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Grammar for 5th grade: Michael Clay Thompson

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Hello all!

 

I am researching MCT Grammar Island. It looks right up our alley. I plan to purchase it and Practice Island. It seems like a beautiful way to introduce the basic grammar concepts. I will also purchase Building Language as I love the emphasis on Latin and it dovetails nicely with the fact that we are studying ancient history next year. But I am undecided about Sentence Island and Music of the Hemispheres. I welcome your thoughts. Here are mine:

 

Sentence Island

Sentence Island seems to focus on subject/predicate stuff, which is covered nicely in Grammar Island. So I am not sure what the value of it is. I am looking for something simple and straightforward and don't want to beat a dead horse. My time with the kids is limited, or more accurately my energy for doing formal curriculum with them is limited. Grammar Island seems like more than enough. If Sentence Island is just there to reinforce the concept of subject/predicate I think I will pass. Am I missing something?

 

Music of the Hemispheres

I love poetry. I read it daily and if feeds my soul. I recited poetry for Speech Team in high school and did very well. I know almost nothing about proper form in poetry. I learned some in school but have since forgotten most of it. I have read poetry to the children periodically and really enjoyed that. I have decided to add in a Poetry Tea (inspired by Brave Writer) once a week. I think it might be "nice" to do a formal poetry curriculum like Music of the Hemispheres with the kids, but time is precious. I want to focus on using formal curriculum for things like math and writing. That frees us up to do fun things like SOTW and A Child's History of the World for history, BBC documentaries or Sassafras for science, swimming, hiking, Spanish, Art, and whatever else catches their fancy like....Chemistry. Would Music of the Hemispheres fit perfectly in our weekly Poetry Tea - taking only a few minutes to cover - or would it make an otherwise pleasant experience seem like work?

 

Wow! Writing this has really helped me get a handle on my "homeschooling style" in a way I never have before. One friend does Waldorf in the morning and unschooling in the afternoon. Or formal education at home in the fall, and general classes outside the home in the winter and spring. I have read that some are Classical in the fall, Charlotte Mason in the winter, and unschooling in the spring. Now I can say with confidence that I like more formal/structured approaches for math and writing, but enjoy more Charlotte Mason/lit-based learning for history and science, and I love unschooling for art and physical education. It isn't exactly like that but mostly. It feels good to be able to articulate it!!!

 

I still want your input on this specific curriculum. ;P Should I reinforce subject/predicate stuff because it is just that essential or confusing? Should I consider understanding/writing poetry (as opposed to just enjoying it) an important skill? Should I at least give my kids a chance to see if it is an artistic gift/passion for them?

 

And one more question: Is this curriculum religious in any way. I would like to use for the next 4 years at least and I can work around specific religious bias but would love it if that wasn't necessary!

 

Our Writing Background (in case it helps)...

My son is 10. We have used AAS as our spelling curriculum for the past couple years. I love it (though I have modified it to better suit our needs over the years). My son is an avid reader but doesn't enjoy writing - I think it is largely about the fine motor skill required, and maybe sitting down and focusing. I have never done any formal writing curriculum with my son (outside of AAS). I have rarely asked him to write a story (only to remind the request when he was reduced to tears), label his pictures, make a list, make a birthday card or thank you note, etc. And he has occasionally done these things on his own. He even wrote a story once, at another teacher's prompting. He is diligent when it comes to writing well, however, and has beautiful penmanship. His spelling has improved greatly, but it doesn't click easily for him like learning to read did. He still cannot spell words he has read a zillion times. I know this isn't shocking to anyone who has ever taught children before, but he is my first and I was surprised to realize that reading and writing can be two totally different skill sets. My dd is 7 and the two seem to go together for her much more than they do for my son. Any thoughts, advice, perspective on that topic is also welcome. 

 

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful comments!

Reese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sentence Island expands on things taught in grammar island. It does start with a review of subject predicate, but it moves on to other things. It also covers subject verb agreement, word order matters, and keeping your main idea clear (among others things). Grammar island gives you a good start in looking at someone else's writing. Sentence Island gives you things to think about in your own writing.

 

We LOVE music of the hemispheres. It covers a several different parts of poetry, but the part we really love is the writing assignments. My daughter has loved these poetry assignments more than any other writing assignment I've ever given her.

 

As far as time goes, we just work through one book at a time. (Except practice island, which we keep doing a few sentences from each week). I found each one takes about 6-8 weeks to get through. MCT has been a delight this year. It has been my daughter's favorite by far. I hope you enjoy the journey!

 

 

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Don't skip sentence island! We loved it!

I agree with pp, grammar and practice island are about analysing other sentences, sentence island is more about how to craft your own sentence.

