Plain and Not So Plain (PANSP) is a free Christian curriculum for grades one through nine that covers math and language arts, including beginning reading. This is a barebones program with printable pages that have both instructions (minimal) and student worksheets. There are no separate teacher guides. The approach is traditional, although there are occasional hands-on activities for math in the first two levels.
The courses are available as free PDF files, but you can also purchase printed books. With printed books, all subject areas are printed together in one large Basic Skills Curriculum book.
There are no tables of contents or indexes so you have to scan through books to find particular topics or else use a search tool for the PDF files. There are no tests, although some of the courses have many pages of multiple-choice questions at the end that might be used for that purpose.
For third grade and above, there are free PDF answer keys, but these are not listed with the other free downloads. You can find them on the website page for the printed books.
The author, Amy Maryon, has put these courses together, largely to meet the needs of her own family. Making them available for free means there is no staff to create illustrated pages or to guarantee a polished product. Nevertheless, the curriculum offers a dependable core program for math and language arts. As she suggests, add a unit study or other course material, especially for history and science to round out your curriculum.
The Christian content seems minimal aside from the copywork in first grade, but I didn’t check everything.
Homeschoolers who want to use workbooks and a straightforward, easy-to-use program should consider PANSP even if they don’t need to save money.
I review the first three levels in detail below. I have not reviewed all of the other courses for grades four through nine, but I wanted to comment on some of the eighth and ninth grade courses. The eighth-grade math course is a thorough, challenging pre-algebra course, but ninth grade math seems to be a review of earlier levels of math. The ninth-grade math course is not the first year of algebra, and it looks less challenging than the eighth grade math course. On the other hand, the ninth-grade English course covers composition, grammar, spelling, and vocabulary at an appropriate level. You only need to add a literature component to that course.
The kindergarten/first-grade course is shown as the “1st Grade Complete Curriculum” on the website. The course presents what used to be taught in first grade but has become common for kindergarten. It assumes that children already know the alphabet and sounds of the letters, and it teaches reading with phonics. Use it for whichever level suits the needs of your child.
One 280-page file covers both math and language arts. You start with one page a day, then at the top of some pages are note telling you how many pages are to be done together on one day. Still, parents should use their judgment as to how much their child can complete in a day.
The course briefly reviews short vowels then teaches blending with a consonant-vowel approach (e.g., ma, me, mi, mo, and mu.) There is plenty of practice with lists of words presented by word families (e.g., den, hen, men, pen, and ten) to help children learn to read proficiently. Long-vowel words are taught in the second semester.
There are some dictation activities, beginning with only letters, then using short words that children have learned to read such as fun and sun. On page 76, dictation shifts to sentences such as, “I had fun,” and then gradually increases the length of dictation passages. Children also practice writing out their own name, their address, and their birthday.
Copywork with adapted Bible verses begins on page 96 with, “As for God, His way is perfect. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Later, it adds direct quotations from the Bible as well as quotations from famous people. Children also learn to construct their own sentences. By the end of the first grade, they are supposed to write their own paragraphs, including a thank-you letter and a description of their room. Language arts worksheets occasionally have space for the child to draw a picture.
To enhance the instruction for reading and language arts, PANSP uses many of the free downloadable files from Starfall.com. The Starfall pages are attractively illustrated, while the PANSP pages are not. For the kindergarten/first grade course, PANSP uses Starfall’s files for “cut-up books” to create a series of beginning readers. It also uses the worksheets in Starfall’s Level I: Reading & Writing Journal which correlate directly with the readers. The Journal worksheets provide practice with phonics, sight words, writing words and sentences, rhyming words, plurals, contractions, quotation marks, compound words, antonyms, suffixes, and alphabetical order.
For math, children learn to write numerals and count to 100. They are taught addition and subtraction without carrying or borrowing. Children learn to count by 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 25’s. Other basic skills taught are shapes, colors, patterns, greater than and less than, comparison (height, length, weight), odd and even numbers, telling time, reading a calendar, solving word problems, and money.
There are a few hands-on math activities. On page 20, you are to get a deck of playing cards, remove the letter cards, and have children play war. Page 33 has large numerals up through 19. You are to cut these out for your child to arrange in order. Pages 44 and 47 have a layout and instructions for practicing addition using small counters such as beans, toothpicks or small candies. Subtraction is introduced with small counters and a worksheet on page 119.
