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.