Our Fourth Grade Homeschool Curriculum: Grammar and Writing

Today is a homeschooling post.  I love homeschooling.  It is the tops.  I’m not very patient, and homeschooling elementary school has been challenging for me.  Crafts and finger plays not appealing.  Teaching handwriting like pulling teeth.  “Whatdya’ mean you don’t remember what a contraction is?”  I’ve decided that you don’t have to have patience to homeschool, but if you don’t, you’d better have some self-control/self-discipline.

Fourth grade, however, is turning into fun because the topics are becoming more advanced and the student more independently capable.  But no matter what, the whole homeschooling ride is one I wouldn’t trade for the world.  Up now–grammar and writing.  Last homeschooling post was math.

Easy Grammar:  Grade 4

Love Easy Grammar by Wanda Phillips, PhD!  We have used it for three years in a row now.  Simple, straightforward presentation of grammar without any fluff, just the nuts and bolts and good stuff.  I thought figuring out what to order was a bit confusing!  Daily Grams?  Workbooks?  Teacher editions?  Test booklets?  What?  Here’s what I ordered and I’ve been exceptionally pleased:

  • Daily Grams  The daily grams are one page, cumulative worksheets, reminding me of the cumulative concept of Saxon Math.  Capitalization, punctuation, Easy Grammar Textadverbs, adjectives, prepositions, objects of the preposition, complex sentence formation, and more–they are all reviewed throughout the year so the student doesn’t forget the concept even if they learned it on day 1.  Daily Grams are designed to do one worksheet a day, requiring maybe five minutes or so.  For second grade, I used ONLY the second grade Daily Gram book for the entire grammar course that year.  When third and fourth grade came, I wanted more focus and explanation of each grammatical concept with more practice than the Daily Grams offered.  So I bought the Easy Grammar text.
  • Easy Grammar:  Grade 4  Okay.  There are three books you can buy:  Easy Grammar Grade 4 teacher’s edition, Easy Grammar Grade 4 Student Workbook, and Easy Grammar Grade 4 Student Test Booklet.  I purchased only the teacher’s manual.  However, the cover of the book I bought doesn’t say “Teacher’s Manual!”  It only says “Easy Grammar Grade 4.”  The teacher’s manual contains the grammatical explanation text, worksheets, reviews, tests, answers, and teaching tips all bound together in one book.  My daughter works from the teacher’s manual.  One very minor glitch in this is that the answers are on the left side of the page and the worksheet/ test on the right side of the page.  We cover the answers with a sheet of paper and have no issues.  Alternatively, you could copy the assignments ahead of time from the book so the answers aren’t tempting your student.  Another minor glitch with using the teacher’s manual for the student textbook is that they can read the author’s tips to the teacher if they wanted to.  No biggie to me.

Easy Grammar Daily GramsPoints to know:

  • It’s all black and white.  Often this can be a deterrent, but I feel in this case it is a strength.  Wanda Phillips, Ed.D. runs such a tight ship with the books.  Seriously, she manages to get what you need in there with nothing extraneous to distract and frustrate!  It’s a clean, concise machine.
  • Work usually can be completed independently without much, if any help.  I love this.
  • The author teaches a prepositional approach to understanding sentences, allowing easy recognition of the parts of a sentence.  One of the hardest parts of the book is having the kids learn the required prepositions at the beginning–after that they then look for prepositional phrases  and can exclude them from searching for subjects and verbs.  Makes understanding the parts of the sentences much simpler, but they have to do a little work up front which can seem intimidating.  We memorized them over a few weeks and continued on.
  • Pages are not perforated in the teacher’s manual or Daily Grams.  You cannot tear them out easily, which can be a problem if you only buy the “all-inclusive” book I bought, as the answers for the worksheets are sitting right on the next page.
  • At the end of every chapter, there is a chapter review, a cumulative review, and a cumulative test.  I did not make my daughter do all of those as it was way too much busy, repetitive work if she understood all the concepts!  However, we usually did the chapter review and the cumulative test.  I really appreciate the cumulative nature of this text!
  • The difference between the Daily Gram Worksheets and the Worksheets is that the worksheets pertain only to the material being learned in the current chapter.  The Daily Grams are cumulative and very quick and concise.  I did both because I like repetition and always having the brain presented with what it learned in the past, so it doesn’t forget.  However, I do think we could have gotten by in fourth grade without the Daily Grams.
  • There is no writing practice.  This text doesn’t try to incorporate writing skills with the grammar skills–EXCEPT she does have the kids practice combining simple sentences into complex sentences in the Daily Grams.  My daughter can make nice, complex, grammatical sentences because of this text, but it does not offer writing practice.
  • She provides enough teacher instruction without making you googly-eyed trying to sort through it all!  Her tips are valid and thoughtful.