 

We enjoyed music of the hemispheres in a similar way to what you describe. Low key is totally fine. We liked it but it often fell by the wayside with time pressures, don't think we finished it... I think choosing to enjoy poetry without a curriculum is more than fine.

 

My DD is also a much more intuitive learner than my son, who requires more specific instruction and practice. He's very bright and loves to read, but his spelling and handwriting were atrocious! We are spending time remediating that!

Both love the grammar island series.

I don't recall any religious stuff in the books at all.

 

You sound like a conscientious parent, trust your instincts!

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We loved all the parts except Building Language. We are using Caesar's English this year and its much more comprehensive. 

Music of the Hemispheres in not time intensive. We integrate it into our poetry teas with no problem -- Its just discussion with a few options for analysis and a final test that we'll probably just work through together as a review. 

 

We just read them all in a non-structured manner. It's pretty expensive, but the kids love it, and they had huge leaps of understanding with it. 

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Grammar island gives you a good start in looking at someone else's writing. Sentence Island gives you things to think about in your own writing.

As far as time goes, we just work through one book at a time. (Except practice island, which we keep doing a few sentences from each week). I found each one takes about 6-8 weeks to get through.

TriciaT: These comments were very helpful. And it is nice to know that learning to write poetry could be just the ticket for igniting a child's passion for writing. 

 

You sound like a conscientious parent, trust your instincts!

LMD: This actually made me cry! Thank you for the encouraging words at a time when I clearly needed to hear some!

 

We are using Caesar's English this year and its much more comprehensive. 

SanDiegoMom in VA: It looks like you are using Caesar's English with your 9 year old twins. Could I use that instead of Building Language with my 10 year old while we do Grammar Island or should I wait until we do Grammar Town before introducing Caesar's English?

 

Wow, Mamas thank you so much for your feedback. It is very helpful! I welcome other thoughts as well. I so value the wisdom and perspective of others who have gone before me!

 

 

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We use MCT language arts. I am not at all fond of Sentence Island, though I love the rest of the series. Unless you have a child that can't take the concepts learned in Grammar Island and apply them to their own writing, I don't think it is necessary. Plus, this is the only book of the series that is falling apart, which annoys the heck out of me.

 

I wouldn't skip The Music of the Hemispheres, though! We still do poetry tea times, but the info in the MCT poetry series is so much better than what I would think to talk with them about. Maybe you remember all of the stuff about foot and meter, but I didn't remember it well enough to teach it. It has added so much to our poetry time, and my kids have written some pretty amazing poems for their age! It doesn't take much time, either. Here is a link to some pics of the pages. https://goo.gl/photos/tf8Ygguao2SiLVWk8

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Oh gosh! I forgot! I wanted to ask do I need teacher's manuals or student books for every subject.

Their website says

The teacher manuals in the series always include the student book plus special boxes that provide tips and further questions for the teacher

Does this mean that a separate student book is included or simply that the INFORMATION in the student book is included in the teacher manual?

 

Here is my plan so far:

Grammar Island - Teacher Manual only - I will type and print the sentences they need to label, unless a separate student book is included.

Practice Island - 1 Teacher Manual and 1 Student book only (I will make copies for my second child)

Sentence Island - If it is similar in format to Grammar Island then I will just purchase the Teacher Manual - I can have them do their work on separate paper

Building Language - If it is similar in format to Grammar Island then I will just purchase the Teacher Manual - I can have them do their work on separate paper

Music of the Hemispheres - If it is similar in format to Grammar Island then I will just purchase the Teacher Manual - I can have them do their work on separate paper.

 

Thanks!

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Caesar's English IS much more comprehensive than Building Languages.  This can be good or bad; it just depends on what you want.  When we were doing Building Languages, I thought I wanted something more comprehensive - but now that we are in Caesar's English, I look fondly on the Building Languages days.  :D  Building Languages is more playful and whimsical with a few stems.  Caesar's English is working on some advanced words ... so advanced that sometimes my child doesn't know the word that they are using as the definition.  doh.  Building Language is gentle and does a great job of getting kids to *master* the few stems they give them.

 

I wouldn't skip Sentence Island, either.  When I think back about Sentence Island, the Subject/Predicate point isn't memorable, but rather MCT's emphasis that you need to choose the right words to communicate .... no more, no less .... and that their placement in the sentence is another powerful tool that writers use.  

 

BUT ... we skipped the writing exercises in Sentence Island and Music of Hemispheres, as my child wasn't ready for them.   But now that a year has passed and we've done some work with Killgallon's sentence composing, I hope to go back and do some of the writing exercises from Sentence Island.

