When should we begin ELTL Level 1?

Which level of ELTL to begin with is a twofold decision. The decision is a matter of your own personal philosophy regarding formal academics as well as the readiness of the individual child. For Levels 1-3, the level number should be the same as or one less than the child’s grade. In other words, Level 1 is for 1st or 2nd grade, Level 2 is for 2nd or 3rd grade, and Level 3 is for 3rd or 4th grade.

Regarding philosophy, some prefer more advanced work for their children while others have a “better late than early” attitude. I fall into the latter camp, so we do ELTL a year “behind.”

Regarding readiness, a child should not begin Level 1 until he is at least comfortable sounding out the copywork, but he does not have to be reading fluently. I consider copywork the star of the show in Level 1, so I would not recommend skipping that part of the program under most circumstances.

In the ELTL Level 1 and 2 workbooks, what are the big, blank boxes for?

I’ve left space for the student to draw pictures in his ELTL workbook, so many pages have either an empty box or just a large blank space for pictures.

Why isn’t there an answer key for ELTL Level 2?

Levels 3 and up each have an answer key at the end of the book, but Level 2 does not because it’s really not important that they get every single noun, verb, etc., in the passage, so don’t feel like it’s a big deal if y’all miss one. The thing is, grammar is complex, and at this stage, children will make some perfectly understandable mistakes. They will call verbals verbs and prepositions adverbs, and it’s okay. This is not going to cause confusion later on. However, trying to analyze every single mistake with a second grader probably will lead to confusion because they’re simply not ready for these fine distinctions. What they are learning is to analyze sentences and think about how words function in sentences. I really do feel like the act of completing the exercises and the discussions that go along with this process are more important than a perfect list of answers at the end.

Those fine distinctions are one of the reasons why there’s no answer key. Would I include verbals as verbs, knowing that the average 2nd or 3rd grader will call them verbs? In the preposition lessons, would I skip the words which are common prepositions but happen to be acting as adverbs in the passage? I felt like no matter what I did with an answer key, in the end it would likely make things more confusing for some people, and at the same time, it wouldn’t actually help anyone meet the goal of the exercise.

Should I begin with ELTL Level 1, 2, or 3 for my younger child?

Levels 1, 2, and 3 all have basic narrations where the student hears or reads a story and then retells it. I recommend one of these levels for students who need practice in narrating or who need to transition from oral to written narrations.

Level 1 is extremely gentle. The student begins copywork and memory work as well as being introduced to punctuation marks and their purposes. The narrations begin with the student drawing a picture from a fable and then telling about the picture.

Level 2 begins the actual study of grammar. Students learn all eight parts of speech and practice labeling the parts of speech in sentences from the literature. Narrations begin with very short fables. The fables gradually get longer throughout the book.

Level 3 teaches the parts of speech and how to diagram most of them. For that reason, I don’t recommend Level 3 before 3rd grade as diagramming is not developmentally appropriate before that age. The narrations are from longer stories, and it begins the exercise where they re-write, orally, a sentence in multiple ways. The copywork is a little longer, and prepared dictation begins.

Should I begin with ELTL Level 4 or Level 5 for my older child?

Levels 4 and 5 are both appropriate for older students. Level 4 is for 4th grade and up, and Level 5 is for 5th grade and up. The “and up” is an important distinction! I would not hesitate to use either of these levels with older children who need to cover the basics of grammar and writing. Both levels cover grammar and writing, just as the earlier levels do. However, where the early levels cover writing solely through narration, Levels 4 and up have an emphasis on more progymnasmata style projects as well as descriptive writing through imitation and beginning literary analysis.

