I had pleasure of becoming acquainted with Brandy through our home school group last year. She’s funny and full of energy – which is a good thing since she has four boys at home to chase!  You can get to know her better on her own blog.  Today she’s sharing a bundle of great curriculum here on Habits.


Since these three items are all from the ladies that wrote The Well Trained Mind I thought I would review them all together. They compliment each other well and are all based on the same philosophy of language arts.

The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading ($19.77 at Amazon)

The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading
has been wonderful! Each lesson is one day of work and is scripted. After you have done a few lessons it is very easy to go off script and personalize it if you would rather. Most days there is no prep work at all. Simply open the book and begin.

With my three oldest children, I skipped the first 26 lessons, which introduced each letter and it’s sound. Instead they learned their letter sounds with Leap, Lilly, and Tad via the Letter Factory, in addition to some informal instruction.

The layout is simply black print on white paper. Your “script” is a different font from the teaching tips. The words for the child to read are in a larger font. These lessons are quick and to the point. The clever sentences that they read are enough to keep them engaged, and make them laugh! There are often optional Follow-Up activities. These optional activities are the only place where you will find writing required. This program works well for a child that needs time to develop their fine motor skills. They can make progress reading and work on writing at a different pace.

My oldest son just has a few lessons left and he is a confident and strong reader. I have friends that have enjoyed Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. The Ordinary Parents Guide has a similar feel to it, but I think it takes the child farther in his reading ability. A friend of mine loved 100 Easy Lessons, but said that when her child finished it he still needed more instruction and she did not know what to use at that point. The Ordinary Parent’s Guide includes 231 lessons, is very thorough, and will take your child all the way to being a confident reader :0)

First Language Lessons ($10.17 at Amazon)

First Language Lessons
follows the same format as the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. You open the book and see daily, scripted lessons. Most lessons are a low key chat about some part of grammar. The idea is not to “teach and test” grammar at a young age, but rather to expose them to it naturally over and over until they just know it. This book painlessly accomplishes that goal. Short poem memorization is also included with reminders to review those poems throughout the book.

The philosophy of Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise is this: By the time your child reaches middle school and needs to write about something, grammar, spelling, and punctuation should be second nature. Otherwise, every time they need to figure out spelling or grammar, their thoughts about the content will cease. They will figure out the mechanics of the sentence and then have to regain their train of thought. Susan Wise Bauer says:

In years one through four , it’s not necessary for the student to do original writing. In fact, original writing (which requires not only a mastery of both steps of the writing process [putting their thoughts into words, and putting words down on paper], but the ability to find something original to SAY) is beyond the developmental capability of many students.

This guide is a handy and thorough tool to help you make sure your students is very comfortable with the mechanics of grammar.

The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease Instructor Text ($19.77 at Amazon)

The Complete Writer: Level 1 Workbook ($23.07 at Amazon)

The first of these is a hard back book called The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease Instructor Text. The first few chapters explain what you are trying to accomplish and how to accomplish it. This information was extremely helpful. Instructions for 4 years worth of writing lessons are in this book. However, I chose the workbook route.

The Complete Writer: Level 1 Workbook is the workbook in which she has put the lessons together so that you don’t have to find your own copy work or narration texts. This workbook stands alone and has all of your teaching instructions in the first half of the book.

Ideally you could integrate writing with your other subjects and use passages from your history or science curriculum. But getting this workbook was much easier! She has pulled texts from terrific literature. I simply rip out the student page, turn to my teacher page, and I am ready to go. The book is organized into 36 weeks with 4 lessons per week.

The genius of this writing program is that it requires very little writing! Each copy work lesson has two sentences to choose from. You pick the length that is appropriate for your child. Each narration lesson suggests that you write down your child’s narration. Gradually you begin having them write a portion. In the level 2 book, you write down their narration and then give it to them as dictation. Children need to get used to seeing what well written sentences look like. Through copy work they learn that there is always a capital at the beginning of the sentence, always a space between words, and always punctuation at the end of a sentence. Through narration they learn to hold words in their mind and summarize instead of quote. So much of writing goes on before their pencil makes a mark on their paper.

Writing is a difficult thing to teach and I love that this program walks me through the steps to provide thorough writing instruction. Susan Wise Bauer is a great writer and has taught writing at the college level for 16 years. This has enabled her to see what students typically lack in writing ability when they are finished with high school.

One note of caution: When using First Language Lessons with the Complete Writer feel free to omit excess copy work or narration. Each is meant to stand alone so they will sometimes overlap. I chose to omit the copy work in First Language Lessons and keep the schedule in the Complete Writer.

Most importantly, enjoy teaching language and writing to your child! And, enjoy learning it again yourself!