Tag Archives: opinion

Our Fifth Grade Curriculum: Grammar

I think this is the third year we have used the Easy Grammar System.  It’s about as dry as I am on a Sunday.  The black and white print stares at you like a gray, winter day.  Cut and dry like my grilled steak.  But, we all appreciate Easy Grammar’s conciseness, including my kids.  (My second daughter, in third grade, also uses the Easy Grammar System.)

It takes no prep work or reading ahead on my part.  Hallelujah.  Just turn the page and go.  Grammar takes about a mere 20 minutes a day, and we do it somewhere between three and four times each week, on average.

Many school subjects in our curriculum do not start and end with the traditional school schedule.  For example, math we are about 3/4 of the way through our book.  Spelling we just moved up to a new book.  And writing we are still at the beginning of a book.  I do not march my books and student assignments out at the beginning of the year, but I always periodically take measure of where we are at, what we are doing, and where we need to regroup.  In grammar, we pretty much follow a traditional year.

Grammar Choices

We use two texts from the same author, Wanda Phillips, for our grammar curriculum:

Easy Grammar: Grade 5 (teacher’s edition)

Daily Grams:  Grade 5 (teacher’s edition)

I will describe my take on them and how we use them below.  Please notice the student’s preference for gluten-free bread.  Too bad all curriculums (curricula) seem to like to make use of references to food.

Easy Grammar: Grade 5

2015-05-13 08.21.06 (1)

Easy Grammar: Grade 5 is the more traditional manual.  It succinctly explains grammatical concepts and then follows each concept with worksheets dedicated to that specific topic.  At the end of each unit are four “tests” you can use:  a practice unit review, a “real” unit test, a cumulative practice review, and a cumulative “real” test.  I do not all of these tests/reviews.  I pick and choose.  Sometimes we do the unit test.  Sometimes we do the cumulative test.  Sometimes we do both.  Generally, we do 3-4 pages of the manual’s worksheets a day, and we finish early in the school year (about 3/4 of the way through a traditional year).  After we finish this grammar book, we try to focus on writing more.

Please, it is important to note that there is a teacher’s manual and a student manual.  I buy the teacher’s manual for my daughter to use.  It is actually the teacher’s manual on the left side of the book and the student manual on the right.  The pages mirror each other–except the teacher’s side has a few extra teaching pointers and the worksheets have the answers filled in.  Make sense?  The answers to the student’s worksheets on the right side of the book are posted glaringly there on the left teacher’s side for the student to look at if they wish.  Obviously for some students, this just won’t work!  For some, it is no problem.  If it is problematic, you can buy the Easy Grammar Grade 5: Student Workbook for the student AND Easy Grammar: Grade 5 Teacher Edition to check their work and get teaching pointers.  Or, you can buy the teacher manual and make copies of all of the student worksheets and tests you want from the teacher’s manual.  However, if you hang your kids from the ceiling by their ears like I do for “cheating,” then maybe you can do what I do and just use the teacher’s manual.

Daily Grams: Grade 5

2015-05-13 08.23.41

Daily Grams:  Grade 5 is a workbook with 180 worksheets which build in a cumulative fashion.  It goes along with what is taught in the manual I discussed above.  Each worksheet has about 5-6 questions, and literally only takes five minutes (tops) to complete.  I like that one of the questions always requires the students to put together complex sentences.  I buy the Daily Grams:  Grade 5 Teacher Text, and this nicely places the answers at the end of the book (not like the main textbook I discussed first).  The Daily Grams Student Workbook does not come with answers.  Nine times out of ten I don’t need them, but it is getting to where I sometimes do!

If I happened to be really good at grammar, I could get by with just the Daily Grams and not even use the manual I first mentioned which teaches topics.  I could just teach the topics as they are encountered in the cumulative Daily Grams myself.  I be not that good.  So I buy the Easy Grammar text book with the answers AND the Daily Grams with the answers.

We do one or two Daily Grams pages each day we do grammar.  Sometimes I will pick and choose the questions they do, so they are not wasting time on material they know very well already.  We will finish the Daily Grams book on the traditional school year, but it takes us longer than the manual I first mentioned (Easy Grammar:  Grade 5).