Levels 4 and 5 have the same types of writing projects, but with new stories for each level. These are condensed, amplified, point of view, and slant narratives, plus scientific and historical narrations. The scientific and historical narrations are intended to be preparation for writing reports. They read the science story, then write about just the science topic discussed, leaving any other elements of the story out. In Level 4, they write about a historical topic, and in Level 5, they argue an opinion about the historical topic. For the historical and scientific narrations, both levels mention the option of checking other sources before writing; I left that up to the student and the teacher. Level 4 teaches the one-level outline, Level 5 reviews the one-level outline and also teaches the two-level outline. Level 5 covers introductions and conclusions.

One of my major issues with using Level 4 with older students was that they wouldn’t get the lessons on introductions and conclusions until Level 5. To solve that, I put those three lessons in an appendix in Level 4 with a suggested schedule for introducing them. I point toward the appendix at the beginning of the introduction. In my opinion, 4th and 5th grade students can use the book as written, but 6th grade and up students should add the extra lessons.

Regarding grammar, Level 5 is a little more advanced, and the pacing is also a little faster. I would personally choose Level 4 for a child who has had little to no formal grammar instruction, and Level 5 for a child who has the basics down and is ready to move on to more advanced grammar. Level 4 teaches indirect objects and diagramming prepositional phrases, identifying the parts of the verb, and determining whether a group of words is a phrase or a clause. Level 5 repeats that and also teaches types of clauses, sentence structures, diagramming complex and compound sentences, and more advanced punctuation.

How is spelling incorporated into ELTL?

Spelling is incorporated into ELTL through prepared dictation beginning in Level 3. Instead of a spelling list, students get a passage from one of the books they are reading. The student should study the passage for five to ten minutes, paying special attention to any words that he does not know how to spell. He should choose two to four words to analyze or study. Then, he should write or type the passage with his instructor watching over his shoulder to correct any misspellings immediately. Complete instructions for this process are included in every level of ELTL and RLTL. In this way, the student practices spelling in the context of writing, not merely spelling words in isolation. Each week has two dictation exercises.

With which level of RLTL should we begin?

You can begin RLTL in any level. All of the instructional material is in each book.

Because RLTL Level 1 has the most hand-holding, it is best for those new to the O-G method. I generally recommend starting here for most people new to O-G.

If you already have experience with analyzing and marking words–you understand the process and do not feel the need for hand-holding–then it would be fine to start with Level 2 or 3. Be aware, however, that Level 1 teaches all 75 phonograms, so any phonogram can appear in the lists in Levels 2 and up.

Many of the words in Levels 1 and 2 would be considered “easy” words for fluent readers. However, the purpose of the program is to learn to analyze words, not merely learn to spell them. The easier words are, not surprisingly, also easier to analyze. Also, the spelling rules are taught through practice and repetition as they apply to spelling words in the lists, so students get the most repetition by beginning with an earlier level.

RLTL does not include busywork exercises or spelling tests, so any level can be easily accelerated for older students if desired.

How do I use the Spelling Journal and RLTL?

The Spelling Journal is NOT intended to go with RLTL. We use the Spelling Journal along with prepared dictation; that process is explained in an appendix in RLTL as well as ELTL Levels 3 and up. In prepared dictation, as part of the preparation, the student chooses a couple of words to analyze from the dictation passage. Those words can be analyzed in the Spelling Journal; I actually consider determining WHERE to place the word as part of the process since they have to consider which phonograms and rules apply to the word in question.

For RLTL, you can use a standard composition book, spiral notebook, or just plain paper–whatever is convenient for you, though bound books tend to be handy for reading through the spelling lists. This process is explained in Section 2: The Spelling Lists.

Which handwriting font should we choose?

For your convenience, I include the copywork in all of the Barefoot Ragamuffin Curricula workbooks in a choice of five different hands. These are slant cursive, vertical cursive, basic italic, cursive italic, and manuscript.

Many people choose a handwriting font based on the appearance of the font. This ignores that some hands are easier to write than others. So which handwriting style do I actually recommend?

