understanding grammar at all. I'm serious. I couldn't tell you what a participial phrase was until I started using MCT with my kids. It turns out I'm a whole-to-parts learner. I figured that out while getting my Master's Degree. It wasn't until the capstone course that everything finally made sense. LOL

 

Anyway, we tried FLL, Voyages in English, LLATL, and Abeka LA before finding MCTLA, and we have never looked back. When I purchased the Island level for my oldest, my second child was a year behind the suggested grade level for the Island level, but he saw me doing MCTLA with my oldest, and he wanted to do it too. I didn't think he'd do well, but I told him he could try it out and see how it went. He excelled at MCTLA, and is becoming quite the grammar snob. I couldn't be prouder.

 

We love the vocabulary, grammar (practice book included--we love the 4-level analysis), and poetry books, but only read through the writing portion and discuss the ideas. Actually, the discussion of the material is where the strength of the program lies. At one point I had my oldest doing the books on her own, and she was not doing as well as her brother (who was doing the same level), so I started making her do it with us. The discussion is the best part.

 

For anyone who fears the ML level, let me tell you, I fear it too. I actually decided not to use MCTLA this year because we'd be moving into the ML level, and I wasn't sure if my middle child was ready as I heard there's a huge jump from the Voyage level to Magic Lens 1. Well, MCTLA has come out with a new level that fits in the gap. I can't remember the name of it, and they haven't yet released all of the books for the level, but it's what we'll be doing this year. I'm so glad this is available because we weren't sure what we were going to do if we didn't do MCTLA.

 

I agree that this method isn't for everyone, but for us, it is a huge hit.

 

Angie

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Caitilin has nailed it. The difference between MCT language arts and other (especially parts to whole) programs is in his focus on beauty in expression. That is one of the basic goals of a some branches of classical education which is to expose the student to truth and beauty. To master something because you love it. To love something because someone has revealed to you its innate beauty.

 

I will begin by saying my book is published by the same publisher as MCT, and that I have a casual acquaintance with MCT. That being said, I have nothing to do with the marketing of other books by Royal Fireworks Press and my opinion, as follows, is based only upon my experience with the MCT program with my kids and informed by hearing MCT speak at conferences.

 

My kids, especially my gifted son (who learns very differently), loved MCT's elementary program. We began it as suggested in third grade with Island level and worked through Voyage level, took a hiatus for Hake Grammar to get punctuation and usage covered, and are now afterschooling Word within the Word and Magic Lens. The program is whole to parts, it is designed for kids who do not need lots of repetition, and focuses on the beauty of language. It is written by a man who absolutely revels in the beauty of language, who loves words and sounds and poetics because they are beautiful and meaningful.

 

The program has to be approached as a sit on the couch and snuggle program. It is not open and go and it is not intended to be. It is an opportunity to share MCT’s love of language with him and with parent and child. The books seem thin to those of us used to FLL, Hake, or Analytical Grammar (we did all three), because unlike the daily lessons in those grammar books, the grammar in MCT is designed to be “front loaded.†You go through the book in the first 10 weeks or less of school and then switch to the practice books for reinforcement. When in the reinforcement stage of the grammar, you start the writing book (which addresses grammar), and then the poetry book. The vocab books are used throughout. This is they style of teaching that fits gifted and very quick learners and keeps at bay their dread of repetitive worksheet style curricula. So you have to think of all four books as one book in terms of continuity throughout the teaching year.

 

I will begin with the poetry series. Here he lays out the structural beauty of sound, phonemic awareness and its uses, to make the basic structure of poetry apparent. The sybillant /S/, the punctuating /T/, sounds that work with soft subjects and those that underline the harsh.  There is nothing else like this series, though the two other poetics programs, The Art of Poetry by Classical Academic Press and  Grammar of Poetry by Roman Roads Media  are both really good and bring analysis to poetry but not the same kind of love.  I would say that the poetry is by far the most difficult of all the books and we did not start the series before 4th grade though it is recommended for 3rd. Some might even start it later. However, there is nothing else like it. And if you prefer to do your poetry studies by reading real poems everyday, this is a perfect quick introduction.

 

Now on to vocabulary. 100% recall. 100% recall YEARS LATER. Constantly finding and commenting on Caesar’s English words in classic literature. Talk about front loading for your literature studies! The classic words used in the 3rd and 4th grade curriculum will carry your child through high school. Just like all the other MCT programs, Caesar’s English should be done on the couch, aloud together. Word Within the Word’s word lists (say that five times fast) are very long, but can be halved in practical use. WWW also reviews Caesar’s English words to help retention.