For second grade, PANSP has four essential files─one each for English and spelling, and two for math. There’s an optional file with the spelling worksheets formatted for left-handed writers. You are supposed to use one page each day from each course. English instruction does not include reading skills. The course author, Amy, has a comment on the website where she says that she adds reading comprehension separately.
Among topics covered in the file for English are parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, and articles), subjects, predicates, proper nouns, common nouns, verb tenses, singulars and plurals, linking and action verbs, capitalization, punctuation, subject-verb agreement, contractions, possessives, compound words, rhyming words, homophones (e.g., to, two, and too), and antonyms.
Students are frequently given space to write their own original sentences or paragraphs, and sometimes they have space to add an illustration. Near the end of the course, students learn how to write a very short story with the help of step-by-step lessons and graphic organizers. There are additional writing assignments such as writing a friendly letter and writing a review of a book or movie.
The last 20 pages in English are multiple-choice questions, but these pose some issues. The first four pages deal with the library, reference works, and components of books (e.g., index, table of contents, and copyright date), but these topics are not covered in the course. Other questions on these pages are often confusing for various reasons. It might be useful for both parent and child to try to figure out the answers to the questions as a teaching opportunity, but I wouldn’t ask children to answer these on their own.
Math begins by teaching place value, using images that look like Base Ten Blocks. (You could do this lesson hands-on with blocks if you have them.) The math course goes on to cover topics such as the number line, greater than and less than symbols, skip counting (by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 100’s), the commutative property, word problems, regrouping for both addition and subtraction, using tally marks, money, telling time, rounding numbers, estimation, fractional parts, the calendar, metric measurement, writing numbers in expanded form, shapes, congruency, odd and even numbers, and writing out the words for numbers. Students are doing both addition and subtraction with three-digit numbers by the end of the course. For extra practice on math facts, the course recommends that students use the free program at xtramath.org.
The spelling course is very straightforward. On Monday, students copy their ten spelling words twice each on the lines provided. On Tuesday, they write a sentence for each spelling word. On Wednesday they complete a wordsearch puzzle. In the eighth and twenty-eighth weeks, they have an extra assignment to practice writing their words in rainbow colors. The Wednesday of Week 16 substitutes a matching exercise for the puzzle. On Thursdays, students are given a test. Then they copy any missed words five times.
The answer keys for the second-grade courses are only available in the printed book, but you shouldn’t need them.
Third grade has three essential files: math, English, and spelling. Reading comprehension is added this year as a collection of small files. Optional files are available for spelling in cursive and for spelling for left-handed writers.
The math courses review previously-taught concepts, adding incremental levels of difficulty. For instance, place value concepts now go beyond the hundreds up through the hundred thousands. This course also introduces ordinal numbers, multiplication with single-digit multipliers, division with single-digit divisors, addition of fractions with like denominators, perimeter, area, points, lines, segments, symmetry, perpendicular lines, parallel lines, and measurements. It’s not clear where the daily work pages end and the review at the end begins.
Third grade English covers some reading skills as well as other areas of language arts, reviewing and building upon previously-taught topics. New topics include adverbs, conjunctions, interjections, irregular verbs, comparative and superlative adjectives, subject and object pronouns, the four types of sentences, silent letters in words (e.g., the silent w in wrong), consonant digraphs such as gh, abbreviations, discerning facts and opinions, classifications, synonyms, analogies, similes, writing with vivid words, topic sentences, constructing paragraphs, and writing letters. This course has a number of lengthier writing assignments at the end rather than a multiple-choice review.
Spelling lessons have 12 words per week. On the first day each week, students copy the words once on the lines provided. For the second day, there is a word search puzzle. On the third day, they write their own sentence for each spelling word. Then they take a test.
The reading comprehension files are a compilation of activities, worksheets, questions gleaned from other resources, and the author’s own questions. There is a list of book titles and two activities that are each linked to one- or two-page downloads with activity instructions or comprehension questions to use. A few of the books listed are The Lorax, Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, and Best Friends for Frances. The two listed activities are on similes and how to make an apple pie. There are additional links to online resources located on other websites for books such as Polar Express and Molly’s Pilgrim. The reading comprehension section is roughly put together. For instance, there is no indication of which particular book to read about George Washington so that children will be able to answer the comprehension questions. Titles of the books are not all properly capitalized, and there’s at least one broken link. Still, there is plenty here to cover reading comprehension.