I’ve come to believe that traditional slant cursive is the best. It is a traditional handwriting style for good reasons. I invite you to perform the following test. Take your finger, and draw a series of hills in the air, like making a really long lower-case m. First do it slanted, and then try vertical. There’s a noticeable difference. Slanted can move faster and more smoothly. The slant keeps the hand moving in the correct direction. Vertical writing, whether print or cursive, requires more effort.

When slant cursive is taught correctly, it’s easier to learn to write both quickly and legibly than other handwriting styles. The correct way is to focus on rhythm when teaching students to write, and this is easy to do with the basic shapes taught in HLTL. Stress shapes instead of letters, and students will learn to form each shape in a smooth motion, which will help them to develop a rhythm to their writing.

My second choice is italic writing. In my experience, it is no more difficult to teach than manuscript, and it is easy to transition to cursive italic. It is also a more attractive option than handwriting styles which have been produced in order to be easier to learn. As in all other areas, if we put a model in front of our students, it needs to be worthy of emulating.

Manuscript writing was developed to be an easier method of writing so that children could learn to write earlier in order to begin written expression at an earlier age. There are a couple of problems with that belief. First, with its many starting places and easy to reverse letters, manuscript writing is not easier than cursive. Second, oral narrations allow children to begin expressing themselves in a formal fashion without ever having to pick up a pencil, and it prevents invented spelling, which only leads to poor spelling.

Can I start Wayfarers in the middle of the school year?

Each Wayfarers sample has the complete book list at the beginning, and each book is marked according to which term it appears in, so that can be helpful if you want to start Wayfarers in the middle of the year, starting with Term 2 or Term 3. Simply decide which books are closest to where you are in your studies. Keep in mind that most books will be in progress at the beginning of those terms, so Term 2 may begin with Chapter 5 in a science book and Chapter 11 of 12 in a history book. For this reason, I recommend taking a few days, maybe even a week or more, to “catch up” on the reading that happened in the previous term. So, in the hypothetical case above, you might choose to skip the in-progress history book and just wait for the next book to appear on the schedule. But for the science book, you might want to take a few days and read those first few chapters, then begin using Wayfarers. You may decide to just jump into other books whatever chapter they’re on in the schedule. The amount of prep time you’d spend before starting Wayfarers would depend on the decisions you made for the various books.

Who won’t like ELTL and Wayfarers?

Not everyone will like the methodologies used for teaching in my programs. Some people don’t like the poetry and the stories in ELTL, and though these are easily skipped, some people don’t like skipping material.

But the larger issue, for both ELTL and Wayfarers, is slow reading. While classical education can include reading a lot of books in a short amount of time, Wayfarers and ELTL are more in line with CM and Latin-Centered philosophy, that it’s best to read books slowly. I’m a big fan of slow reading. Each book is read for weeks, one chapter at a time, just a few times a week. This type of reading takes some people time to get used to, but the benefit is great: You gain time. Great literature is great because it is filled with ideas, many of which are lost through fast reading. Slow reading allows time for the student to think deeply about what he’s read. It allows time for an education to become narrow and deep rather than wide and shallow. If you and your student prefer to zip through one book and get on to the next, and you’re not interested in changing this behavior, then you’re unlikely to enjoy ELTL or Wayfarers.

You say Quark Chronicles is neutral, but what do YOU believe, and does QC have a hidden agenda?

This concern keeps coming up, so I want to be abundantly clear about a particular topic.

I honestly do not care what you believe. I mean this in the kind and loving “it’s not my business” kind of way! I do not care whether you believe in a literal seven day creation, intelligent design, evolution, or seeding of life on earth by advanced alien civilizations.

What do we, personally, believe in our household? That will actually vary depending on which member of our household you’re asking because as a household, we recognize that these can be very personal matters. We recognize that our children are individuals who have their own faith and a right to explore both the science and the Bible–with our support when needed or desired–and come to their own conclusions. We recognize that before a hypothesis is expressed or an experiment is devised, science is about curiosity and questions. I would far rather support the eager exploration of how faith and science work together than to merely teach a particular ideology because we place the questions higher than the answers. This is the freedom which we are happy to give our own children. We can hardly give less to those who welcome our books into their homeschools.