 

The Grammar series is thought provoking and excellent. More is accomplished in the 4 level analysis of one sentence per day than 20 of the dull sentences in, say, analytical grammar. We use the space for notes at the bottom of each page to diagram the sentence. It is true that the parent must have knowledge of grammar for this program to be easy to teach. But we usually started the year with MCT and then added in workbook pages or sections from another series to cover the things MCT does not such as punctuation, usage, homonyms, etc. and used them while we were going through the practice book. The Magic Lens also has an ebook supplement called “Loops†that really adds to the program.

 

The writing curriculum. This is the weakest part of the program and we used it only as a read aloud on the couch to reinforce the grammar book. We did none of the exercises. While my bright kid picks up grammar and poetics and vocab easily he needs direct instruction (incremental, torturous direct instruction) in writing (to the point we haven’t even found something that really works for him). Only a natural writer would thrive under the writing portion.

 

We did not use the literature program.

 

 

Finally, we purchased both the teacher and student books and found we only needed the teacher books despite what it says on the website.

If I were making the recommendation I would be very specific. I would list the MCT materials under the category of “Accelerated and Gifted Learners† and possibly as "Supplementary Curriculum" or "Afterschooling" should there be such categories. I would recommend Caesar’s English and Word Within the Word wholeheartedly as well as the poetics program starting with The Music of the Hemispheres. As well as the Grammar Program beginning with Grammar Island and Practice Island through Magic Lens. I would not include the writing program or the literature program in the list.

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The grammar didn't work for us (neither did FLL), but I love and use the poetry. It's gorgeous and really gives extremely deep insight into poetic methods naturally for young kids to grasp easily.

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Definitely should at least get a mention as a more non-traditional program3)

For us, it has been wonderful. I have a very accelerated dd5. I never planned to do grammar with her at this age. Or spelling. Or any number of things.

She had other ideas and loves structure. I TRIED FLL with her. I wanted her to love it. FLL are sweet, gentle, and short. But some kids just don't need (nor are able to stand!) the repitition. And this kid was ready for a big-picture kind of approach, wanting it all *right now!*

MCT allowed us to do it that, whilst still preserving the sit-on-the-couch-and-snuggle approach is that her chronological age needed.

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We opted to delay the poetry books. DS 5th grade completed three levels of MCT, but we only just started using the poetry. We start every morning with it, and I must say, it really sets a tone for our day. So glad we didn't dismiss his poetry books. There are just beautiful!

 

I also wouldn't dismiss the writing books for everybody. My kid produces some of his best work on MCT assignments. He struggles more with WWS, feeling like detailed instructions are constraining his ability to write and be creative. The freedom MCT grants to kids while teaching them proper form is almost liberating for my boy.

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Others have expressed exactly how I feel about MCTLA. We have used the first three levels and love it. I do not do the writing assignments though. We read through the writing portion of the curriculum, but we need more for writing, as not all of my kids are natural writers.

 

For me, the most important aspect of the curriculum is the whole-to-parts approach. I graduated high school, tested (via an essay I wrote) into an honors English/Writing program in my college, and functioned in life without understanding grammar at all. I'm serious. I couldn't tell you what a participial phrase was until I started using MCT with my kids. It turns out I'm a whole-to-parts learner. I figured that out while getting my Master's Degree. It wasn't until the capstone course that everything finally made sense. LOL

 

Anyway, we tried FLL, Voyages in English, LLATL, and Abeka LA before finding MCTLA, and we have never looked back. When I purchased the Island level for my oldest, my second child was a year behind the suggested grade level for the Island level, but he saw me doing MCTLA with my oldest, and he wanted to do it too. I didn't think he'd do well, but I told him he could try it out and see how it went. He excelled at MCTLA, and is becoming quite the grammar snob. I couldn't be prouder.

 

We love the vocabulary, grammar (practice book included--we love the 4-level analysis), and poetry books, but only read through the writing portion and discuss the ideas. Actually, the discussion of the material is where the strength of the program lies. At one point I had my oldest doing the books on her own, and she was not doing as well as her brother (who was doing the same level), so I started making her do it with us. The discussion is the best part.

