Curriculum Review: Shurley English

April 7, 2009 Categories: Curriculum , Homeschooling | 6 Comments  


I was so excited to find the Shurley English program for language arts. For several years, I pieced together our language arts program: separate grammar, writing, and vocabulary books. We tried Writing Strands, Wordly Wise, Abeka Language Arts – you name it, we tried it. And no one was happy.

Then Michelle introduced me to Shurley English (formerly called Shurley Grammar), and I was sold. This program teaches grammar in such a way that skills build on skills. Students learn grammar rules and terms by memorizing jingles. They are repetitive and slightly annoying, but they work. Jonathan, my third-grader, can classify three different sentence patterns. He can identify nouns, verbs – including helping verbs and verbs-transitive, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, pronouns, prepositions, and interjections.

Along with the parts of speech, there is in-depth instruction in verb tenses, correcting double negatives, irregular nouns, and every other grammar concept, all taught at grade-appropriate times. Along with the grammar instruction, the children learn vocabulary – eight new words a week. The vocabulary is quite accelerated, but I like the idea that my sixth grader is learning words like pilfer, deify, loquacious, and brazen.

The other part of language arts that is included is writing instruction. The Shurley English method of writing sentences, paragraphs, and essays takes all the mystery out of the writing process. It breaks it down into manageable steps. First, the student learns to assemble sentences by parts of speech. Then, they learn to write a three-point paragraph. This is expanded to a three-paragraph essay, and then to a five-paragraph essay. They are taught to write expository essays and persuasive essays. They learn descriptive writing and narratives, with the correct use of quotations. We don’t do all of the writing assignments or creative writing exercises – there are a lot of them – but the kids have done enough to learn how to write a basic essay. This year, in 6th grade, Natalie is also learning how to do outlining and take research notes in order to write a research paper.

The only part of language arts that isn’t included in Shurley English is a spelling program. We use the Spelling Workout series, and it suits us fine.

When I was in school, we were told to “just write – don’t worry about grammar or spelling, it only interferes with the creative process.” If it wasn’t for the fact that I read so much, I would have had no idea how to write a proper sentence or paragraph. I am happy that my kids are learning basic grammar and writing skills that will be useful to them in many different areas of life. We will continue to use Shurley English through middle school, and I have complete faith that they will then be ready for high school composition.


  1. Molly

    Oh my word — I have taught this curriculum at a small Christian school for 5 years now and I think it is the best grammar program on the market! The Jingles – however silly students may feel singing them – are such a great, innovative idea. Her various rule boxes (for possessives or pronoun/antecedent agreement or subject/verb agreement) are GREAT!

    My only complaint about the program is that I find the writing portion to be lacking “voice” The mechanics of writing a paragraph (and then the 5 paragraph essay) are quite sound – but after a while, all the essays start to sound the same. I have learned to supplement the writing portion with 6 Trait Writing and have been pleased with the results.

  2. Carol in Oregon

    My brother, in a typical fit of generosity, bought this program for me BEFORE there was a homeschool edition. (Read: Big Bucks). I love, love, love it!

  3. carrie

    Molly – I’m going to e-mail you for more info on 6 Trait writing!

    Carol – what a sweet, sweet brother. :)

  4. Susan

    Hi, I am just researching this program. My two oldest are going to be in 5th and 7th grade next year. I wonder if this would be a good fit for them, and if I could teach them together. We’ve done various lang. arts programs but none that I feel are really strong. I am concerned with the teaching of writing too. Would you have any insight?

  5. Andrea

    I am into the 4th chapter of 3rd grade Shurley English with my son and I have to say that I am not loving it at all. The lessons take way too long. I have had to break more than one lesson up over the course of two days. I feel like it is going to take us f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get through the book.

    The book requires a lot of reading on my part. I find this to be very annoying and time consuming. I am not just an English teacher. I have 5 other subjects I have to get through and 3 other children I am attending. I am homeschooling more than one child and I don’t have the luxury of dividing the labor of teaching.

    I tried the Well-Trained Mind book for grades 1 and 2 and I completely agree that it is boring. That’s why I switched to Shurley. But I am not enjoying it at all! Maybe English just isn’t my thing!

  6. carrie

    Andrea – I’m sorry you’re not enjoying it! I wrote this review a couple of years ago, and we since got tired of Shurley English. I tried putting my own program together this year – a combination of Learning Language Arts Through Literature and a Stack the Deck writing program. It worked okay, but was a lot of work. I’m going to try something different next year, so we’ll see – but this is hard subject to find a good curriculum for, I think!