We really just wanted to create a fun book that most anyone can use. It’s a spine, so we don’t intend for it to be used alone except for perhaps really young children. It is up to families to add in the other topics, the ones disputed between some religious people and secular scientists. So in the Zoology book, for example, children will learn about the differences between species, their defining characteristics, and taxonomy, among other topics. Evolution from a common ancestor would be left for evolutionists to add when and how they want while young earth creationists can add in the creation story in Genesis.

As for me (KJ), I believe in God, and I believe in having evidence to support a theory. Other than that, I don’t claim to have any definitive answers about life, the universe, and everything. We all believe the earth is old. Beyond that, I don’t know, nor do I pretend to.

But here’s what I want to make clear: We do not have a hidden agenda. We are not using any sort of tricky key words to make children in secular households believe in creationism or to make children in Christian households believe in evolution. We don’t even *know* these magic key words! Rest assured that Christian content in our books is clearly labeled as such, and we have no desire to usurp the parents’ authority to pass along their own beliefs to their own children.

My student needs high school English credit. How does Wayfarers provide that?

Remember that high school English is mostly literature and writing. That means when you’re doing science and history THROUGH LITERATURE, you’re doing English at the same time. When your student writes narrations for science and history, you’re doing English at the same time. When you look at the history reading lists, you’ll see that in addition to books simply ABOUT the time period, there are also classic works of literature FROM the time period: Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, etc. The literature selections are combined with the history reading because they are part of history, too.

In addition to the reading, Wayfarers schedules a research paper for both the junior and senior years, and Wayfarers also schedules reading and writing from Essential Literary Terms.

What Wayfarers DOES NOT explicitly schedule for the last two years of high school is writing literary analysis and persuasive papers other than the research paper. Sharon Watson’s The Power in Your Hands is scheduled for lower rhetoric, and it teaches students to write persuasively. Then they’ll need to CONTINUE writing persuasively throughout high school, and this is simple to do with narrations and with the strategies in Susan Wise Bauer’s lecture, A Plan for Teaching Writing: Focus on the High School Years. I highly recommend this lecture for learning how to cover persuasive writing from the books that your student is already reading.

In addition, you can look at study guides such as CliffsNotes, SparkNotes, or PinkMonkey for some of the literature. These study guides contain questions that your student can use to develop a literary analysis paper.

You can also use your student’s interests and allow him to write persuasive essays based on those while sticking to basic narrations for history and science. As I’ve said before, Jared wrote papers on how the Star Wars films are pro-Jedi propaganda, how the Pokemon franchise over-simplified the original Japanese lore, and how one of the Anti-Federalist writers was a time traveler. Obviously, his topics were very geek-centric. The point is the PERSUASIVE aspect of the paper, so you can do this on any topic your student is passionate about. Some students might prefer this route, while others might prefer to keep their personal interests out of their school work. With Jared, the key was that he was developing these arguments anyway, so I got him to write them down and fully flesh them out.

Will it meet state requirements? That depends on your state, but it SHOULD. If state requirements were that precise, everyone would have to use the same text. If you are concerned, I suggest that you research what the actual requirements are in your state as well as what the requirements are for any colleges that y’all may be considering. Anything I tell you will be very general, and in my state, as long as I can argue equivalency (and boy, can I), I can please myself

Should we supplement?

Supplementing can be the first step to overload and burn-out when it’s not really necessary. In general, for any subject, I recommend supplementing only when there’s a good reason for it. Does the child need extra practice? Does he need multiple explanations to understand the material? Do you just like covering the material in multiple ways? Do you want to teach skills on a different schedule? If not, then I recommend choosing the program which is most aligned with your educational philosophy, and then just stick with it.