 

For anyone who fears the ML level, let me tell you, I fear it too. I actually decided not to use MCTLA this year because we'd be moving into the ML level, and I wasn't sure if my middle child was ready as I heard there's a huge jump from the Voyage level to Magic Lens 1. Well, MCTLA has come out with a new level that fits in the gap. I can't remember the name of it, and they haven't yet released all of the books for the level, but it's what we'll be doing this year. I'm so glad this is available because we weren't sure what we were going to do if we didn't do MCTLA.

 

I agree that this method isn't for everyone, but for us, it is a huge hit.

 

Angie

Angie, there is a new level of MCT that is in between Voyage and ML to fill that large leap! The Vocab and Grammar portions are out now. It's called The Literature Level.

 

Sybil

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I love MCT's materials for visual spacial learners.  It really did help my VSL, in particular.  I will say that the Poetry books are not to be missed, though.  I have heard Mr Thompson speak at homeschool conventions and his poetry books really are beautiful.  They bring the language to life and speak to the kids in ways I haven't seen elsewhere.  I love them so much.  And listening to him speak literature and poetry in person is almost spiritual.  If you add nothing else from the series, I would recommend at least mentioning his poetry books.  You can use them separately, fwiw. 

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I would like to second what Caitlin posted. MCT really helped me to appreciate the beauty in the written word. I did all elementary levels of MCT with my two boys. We use the poetry books one level behind. My boys absolutely LOVED MCT and ASKED to do it. I kid you not. I think front loaded the information and then addressing it daily with the practice books really delivered for us. Their retention has been near 100%. In late elementary they were testing high school level for grammar on MAP annual assessment as well in Language arts of MAP due to the emphasis on poetry in that assessment. We are constantly coming across Caesar's English words in our literature. It most definitely is a cuddle on the couch and read together curriculum. It's not a hand-to-the-student curriculum. We spent a year doing a grammar workbook program (not any of SWB's) and my boys had ZERO retention. It was quite disheartening. It was then we switched to MCT. We also did what SWB put out of AAS and I loved that as well. It was a nice reinforcement/review of what we had done w/ MCT.

It is just my feeling but over the years it seemed that a large majority of those that posted a successful year w/ MCT were homeschooling boys. My boys loved the humor in the stories and still remember them. I also absolutely adore his Self-Evident Truth Series. Nothing has made me appreciate the POWER of the written word to move people or get a point across than that series. 

 

If I were teaching grammar, poetry, vocabulary again I would used MCT as well as AAS if SWB finishes it. 

 

As Kalmia echoed, we only read through MCT's writing curriculum for the overall picture. My boys needed more incremental teaching and I needed much more hand-holding. We successfully used WWE1-3, WWS1, and we dabble in LToW. I will be afterschooling WWS2 now with my boys who are attending public school. 

 

Do I feel MCT has a place in the 4th edition of WTM? I think if the goal is to give people an overview of what's available, I certainly feel it deserves to be mentioned, especially in a section of different approaches.

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My son was behind in language arts, for awhile, due to some processing issues he has since outgrown. MCT was the only thing I found that he actually enjoyed AND retained during that difficult time. It totally engaged him with the stories and unique approach. You can tell that MCT loves language, and it comes through in his books. They OOZE that love. MCT doesn't dumb anything down, but treats the student / subject with respect. He lets kids know they are capable of understanding the material in a way that seems so intelligent and inspirational. It hit a chord with my son, and he was quite successful with it.

 

Now on to vocabulary. 100% recall. 100% recall YEARS LATER. Constantly finding and commenting on Caesar’s English words in classic literature. Talk about front loading for your literature studies! The classic words used in the 3rd and 4th grade curriculum will carry your child through high school. Just like all the other MCT programs, Caesar’s English should be done on the couch, aloud together.

 

 

Yes, this. Caesar's English is one of the best vocab programs I've ever used. It worked and didn't require any busy work. I loved how the words were showcased in real and classic literature. I also appreciated the word roots. It's rich, deep, and was learned mainly sitting together and discussing the pages (vs. filling out a bunch of workbook pages as in other programs).

 

The last thing I want to say about MCT is that I think his focus is on beauty in expression in a way that no other program's is, and it is that that I find most valuable and outstanding. Nothing else I have seen is as focused on choosing the very.best.words in your writing, on tightening up your prose till it sings. Beautiful expression is so important, and it can easily be lost through worry about the number of adjectives or variations in verbs of speaking. (This last is one of the ways in which I eliminate novels at the library--I open to a passage of dialogue and if there are more than two verbs of speaking on the page, I won't check it out. Life is too short to read bad prose.😛) I find that MCT increases awareness of really good writing by drawing attention to what makes it beautiful, and how the author achieves that goal.