How we did grammar this year: 

This year, I decided to actually double up on her grammar lessons in the first semester.  She did two Daily Grams every day, and I mapped out the Easy Grammar:  Grade 4 text/worksheets/tests so that we finished it in one semester.  Even doing this double-pace, she rarely punked an attitude about grammar!  Whew!  I chose to do this so she could begin focusing on writing in the second semester–rather than combining them together throughout the year.  I thought she’d do better focusing on one side of “writing” at a time–grammar first and then actually putting together ideas.  So far, I’m very pleased.

IEWInstitute for Excellence in Writing (IEW):  Student Writing Intensive

This will not be a comprehensive review because I’ve only used the Writing Intensive Level A and that only for a 2-3 months.

We began Institute for Excellence in Writing for my daughter’s writing curriculum in the second semester.   I’ve heard great reviews on IEW, and we have enjoyed our last couple months with it, as well.  Again, what in the heck do you purchase?  Reading all those descriptions on the web-site gets really confusing!  I bought Package A:

  • Student Writing Intensive Level A  This came with DVDs to watch, a binder, lesson plans, and passages to practice the writing techniques taught.  It’s what I needed for sure.  (Although I wonder if I couldn’t have gotten by with a  theme-based book and learned the same things and had my child learn a particular topic area, too.  More below.)
  • Teaching Writing:  Structure and Style  I also bought this because I thought I might need it;  it was part of the package.  I have not watched it yet!  I plan on it, but we have had NO problems doing the Student Writing Intensive Level A assignments just based on watching the DVDs and following the lesson plans.  I don’t know when I’ll get around to watching this.  Money could probably be saved by not purchasing this.

Points to know:

  • Perhaps it was pregnancy brain, but I thought the binder/planner could have been organized just a wee bit better.  We got it figured out.
  • Students learn by watching a DVD and then applying what is taught to passages provided in the binder.
  • The DVD is not divided up into lessons so you have to thumb through the planner and figure out when you need to stop the DVD.  Basically, the DVD is just Mr. Pudewa giving his presentation live in a workshop to a group of children; it rolls from beginning to end.  You or your child (if you’re trying to prepare lunch) has to know when to stop it.  Minor complaint, but I wish they’d break it up according to their lesson guides.
  • My daughter really liked this program at first because Mr. Pudewa was funny and it was new and exciting.  As she has been required to write more and more, she doesn’t like it so much anymore.  She hates the physical act of writing and she now transfers that on to poor Mr. Pudewa.  But I still think it’s one of the best programs to get her to do writing.
  • IEW teaches writing by using existing written passages/stories and outline formation.  I was ecstatic to see outline formation taught to her at such a young age!  It will serve her well throughout the rest of her education!  She keeps asking when she can “write her own story,” so she does have a sense that she is not really writing with this approach.  We are not yet through the complete program, and this may come later–I don’t know.  If not, no biggie.  I’ll just have her write her own story!
  • I saw a friend had the Ancient History based writing lessons!  This is a part of IEW’s “them-based writing.”  As I looked through it, I realized that it was teaching everything that is taught in the Writing Intensive A!  We will definitely be purchasing some of these themed books to use for writing after we finish the Writing Intensive.  I would suggest you look, read, and ask around because you may be able to skip the Writing Intensives and just do these nicely bound theme-based books without missing out!  They looked awesome and it really seemed to be teaching the kids the same writing concepts as watching the DVD!

I guess that’s it.  That’s how we’ve opted to handle grammar and writing this fourth-grade year.  How about anyone else?  What do you think?  What do you use?  Love?  Hate?  And after deciding on a curriculum, does anyone else have trouble sorting through exactly which books of the curriculum you need to buy!!?

I hope you are having a wonderful day!  ~~Terri

29 thoughts on “Our Fourth Grade Homeschool Curriculum: Grammar and Writing

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Good! I’m glad! Thank you! I have no doubt your daughter will just take care of herself!!! She might be able to do the early Daily Grams now!

      For my first, I enjoyed First Language Lessons

      (http://www.amazon.com/First-Language-Lessons-Well-Trained-Mind/dp/1933339446/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=10YPKF9JJZ8XYEBTG614)

      which I just merged into Daily Grams as she needed more practice and I had less time to give her as the other kids grew. First Language Lessons teaches grammar, poetry memorization, and also diction. I like it, but it relies extra heavily on parental involvement.