One last thing I incorporate into Daily Grams is having them write the required sentence formation question in cursive.  That way they are frequently practicing cursive handwriting.


That’s it!  That’s our grammar!  Nobody paid for this review.  And I get no kick-backs.  It’s a sound grammar curriculum, but not pretty or exciting.  We will stick with it because I like its conciseness, thoroughness, and I really like Daily Grams.  I also like that I’m not needed too much.  In general, I’m not a good curriculum shopper, and this is working well for us.  If it’s not broke, I don’t look to fix it.  The enemy of good is better.  I feel like my kids will have a great grasp of grammar with The Easy Grammar System.

How about you?  Do you do formal grammar?  How’d you pick your text?  Does grammar take all year?  Do you do it every day?  Are you good at it?  Did you like it when you were a kids?


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

A Black Hills Vacation

We spent the last six days in the gorgeous Black Hills of South Dakota.  Wow!  We have been here three times, and we have loved each time!  The summer days are warm and the summer nights are chilly.  The Black Hills (actually mountains) literally spring up out of the extensive rolling prairie that surrounds them, like an oasis.  Stories abound in the area of Native Americans receiving instructions from God (well, that’s what I call Him) in different areas of These Hills.  I don’t doubt it a bit.  There’s a feeling one gets here that makes it easy to believe the layer separating Heaven from Earth is quite a bit thinner than other places.


Custer State Park:  Buffalo roam free and wild at Custer State Park; they welcomed us immediately.  There’s something about seeing buffalo roaming free that makes you feel so bold, free, and American.  You may also see antelope, mountain goats, elk, and prairie dogs.  We usually spend a couple of hours driving in the park, and we like to stop at one of the lodges and have lunch.  The lodges are picturesque and have great settings.  The food is average, so don’t expect much.  I would like to point out that if you are stopped by a herd of animals, pause and enjoy it, then politely honk your horn and nudge your vehicle slowly forward.  They will part for you.  Or you could sit there for 30 minutes with a line of traffic behind you.


Spearfish Canyon:  So scenic and beautiful.  We did two hikes in the area, and afterwards, we stopped at the conveniently located Latchstring Inn Restaurant for views and lunch after the hike; the photo above was the view from our outside balcony table.  Our food here was reliably good!  Spearfish Canyon Lodge is across the street from the Latchstring Inn Restaurant.

  • Roughlock Falls:  A very simple walk, I wouldn’t classify it as a hike, to the lovely Roughlock Falls.  Abundant wpid-IMAG1146-1.jpgeducational sign posts make for lots of learning to be had.  The path has been expanded and improved on so that it is exceptionally traversable by all.  We parked in Spearfish Canyon Lodge’s parking lot and walked up the path behind it.  This walk would be something that children of any age could do and grandparents of any age and ability could do.  A stroller would even navigate well.  The leisurely walk probably took us 45 minutes.  Not for those seeking adventure.
  • Devils Bathtub:  Our party of seven (3 adults and 4 children, ages 4-9) enjoyed this hike immensely.  Here is the review that I used to choose the trail for us; it has great directions:  Enjoy The Black Hills, Devils Bathtub.  Once you arrive on site, the actual path is not well-marked; in fact, there are several small paths to choose from.  Be careful, or you may be hanging off the side of a cliff, hearing, “Mommy, I’m scared.”  Stick to the paths that hug the creek on the “road side” of the creek.  You will bewpid-IMAG1110.jpg crossing the creek occasionally and have three choices:  get wet, try to cross on the bigger rocks, or test your balance on a log crossing the creek.  My four-year-old was able to navigate the whole hike with a hand to hold at creek crossings.  She did ask me to carry her a bit (and I did), but I was able to bribe her abilities with granola bars and apple slices.  It helped a lot that she was wearing hiking sandals that didn’t matter if they got wet.  The kids absolutely LOVED playing in the creek and “tubs.”  We arrived somewhat early and were the first hikers up the path, but by the time we left, it was becoming quite populated.  The kids spent an hour stomping in the creek and writing on the rocks with different colored limestone.  There was not litter on our hike, as mentioned by one blog site.


