We were very fortunate to have reviewed the first edition of Logic of English‘s Essentials in 2013, and its accompanying Rhythm of Handwriting cursive program a couple of years ago. As a homeschooling mom, I was incredibly impressed with the meticulous nature of the 1st Edition of Essentials. And to say that Rhythm of Handwriting saved our sanity with cursive isn’t much of an exaggeration!
So naturally, when I heard that Logic of English had published a Second Edition of their incredible program, I was intrigued. Was it possible to improve on (almost) perfection? Well….yes! Let me tell you about it, and about our experiences with it.
What is Logic of English Essentials?
Logic of English Essentials is a complete language arts program that teaches students aged 8 all the way through adults learners effective reading, word decoding, grammar, spelling and vocabulary. It is equally well-suited to multi-age and single-child homeschools; students learning English as a second language; or students in a traditional classroom. It teaches language arts methodically, in every learning style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic). By learning phonograms (the sounds that letters make either together or in groups) and spelling rules, students are able to decode and spell sounds and words. The Essentials vocabulary study also includes Greek and Latin roots study. And, there are games and activities sprinkled throughout, so a student’s attention level is always high and attentive!
The Logic of English Essentials 2nd Edition includes the following:
- The Second Edition Essentials Student Workbook, Volume 1
- The Second Edition Essentials Teacher’s Guide, Volume 1
- A Spelling Journal
- Basic Phonogram Flash Cards
- Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards
- Grammar Flash Cards
- Spelling Rule Flash Cards
- Morpheme Flash Cards
- Phonogram Game Tiles
- A laminated Quick Reference Card for spelling and phonograms
- Phonogram Game Cards (Manuscript or Cursive)
- Phonogram Bookface Game Cards deck
- Spelling Analysis Card
As you can see, this program is very generous and includes everything you need to successfully teach this language arts program!
How does Essentials work, exactly?
The Teacher’s Guide outlines what each week covers and each day’s lesson consists of. It even has a step-by-step script for you to follow! At the beginning of each chapter is a box highlighting what will be taught over the course of the week. For example, in Lesson 2 (pictured above), students will learn about: the phonograms ck, ee, ng, th (with an extra phonogram for more experienced spellers); the sounds of long and short vowels; two Spelling Rules; spelling with the /k/ sound; some grammar; and vocabulary over the course of a week. In addition, there are sidebars for each of the 5 days’ work in each chapter, so that teachers can pull out the necessary flash cards and/or books.
This is the format that each lesson follows in Essentials:
- Day 1: Essential Concepts. Here, you’ll meet new phonograms, spelling rules, and explore sounds of phonograms.
- Day 2: Building Words. Review games and spelling work comprise the Day 2 work.
- Day 3: Words in Context. Review of the first two days’ work plus grammar.
- Day 4: Words in Action. Review, vocabulary, dictation, composition, reading.
- Day 5: Check Your Understanding. All of the new information covered in the first four days of the week is reviewed and reinforced.
Students utilize their own Essentials Student Workbook Volume 1 each day during lessons; it corresponds exactly to the lessons in the Teacher’s Guide. They’ll work in their own Spelling Journals, and they’ll need an additional notebook (like a spiral notebook or a composition book) for composition and dictation.
You’ll notice that the flash cards listed in the curriculum set above are many! However, it’s not confusing at all to use them. As I mentioned in the daily work list, students will be introduced to new phonograms (these will be Basic and/or Advanced), spelling rules, and morphemes. The flash cards are used each week for introduction, learning, and review.
Students also get to play games which reinforce the lessons they’re learning, with the card decks and the Phonogram Tiles (among others!).
At the beginning of the Teacher’s Guide, you’ll find instructions on how to teach Essentials as well as some pre-tests for your students. These pre-tests allow you to see your student’s current level of competence in language arts, and if he needs a bit of remedial work. There are also three different levels of spelling words in each lesson (A, B, C), with each one gradually increasing in difficulty. You’ll know after the pre-tests which one your student should work with.
Although we’d used the first edition of Essentials several years ago, it has been awhile since my son Jackson has worked with it. So we started as all new students would with the new Essentials; I gave Jackson the pre-test. (He is still working with the principles from Rhythm of Handwriting, although it’s more in the form of copywork now, so I didn’t test him on that.) He was able to bypass the pre-lessons which are designed to get a student up to speed for the course, and we simply began with Lesson 1.