 

MCT IS expensive - but it's mainly non-consumable.  So you could divide the cost of the curriculum between your three kids and feel a little better about the purchase.  Oh - and there's no religious bias or even a mention of religion ... just the beauty and power of language.

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Oh gosh! I forgot! I wanted to ask do I need teacher's manuals or student books for every subject.

Their website says

The teacher manuals in the series always include the student book plus special boxes that provide tips and further questions for the teacher

Does this mean that a separate student book is included or simply that the INFORMATION in the student book is included in the teacher manual?

 

Here is my plan so far:

Grammar Island - Teacher Manual only - I will type and print the sentences they need to label, unless a separate student book is included.

Practice Island - 1 Teacher Manual and 1 Student book only (I will make copies for my second child)

Sentence Island - If it is similar in format to Grammar Island then I will just purchase the Teacher Manual - I can have them do their work on separate paper

Building Language - If it is similar in format to Grammar Island then I will just purchase the Teacher Manual - I can have them do their work on separate paper

Music of the Hemispheres - If it is similar in format to Grammar Island then I will just purchase the Teacher Manual - I can have them do their work on separate paper.

 

Thanks!

The information from each student book is included in the teacher manual. The teacher manuals are basically the student book with added bubbles of teacher text and an added section at the back with suggestions for how to teach, answer keys, etc. You can just purchase teacher's manuals for everything, except Practice Island.

 

I forgot to add that it definitely isn't religious in any way. A few of the poets may mention god, for example Emily Dickinson, but there is no discussion. Here is an example: https://goo.gl/photos/zFHxZwAK1E1hj1CX6

Edited by *Jessica*

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Teacher's Manuals only, and just do any work verbally together. Don't use limited time to type it up separately. There are a few times where the answer will be right on the page and I just covered it up with my hand. Most people get the student book of Practice Island, but I chose to write the sentences on the whiteboard and analyze together. I bought the student book for Town level, and I'm still not using it because I prefer the white board. I may even just switch to using the sentences for copywork/dictation and then working them.

 

The curriculum is 100% secular. I'm atheist and have not had to edit a single word.

 

My thoughts:

 

- Skip Building Language and dive in with Caesar's English. You can absolutely mix it in with Island level. In fact, the language books are the least tied in with the rest of the level, in my opinion. My daughter loved BL, but she loves anything to do with words and we used the curric at a young age so I wanted to keep it very gentle.

 

- We use Music of the Hemispheres alongside our Poetry Teas. I start out the Poetry Tea by reading a chunk of MOTH, or read it in the morning before the tea. Though we don't analyze the poetry during the teas, it does help us draw our awareness to how the techniques being described are being used by actual poets.

 

Writing out my questions in posts always helps me organize my thoughts. Half the time, I delete before posting because just writing something out makes my answer obvious to me :) The other half the time, it lets me figure out exactly what my question is.

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Just buying the teachers manual is ok for snuggling on the couch or reading beside one another at a table - but don't forget to consider the logistics of having only one book and sharing it between two (or more) people. Ahem. Just Sayin.

 

And if you are concerned about your limited time or energy, I'd suggest you just buy the practice island student book ... Especially if you are already paying the shipping for your other books.

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*Jessica*: Thanks for the input on Sentence Island - I think I will start without it and if it seems like we need more reinforcement I can always pick it up later. 

 

domestic_engineer: Thanks for your thoughts on Building Language and the reminder that gentle is a good place to start (for me as well as the kids). I am feeling inspired to start this summer so keeping it light will be nice. Thanks also for mentioning Killgallon's sentence composing. Tell me more! How old were your kids when you used it? What did you love about it?

 

Jackie: I LOVE the white board idea and look forward to the day when my confidence is such that I can use a whiteboard for writing (and math too!). Right now I still need proof that I am doing a good job as a homeschooling parent in these subjects. ;P But I. will. get. there. I also like the idea of reading MOTH and just trusting that it will change how my kids see poetry (without having to use our time together to do formal analysis). That is a step I am ready for right now!

 

Gosh. This is exactly what I needed guys. You are amazing! Seriously, thank you for taking the time to help me out - it is such a gift.

 

 

 

 

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I felt the Practice Island was the most helpful piece for us. I actually disagree with an above poster--I would pick the teacher's practice island over the student's if I had to pick one or the other. It's easy to cover the answers or write the sentence on a white board. I liked having the teacher's manual information. I purchased teacher's editions of the other books and just used sticky notes to cover any answers.

 

We didn't resonate with much of the material. I do think Sentence Island was enjoyable, though, if I remember correctly.

