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Homeschool High School: GRAMMAR – To Teach, or Not to Teach?

August 8, 2011

An “understanding” of grammar is important.  You need it in order to write well. You need it in order to score well on the SAT and ACT tests.  However, grammar is NOT taught every year in high school.  Colleges don’t require or test the ability to diagram a sentence. Taking a special grammar class every year is not necessary for the critical life skill of writing.  You may want to teach grammar separately in high school, as some programs suggest, but it’s optional.

For that reason, I chose to teach a grammar program one time, and I used Winston Grammar. After we completed that program, my children were able to understand the vocabulary of writing (noun, pronoun, adverb, etc.)  After that, we focused on the grammar they needed for the SAT and ACT.

Grammar is a necessary component in English, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy a book.  You can teach grammar in the context of writing, by saying “that doesn’t sound right, does it?”  Our study of grammar allowed this test to be all that we needed.  It filled in any gaps that we had by teaching grammar naturally through writing.

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  1. April says:

    Lee, I usually agree with you, but on this one I’m not so sure. I teach college level English, and grammar is a major concern for me. So many students have no idea about proper comma usage, what a semicolon is, differences in words like lie/lay, the purpose of a prepositional phrase, how to create a proper complex sentence, etc. Personally, I’d love to see a lot more grammar in high school. It doesn’t have to be diagramming, but understanding the rules of the language are important. Passing the ACT/SAT is just one step. After that, communication is critical to success in almost every field. With the increase in technology, more and more of our communication is written rather than spoken, and it needs to be articulate and accurate to be well received. Just my two cents… April

    August 8th, 2011 at 6:22 am

  2. Lee says:

    Hi April,
    I agree that communication and WRITTEN communication is the HUGE deal. In fact, that’s what I hear colleges complain about the most, is the ability for students in English. They tell me that many public school kids come to college without the ability to read and write well – regardless of their grades in high school. I guess my point is that reading and writing well are critical, but that you don’t need to do a separate study of grammar every year. After a certain point, it’s more about practice and honing your writing skills.

    PS. This is one of those times when I really hope I haven’t made a grammatical or spelling error, LOL!!

    August 8th, 2011 at 6:35 am

  3. Audrey says:

    I will agree with April. My children will have grammar for all of their school years, through high school. It is not just excellent preparation for life, but the college tests as well. Improper grammar annoys me to no end!!!! A yearly program helps them practice and strengthen skills.

    August 8th, 2011 at 6:39 pm

  4. Rebecca says:

    We study grammar very seriously through junior high, so by the time they reach high school, so much is simply review. I have had an incredibly hard time finding an appropriate grammar book for high school that isn’t just a rehash, poor at that, of what we’ve already mastered. Because of that, review is just what we do. My hs-er plunks away at the highlights for about 10 minutes a day most of the time as a refresher, and it must work bc she got an almost perfect score on the written SAT her first try. I guess my point is I can appreciate both sides. Grammar is vital as the underpinnings of our language, but if mastered in the early years, it shouldn’t have to absorb much of your resources when high school rolls around.

    Please correct any grammatical errors, my luck and it’s full of them. :D

    August 8th, 2011 at 8:22 pm

  5. Vanessa S says:

    I’m just starting high school this year with my oldest (and with 6 children, I’ll be doing it for a quite a while – 16 more years!! LOL) and I completely understand, Lee. I think I would really bog down my guys if we did formal grammar each year. My plan is to do grammar this year, maybe take a break from grammar and do lots of writing the next year and see where we need to go from there. I’m wondering though, when you say “focus on the grammar they need for the SAT and ACT”, how do you know what is needed? Are there specific courses, etc. available? And, of course, what would you recommend?

    Thanks so much, Lee!

    August 11th, 2011 at 6:00 pm

  6. Lee says:

    I like using the “Real SAT” books. Here is an article about the SAT and ACT that will help:

    August 11th, 2011 at 7:43 pm

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