      Reply
      1. Nicole, The Non-Toxic Nurse

        We are loving Easy Grammar. Thanks again for the review. My daughter loves to look over my shoulder while I am composing e-mails and correct any typos before I have had a chance to move the cursor and edit–she sees Easy Grammar as this sort of an editing job and is blasting through it with a big smile on her face 🙂 We are considering doing the IEW Intensive, as my daughter loved the online samples, but I am chuckling at your description of how Mr. Pudewa slowly became less funny to your daughter. I can see that happening here. My daughter *loves* to write long, detailed stories of her own creation, but despises guided writing.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Hi!! I’m glad to hear she likes Easy Grammar! She’s such a smart little cookie. You’d better watch out! I’m doing IEW again with my second daughter now. I asked her if she wanted to watch the videos or just do the work. Her older sister said, “NO! Don’t do the videos!” So she passed on the videos, and since I’d been through the material, I was able to teach it. But **I** liked them!!! So I was kind of bummed. (You know,the homeschooling mom disappointment that you don’t get to learn something!) I think he became less funny as he required more work. (LOL! Sad, but true.) Perhaps if my daughter had been able to type better then…

        Always a pleasure to hear from you!

      3. nontoxicnurse

        Too funny that your eldest talked your second child out of the videos. Definitely too bad for you though–yes, I know that disappointment well, haha! I am actually hoping for Mr. Pudewa to become the scapegoat of guided writing. If the assignments are from his DVD or binder, then they are totally *his* fault, right? I absolutely do not like that my daughter seems to get mad at me and stay mad at me when she has an assignment that she finds less than desirable. I literally told my husband that I want Mr. Pudewa to be “the bad guy.” 😉 Mr. Stan (LOF author) and Ms. Maria (Math Mammoth author) have been blamed for all things frustrating pertaining to math; whereas, I am viewed as the one who helps her through any torture they introduce. I think the problem is that our main curriculum (Moving Beyond the Page), which has writing assignments, doesn’t have author bio’s in it, so it becomes my fault, haha!

      4. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        I–get–this. Whew! This was especially me when we changed the way we ate and were doing GAPS! But I bought a meal planner and then it was no longer my fault! It was Cara’s of Health, Home, and Happiness! And certain rules are not my fault; they’re Granny’s fault (my mother, whom I respect as a mother and use lots of her rules). Anyhow. Yes! Then Mr. Pudewa needs to enter the school day! He’s so nice, she’ll do anything for him. 🙂

  1. Valerie

    I’ve heard of Daily Grams before but haven’t ever looked into it. Non-distracting worksheets might be just perfect for Joshua. He focuses on pics in some workbooks we’ve used. Thanks for the recommendation! 😀

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I absolutely love daily grams. My Maggie (second grade) is doing them, and every now and then if I feel she needs extra practice–I just print off a couple of worksheets from the internet. Mary (4th) has done them for the three years mentioned. I think you’d like them for him (but I know one never knows!) if he’s distractible (like Mary was). Thanks for stopping in, Valerie! Have a good weekend!

      Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Yay! I’m glad to hear that! You always wonder if it’s sheer luck that it fit your child/children. You hate to recommend something someone else will hate…

      If you have a minute–what did you decide to do for language arts then in the older levels?

      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
      1. redheadmom8

        I’ve actually ordered life of Fred of Fred for my high schoolers next year. When I opted to discontinue Language arts curriculum, we started using lapbooking instead. And we didn’t use any of those fancy templates or lapbooking printables. My kids made whatever they wanted from scratch. For example, they made their own word scrambles and word searches, made mini-books, wrote biographies, did copywork (ex. the Gettysburg Address), and wrote trivia questions. This made correcting grammar fun for them, it worked wonders with their writing skills, and they remembered the material much better, too. My son is an Abraham Lincoln whiz from doing lapbooking work on him. This is a great method for kids, like mine, who don’t like book work, and it takes very little help from us (the moms), if any.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Wow! Thanks for that information! I always want to be flexible and make sure what we’re doing “fits” my kids and they’re really learning! So if we hit a wall with “curriculum,” this would be a great direction! (I love Abe Lincoln, too–but I’m no whiz!)

  2. IrishMum

    Love, love, love IEW. We have been doing it for four years now. My boys love the way Andrew explains things, and his humour.
    I bought Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, and watched it through, but it is unnecessary. The DVDs that come with the Student Writing Intensive do all the teaching you need.
    I also have a few themed books, including Ancient History. These could be a stand alone, and are done very well, but the gold, for us, is in the DVDs.
    Is it the physical act of writing or the mental act that your daughter doesn’t like? If it’s physical act you could get her to type out her IEW, then the rewrites are so much easier. I know it is a cheat, but it really helped my boys.
    Tell your daughter that she will be writing her own stories towards the end of Level A 🙂

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      1) Good to hear from someone else who has used it for years.