 

 

This too!

 

My son and I have such great memories of using MCT. It's NOT just for gifted children. It also appeals to a kid who thinks outside the box and needs something a little different. I was SO happy to have found and used it. It's not really traditional, but it's so lovely. It's one of my absolute favorite L.A. programs.

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Haven't received the materials yet, but slightly unnerved by selling the 'gifted' curriculum. Also concerned with many responses describing 'mistakes' in books. Slightly nervous but love language. Hopefully will be coherent and useful for us.

 

Yes FLL can be insanely repetitive, but I also appreciate that it is incredibly efficient.

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Haven't received the materials yet, but slightly unnerved by selling the 'gifted' curriculum. Also concerned with many responses describing 'mistakes' in books. Slightly nervous but love language. Hopefully will be coherent and useful for us.

 

Yes FLL can be insanely repetitive, but I also appreciate that it is incredibly efficient.

The mistakes were really distracting to me. They weren't plentiful, but that was a disappointment.

 

Still, I'd use the materials again, in a heartbeat.

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Yes: I looked at the materials several times..... than ran back to Galore Park.

Same. I bought the whole set, after a conference where I heard MCT speak, then gave it away.
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For a family like ours, there is no better fit than MCT. Good materials for children gifted in the liberal arts are hard to come by. MCT understands these kids, and we love him for it. He provides tremendous depth in an age-appropriate format. I was so lucky to find his curriculum from reading these boards. I'd love to see his work referenced in TWTM.

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The most memorable profs or classes are not always the easiest grades. Is the rigor of the coursework what puts people off?

 

I literally had the order form filled out for the level 1 pack when I saw this thread, then put it on hold. I bought ce 1&2 earlier this summer after reading about it here. Still mulling it over. Definitely we are a family of readers.

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The most memorable profs or classes are not always the easiest grades. Is the rigor of the coursework what puts people off? .

I don't find MCT's books overly rigorous. His teaching methods actually line up with how I naturally teach. I just completely disagree with the writing instruction found in the upper level books. (I have never seen his lower level materials bc I teach my younger kids grammar and writing w/o curriculum.)

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For a family like ours, there is no better fit than MCT. Good materials for children gifted in the liberal arts are hard to come by. MCT understands these kids, and we love him for it. He provides tremendous depth in an age-appropriate format. I was so lucky to find his curriculum from reading these boards. I'd love to see his work referenced in TWTM.

My son tests gifted* in language arts and MCT did not fly here. Not even a little bit.

* I don't believe in the "gifted" thing myself.

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My son tests gifted* in language arts and MCT did not fly here. Not even a little bit.

* I don't believe in the "gifted" thing myself.

I think it is a learning style difference. MCT works well for many kids, GT or not, if it meets their learning style (which is very different from the style of R&S and FLL).

 

This is why I believe it deserves mention in WTM. Just because two people need glasses to see clearly doesn't mean they need the same prescription. And because more people are nearsighted than farsighted doesn't mean those who are farsighted will see better with a nearsighted prescription. And it certainly doesn't mean that we should tell all those with vision problems that the solution is "go get this nearsighted prescription and you will be a well-sighted individual."

 

As for the writing instruction, and I have only used elementary levels, I believe that it is very conceptual and not as explicit because it was designed for a GT classroom where students, who develop incredibly asynchronously, will likely already be working in smaller instructional groups to address their particular writing abilities. This is something I love about MCT though - he doesn't say "you should be capable of xyz by age n" but rather gives the the student an appreciation for what he is striving for and allows him to strive for it with the support of the instructor.

 

This curriculum isn't for everyone. But it is beautifully suited for many.

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I didn't find the books especially rigorous, just more whole to parts than other stuff.

 

If you assigned every writing assignment/activity in both the grammar and writing books as mentioned in the teacher notes in the margins, as well as those explicit assignments in the writing books, as well as the work in vocabulary and poetics AND the daily sentence analysis I would say it is rigorous.  Especially when you look at the sentence complexity in the upper level analysis books.

