The Saxon Grammar and Writing program for grades four through eight, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), has been available for a number of years. Authors Christie Curtis and Mary Hake have added a third grade course to the series. However, the third grade course is published by Hake Publishing rather than HMH, so I review it separately here. Saxon Grammar and Writing 3 utilizes the same approach as the rest of the series, but with some minor differences. Click here to read my review of the series for grade four through eight.
As with the other courses, there are three components, a textbook, a writing workbook, and a teacher guide. All three books are printed in black and white but on higher quality paper than are the books for the other courses.
As with the other courses, the textbook for third grade is a large workbook with both instruction and exercises for students to complete. The fact that Hake Publishing also publishes this book in a hardcover version primarily for schools, is probably the reason it is called a textbook rather than a workbook. (Those who purchase a hardcover book should also buy the separate consumable book with the exercise pages. This option applies only to those who choose the hardcover version.) I think most homeschoolers will use the consumable, softcover books, so they won’t need anything other than the three primary course components.
While the other courses begin each lesson with dictation or journaling, Saxon Grammar and Writing 3 begins with a “Grammar Meeting.” A question presented in a box at the top of each lesson is to be used for class discussion along with some instruction in vocabulary. The purpose is “to strengthen listening skills, to model correct word usage, to practice new vocabulary, and to develop effective speaking and writing habits” (Teacher Guide, p. vii). To accomplish these goals, the teacher guide has scripted instructions for the teacher or parent to follow for the Grammar Meeting. The question posed for each Grammar Meeting seems very dependent upon a group discussion. The questions themselves (e.g., “Do you have an animal with fur?”) are not important. Rather, answering in complete sentences, speaking up clearly, and listening to others are the goals. Because homeschooling parents already have so much opportunity for one-on-one discussion with their children, I’m not sure that this discussion time will be useful for most homeschoolers. However, the vocabulary instruction should be useful since it teaches Latin roots and derivatives.
After the Grammar Meeting, lessons proceed as for the other courses. Parents or teachers can read through the new lesson material, examples, and practice questions with their child to ensure that they understand the concepts. Then the student can work independently on the review set for each lesson. Review sets are where students encounter questions covering both previously-taught material and the new concepts. Some lessons have extra “More Practice” worksheets and a few lessons have “Tricky Teasers” (like Mad Libs) worksheets. These extra worksheets are found only in the teacher guide although lessons alert students to their existence at the point in each lesson where they should be used. (All pages in the teacher guide are perforated and three-hole punched so you can easily remove and copy these worksheet pages as needed.) More Practice pages concentrate on the newly-learned skill and are likely to be useful, and Tricky Teasers are fun, so don’t skip either of these without good reasons.
Sentence diagramming is introduced in Lesson 29, although students will only be filling in simple subjects and predicates on templates at this point. Sentence diagramming in this course expands to include more complex structures such as compound subjects and prepositional phrases, but students are provided with templates and clues to assist them.
Grammar and usage instruction is advanced compared to many other third grade courses with its coverage of syntax and diagramming, predicate adjectives, relative pronouns, appositives, and other topics. It exceeds state standards.
Students will take a test on the school day after every fifth lesson. Test masters are found in the teacher guide. Since tests do not take up an entire lesson period, lessons from the writing workbook are to be completed on test days. Pages in the writing workbook are also perforated and three-hole punched so that they can be compiled in a binder with other written work. While the writing workbook has lines and space for students to complete assignments on its pages, students might need more space or want to rewrite something they previously wrote in their workbook. Also, parents might sometimes want students to write on a computer. So some work will likely be completed outside of the writing workbook.
Writing lessons begin with simple sentence construction and sentence combining but quickly move on to the use of active and passive voices, writing paragraphs, writing persuasive and expository paragraphs, narrative and descriptive writing, and writing a chapter summary. As you can see, the writing instruction is as advanced as the grammar and usage instruction. I expect that most third graders will need quite a bit of assistance as they work through some of the writing lessons. Because of the advanced nature of this course, you could readily use it with a fourth grader.
The teacher guide has other important content in addition to the reproducible pages I’ve mentioned. Here you will find a suggested schedule that shows when to use writing lessons and tests, the scripted Grammar Meeting lesson plans, and your answer keys. It also notes how long each section of a lesson should take in a classroom setting, information that might be useful to parents as they schedule their days.
If you don’t intend to use the course with more than one student, you could use the test pages from the teacher guide without copying them since they are each printed on one double-sided page. More Practice and Tricky Teaser pages are printed back to back for different lessons. While using the originals might make it trickier to keep track of them, you can do so if you wish.
Saxon Grammar and Writing 3 offers homeschoolers an option for advanced students, yet lessons are laid out so clearly that it is easy for the inexperienced teacher or parent to use.