Will R & S English 7 still benefit my high school student if she completed other programs?

Pondering Placement

Will my daughter benefit from doing R & S English 7 for 9th grade if she has already completed several other grammar programs?

My 9th grade, 15 year-old daughter will start using Heart of Dakota’s World Geography this coming year. My placement question is actually about grammar. She has already previously completed Analytical Grammar twice in her 6th and 7th grade years. Last year for 8th grade, she used the high school reinforcement book from Analytical grammar along with Easy Grammar Plus. She has always done most of her grammar on her own now. My question is will she still benefit from R & S English 7? She has been independent in this area and used to correcting her own work. I will confess, I’d love to hand her the teacher’s manual and student book and let her do this on her own. I’m not sure if I’m supposed teach it at this point, but I do want her to get all the benefit she can from English these high school years.

Carrie’s Reply:  Yes, I think your daughter would still benefit from using R & S English 7.

In my opinion, I think that your daughter would still benefit from using Rod and Staff English 7 because it integrates writing and a whole host of other English skills within the program. This will provide a different feel from what she’s already had in the past.

How My Oldest Son Completed R & S English in High School

As far as using Rod and Staff English, I’ll share that at our house my oldest son preferred to do his lessons orally with us rather than write out all of the answers. However, due to time constraints for his senior year, he did benefit from doing the last half of English 8 just the way you are describing in your post. He did the lessons and checked them himself using the Teacher’s Guide key. He did share that it was more difficult, and less interesting, to do Rod and Staff English this way. However, it did work for him for that season. 

How My Next Son Completed R & S English in High School

With my next son in line,we still went over his lessons regularly. However, he did enjoy writing out the answers ahead of time to save time during the meeting with us later. Sometimes he had the whole lesson done before he ever met with us. To me, this was still of benefit to him as well. We just orally did whatever he had left. With my younger kiddos, we definitely meet each time with them and do 2/3 of the English lesson orally and 1/3 on paper.

Students do benefit from some oral discussion and application, simply because English is a spoken as well as a written language.

So, with your older daughter you can decide how best to approach Rod and Staff English to best fit your needs and hers. There are benefits to both ways! It may be a changing approach from year to year, depending on what your schedule allows. I do feel that kiddos benefit from some oral discussion and application of the English lessons, simply because English is a spoken as well as a written language!


Should I switch my kids from Easy Grammar to R & S English?

Dear Carrie

Should I switch my kids from Easy Grammar to R & S English?
I am a mom to nine. We’re getting ready to start our second year with Heart of Dakota (HOD)! Two are graduated already. My 18-year-old is doing U.S. History II, and my 16-year-old is doing World Geography. Our 14-year-old with learning delays is doing well in CTC. My 11-year-old with learning delays is enjoying Bigger Hearts with my 9-year-old. Our 6-year-old is beginning Little Hearts soon. My 2-year-old is our chief meddler adored by us all! This is our second year using HOD mostly only for history and science. For other subjects, we just continued using the resources we had already been using before finding HOD. As the year went by I began to realize that using the guides for more of the other subjects would greatly simplify things! So that leads me to my question… should I switch my kids from Easy Grammar to R & S English?
Helpful Background Info When Considering a Switch in Grammar
Easy Grammar doesn’t require much of my teaching time, and I have a lot of kids! However, I understand R & S teaches important additional writing skills. My 10-year-old will be moving into Preparing. She excels with grammar and spelling and language arts in general. I’m thinking Level 4 for her, if we switch from Easy Grammar. My 13-year-old struggles a lot with grammar. Easy Grammar is the first grammar course he has had some success with. But, he struggles with writing as well. This makes me wonder if he may benefit from making a switch. I have no idea what level he would be in… probably no higher than Level 4. However, he’ll be in Resurrection to Reformation and in 8th grade. If he uses Level 4 this year, what will I do for him next year when he is in high school?

My 15-year-old-son also struggles with language arts. (Both he and the 13-year-old deal with some dyslexia.) But, for some reason he really “gets” grammar and actually does pretty well with it. He used Missions to Modern Marvels last year for his freshman year. He’ll be using World Geography (WG) next year for 10th grade. As you know the WG  guide schedules R & S 7. However, I’m assuming that he should not start there, since he is new to R & S. How far back should he go? I’m concerned if he goes back too far, I won’t be able to give high school credit for it. Would it be better to just keep him moving in Easy Grammar? Sorry this is so long. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!