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We love MCT in our home, for many of the reasons others have already articulated.  MCT engenders an appreciation for the beauty of language, and his approach to vocabulary, grammar, and poetry, is, IMHO, second to none.  It is definitely a sit and work through together approach, however.  I too, share some of the reservations about MCT's writing instruction: we also use Moving Beyond the Page, (both LA and SS).  We do read MCT's writing instruction, but use the writing exercises in MBTP:LA.  Having said that, I do feel that for academic writing, MCT's approach will be invaluable as my kids progress through the upper grades,

 

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given that Susan observed that grammar programs are rarely good at both writing and grammar, and based on the obvious enthusiasm for language that the book conveys I think we're going to enjoy this level one package- ordered today. 

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Caitilin has nailed it. The difference between MCT language arts and other (especially parts to whole) programs is in his focus on beauty in expression. That is one of the basic goals of a some branches of classical education which is to expose the student to truth and beauty. To master something because you love it. To love something because someone has revealed to you its innate beauty.

 

I will begin by saying my book is published by the same publisher as MCT, and that I have a casual acquaintance with MCT. That being said, I have nothing to do with the marketing of other books by Royal Fireworks Press and my opinion, as follows, is based only upon my experience with the MCT program with my kids and informed by hearing MCT speak at conferences.

 

My kids, especially my gifted son (who learns very differently), loved MCT's elementary program. We began it as suggested in third grade with Island level and worked through Voyage level, took a hiatus for Hake Grammar to get punctuation and usage covered, and are now afterschooling Word within the Word and Magic Lens. The program is whole to parts, it is designed for kids who do not need lots of repetition, and focuses on the beauty of language. It is written by a man who absolutely revels in the beauty of language, who loves words and sounds and poetics because they are beautiful and meaningful.

 

The program has to be approached as a sit on the couch and snuggle program. It is not open and go and it is not intended to be. It is an opportunity to share MCT’s love of language with him and with parent and child. The books seem thin to those of us used to FLL, Hake, or Analytical Grammar (we did all three), because unlike the daily lessons in those grammar books, the grammar in MCT is designed to be “front loaded.†You go through the book in the first 10 weeks or less of school and then switch to the practice books for reinforcement. When in the reinforcement stage of the grammar, you start the writing book (which addresses grammar), and then the poetry book. The vocab books are used throughout. This is they style of teaching that fits gifted and very quick learners and keeps at bay their dread of repetitive worksheet style curricula. So you have to think of all four books as one book in terms of continuity throughout the teaching year.

 

I will begin with the poetry series. Here he lays out the structural beauty of sound, phonemic awareness and its uses, to make the basic structure of poetry apparent. The sybillant /S/, the punctuating /T/, sounds that work with soft subjects and those that underline the harsh.  There is nothing else like this series, though the two other poetics programs, The Art of Poetry by Classical Academic Press and  Grammar of Poetry by Roman Roads Media  are both really good and bring analysis to poetry but not the same kind of love.  I would say that the poetry is by far the most difficult of all the books and we did not start the series before 4th grade though it is recommended for 3rd. Some might even start it later. However, there is nothing else like it. And if you prefer to do your poetry studies by reading real poems everyday, this is a perfect quick introduction.

 

Now on to vocabulary. 100% recall. 100% recall YEARS LATER. Constantly finding and commenting on Caesar’s English words in classic literature. Talk about front loading for your literature studies! The classic words used in the 3rd and 4th grade curriculum will carry your child through high school. Just like all the other MCT programs, Caesar’s English should be done on the couch, aloud together. Word Within the Word’s word lists (say that five times fast) are very long, but can be halved in practical use. WWW also reviews Caesar’s English words to help retention.

 

The Grammar series is thought provoking and excellent. More is accomplished in the 4 level analysis of one sentence per day than 20 of the dull sentences in, say, analytical grammar. We use the space for notes at the bottom of each page to diagram the sentence. It is true that the parent must have knowledge of grammar for this program to be easy to teach. But we usually started the year with MCT and then added in workbook pages or sections from another series to cover the things MCT does not such as punctuation, usage, homonyms, etc. and used them while we were going through the practice book. The Magic Lens also has an ebook supplement called “Loops†that really adds to the program.

 

The writing curriculum. This is the weakest part of the program and we used it only as a read aloud on the couch to reinforce the grammar book. We did none of the exercises. While my bright kid picks up grammar and poetics and vocab easily he needs direct instruction (incremental, torturous direct instruction) in writing (to the point we haven’t even found something that really works for him). Only a natural writer would thrive under the writing portion.

