Character Quality Language Arts ~ How Do I Love Thee?

Character Quality Language Arts How Do I Love Thee {Danika Cooley at ThinkingKidsBlog.org}

How do I love CQLA?  Let me count the ways!

When I first started homeschooling, I thought language arts would be a piece of cake.  After all, I am a writer.  Long ago, when it came to that super-scary, super-hard sophomore grammar and writing class in high school and everyone promised that no student could earn over a C, I got an A.  I think in metaphors.  That must translate to an ability to teach language arts, right?

…   Do you hear the crickets chirping?  The silence is almost deafening.   …

Perhaps it was my love of the English language that found me so discouraged with all the standard homeschool LA curriculums.  Perhaps it was the fact that my boys love science and math, but tend to protest loudly when faced with writing of any type.  Perhaps it was the fact that I felt like I was constantly cobbling together curriculum, or supplementing.  Then again, perhaps I was discouraged by the fact that I changed language arts curriculum three times in the first year of homeschooling.

In desperation, my husband and I finally agreed to try an expensive writing program – something that looked wonderful, but was far outside our budget.  It was a program that, for all its wonderful traits, only addressed writing.  I knew I would still need to add grammar, editing, handwriting and more.  I truly wanted a program that came from a Christian perspective, that incorporated all things language arts except for literature (we get tons of literature through Tapestry of Grace, and one day we’ll use their fantastic writing program), something that did the planning for me, yet I came up empty.

That’s when I read a post on Hip Homeschool Moms on facebook about CQLA.  Wait!  Character Quality, what?  Character Quality Language Arts from Training for Triumph.

That’s when I fell in love.  Skeptical at first that I could have found the perfect program for our family, I proceeded cautiously.  I read the vast quantity of information available on Training for Triumph’s website.  I printed a month’s worth of each level (CQLA offers a free sample) of the program.  I showed the samples to my children and enlisted their support.  I read every review I could find online.  My husband and I decided that $80 for a year per child was completely reasonable given the various programs we were trying to combine, and a downright bargain compared to some of the other programs we had looked at.

CQLA covers the following topics:

  • Copywork
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Spelling
  • Editor Duty
  • Grammar/ Usage
  • Wacky Words (frequently confusing words)
  • Outlining
  • Prewriting
  • Study Skills
  • Composition
  • Creative Writing
  • Writing Techniques
  • Writing Skill Building
  • Dictation
  • Weekly Tests
  • Literature suggestions
  • Handwriting suggestions

See what I mean?  That’s a pretty comprehensive list!  The author, Donna Reish, combined the best of the programs already on the market to come up with this fantastic program.  (Am I gushing too much?  I promise… no one is paying me to write this!)

For me, the very best part of CQLA is that it uses a unit-study approach to address eight different character qualities a year.  This year, we’re using the “Green” curriculum (each of the 3 colors comes in 4 different levels of study), so we’re studying the following character qualities for a month each:  alertness, self-control, gratefulness, humility, meekness, diligence, gentleness, and sincerity.  Next year, we’ll continue with the same level (we’re using A), but with a different color.  When we use Green B and Green C, the character qualities will be the same, but the passages and work will be different.

My boys and I have all appreciated the consistent structure CQLA provides.  Each week we do the same activities:  We read a passage, do copywork, learn vocabulary based on the character quality, learn about various aspects of grammar and language, edit a passage about the same character quality, outline and prewrite, write a passage, edit the passage using a checklist challenge, work on spelling, etc.

The first month of this was difficult.  The program is supposed to take a half hour a day; it took us two full hours.  However, I was expecting upheaval, so I planned for that.  Eventually, we all got the hang of the program and the boys mostly work independently now, within a reasonable time-frame.

The first two weeks of each month, the boys write a composition based on the original passage.  The last two weeks, they work on some form of original creative writing such as poetry or a letter.  I schedule the work for four days (there are schedules for four-day and five-day weeks provided), and we spend Fridays reading part of one of the biographies suggested for the character quality we’re working on.  There are also suggestions for handwriting.  I use one of the free handwriting websites to type in our Bible verses and sayings, print them out and put them in a binder.

We’re only 3 months into CQLA, and my boys still don’t love writing.  However, 2 months into the program, my boys wrote research projects about different Christian heroes; one paper was 5 pages long, the other 3.  I count that a victory.  That, and the fact that no one melts down during grammar or vocabulary anymore.