“Ms. Please Help Decide If I Should Switch to R & S English”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Decide If I Should Switch to R & S English,”

In looking at your precious teaching time and the amount of kiddos that you have in your household, I want to be fair in my advice to you. Honestly, using Rod and Staff for English may result in more teaching time for you. However, I have become such a believer in the way that English is approached in the Rod and Staff English books that I would venture to say that it is some of the best time spent in teaching.

R & S English truly ties together virtually all skills related to the English language.

This is because Rod and Staff is so much more than a grammar program. It is the whole English umbrella of skills (i.e. grammar, composition, outlining, notetaking, speaking, dictionary skills, using a thesaurus, poetry, prefixes, suffixes, etc.). It truly ties together all skills related to the English language. In doing so, it has a direct impact on how kiddos present themselves (both in spoken and written form). On top of that it is the most God-honoring text I have ever seen!

I would focus on switching my oldest child to R & S first.

With that being said, I think I would focus on switching my oldest child to Rod and Staff first. This will not be an easy transition, as Rod and Staff assignments require more work to complete. However, if you keep in mind that you are trying to do 2/3 of the assignment orally or on a whiteboard, with only one exercise to do on paper each day, it will go better. The reason I would start with your oldest child is because I think it is such a good program that all kiddos should have some of it prior to graduation. It truly will be of benefit to them lifelong no matter what their previous grammar experience has been.

I would start with half of R & S English 5 or 6.

I would start your oldest in either Rod and Staff English 5 or English 6. Do half this year and half next year. Don’t worry about the grammar being enough. When combined with the literature and composition in the high school guides it is one part of the overall credit. When you list it for your transcript, just list the title, not the level of the book.

I would consider combining your 10 and 13 year-olds in R &S English 4.

Next, depending on how the 10 and 13 year old would feel about being together, you could consider combining them in Rod and Staff English 4. If the combining is not a go, then I would keep your younger child in Easy Grammar and switch the 13-year-old to English 4. Again, do much of it orally or on a whiteboard, only writing one exercise on paper each day. Of course, you may wish to stay with Easy Grammar instead. It is definitely up to you the route to take with this. I did use Easy Grammar with my oldest son for only one year, and we did not find nearly the retention or carryover with that program that we have found with Rod and Staff, but your experience may vary.


Response from “Ms. Please Help Decide If I Should Switch to R & S English”

Carrie, thank you for understanding my situation. You’ve had so much going on lately. I want you to know I really appreciate that you took the time to give me such a thoughtful and empathetic answer to my question. Each of the skills you list here are ones that my kids do need to practice and grow in. I’m really liking your advice to switch my 15-year-old now, and add in the others as I can. Thank you so much for helping me come up with a plan that is doable in my real life! I’m hoping to be able to switch the others soon after we get into the swing of things with the 15-year-old.


“Ms. Please Help Decide If I Should Switch to R & S English”

In Their Sandals and R & S English… a winning combination!

From Our House to Yours

In Their Sandals and Rod & Staff English… a winning combination in USI!

In Heart of Dakota’s U.S. History I (USI), the English III credit includes a combination of literature, grammar, composition, and vocabulary. Today, I want to take a closer look at the composition and grammar parts of the credit. In USI, the creative writing course In Their Sandals is alternated with the first half of the grammar course Rod and Staff English 8. So, students use each of these resources two times each week. Two of our sons have used these resources now, and I am happy to say we have found them to be a winning combination!

What makes these two resources such a winning combination?

Now, you must be wondering what makes these two resources such a winning combination! Well, this combination works well because the first half of R & S English 8 covers expository, persuasive, narrative, and descriptive paragraphs; outlining; writing compositions; proofreading; researching; note-taking; and developing oral and written reports. When it comes to clear-cut, systematic writing that can be applied to oral/written assignments for virtually any school subject, R & S English cannot be beat!

However, In Their Sandals fills another need by beautifully by taking students step-by-step through the writing process and teaching elements of literature and composition along the way. Students are expertly guided to write in various styles and in different points of view. They learn how to take notes and to write from those notes. Likewise, they learn to summarize narrative stories from varying viewpoints, as well as summarize using multiple references. They conduct research for reports, epistolary writing, and creative writing, as well work through the writing process of researching, prewriting, outlining a lot, developing descriptions, and writing, applying, and revising.  Not only does In Their Sandals address often neglected areas of writing, it also pairs beautifully with Starr Meade’s New Testament Survey, which is used for the Bible credit in USI.