      2) Good to know about not HAVING to watch/buy the teaching materials.

      3) Good to hear your thoughts on the themes. I am really looking forward to those!

      4) She doesn’t like the physical act of writing. So just this week I told her she could type up some of her final drafts, particularly the longer ones. I’m waiting on that one…due tomorrow.

      5) And good to know for her and I that we’ll be getting some more independent type of writing not too far from now. That ought to be interesting! She likes EVERYTHING so honing in on topic and approach ought to be interesting. Can’t wait to see how he suggests focusing them/her!

      Thanks for your input!

      Reply
  3. lakenormanprep

    We use the IEW method but I apply it to what we are doing. So far, it has made writing so much easier and I do not have to worry about my kids writing the exact same sentence as the original. I love using key words in the outline. It works well for us. We also tried Daily Grams but my kids hated it (I am not sure why). We are going to try growing with grammar next year to see if it is any better for them. I have never checked out the teacher manual. I will do that. We have just been using the Daily Grams workbook.

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thanks! That’s a very good idea to apply it to what you’re doing. I’d like to do that after she gets the hang of it more and more. I really like that using an outline method. It teaches good notetaking skills, too, for later, more advanced classes!

      So interesting to hear yours didn’t like Daily Grams! Good to hear ALL sides! The manual is more of the same, just not so concise. I do remember at one point Mary got very bored with Daily Grams last year (3rd grade), so I had her start at the end of the book and work forward! So we worked forward to where we left off. I don’t know. I just do what works!

      I hope Growing with Grammar works well for you! And I hope your homeschooling is going great this month! Thanks for leaving a comment!

      Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Well, you know me. I still write snail-mail letters and Christmas cards with handwritten notes in them. We’re polar technological ends, you and I!!! But I suppose I can loosen up on Mary and her handwriting in honor of where you tell me the world is going! 🙂

      Reply
  4. My Tropical Home

    Thanks for sharing your review. I’ve got a couple on the back-burners which I hope will cook soon 😉 We’re using Voyages in English – really simple to use and teach from. But I feel it’s not giving them a good grasp of the grammar concepts. They can write pages and pages of stories but because the grammar part is not so strong I see a lot of basic stuff that need correction. I’ve been looking at the Daily Grams, Easy Grammar and IEW curriculum and read good reviews on it. I think I’ll also get the Teacher’s Manual for next school year.

    Hey, if it’s all right, may I know your thoughts on the Charlotte Mason-style of homeschooling? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Always all right!

      I didn’t set out to homeschool in Charlotte Mason-style, but as I’ve read about Charlotte Mason’s recommendations here and there the last few years, I think I fit in line with much of them.

      Short lessons appropriate to the child’s age/development/ADHD (okay kind of joking on the ADHD 🙂 ): Check. (I even shorten Saxon Math lessons to keep them appropriate for each individual child. One child has no problem doing the whole page plus some! Another has to just do half the page/lesson.)

      Stopping when a bad habit is seen and reinforcing good habits: Check.

      History, living books, timeline, geography work: Check, although a little weak on the living books. I plan to incorporate more living books into history after we cycle through Story of the World. I used to do lots of living books for history, but it took a lot of planning and library trips. I started getting a bit overwhelmed.

      Narration–tell me what you/we just read: Check.

      Dictation (writing great literature to learn spelling, grammar, etc)–Not so check. This was painful and took forever with my first child and so we let it slide. She still hates writing physically.

      Living books: Check for most all subjects, and those we chose a curriculum in I try to supplement periodically with a living book.

      Nature: Check as much as we can, but winter is very, very, very cold in SD. Mama hates going outside.

      Prolonging “education” till about 6: I didn’t do this with my first and was better with my second. With my third (now 5), I will be doing this for sure. Just doing in the meantime what I see she wants to pursue or I see she’s ready for.

      Art and music: Check.

      Foreign language, speaking/listening first and writing later: Check.

      Poetry/Bible memorization: Check.

      Delaying grammar and kind of waiting for the child to be able to unify ideas on their own: Didn’t do this. My way is working for us.

      Schoolwork in morning MOSTLY: Check.

      Few lectures: Usually at these ages (10, 8, and 5), I don’t need to lecture. The new concepts aren’t that awfully difficult and I wait for the child to come to the new concept to see how they’ll tackle it before I dive in with an explanation. Sometimes they never even need me.

