The beauty of The Grammar Key is simplicity, consistency, and efficiency. Conklin introduces parts of speech along with their sentence functions, using key questions to help with identification. Key questions are repeated and memorized as are lists of helping verbs, linking verbs, determiners, pronouns, etc. Although diagramming is presented within the instruction for each topic, students are never required to diagram sentences themselves (a plus or a minus, depending upon how you view diagramming). Lessons build continually so knowledge is integrated rather than taught in isolation. The course begins with noun recognition and continues through verbals (infinitives, participles, and gerunds).
Accessible only online, the program won't dazzle you with speed and sophistication, but it does a straightforward job of presenting both the instructional material and student exercises. The program requires at least eight hours of work to cover all of the topics, but this should be spread out so that students have time to absorb and apply the information as well as time to complete the other written assignments from the workbook. The program monitors student progress, with the capability of tracking unlimited students, depending upon your subscription.
The program does not allow students to progress to the next level until they pass the present level, so students cannot skip ahead even if they have previously mastered topics. Occasionally, the program is hypersensitive to placement of the sentence tags, rejecting appropriate answers if they are not placed just so, but the program signals clearly when all of the correct labels are in place. If the computer seems to be rejecting a tag that the student feels is correct, he should try it twice in case the computer is not registering it.
Companion workbooks that focus on part of speech or on punctuation and capitalization serve as supplements that can be used alongside the Grammar Key program for practice and reinforcement. Students mark sentences with labels, arrows, circling, and underlining. The workbooks are digital files that you may print as needed. Answer keys are included.
Lessons in The Grammar Key (program or workbooks) are not intended to encompass all areas of grammar (e.g., no verb tenses or subject-verb agreement lessons). This means that you still need to cover some usage and mechanics as well as writing instruction elsewhere. Which brings us to The Grammar Key Punctuation and Capitalization program. Working in the same fashion as the original program, students identify missing elements or errors in sentence structure or punctuation then correct them on screen. Students cannot progress until they have identified all the necessary corrections. The program is self-checking, making this a real time saver for parents.
The best buy for homeschooling families is the Family Pack that includes access to and workbooks for both programa for up to four family members.
The Grammar Key resources are suitable for students who are just learning parts of speech and mechanics (about fourth grade level) or for those who need review and practice in a format different from that of their original textbook or program. Even high school students who need practice and review should find The Grammar Key useful.
The Grammar Key programs are a practical solution for both parents and students since they make a dull subject more appealing and they save parents time correcting student exercises.