Because of the 5-day design of Essentials, it works perfectly to spread out over the course of a week. I love this, because the student learns new information every day, in each area of language arts, then reviews it on Fridays. (There are also assessments for the student to take.) For the purposes of review, we covered about 3 days, instead of 5 per week.
Because each lesson is completely scripted for the teacher, it is relatively simple to just pick up the book and go. However, I recommend that you read through each lesson at the beginning of the week and gather all the different supplies (phonogram cards, spelling cards, grammar cards, game supplies) beforehand. You really do need to know what you’re going to be covering and how you’ll be teaching it, even if you are reading from a script!
You’ll also want to set aside a place to keep all your card groups. I just rubber-banded mine and put them all in a large Ziploc. But, you could also use small file boxes.
It took a couple of weeks for Jackson to get back into the swing of things. We haven’t looked at phonograms in awhile (although we have worked with Greek and Latin roots), so moving from what he’s used to seeing in words to breaking the word parts down to the sounds each phonogram makes took some thinking. It was as if you were looking at a car; you know how to start it and how to drive it (well, if you’re over sixteen, anyway!). But most of us don’t normally think about the axles, the carburetor, the spark plugs. We just know that they’re there and that they all work together so that our car actually starts and drives! It was the same thing with these phonograms. He is so used to looking at a word and knowing what it means that he doesn’t think about what each part says to compose the word.
Interestingly, I found that Jackson did the best with Essentials this time around when we broke up several of the lessons into two lessons. It wasn’t that the lessons themselves were too difficult for him. Rather, I think that because he’s already such a fluent reader and decoder, he just needed more time to absorb the phonograms and rules into the reading comprehension information that’s already stored in his brain. Once we were into the swing of things that wasn’t necessary.
Let me tell you, though, why this program has been so good. Jackson has a great vocabulary and a skilled reader. But, he is still introduced to words on a regular basis. Sometimes he pronounces them perfectly, and sometimes there’s a slight miss or an emphasis on the wrong syllable. Essentials will, in time, enable him to bypass those errors and simply know, because of the gentle repetition of the phonograms lessons, how and why to pronounce each word a certain way!
I’ve also loved for him to have more dictation in his lessons. We haven’t focused on listening and then writing what’s heard in a long time. (Thanks to LOE‘s Rhythm of Handwriting, dictation isn’t nearly the detested exercise it used to be!) And I must mention the spelling exercises! Essentials spelling lessons don’t just teach how to spell words correctly. They also teach where the syllables of each word are divided, how the words are used and the pronunciation marks which tell you how to correctly say each vowel. I’ve never seen that before in a spelling program!
There are a lot of things I adore about Logic of English‘s Essentials. I love the simplicity of the program. Yes, there are a lot of parts and pieces to it. But, with each lesson telling you exactly what to use and how to use it, there is never any confusion. And there’s not so much memorization of phonograms which, let’s face it, would cause consternation to most students; rather, they’re repeated daily in the various exercises each lesson has. They’re even bolstered by games, which students play regularly. (Who doesn’t love bingo? :))
I also appreciate that with Essentials I really don’t need any other language arts program. This covers Greek and Latin roots, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, reading, composition, dictation. And it does so smoothly and incrementally, and at a pace with which students of all ages can really progress effectively.
My son is not a huge fan of grammar in general. His favorite parts of this were the games and the writing portions, with vocabulary coming in third. However, one doesn’t have to love a subject to excel in it, right? And the components of English that he’s learning in Essentials will enable him to be a truly educated person with the language he’ll be using all his life, in business, ministry, and relationships. How grateful I am that I don’t have to look any further for quality English language arts! (I’m also thrilled that LOE will be publishing Volume 2 of Essentials soon!)
You may purchase Essentials Second Edition Volume 1 at Logic of English. I also want to tell you that Logic of English is the most helpful curriculum company. They’re available to answer your questions, they have a blog you can refer to for teaching and learning tips, and their customer service is incredible.
Essentials really is ideal for practically every child. Whether your child learns best visually, auditorially, or kinesthetically, he’ll benefit from Essentials. If you’re looking for an English language arts course par excellence, look no further!