 

I would think about find a composition curriculum for him given his age. IEW sometimes works well with reluctant writers.

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sbgrace - YES! I am totally signing him up for an IEW class in the fall. There are a couple about 30 minutes from me that are taught by registered instructors. So I will be checking those out next week. I have already spoken with one of them and she recommends Level B to start. I think having a group of friends to present to will be fun for ds - he loves public speaking. :) I got both the TM and SB for Practice Island (I like having the answers and I can just photo copy the student pages for my second child). I see you are using Grammar Fix It - is that from IEW? How do you like it? Can it stand alone? I see you are using it with Grammar Made Easy - I am not familiar with that.

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Sorry to confuse -- I meant "just buy the student book" RATHER than copying it for your second child since your time and energy is limited.

 

You definitely want to get the teachers manual for practice island. So much is taught in those 100 sentences.

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In regards to Killgallon ... I thought MCT's Sentence Island did a great job setting the picture of why good sentence construction is needed and what characteristics make a good sentence. I used Killgallon after SI to give practical, hands-on application and practice of those ideas that MCT described. It was also a productive way to wait for my child to mature and also to learn how to work independently.

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Grammar island gives you a good start in looking at someone else's writing. Sentence Island gives you things to think about in your own writing.

As far as time goes, we just work through one book at a time. (Except practice island, which we keep doing a few sentences from each week). I found each one takes about 6-8 weeks to get through.

TriciaT: These comments were very helpful. And it is nice to know that learning to write poetry could be just the ticket for igniting a child's passion for writing.

 

You sound like a conscientious parent, trust your instincts!

LMD: This actually made me cry! Thank you for the encouraging words at a time when I clearly needed to hear some!

 

We are using Caesar's English this year and its much more comprehensive.

SanDiegoMom in VA: It looks like you are using Caesar's English with your 9 year old twins. Could I use that instead of Building Language with my 10 year old while we do Grammar Island or should I wait until we do Grammar Town before introducing Caesar's English?

 

Wow, Mamas thank you so much for your feedback. It is very helpful! I welcome other thoughts as well. I so value the wisdom and perspective of others who have gone before me!

This parenting gig isn't easy! We have all been there. I find that doing your due diligence with research takes you only so far. In the end, it's just you and your children at the table - trust your judgement!

The teachers manuals are like enhanced versions of the student books - same text but with answers/prompts/exercises etc. Many people just get the teacher books.

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One downside to using Ceaser's English ahead is that it really pairs nicely with the town level- the vocabulary in Practice town is what they've been learning in CE, the extra sentences in CE have phrases (gerunds, participials, etc) that aren't learned in the Island level, and the essays follow the structure of the writing assignments (which, granted we don't use) of Paragraph Town.

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I have decided to start with Grammar Island, then Practice Island. Then we will take a short break. I will start again with either Sentence Island or Building Language. I know I want to use Building Language and think it will pair nicely with our Ancient History studies next fall/winter/spring. Ds will also start an IEW writing class in the fall. Depending on how we feel at that point I will decide whether or not to skip SI. Does ds need some extra support in writing/implementing what he learned? Then SI followed by Killgallon. I can start Building Language later in the year while he does Killgallon I think. If he doesn't seem to need any additional writing support (or if that would be too much in addition to a writing class - or maybe the class won't be a good fit and we will figure something else out) then we will dive into Building Language right away in the fall. I really like the idea of doing one at a time that TriciaT suggested. That feels manageable for us right now. And I will definitely wait until next year for CE. That's Grammar/Vocab Thursday. I may just purchase SI and MOTH (Student books) for him to read on his own (after Practice Island) - I have to remember he is a sponge and does most of his best learning through independent reading - i.e. without me breathing down his neck to make sure he is "getting it." Hahahaha! ...... *sigh*

 

So I have purchased GI teacher manual, PI (one teacher manual, one student book), and BL teacher manual. I will wait to purchase SI, MOTH, and Killgallon - and will purchase whatever feels right in the fall after we have had some time to find our way forward a bit. 

 

Still brainstorming Poetry Tea Tuesday. It is shifting in my mind - into an Emotional Intelligence Tea Tuesday. Some poetry (silly and sacred), some stories about my own life growing up (funny and hard), some sex ed, some what makes a good friend, some Lead with a Story-type "What would you do in this situation?" personal ethics, some social action, some just tell me what's up. As he gets older I need to build this time in intentionally. Finding time to talk about feelings - and the power of words to help us articulate and understand them - is not something I had growing up so I literally have to remember to schedule it or I forget to check in with my kids. 

 

I am so grateful. Thank you for letting me brainstorm out loud, and for sharing your expertise, wisdom, and support.

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