Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind provides at least four years of grammar instruction for students in grades five through twelve. It teaches grammar, usage, punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure. This flexible program has a unique design. The 388-page Core Instructor Text is a non-consumable book that is used for every year of the program. There are also four workbooks with companion answer keys that are titled by color: Red, Purple, Blue, and Yellow. Students will need one of these consumable workbooks for each year of study. All of the books are available as paperback books or PDFs.
The Core Instructor Text has 130 lessons that are entirely scripted and show what the teacher is to say and do and how the student is to respond. The idea is that while you will work through the entire Core Instructor Text each year, using the same scripted dialogue and examples, students will use a different workbook with entirely new exercises each year.
The instructions in the foreword of the Core Instructor Text say that you should plan for students to complete four lessons per week. But it also cautions that lessons become progressively more difficult in the latter part of each workbook and that you should allow students to move at whatever pace works best. On their website, they explain that most of those who have used the program are not completing an entire workbook each year. Consequently, I would recommend to homeschoolers who are in the second or third year of this program that, after a summer break, they pick up where they left off in a previous workbook so that the topics at the end of the Core Instructor Text are not skipped every year. (This need not be done at the end of the first year.)
Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind employs the same heavily-structured teaching approach that the Well-Trained Mind™ Press has used with other resources, such as First Language Lessons. This approach makes teaching easy, eliminating lesson planning or concerns about how to present lessons. The structure also suits those students who appreciate direct teaching and clear, detailed instructions.
Students can begin with any of the four workbooks, although the Core Instructor Text says, “Occasional exercises in the Blue and Yellow workbooks may have more ambiguity or challenge than the corresponding weeks in the Purple and Red workbooks, but this should not present a major challenge” (p. xii).
Students will memorize and recite definitions, rules, conjugations, and lists (e.g., prepositions). Sentence diagrams are introduced in the tenth lesson and are used as an essential teaching tool in many of the subsequent lessons.
Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind is best used in one-on-one situations or with a small group since it requires direct instruction by a teacher and student responses. With a large group, it would be difficult for a teacher to ensure that all students are responding correctly as they work through the lessons.
Periodic, cumulative review is built into the lessons. The amount of review time increases as the amount of material to review expands. While initial review sessions occur on only one day of a week, an entire week is allotted for the ninth, tenth, and eleventh review sessions (weeks 28, 32, and 36 if you stay on schedule).
The workbooks each have about 600 pages. They repeat the rules and some examples for each lesson (but not the entire lesson script). The workbooks cannot be used on their own. The instructions in the Core Instructor Text often tell students what they need to do in their workbooks. The bulk of each lesson in the workbooks consists of exercises that use sentences and paragraphs from fiction and non-fiction. Most of the exercises can be completed within the consumable workbooks, but students will need to do some of the exercises or writing assignments on their own paper or in a notebook.
Students will sometimes mark up sentences by circling, drawing arrows, or underlining particular sentence components or by using initials to indicate the roles of particular words (e.g., DO for direct object). Some exercises include sentence diagram forms already laid out so that the student need only write the words in the correct spots. However, some exercises require students to create sentence diagrams on their own, drawing these on paper or in a notebook.
As I mentioned, the instruction every year from the Core Instructor Text repeats, while each of the workbooks has entirely different content for the exercises. The instructions for the course do not advocate skipping the repeated instruction from the Core Instructor Text, but they tell teachers or parents to use their judgment as to whether to have a student complete all of the exercises. If a student obviously remembers a concept from the previous year and easily answers the first few items in the exercise correctly, it’s okay to not require the student to complete the rest of the exercise.
What Else Might You Need?
You might want to add other items published by The Well-Trained Mind Press. The Grammar Guidebook has all of the grammar rules and definitions taught in Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind along with examples, making it useful for reference.
The two books, The Diagramming Dictionary and How to Diagram Any Sentence, can be used to teach sentence diagramming alongside Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind course books. The Diagramming Dictionary thoroughly explains how to diagram sentences, using example sentences from the course books, while How to Diagram Any Sentence provides practice sentences.
The Grammar Guidebook and The Diagramming Dictionary are available as hardcover books or PDFs, while How to Diagram Any Sentence is available as a paperback book or PDF.
The Well-Trained Mind Press sells bundles that include the Core Instructor Text, The Grammar Guidebook, and your choice of the Blue, Red, or Purple Workbook with its answer key. However, it seems to me that explanations in the Core Instructor Text and workbooks are so comprehensive that you might have little need for The Grammar Guidebooks.
Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind is so thorough and provides so much practice that students who complete four years of the program should never need to study grammar again. A very generous six-week sample from the Purple Workbook is available to try for free.