Suffice it to say, I love CQLA.  I plan to continue using it, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  You’ll need a couple 2″ 3-ring binders per kid for the consumable information, and a 1″ binder to put their weekly section into (at over 1000 pages of material per child per year, you need to plan for an efficient way to store and access it).  I don’t intend for this little review to explain every aspect of CQLA.  For an overview, you’ll want to read their FAQS sheet.

What do you use to teach language arts?

~Danika Cooley

Danika Cooley is a children’s writer with a love for God’s Word, history, wisdom and small people. Her work has appeared in magazines including Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, Clubhouse Jr. and Thriving Family; Upper Room Ministries’ Pockets and Devozine; CBH Ministries’ Keys for Kids, and Cobblestone Group’s FACES and Odyssey. Her work also appears in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters.

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Comments

  1. says

    Melanie ~ First I should issue a disclaimer: I’m really particular, especially about Language Arts.

    We started with Easy Grammar (which was great, but very basic and not a complete LA program ~ Donna Reisch actually uses some of their techniques), Wordly Wise (I really didn’t like the evolutionary bent of their compositions), and Handwriting for a Reason (I liked this, but it didn’t coordinate with anything else we were doing).

    We tried doing just the Tapestry of Grace writing, along with our Literature, but I found the kids needed a lot of extra instruction and I couldn’t keep up with all the ToG planning and plan their LA too. We will use the ToG writing on top of CQLA in a couple years when writing doesn’t make them cry.

    We switched to Rod and Staff (very Christian, but BORING – and incomplete as an LA program, since it is just grammar).

    We looked at The Well Trained Mind, but I couldn’t imagine doing what she detailed. My kids are bright, and it seemed torturously slow and boring.

    I also spent a lot of time looking at a number of programs. I am certain there are fantastic programs available and that if I had been more willing to cobble together a number of different programs, we could have found a different solution. However, I REALLY wanted something comprehensive. :)

  2. Sheri Vincent says

    So how do you think kids that struggle a bit more with school would do with CQLA? One of my sons struggles somewhat with the BJU we are doing now. One of the reasons we are looking to switch is because of how ridiculous the grammar is (ie unrelated to any real-life use I can think of). I future if I didn’t need it writing a master’s thesis then my 12 year old doesn’t need it lol!

    Also, this review was the first I had heard of Tapestry of Grace. I had a quick look at their site. How do you find it?

    Thanks so much for this review :)

    Sheri

    • says

      Sheri,

      One of my boys really resents writing. CQLA hasn’t been a magic bullet – he still has to write. However, the structure has been fantastic for him. He knows what to expect every week, and he enjoys the fact that he has a couple of tasks each day that involve writing, and a couple that involve editing, spelling or grammar (those are easier and he often gets to highlight, which he enjoys). The first two months were definitely an adjustment, and he still doesn’t love writing, but he’s improving rapidly, which is lessening his frustration. CQLA is pretty comprehensive, so it requires some time and effort invested, as opposed to a program like Easy Grammar, which is … well, easy. I like the cohesive and comprehensive nature, though.

      I appreciate CQLA because I think the grammar is introduced in a very practical method, is necessary for quality writing, and is usually practiced through some story about a character quality, or the story of a Christian hero. I really like the program. As a writer, I think the skills it teaches are important. The only complaint I have is that, occasionally, there is a typo. Which causes all kinds of confusion. However, that probably happens once every three weeks or so.

      We love Tapestry of Grace. It is a living books program, and extremely flexible, so it does require planning on the part of the parent. I love that because it means I’m making decisions within a structured framework. Here’s the review I wrote of ToG: http://www.thinkingkidsblog.org/2011/06/02/tapestry-of-grace-a-year-in-review-and-looking-ahead/ There’s a link in there to the site. I hope that helps!

      ~Danika

  3. says

    I have been searching for a writing/language arts program. I’ve been using Sonlight and the LA part just never quite cuts it for us. I’ve been looking at Institute for Excellence in Writing – but I like that this involves character building. DEFINITELY looking into this one!

    • says

      Graceful Chaos,

      We really love CQLA. There is a learning curve, but once we got the hang of it, it’s been nothing but improved LA skills! I really like the character growth I see in my boys as well. :)

      ~ Danika

      • Sarah Stewart says

        I really like what I have heard from you and others on CQLA. Thank you. My daughter is currently in first grade and using Explode the Code online for phonics, we are reading and doing copy work for writing. I believe I have heard that CQLA can be used in second grade. If this is so, then do you have any suggestions for further preparatory work? Also, what does need to be supplemented? We would need to continue to use a phonics program, correct?

