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Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum from Common Sense Press

Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum Review: Learning Language Arts Through Literature

Reviewed by Chellie Haight         

Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum - Learning Language Arts Through Literature Yellow Book and Student Activity Book

This year my daughter, Jana, is a third grader. She’s reading well enough that we have moved on from phonics to a complete language arts homeschool curriculum. We started our school year with different resources for spelling, grammar, reading, etc., and quickly realized it was too chaotic for us to keep up with a separate curriculum for each component of language arts. It was time for a complete, all-in-one, language arts homeschool curriculum program.

We switched to a popular, rigorous, all-in-one language arts curriculum that features 10 booklets for a student to work on throughout the year. I hoped the short booklets would give my daughter a sense of accomplishment as she finished each book and keep her motivated. Unfortunately, this was not the case. That language arts homeschool curriculum simply didn’t work for us. The lessons were extremely long, and my daughter was barely retaining anything she learned.

Jana is a high-energy kiddo and sometimes it feels like she has the attention span of a goldfish! Despite her short attention span, she is the type of student who wants to finish the entire lesson in one sitting. I tried to convince her it would be good to split the lesson into smaller sessions throughout the day but to no avail. Due to the popularity of this language arts homeschool curriculum, I tried to make it work and stick it out, but after several weeks with no improvement (and many tear-filled days) I had to admit that the curriculum was not working for us.

Trying a New Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum

I remembered years ago my son had enjoyed Learning Language Arts Through Literature (LLATL) from Common Sense Press. So, I went ahead and got the Yellow Book for my daughter.

The language arts homeschool curriculum from Common Sense Press has been such a breath of fresh air for this homeschool family! I wouldn’t say Jana loves language arts now, but she doesn’t complain anymore when it’s time for us to get to work on that subject.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature (LLATL) from Common Sense Press has an “open and go” approach.

Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum - happy girl with book open to copy work

There is a teacher’s guide and student workbook for each level. It has lessons clearly marked by weeks, and each week is divided into five days of assignments. We aim for a four-day school week as we attend a homeschool co-op on Fridays, but we’ve easily been able to fit the whole week’s worth of work into our four-day week. The assignments each day are manageable for us, and it has a more conversational feel to the lessons, which makes them pretty enjoyable.

Periodically in LLATL there is a break from the regular lessons for a literature link. This gives students the option of using an outside novel, or a shorter passage from a novel that is printed in the student and teacher books. Jana had already read The White Stallion by Elizabeth Shub. So, for our first literature link I had her read the story included in the text, a fun short story called “Tilda the Troublemaker.” There were comprehension questions available for both options, and all the activities were neutral enough that we didn’t miss anything by not doing the full novel literature link.

There are four literature links scheduled in this level, and I plan to use at least one of the full-length novels. The other literature link books for this level are Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, Meet George Washington by Joan Heilbroner, and The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh. I have not yet decided which one (or ones) of these books we will use for future literature link studies, but it is terrific that the language arts homeschool curriculum has several options.

Learning Language Arts for Homeschool – LLATL Yellow Book Overview

The weeks generally follow a common pattern, which helps with homeschool planning and gives the student a sense of routine or familiarity.

On day one, there is copy-work from a literature passage, an introduction to new spelling words, and an enrichment activity.

Day two has a short grammar lesson and activities to reinforce the lesson.

Day three varies by having a phonics fact, a grammar focus, or additional activities to reinforce day two’s lesson.

Day four involves more writing, giving students the opportunity to put their knowledge into practice by writing.

Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum - Learning Language Arts Through Literature Student Book open to Lesson 7

Day five includes a spelling test and penmanship practice. At the end of the week, there are also optional review activities.

Sometimes we skip activities that seem repetitive or that cover skills my student has already mastered. Some days there is a note in the student book to have a discussion with a parent/teacher and the prompt for discussion is in the teacher’s book. For this reason, this language arts homeschool curriculum is not intended to be done completely independently by the student; however, there is not a constant need for an adult to be present.