Mt. Rushmore:  I’ve seen it three times now, and I still enjoy it.  I also love seeing all the different people who come to visit from different countries.  My husband says after three visits, he’s done with Mt. Rushmore, but how can you be done when you haven’t read all the information in the museum?  I’m rushed out every darn time.  We always do the walk around the bottom; there are lots of steps.  The hike is fine for all the kids, but we’ve done it with my father-in-law, and I don’t think with his arthritis that he is a big fan.  We usually watch the movie that’s available, but my four-year old doesn’t like to sit through it.  This was the first year I have been able to watch the whole 20 minute movie.  The ice cream cones at the snack stand are $5 per person.  I’d encourage you to skip this and go get some ice cream in Hill City, just a short drive down the mountain.


Panning for gold:  This year we panned for gold outside of Deadwood at Broken Boot Gold Mine.  Aside from the kids’ excitement about leaving with some gold flecks, I was disappointed.  The panning takes place in a tank right next to the noisy road.  (The guests we were hosting didn’t know the difference, but we have gone twice to Wade’s Gold Mill near Hill City.  Every time we have spent a glorious two hours surrounded by sunshine, a babbling creek, and such kind hosts.  I just looked it up and was sad to see that it is currently closed due to family health concerns.  If they do re-open, I can’t even tell you how much we recommend it!  Not a drop of commercialism on the grounds.)  I couldn’t talk anybody else into taking the actual mine tour, so I cannot comment on that.  Fuddy duddies.  The photo above is from last year’s visit to Wade’s Gold Mill, not Broken Boot.

Deadwood:  We stayed near to and enjoyed our visits to Deadwood.  We ate at several places, and they were all about the same.  The menus are not too creative.  Our best meal was across the street from Kevin Costner’s Tatanka, at the Lodge of Deadwood; there were actually vegetables on the menu, aside from iceberg lettuce salad!

  • Tatanka:  The best part was the Lakota Native American speaker, Mr. Redbird.  Very informative.  The wpid-IMAG1141.jpgsculptures were lifelike, and I liked seeing them.  We spent about 1 hour here.  The film at the beginning put my teeth on edge; a bit too much of Kevin Costner and egocentricity.  I want to say I liked the place because I really appreciated the sculptures and Native American speaker, but aside from that, the small place is not endowed with much.
  • Mt. Roosevelt Hike:  A short hike.  My kids were worn out a little already and fussed just a tad up the hill.  wpid-IMAG1130.jpgThey like the hikes with the creeks better!
  • Street shootouts:  Our whole family enjoyed running into these.  My daughter even volunteered to be in one!
  • The Adam’s House:  A haunted house!  The tour was well-done, and our kids liked it.  However, they really wanted to see ghosts, and we didn’t.  If my kids were squirrely, I don’t think I would enjoy taking them to the Adam’s House.
  • Mt. Moriah:  “Wild Bill Hickok” is buried here beside Calamity Jane.  We walked up from The Adam’s House, and the kids wanted to kill some parents.  The hill up is very steep.

Miscellaneous:  We usually rent a house from VRBO in the middle of nowhere and then journey out from there.  We have stayed in Custer, Hill City, and Deadwood.  My favorite area has been Hill City because it’s a bit more centrally located to all of the sites.  We have always gone with friends and/or family.  They have all enjoyed it here.  Activities we have liked include:

  • Biking. We usually just like to bike around our cabin.  There is also the Mickelson Trail to ride or hike on.
  • The Badlands.  Worth a trip to see some surreal scenery! We usually only have time to drive through.
  • Mammoth Museum in Hot Springs
  • Dinosaur Museum in Hill City

The food in all places has only been mediocre.  Sourcing organic/gluten-free/grass-fed has been hit or miss.  Custer has a great little food store with all of this, but the other towns were lacking.

Be where you are!  Take care and enjoy your day!


Posts in the draft bin:  FODMAPS/GAPS vegetable list and a GAPS success testimonial regarding seizures