I want to thank Master Books for providing me with copies of the Student text and Teacher Guide for James P. Stobaugh’s Skills for Language Arts in return for my honest review.
When we first started homeschooling, we decided that that after Scripture, language arts was a major priority for us. With Tapestry of Grace, my boys read a lot of books. In fact, I add literature books so that they’ll have extra exposure to Christian history, literature, and art. We discuss their reading and they do some very simple notebooking about each book using the My Book Journey Notebooking Journal. We haven’t really analyzed literature for the sake of literature yet, though.
I’ve been looking for a good middle school language arts program that will analyze literary structure, teach writing, and discuss grammar. I’m so excited to report that I’ve found it! James P. Stobaugh is a pretty smart guy. He doesn’t condescend to students, and he expects a lot, but his work load for kids is divided into manageable daily chunks. I knew this from reviewing his Studies in World History I, also from Master Books…..
Here’s a little more information about Dr. Stobaugh: He was a Merrill Fellow at Harvard and holds degrees from Vanderbilt and Rutgers universities, as well as from Princeton and Gordon-Conwell seminaries. He and his wife Karen have homeschooled their four children since 1985. See what I mean? Whoa.
Ok. Now that I’m done telling you about the author of this fabulous curriculum, let me explain what it covers. Each week has five one-hour lessons. The curriculum covers grammar concepts, literature evaluation (plot, character, conflict, etc), genres and function of writing, story-telling concepts, and a year-long writing project. Kids will be writing a novella (17,000 to 40,000 words). Just to put that in perspective, a middle grade book is about 40,000 words long. The curriculum also includes excerpts from the Bible, The Yearling, Les Miserables, Great Expectations, To Kill a Mockingbird, and more fabulous novels.
I’m really pleased with this curriculum and I don’t see it as busy work, but as a constructive learning tool that will help my boys communicate more effectively in whatever career God calls them to. Right now, I plan to use all three of the “Skills for…” Language Arts from Dr. Stobaugh and Master Books.
Skills for Language Arts is recommended for 6th grade, Skills for Literary Analysis (Student) is recommended for 7th grade, and Skills for Rhetoric (Student) is intended for 8th grade. Because there is no grade level listed on the books, however, you can move them up or down as needed. Both my 6th and 7th grader will be doing Skills for Language Arts this year. (I just found it!)
Other things I like about the curriculum:
- It’s written from a Christian worldview.
- It includes 34 weeks of study comprised of 34 chapters.
- The text for each chapter is divided into 5 readings — one for each day of the week.
- It should take your students 45-60 minutes each day to complete the curriculum.
- The curriculum covers 1 credit of writing and 1 credit of literature.
- Each Friday there are review questions and a test.
- Each daily reading has a several assignments, including a warm-up and writing in a prayer journal daily (how cool is that?).
- The Teacher Guide includes answers to explain the assignments. I don’t always like Teacher Guides, but I think this one is helpful.
- The text is attractively laid out with black and white diagrams and lots of white space.
- It’s very affordable for an entire year of study.
Master Books lets you download the first lesson and the table of contents so you can check it out a little before deciding: Skills for Language Arts Pack
You can purchase the Master Books Skills for Language Arts Curriculum at:
Amazon: Skills for Language Arts (Student) and Skills for Language Arts (Teacher)
Christian Book: Skills for Language Arts, Student Book and Skills for Language Arts, Teacher Book
Master Books: Skills for Language Arts Pack
Other Thinking Kids book reviews for older students:
- Water the Earth: A Student’s Guide to Missions
- God’s Story: A Student’s Guide to Church History
- Rebels Rescued: A Student’s Guide to Reformed Theology
- Bitesize Theology
- Zachary Macaulay (Bitesize Biographies)
- Questions God Asks
- Grace Works! And Ways It Doesn’t
Or just check out the Thinking Kids book review indexes for:
Thinking Kids Pinterest Book Boards
- Christian Books for Preschoolers
- Christian Books for 4-7 Year Olds
- Christian Books for the Middle Grades
- Christian Books for Middle School
- Christian Books for High School
- Christian Books for Kids’ Devotions
- Christian Books about Parenting
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.