Sunday, May 11, 2014

Logic of English {Schoolhouse Review}

I don't often review comprehensive core subject curricula.  However, I was intrigued by Logic of English and I knew I wanted to try it.  We were given the opportunity to review Essentials:  Logic of English Complete Set.


The Logic of English Complete Set ($243.00) comes in Cursive or Manuscript (we received Manuscript) and includes all of the following:
  • Essentials Teacher's Manual
  • Essentials Student Workbook in Cursive or Manuscript
  • Spelling Journal
  • Basic Phonograms Flash Cards
  • Spelling Rule Flash Cards
  • Grammar Rule Flash Cards
  • Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards
  • Game Book
  • Game Card decks
  • Phonogram & Spelling Rule Quick Reference Chart 

I also received the Phonics with Phonograms app ($2.99) which is compatible with all of their reading programs.

No lie.  When I opened this box, I was intimated.  This is a lot of stuff.  The teacher's manual is huge, the student text is huge, and there's all the extra components.  However, there wasn't much else I could do besides open the manual and start reading! 

I don't really know where to begin, or how to explain this program thoroughly enough.  It is almost something you have to see to understand.  It is described as a systematic reading, spelling and writing curriculum.  The introductory information alone covers nearly 70 pages of scope and sequence, sample schedules, phonemic awareness and how to teach the lessons.  There is a full range of activities that you may need to work on, or at least review, before you even begin the lessons, depending on the needs of your child.  You really have to spend at least a few days familiarizing yourself with the manual before you can think about starting.  If I hadn't spent the time preparing, and had just dove in, I would have drowned.

The Lessons
The lessons are divided into three sections.  Part 1 covers Phonograms, Exploring Sounds and Spelling Rules. It does not teach phonics in the same way as many other programs, and if you are working with an absolute beginning reader, you are going to spend a lot of time in the introduction and working on phonics, because your student should know all the phonograms for A-Z before starting lesson 1 of Essentials.  I was surprised at how well Elliott memorized the additional sounds we hadn't "formally" covered, and how well he liked reviewing phonograms with flash cards.

Part 2 covers Spelling Dictation, which is essentially a spelling list read aloud to the student.  There is a very detailed sample for how to give the spelling lessons in the introduction.  The spelling lessons are not stereotypical spelling lists based on word families.  The very first list does contain some CVC words that you would expect for beginning readers, but also words like hand, quilt, soft, and pink, for example.  It is meant to engage students with new words, and the program claims that non-readers will spell their way into reading.  Sometimes this becomes a little overwhelming, but I do see the purpose of it.

Part 3 of the lesson includes Grammar, Dictation, Composition and Vocabulary Development.  My focus for using this program during the review period was on reading, so I skim the surface of this portion of each lesson, usually covering it orally.  I explain the grammar rules in their simplest form, but I don't feel all of these flash cards are necessary.  I intend to go through the book again in the future focusing more on grammar, if necessary.

How We Used The Program
My intention was to follow the schedule for the Emerging Readers and Spellers for 6-7 Year Old Students, considering this is Elliott's current stage.  (FYI-there are also sample schedules for beginning readers, ESL students, struggling spellers, etc)  As you can see, there is a lot of information packed into one lesson, which makes the lessons really long.  The path I chose suggested to spend 30-60 minutes per day and to complete one lesson over five days.  The sample schedule gives recommend activities for each day, such as when to play games, when to introduce spelling or grammar rules, and when to quiz.

I don't want to spend an hour a day on one subject (unless it is by my child's choosing) at this age, but there is so much presented in each lesson that it is difficult to keep to the short daily lessons that we prefer and still finish a lesson in one week.  That meant I had to adapt the recommend schedule in order to keep it at, or under, thirty minutes.  However, it is easy to adjust the lesson to meet our needs without really altering the core of the program.  Sometimes we do parts of the lesson orally, as I mentioned, to reduce writing.  Sometimes I replace one activity with a shorter optional activity.  There are a lot of optional activities throughout each lesson, and they include auditory, visual, kinesthetic and creative activities to meet the needs of all learners.  Some students may need to do the entire lesson and all of the optional activities if they are struggling, and some parents may be able to pick and choose for the child.  I feel like there are enough activities and "meat" to the program that I can still adjust it to meet our relaxed style without sacrificing the quality of the curriculum.

Logic of English Review
So many activities and games so it doesn't become monotonous!

The Student Workbook
The workbook is labeled clearly and it is easy to find the current lesson to match the teacher's manual.  There's generally not too much writing at one time, especially if you break it up with kinesthetic activities.  I also felt like there was more than enough space for him to work and write, which is a plus.  The workbook is all black-and-white, with no illustrations, but this doesn't bother him.

The App
The Phonics with Phonograms app is nice, because it adds another facet to reviewing phonograms.  I would have Elliott use the app for review some mornings instead of playing a game or drilling with physical flashcards.  One level only takes a couple of minutes to complete.  You can also open a screen with all phonograms if you just need to review one.  It's very clean and streamlined, and it doesn't have characters, bright colors or childish songs or voices.  It's appropriate for all ages, and would actually be an excellent supplement to any reading or spelling program.

Final Thoughts
Essentials is geared towards ages 7+ but does include a sample lesson plan for even younger students (stretching one lesson over two weeks); however I would not recommend that.  Elliott is 7 and although I like the program, it is a little intense for him at times.  There is a Foundations curriculum that would probably be more appropriate for the younger students.

Something else to consider is that Essentials systematically covers the mechanics of reading, but there are no reading passages or extra readers or lists of appropriate books to choose, so you really have to supplement so your child gets enough practice to build fluency and confidence.  I feel like it teaches the whys and hows of English, but there aren't enough opportunities to put what is learned into practice!

Essentials is not open-and-go; the lessons are scripted but the curriculum relies heavily on parental involvement and preparation.  Because each lesson can be used in so many types of ways for different ages or stages of learners, you kind of have to feel your way through each lesson on your own.   However, the fact that it covers everything might make it ideal for families with multiple students working at different levels, because you could adapt one program for each child.  It could very well be the only Language Arts curriculum you need for several years.  That is also probably the only way to justify the cost.  It's a hefty price tag even for the bare minimum (the teacher's manual alone is $95) so I'd want to know I'd be getting a few year's worth of material out of this program before investing in it!

Essentials does initially have the "look" and "feel" of being dry and boring, because there's so much drilling and all the definitions and rules to learn.  However, Elliott loves the card games, the sound exploration activities, and he likes the more interactive activities from the lessons.  I think those extra activities are necessary, or it probably would be too difficult for him to get through the rest of the lessons.  To me, it has that very traditional, no-fuss, textbook feel to the program, so I appreciate that activities for all learning styles were included, even if they are listed as optional.  It's not our personal style, and while there is so much to love about it, the lessons are long and take a lot of out of him, so we just aren't far enough into the program yet to know how it will work long-term for us. 

Wait, There's More!
Logic of English graciously asked the crew to review several products in addition to Essentials, including their Foundations reading program and Rhythm of Handwriting, so be sure to check out the rest of the Crew Reviews.  You can also find Logic of English on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

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