See the complete review in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
Robin Finley drew upon her years of teaching experience to come up with very practical course material for covering English grammar. Junior Analytical Grammar (JAG) is appropriate for fourth and fifth graders, while Analytical Grammar (AG) should be used for students in grades six and up.
JAG might be completed in as few as eleven weeks. It focuses on parts of speech and syntax (word functions within a sentence), introducing sentence diagramming early in the process. While it also has writing assignments at the end of each lesson, it does not cover punctuation, usage issues such as verb tenses and comparative forms of adjectives, dictionary skills, comprehensive composition skills, and other language art skills.
AG is more comprehensive than JAG. It reviews and expands upon JAG in the first ten units. These ten units should be used during a single school year (likely sixth grade). You can continue with the next section, units 11 through 17, which cover sentence structure and clauses (adjective, adverb, and verbal), and appositives. Or you might save this section for the next school year.
Units 18 through 28 of AG teach punctuation....The final lessons in units 29 through 34 deal with specialized usage issues such as pronoun-antecedent agreement, who/whom, and errors regarding adverbs and adjectives. Although lessons need to be used sequentially, you can break between units, spreading out instruction over two to three school years....
These courses have a combination of special features that set them apart from others:
- Students learn parts of speech and syntax at the same time.
- Diagramming is a key component.
- A sentence parsing process is used (as in Shurley Grammar). This is more like a flow chart approach with questions and answers.
- Grammar is taught thoroughly so students need not repeat the same material year after year, and it is taught in context so students are more likely to understand and remember it.
- "Notes" pages remain in student books while exercise pages are removed. The student ends up with a reference notebook at the end of the course.
Since Robin suggests taking a break from AG after the first ten units, she has created a Reinforcement & Review (RR) book with exercises for students to continue sharpening their grammar and writing skills....
A few additional notes on AG:
- While AG has composition activities it isn't intended for composition instruction such as how to structure a paragraph or an -essay. Beyond the Book Report, which is also published by Analytical Grammar, is a middle school through high school language arts curriculum that pairs well with AG to create a complete program that covers grammar, composition, and literature.
- While AG isn't specifically Christian curriculum, one of the literary selections is Psalm 23, and I spotted one sample sentence that mentioned Jesus and His disciples.
- Also note that although the AG course is expensive you will be using it over at least two years. Books are all plastic-spiral bound, and AG books have laminated covers for greater durability since they'll be used longer than your average textbook.
Overall, these courses do a thorough job with grammar and diagramming and are easy for both teacher and student to use. However, you might need to work through sentence analysis/diagramming together with some students more than others. In the end, I think most students will appreciate the efficiency of this approach even if it is challenging.
High School Grammar Reinforcements
If high school students have completed AG, parents and teachers generally want them to have some sort of review or practice on skills. Robin Finley and Erin Karl have teamed up to create four books for this purpose. Each book has activities that reinforce sentence parsing and diagramming, grammar analysis, punctuation, and usage. With 18 lessons per book, you would use approximately one lesson every two weeks for a school year. Each book also contains its own answer key. You might select a book to coordinate with literature studies. The titles are The Great American Authors, The Great British Authors, Shakespeare’s Plays, and The Great World Authors. Sentences and passages with which students work all provide information about authors and their works that is readable for its own sake—something we rarely find in grammar resources.
Teaching the Essay
Once students have worked through Analytical Grammar, they should be able to tackle essay writing. Robin has created a separate short course, Teaching the Essay, which consists of a 42-page booklet and companion CD.
She uses a very structured approach requiring an exact number of sentences per paragraph in a five-paragraph essay. Narrowing even further, she teaches students specifically how to write a literary analysis essay, then follows with briefer instructions for writing a personal essay and a report....This isn't fancy, but it does a thorough job and should be very easy for insecure parents to use. You could purchase only the booklet, but the CD is very helpful and makes it easier to understand how to actually teach from the booklet.