        • says

          Sarah,

          You can start the Pre-A level in 2nd or 3rd grade. I think that in 2nd grade, I would recommend that you be prepared to modify the curriculum as necessary – it can be overwhelming the first month.

          There are recommended biographies to support the monthly character qualities, but no formal reading or literature program. We use Tapestry of Grace, and I add literature from All Through the Ages by Christine Miller, so my children read a lot, and I wasn’t really concerned about that aspect when I chose CQLA. If you are still working on formal phonics, yes, you will need to continue that.

          Also, there are recommendations for handwriting, but no program for it is included. I found a website that allows you to type in your desired copywork, and then print out the sheets for free. It doesn’t look like the website I used is still available, but I know there are others out there. We used some of the CQLA suggestions, and I looked up Bible verses as well.

          I highly recommend purchasing the parent handbook. It was very helpful.

          ~ Danika

  4. Jessica says

    This looks very similar to Wisdom Language Arts put out by IBLP which I purchased this year. It is very thorough, and if I can be disciplined with it with my children it looks like it can have some good results all around. I am pleased with it. I’m not sure how the prices compare, you can find it at the IBLP store http://store.iblp.org/products/LAS2528A/ to see for yourself.

    • Sheri Vincent says

      The Wisdom Booklets are identical because they were written by CQLA writers. They were contracted by the institute to write the LA program and after doing that they got permission to publish it as their own LA course with additional levels. The booklets are word for word identical :)

  5. Rebecca says

    I am glad you have had ‘success’ with CQLA. I, however, am still struggling with this program. When I ordered it, I was told I would Not need the Teacher’s Guide. This simply is not the case. We are on month four and my kids have yet to do the writing portion. I don’t understand it or what is being asked of the kids and have found, what I believe to be, mistakes, editing mistakes.

    One week the kids had to write an informative essay from the perspective of an animal. They worked through it, even did a finalized draft by the end of the week, like expected. The next week they learned about writing an opening paragraph for their informative essay. The following week they worked on writing the closing paragraph. I guess the issue I have is this: why have the student write (including the final draft) an essay only to have lessons on crucial parts later and do another finalized draft?

    Time wise, we STILL take two hours, or there abouts, to do all our work and that’s without the essay writing. Again, I am glad that you like this program. I am frustrated with it and am not certain that I will use it again next year. And that is where I’m torn. There are aspects of the program I like, but I do wonder if I could do similar work from a different source.

    • says

      Rebecca,

      That sounds like a terrible experience. I absolutely needed the parenting manual, and I needed to call Training for Triumph a few times to figure out what I was supposed to do in a couple of areas. I think preparing myself to teach the program was vital. Also, as I mentioned in the comments, there are some typos in the program. Frustrating in a language arts program, yes?

      You didn’t mention how old your kids are, but if you are doing the animal report, I am guessing you are using Blue Level A? Donna Reisch recommends not starting level A until 4th or 5th grade. 2nd and 3rd graders should use Pre-A.

      I started my kids in A in 2nd and 3rd grade. It was too much! We took out the vocab definition sections, shortened the writing portion, and skipped all the tests but the spelling. For a while, I shortened the copywork, too.

      We’ve been using the program a year and a half, and the kids have moved to ‘Extensions’. Next year, we’ll move to B. That’s a lot of improvement!

      In my opinion, 2 hours a day, 4 or 5 days a week, with no improvement is too much. That can’t lead to anything but exasperation on the part of everyone involved. My suggestion – if you want to continue using the program – would be to re-evaluate the level you have chosen, and reduce the amount of weekly work. I would also advise calling Training for Triumph and asking them to explain the writing section to you. They are very helpful.

      In the end, there are some curriculums that REALLY don’t work for some people. A good curriculum should work for you, rather than you working for the curriculum. If you can’t (or don’t want to) alter CQLA to fit the needs of your kids, I would suggest finding something else.

      I wish you the best in your homeschool,
      Danika

      • Rebecca says

        Thanks for your tips AND encouragement. My kids are in grades 6, 5, & 4. We are in Red A and, as already stated, am frustrated. I have emailed a couple of times and even called but never heard from them…another frustration. All this being said though, I am glad you are having “success” with this program. I think I would like it better if I knew How to use it.

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