March 7, 2017

Elementary Language Arts with Eclectic Foundations: Level B ~ {Curriculum Review}

My six year old son started wrapping his last Language Arts program at the beginning of this year, and I was beginning to wonder what we should move into next. His reading skills were definitely at the 1st/2nd grade level, and he was asking for cursive work. I knew he liked poetry, and was ready to start learning the parts of grammar--he's been hearing and helping his older brother do his for a few months now. I wasn't sure if I could find something that would fit the needs of my son--and if possible, be an all-in-one program. When I heard about the chance to review Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B program for elementary from the company Eclectic Foundations, I hoped that it would be just what we needed.
Eclectic Foundations Language Arts: Level B {Curriculum Review}

About Eclectic Foundations

Eclectic Foundations is a curriculum company determined to offer biblical worldview options for language arts. At the center of their program are the classic The McGuffey Readers--part of the Eclectic Education Series. This series of textbooks were widely used in public school from 1836 up until about 1960. Containing biblical morality teachings in their text, they were a way for teachers to
impart lessons in life relating to good character and God, while assigning reading/writing passages. Eclectic Foundations has brought back the best of those books, building a language arts curriculum around them.

There are currently three levels within the Eclectic Foundation series, although they are hoping to release the fourth level in 2018, with plans to continue releasing curriculum levels until they have a complete K-12th grade curriculum available. The first three levels (Level A, B, and C) cover grades 1st-4th.

It is good to remember that since this program is based on what the series was designed for the school system, you won't see "kindergarten" mentioned--remember schools use to start with first grade for all basic reading/writing. So if your child hasn't learned their alphabet yet, and has no reading experience, in this curriculum you would start with the 1st grade material (Level A).

If you aren't sure where your child should start in the series, make sure you visit the tab What Level Should I start With, because it will help you determine where your child would fall within this series. In general, the books coordinate with grade as follows:

Level A--uses the Eclectic Primer: 1st Grade
Level B--uses the 1st Eclectic Reader: 1st-2nd Grades
Level C--uses the 2nd Eclectic Reader: 3rd-4th Grades
Level D--uses the 3rd Eclectic Reader: 5th-6th Grades (coming in 2018)

The Eclectic Foundations Language Arts programs include: Phonics, Grammar, Spelling, Reading Comprehension, Handwriting, Composition, and Poetry. The only books needed will be the Eclectic Reader for their level (available for FREE in digital form, or available in print for purchase), the teacher's guide, and the student workbook. The supplemental materials of Word Cards and Phonics Sheets are available as a free download--or printed for purchase.

After reading the information about picking a level to begin with my six year old, I decided that we needed to review Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B. We were sent the teacher's guide and student workbook, but also were generously provided with the printed phonic sheets and word cards. It was surprise to also discover a printed and bound copy of the free digital version 1st Eclectic Reader provided for our convenience (not available for purchase in this form).

There is a very good instruction page in the beginning of the Teacher's Guide which tells you about the books, supplies, and the layout. The instruction explains how the author compiled the curriculum into its present form, and advises that all the needed content is contained within the Teacher's Guide and Student Workbook, except for the necessary Eclectic Reader. The supplies are basic: unlined index cards, paper, pencil box for the word cards, rubber bands, crayons, scissors, thin dry-erase markers/eraser. If you choose to download the Phonics practice sheets, they need to be laminated, and the Word Cards need to be printed on cardstock.

The company generously already laminated and bound the Phonics Practice Sheets for me, and supplied the word cards already printed on thick cardstock. I think I would save printing and laminating these if I was picking the program and go ahead and make the purchase to have them sent this way. Definite a time and printing saver.

In the layout portion of the instructions, the author explains that this is a 36 4-day weeks. We are also advised to visit the library weekly, as putting books into the child's hands is the best method for increasing their love of learning.

After the instruction page, comes an overview page where the author explains how each portion of the curriculum is designed to be used: McGuffey's, Phonics, Handwriting, Poetry, and Grammar. Each day there will be these five things for the lesson. It's broken down as follows:

McGuffey's: This is the portion directed towards the reading of the primer. There are two reading lessons per week--time is spent studying the picture and reading the words and selection. Every other day there is time for the coloring of the word cards and reviewing parts of speech. There is the information that for this program each part of speech learned will be colored a different color, and will be filed away matching the parts together.

Phonics: This portion is not to be confused with spelling. These are simply short word lists that are to be read 3-4 times until the child can read them fluently--after this, the child is then to attempt to spell the words correctly on the Phonics Spelling sheet. There shouldn't be any frustration in this step--so if your child forgets a spelling, give them the help they need. In this curriculum, formal spelling lessons won't begin until the third grade (Level C).

Handwriting: Level B immediately begins introducing cursive one letter at a time: Capital and lowercase. The teacher is told to use their own discretion for how much to have the child write. Once the letters are covered, the cursive copywork begins to be short quotes. Sometimes the "slate work" from the McGuffey readers is given.

Poetry: each week, there is a poem to read with your child. They will be asked questions for comprehension, and you will work with them to identify the rhyming words, which they will circle.

Grammar: the lessons are short and easy to teach. These lessons will compliment the Word Cards well. You will need a chalkboard or dry erase board for this section. The teacher's guide provides bolded words for the teacher to say, with regular font for the expected answers from the student. This portion may require more help from the teacher as definitions are learned and the worksheets are completed.

Because everything was explained very simply, I glanced over the teacher's guide and student workbook, and we just went for it! Level B, definitely picks up where basic reading has already been started. Digraphs and vowel helpers should already have been started for phonics before starting this book. Spelling rules are not covered-but rather already assumed as being known.

