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 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:
- Reading Comprehension
- Editor Duty
- Grammar/ Usage
- Wacky Words (frequently confusing words)
- Study Skills
- Creative Writing
- Writing Techniques
- Writing Skill Building
- 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 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.