When we were using the other curriculum, Jana hated writing anything and I often ended up scribing for her or letting her answer questions orally. Since switching to LLATL, my daughter has done almost all the writing herself. This week, for example, one of the activities asked her to list six friends, and then she was to rewrite the list in alphabetical order. For that activity, I wrote the first list for her just to make sure she knew how to spell her friends’ names. It’s been very encouraging to see her grab the pencil and take initiative with her writing assignments and copy-work.

Initially, I was concerned about the spelling being on the light side, but I’m seeing the value in the “less is more” philosophy. There are five words each week that go with the spelling rule or theme, along with a bonus word. This week, our list included words that use “ou” to make the “oo” sound and “ow” sound, and the bonus word was “always.” Later in the book, they instruct you to review the spelling lists from earlier in the book rather than providing a new list every week. This long-term review approach can be great reinforcement to help students improve in their spelling.

Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum - Learning Language Arts Through Literature Student Book with student handwriting inside

The daily work is not overwhelming and doesn’t take very long. I love that even though the lessons are short, they cover a wide range of language arts components, including spelling, vocabulary, grammar, reading, penmanship, creative writing, and higher-order thinking skills. Currently, we don’t feel the need to supplement this language arts homeschool curriculum. I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself since we’re only in week 7, but we will most likely continue to use LLATL in the future.

We did not personally use the 1st or 2nd-grade levels. As mentioned earlier, we discovered this curriculum more recently, but I do know they provide an entire learn-to-read curriculum. As such, I imagine they would be parent intensive.

The Yellow Book includes parts where the information needed to complete an activity is only found in the teacher’s guide, but an independent child could easily check in with their parent/teacher at those times and do the rest of the lesson on their own. In this way, I think a large family could use multiple levels of LLATL without stretching mom too thin.

Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum - Learning Language Arts Through Literature Student Activity Book
Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum - Learning Language Arts Through Literature Yellow Book

This language arts homeschool curriculum is not flashy or colorful, but the lessons are engaging and practical. Since most of the curriculum revolves around reading and writing I think it’s suited best for visual learners, although audio learners will likely appreciate the passages and stories that are read aloud. This curriculum has a Charlotte Mason feel to it, although Dr. Ruth Beechick’s work provides the basis for the curriculum’s development.

More about the Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum from Common Sense Press

LLATL is a Christian language arts homeschool curriculum and is available for grades 1-12. We are using The Yellow Book, which is geared toward the third grade. The student book is consumable, but the teacher’s guide is reusable. Large families and international customers will likely appreciate that Common Sense Press sells an eBook version of the student book and teacher’s guide.

Grades 1 and 2 have higher costs due to the many required student readers, but since they include a full phonics curriculum, they seem to be a good value. We jumped in at the 3rd-grade level, and 3rd through 8th grades all have the same pricing: $34.00 for the physical teacher book and $28.00 for the physical student book. Other retailers, such as Rainbow Resource Center, sell physical books and eBooks for a lower price. Rainbow Resource Center also offers bundles with the optional literature books.

A while back, my son had used The Purple Book (5th grade) and he had a good experience with it, but for him, I found it was better to use separate resources for the different components of language arts. We now piece together a variety of resources for him. Since he didn’t continue with LLATL, I am not as familiar with the higher levels and have no experience with the high school-level books of this language arts homeschool curriculum.

Additional Resources

Writing and Rhetoric by Classical Academic Press offers a creative approach to teach your child writing skills.

And for a focus on spelling, check out this review of Spelling You See by the creators of Math U See.

If you’re looking for an online source to enhance your child’s existing language arts homeschool curriculum, IXL Language Arts is a helpful resource.

You might find this list of over 25 Language Arts ideas for your homeschool a terrific resource.

And we have an ultimate homeschool list of Language Arts resources.

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