 

We did not use the literature program.

 

 

Finally, we purchased both the teacher and student books and found we only needed the teacher books despite what it says on the website.

If I were making the recommendation I would be very specific. I would list the MCT materials under the category of “Accelerated and Gifted Learners† and possibly as "Supplementary Curriculum" or "Afterschooling" should there be such categories. I would recommend Caesar’s English and Word Within the Word wholeheartedly as well as the poetics program starting with The Music of the Hemispheres. As well as the Grammar Program beginning with Grammar Island and Practice Island through Magic Lens. I would not include the writing program or the literature program in the list.

 

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Oops.  Sorry about the posting of only a quote above.

 

Before writing this review, I should note that my children, 11, 8, and 7, are all gifted and are lovers of language.  Mr. Thompson's obvious love for language is what drew me to this curriculum in the first place.  

 

I purchased iBook versions of MCT Grammar Island and Practice Island (grammar), The Music of the Hemispheres (poetry), and Building Language (vocabulary) for my 8 and 7 year old boys.  Originally, I wanted to buy the printed books for their beauty.  However, the allure of all of the books being on an iPad, plus the lower cost, was just too much temptation to resist.  The iBook versions do not come with a teacher's manual for each student book, but rather have one implementation manual that covers all of the books in a particular level.  I have to say my boys are thriving with this curriculum.  Per the suggestions of Royal Fireworks Press, we have only used the grammar book at this point and will add the other two books when grammar is complete.  With that said, for grammar, having the big picture ahead of time was monumental for my boys and I'm impressed with their retention thus far.  They look forward to grammar each and every day.  We use the time to snuggle up on the bed and have fun conversations about it. I did not buy the writing program because my boys are writing phobic and Writing with Ease has been wonderfully successful for them both.  I did not buy the literature program because we are working on something that we already love.  I wasn't sure we'd love it as much.

 

For my 11 year old daughter, I purchased iBook versions of MCT Grammar of Literature (grammar) and Vocabulary of Literature (vocabulary).  This level is called the literature level and is the one that comes between levels 3 and 4.  These were also the only two books available in iBooks at the time of my purchase.  Hopefully, the others come out before we need them.  My daughter adores this curriculum and mentions that fact every day.  For her it's an independent curriculum.  I think she appreciates this curriculum more than the rest of us (even though we love it) because she is the biggest lover of language in the family.  It's her nature to play with and experiment with the beauty of language and this curriculum encourages that every step of the way.  She especially loves the vocabulary and frequently gets lost in an assignment because of how fun it is to her.  I did not buy the writing for her because we are using Writing with Skill 2 with much success, nor did I think the literature would be a good fit for her.  

 

It has not been difficult at all to implement.  Of course, I really don't think there is a way to mess it up.  It's very organic.  

 

I'm sorry I have to cut this review short (my son is getting out of guitar practice) but I hope it was helpful in some way.  

 

ETA:  The Literature Level of MCT has been renamed level 4 and what used to be 4 is now 5 and so on.  Since this writing, I bought The Poetry of Literature for my daughter and she LOVED it....to the point that as soon as she finished it, she started reviewing it all again.  She has also been inspired to analyze any literature she reads looking for poetry and to use poetic elements in her own writing.  But again, language is her thing.  

Edited by bplacy
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Dear boardies,

 

as I work on the next edition of TWTM, I keep coming back to the MCT materials and wishing that I liked them more...since so many of you seem to be enthusiastic about them.

 

I won't lay out all of my difficulties with this program, because I'd like to hear what you think first, but I will say that ease of use is a major issue. But systematic development of concepts, step-by-step skill teaching, clear expression to parents of what needs to be done--to my eye, the materials continually fail on those points.

 

In addition, the publisher is super un-responsive to queries, which makes me nervous.

 

So: Convince me that they belong in TWTM. Tell me why. Or tell me that I'm right. :)

 

SWB

You're right. :)

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I have an on-again-off-again relationship with my MCT materials.

 

The relationship is "off" right now for 4 students, and "on" right now for one.  That one grasps concepts very easily, but struggles with all of the writing required by most grammar programs at his level.  He writes *very* slowly.  It was not unusual for him to sit with CLE for 2 hours.  Once we switched back to MCT Voyage, it's no longer a chore.  We're done with Grammar and Spelling within about 30 minutes.  I have some computer games for punctuation and editing which we use for reinforcement of those skills -- but neither he, nor I, dread the English part of our days.  