      I think we’d be weakest on the nature learning, although we do the best we can. I’d love, love, love to do so much more!!!!!! With the notebooks and all she recommends. We are also maybe a little weak on “discipline.” In many areas the kids absolutely know the “rules” of the house and school. But there are times when I can be reasoned with or times when I see for some reason my child is really “in a mood” and we have to deviate.

      Okay! I’ll stop now! I think it’s a great method and one I naturally leaned towards. But I consider myself eclectic, and I use classical and Montessori, too!

      What about you? Do you use it? Want to try incorporating more of it? Love every bit of it? See some flaws in it? Have a good weekend! ~~Terri

      Reply
  5. Mary

    Thank you for this wonderful and practical review. I know that it is several years old, but it has helped me so much – just wanted to say “thanks!” A very nice tip that I appreciated was your idea of doubling up on the grammar portion during the first sem., then focusing on the writing skills during the second. Great idea!
    One question still remains in my mind: will doing the workbook and the daily grams be too tedious to do at every grade level? I have heard people say that you can do one grade over the course of two years, but the OCD in me does not like the idea of skipping/leaving out/doing 5th grade material in 6th grade/etc……do you have any thoughts?
    Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Mary! Glad you found a “pearl.” To reply to your question: “…will doing the workbook and the daily grams be too tedious to do at every grade level?”

      We have continued to do the Easy Grammar program, both the lesson book and the Daily Grams. I have not needed to stretch the grammar out over two years. Right now, I have a seventh grader and a fifth grader. I’ll try to explain what I do.

      1) The girls do their lessons in the Easy Grammar lesson book. I pick several pages in the lesson book for them to do, usually about three pages. Perhaps more pages if there is not much “work” on the assigned pages but just a lot of reading/explanation. Or perhaps less if their assignments require lots of handwriting. I have compassion on their “my hand hurt” complaints. 🙂 We never have any problem getting through the book in a school year. One reason may be that I do not do all the review and cumulative work. If I feel they are weak in that area, I’ll have them do what I need them to do. If they’re strong in that area by this point (for example, contractions, I skip it).

      If I’m pushing through the Easy Grammar lesson book really fast and hard (But I never push faster than they understand, almost never—unless I know it’s a really hard topic and they’ll see it again. Like the verb to lay. I know they’ll see it in the next book and will learn by hearing it again.), then I may stop the Daily Grams for a little while so they don’t feel overwhelmed. Or I may circle the ones I want them to do in Daily Grams rather than all of them.

      I think we have always finished the Easy Grammar lesson book this way. At the end of the book it’s a little hit or miss when it gets to writing sentences because I figure they’ve been doing that all year in Daily Grams and also creative writing I try to make them do.

      2) For Daily Grams, we do them about daily-ish. Depending on our pace in school, I’ll either assign them all of one page; make them do two pages at a time but circle and choose what I know they need to do most/work on more; or make them do all of two pages of Daily Grams.

      We do NOT usually finish the Daily Grams book. We get to about lesson 120-140 and then we stop. We don’t do it, but I could totally see stretching a Daily Grams book out over two years. I just have always bought the next grade appropriate book and moved on.

      Easy Grammar is a good, concise program, but I feel like in order for it all to sink in, the kids have to be writing too (either at the same time or by block/semester which you saw me describe.)

      Well, that’s how I approach it! I’ve added diagraming sentences to my seventh grader’s curriculum. That has been useful for her. Plus, she started Latin and is starting to see some things from grammar show up (like predicate nominatives), and this makes it very exciting for her. Like mom isn’t crazy for making her learn all that stuff!

      You can see we keep it very flexible for their course load. I still like Easy Grammar. I haven’t looked at the 8th grade curriculum much yet, but I’ll be doing that soon.

      Best wishes to you! May you be in-tune to your kid(s) and know when to push and when to pull back. And may they learn and thrive and have joy!

      Terri

      Reply
      1. Mary

        Terri- thank you!!! I am so grateful that you took the time to reply so thoroughly!! I feel confident in our choice to continue with Easy Grammar, and more informed as to the proper way to go about it each day. I plan to add sentence diagramming during middle school, too- partly because I did it and think it is useful, and partly because my a mother would kill me if I didn’t. 🙂 Cheers to you, and many thanks again!!

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        My pleasure!

        That’s funny! I enjoyed sentence diagraming (Or diagramming—I looked it up when I wrote a post on it! I guess it can be either! Crazy language.) too when I was in school! Your mother must have taught?!?

        Happy Sunday! Have a good one!

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