The lessons follow the overview exactly--four days before something new is introduced. As we got started, I quickly learned that my six year old preferred to do 1 1/2 day of lessons. He had no trouble with the reading and it went at a good speed. He did well with the phonics portions, reading nearly every fluently on the first try. He had some experience with cursive, so there wasn't much issues with this portion. He was definitely ready to move to the sentence/quote stage when we got there, so we used the daily alphabet as a review for him. The grammar portion was where we got into brand new stuff. He really really likes the word cards and insists we do up to the word cards each day--which is why I say we do 1 1/2 lessons--for the curriculum does the following for the McGuffey's section:

Day 1: read passage from book, Day 2: cut/color/sort word cards, Day 3: read passage from book, Day 4: Cut/color/sort word cards. 

So we always did a full day of the reading passage days--and then we would tag on the cut/color/sort word cards portion from the next day. This always made the day 2 and 4 days shorter. But that was okay. It worked for us.
These were this week's reading lessons from McGuffey's First Eclectic Reader...(Lesson #29 & #31)
We did the Phonics/Handwriting-copywork/Grammar sections as given, without much modification. There were a few days we combined two days together, but not many. We did this curriculum as designed for the most part.

What did I change?
Well, I didn't spend a long time on the phonics, nor did I use it for spelling. I decided to stick with it primarily for reading fluency. I decided this after doing a few days of spelling with it--he got them all right and wouldn't even write them down--just spelling them out loud, letting me know how easy they were. LOL. I prefer it for just reading fluency, but I TOTALLY think you could easily use the words for the week as spelling words, if you did want to start spelling in the younger grade. We are actually already using a spelling curriculum, so we also didn't NEED to add in spelling. Interestingly enough, our current spelling curriculum has been fitting in perfectly with this course.

We also chose to put our word cards in different envelopes that we color coordinated with their labels. I like this method, because he has to sort them into their part of speech. So when he gets his "noun" envelope, he has to find all his nouns from the day's stash and add them in. Just one more good review. I expect that before we are done with the curriculum, we WILL have to shift these to a recipe box style container, because we have a MAJOR stack of word cards left to do, and I am sure they won't all fit into the envelopes that I have! LOL

Let me take a moment to share some photos (And a video) before wrapping up with my final thoughts:
Lesson: write letters in random order--have him put them in order

First day with the Word Cards--learning verbs and nouns

spelling the phonics words using a phonics sheet

Making our ship picture to go with our poem

Cursive practice and finding rhyming words in the poem
First sentence in cursive! Woot!

Working on the imperative grammar worksheet

a lesson on the 5 senses

Poetry work, and putting the noun word cards in ABC order

Creating sentences with just nouns and verbs as your prompt
One of our last grammar studies, was on putting building sentences with commands. Here is a little video of him working on the last one and remembering the order the words go in:

What are my thoughts? Would I recommend this product?

My final thoughts are this...I LOVE it!!! This was EXACTLY what I needed for my son. It picked up RIGHT where we were finishing with our other program. I think this is definitely geared towards traditional 1st/2nd grade work. It was SOOO easy to teach--pretty much open and go, which is great for language arts. Having the entire language arts in one set of books and one set of lessons was so nice! They were short, but so full of information. I never felt like we needed to more. It was just right for his age, and he kept focused because of that. He was so ready to do grammar, that he just dived into it. He has picked up the parts of grammar we have covered so well!

I really like using the McGuffey's reader for the reading aspect, because the character training included in the text is what I would want in my studies. There is a great balance of activities, without a heavy focus on writing. I like the extra little projects thrown in the mix now and then.

I think my only complaint is that I wasn't able to use the set of McGuffey readers that I already owned. Unfortunately, not all of the Eclectic Readers are the same editions--the one I have isn't the one that was used. THANKFULLY, the reader used IS available as a free download to my Kindle--but I appreciated it so much that the company printed it out for us reviewers. And after using it like that, I think that I would recommend others to print off the digital one if you can.

I really don't think you will find another COMPLETE Language Arts program so self-contained like this one for such a great price. As of right now, you can get the PRINTED Level B Teacher's Guide and Student Workbook for just $36. And throw in the Printed Phonics Practice Sheets and Word Cards for an extra $20. But there is also the option of just downloading the Practice Sheets and Word Cards for free if you prefer...or if you want to print it all yourself--you can get the BUNDLE as a pdf download for just $30! That's the teacher's guide, student worksheet, Phonics Practice Sheets, and Word Cards--all of them as a download for $30.

But I advise you to act now--Eclectic Foundations is switching publishers, and that means they are going to have to increase their pricing soon to $47 for the Teacher's Guide and Student Worksheets. So SAVE $10 by going ahead and getting it now before the price increases.

If you are looking for an inexpensive, all-in-one, open and go, and excellent Language Arts curriculum for your elementary aged students, I absolutely recommend this program.

We are currently on lesson 31 and I am definitely going to be finishing this curriculum with my 6 year old. I absolutely see myself (as of right now) purchasing Level C upon completion.

Want to Know More about Eclectic Foundations?

As I have shared, we have been reviewing the Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B program from Eclectic Foundations. If you are interested in seeing what the Level A or Level C looks like--or want to see how another family used Level B--make sure you visit my fellow review crew members!
Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations Reviews}

I hope that you will go find Eclectic Foundations on social media, so you can learn more about the company and stay in the loop about upcoming new products or sales! Make sure you give them a *like* on their Facebook account!
As you can see, we definitely have been enjoying the Eclectic Foundations Language Arts program--finding it just what we needed. As usual, I will be doing a LIVE video review of this program on my Farm Fresh Adventures Facebook page later today (3/7/2017). I hope you will come and join me for a more in depth examination into what the program offers!

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