 

My older daughter does very well with this approach as well (she's also my AoPS girl) -- and I will be moving into ML for the next 3 years next year (for grammar, poetics, and vocabulary -- not composition).

 

I don't like the approach to composition, but to be fair, Pony Girl also hated WWS.  She did it, reluctantly, but she hated it.

 

My youngest two are doing very well with FLL.  I should really do Island with Blondie, but I lack extra time at the moment -- and she enjoys FLL.  Plus, when I'm extra busy with work, I have several older students who can walk my younger children through the lessons easily.

 

I will agree that the whole program isn't as easy to do as FLL -- the organization isn't really there in the same way.  But, it's not impossible, either.  Once we are in the swing of using it, things move along very well.  I just have to remind myself how ;)

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I see this is a really old thread, but I wanted to express my appreciation for the posters here who discussed parts-to-whole vs. whole-to-parts learning. I particularly identified with Spy Car's posts. I was a long time in realizing I appreciate seeing the big picture so I can decide how the parts fit into the whole. My sister is always calling me with new recipes, and she begins by telling me the ingredients list. I have to stop her and ask what we are making. She tells me, goes on with the ingredients, and I can now understand how they affect the recipe. I have reworked entire curricula, extracting the main ideas throughout, so I could see where we were supposed to be going through the program.

 

I do understand that sometimes you have to develop a skill set before you can make any sense out of a big picture. I have always had trouble teaching writing. In school, writing came pretty naturally to me. As a parent, I have not been able to properly articulate what I was thinking during my writing process when instructing my kids. I have struggled to find a writing curriculum that my kids could learn and that I could teach. I have been using Rod and Staff for grammar and a ridiculous number of partial writing curricula for composition. My favorite writing curriculum so far has been Classical writing, but I always felt it was too slow to correlate and integrate the excellent skills taught into the more expected modern essay format. 

 

I found this thread after Googling various MCT books. After looking at the sample pages on the website and reading the opinions expressed here, I have decided to order. My dd is a rising 8th grader. I plan to order the level six package with the exception of the writing component. I will be ordering Essay Voyage since that is where I believe we need to begin with composition.

 

Thank you all,

 

Mary in GA

 

Ds 25

Dd 19

Dd 13

 

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Caesar's English is amazing and deserves a place on every list. Teacher intensive in the sense that, yes, you are sitting and reading and discussing with the student, but no prep is needed. What you get in return for time spent is really incredible, imo. It goes so far beyond plain ol' vocabulary; it gets into the origin of words, language cognates, and, very wonderfully, how specific vocabulary is used in classic works.

 

My dd loved recognizing allusions and quotes that she learned from CE. Although she did very little written work, an no studying outside of our shared time, she remembered the vocabulary and many of the other points extraordinarily well (for the long term), simply because she was so engaged with the text - she had some very spirited 'arguments' with MCT at times, lol. 

 

Word within a Word is much less engaging; I don't know why they didn't continue the same format. 

 

The poetry series is also excellent. It worked very well for both of my kids, neither of whom has the slightest interest in poetry (sigh).  

 

I cannot speak to the other components, we never really used them in full, but they seem to strike a spark with many gifted and/or twice-exceptional students. 

 

I definitely think that some people are specifically looking for materials that don't have an extremely systematic, step-by-step approach (bc that isn't working for their kids). 

 

If I were writing a list, I would whole-heartedly endorse CE and the poetry series. I'd list the grammar portions as a potential option with those specific caveats. 

 

 

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The last thing I want to say about MCT is that I think his focus is on beauty in expression in a way that no other program's is, and it is that that I find most valuable and outstanding. Nothing else I have seen is as focused on choosing the very.best.words in your writing, on tightening up your prose till it sings. Beautiful expression is so important, and it can easily be lost through worry about the number of adjectives or variations in verbs of speaking.  

 

This bears repeating, again and again! MCT emphasizes beauty in expression, and also the importance of accurately choosing words. 

 

Nothing is more central to a classical education than a focus on beauty and truth. 

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I did get curious about the program from reading this thread. However we need real stats to evaluate how good the program is. There are some nice testimonials from the parents but we have to know how well users do on standard tests. Any statistics to back up parents' claims? Is there a way to gather this information, here?

Again, the thread got me very curious and interested, but to be convinced I'll have to buy and try it or find statistics.. how well your kids scored with it?

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