My Son’s Latest In Their Sandals Writing Piece

My son, Riley, handed in his latest In Their Sandals writing piece to me recently. I confess, I did very little to help with this. In fact, he was pretty much solo on this, other than me spot checking his work along the way. Well, all I can say is I was in tears by the time I was done reading! Happy tears! In this writing piece, Riley became Joseph and wrote journal entries on his brothers’ betraying him by selling him to the Egyptians as a slave. He really put his heart into this, and I truly felt like I was reading Joseph’s journal! As I finished, I thought how glad I am Riley is having a Christian education – the kind where God is welcome and present in a very real way every day!

In Closing

So, this is why these two resources are such a winning combination! Both are Christian. But, one tugs at your heart, and the other makes sharing what’s on your heart transfer well to paper. Though there are some errors, and I gave some leeway due to this being a journal, I thought he did a great job overall! I still gave him an “A+” – I am the teacher, right?!? Thanks Heart of Dakota for keeping Christ front and center! Thanks also for building strong writers! May our children take what they’ve learned and go out and change the world – for His glory!

In Christ,



‘Pop Back and Forth’ to Teach Multiple R & S English Levels Simultaneously

From Our House to Yours

‘Pop Back and Forth’ to Teach Multiple R & S English Levels Simultaneously

I thought I’d share how I teach multiple R & S English levels at one time! Emmett is using R & S English 5 in HOD’s Revival to Revolution, and Riley is using R & S English 8 in HOD’s USI high school. I like to have each sit at their own table in adjacent rooms, so they are not distracted by each other, but I can easily pop back and forth between them.  Emmett sits at the kitchen table, and Riley sits at the dining room table.

I start with the youngest studying his oral review questions and answers.

I start by having my younger son, Emmett, study his oral questions and answers in his R & S English teacher’s guide. He is a visual learner, and reading the questions and answers in print helps him better retain the information. Usually within a few minutes, he tells me he his ready. I then take away the guide and orally ask him the questions. He rarely misses any, but if he does, I have him study the teacher’s guide again. Then, I ask just the one he missed one more time. It is amazing to me how much better he does on reviews since we have been doing this!

I pop over to the oldest to do his oral review questions, while the youngest silently reads his lesson.

Emmett then silently reads his R & S English pupil text lesson. While Emmett is silently reading his lesson at the kitchen table, I call Riley to the dining room table. Riley studies his oral questions and answers in his R & S English teacher’s guide. When he says he is ready, I take away the teacher’s guide and orally ask him the questions. Just as I did with Emmett, if he misses any, I have him study again and ask that question one more time. After this, Riley reads his pupil text lesson silently at the dining room table.

I pop back to the youngest to orally do his lesson, while the oldest silently reads his lesson.

About this time, Emmett is done silently reading his lesson. So, I pop back to the kitchen table. We then work through the lesson together orally. I often have him take a few minutes to ‘study’ and ‘think through’ his answers for a section before asking him to orally answer. It is amazing how much better he does then! Emmett can rush and be a bit of a ‘blurter’ otherwise. Having him study a section and think through his answers prior to answering them orally has helped him go from answering many questions wrong to answering almost every question right! As we are working orally through the lesson, I look ahead and mentally note which written part I want to assign him to write the answers for in his notebook.

I pop back to the oldest to orally do his lesson, while the youngest writes the section I’ve assigned in his notebook.

We keep moving through the lesson orally until Riley calls out to say he’s done reading. If Emmett and I get to the section I want him to write before Riley calls out to me, I skip the section I want him to write, and finish out the rest orally. Whenever Riley calls out to let me know he is done reading though, I quickly finish the section Emmett and I are orally doing and then have Emmett do the written section I chose for him to write in his notebook. While Emmett is independently doing his assigned written section, I pop back over to Riley. We work through his lesson orally. Whenever Emmett calls out he is done with his written section, I quickly finish the section Riley and I are orally doing and then have Riley look ahead to choose a written section to do in his notebook.

I pop back to the youngest to correct his written work and orally finish his lesson, while the oldest does his written work, and then finish out orally with the oldest.

I pop back to the kitchen table. Using the teacher’s guide, I correct Emmett’s written work and assign a grade for it. We then work through any remaining questions orally. Emmett is done, so I pop back to Riley’s dining room table. I correct Riley’s written work and assign a grade for it. We then work through any remaining questions orally. Voila! Both are now done with grammar, and in a fraction of the time it used to take me to teach multiple levels!  Hooray!  I know it sounds chaotic to pop back and forth, but it isn’t.  It works great and is a real time saver! Maybe you’d like to give it a try!

In Christ,




Should I delay starting grammar?

Pondering Placement

Should I delay starting grammar with my 2nd and 3rd graders?

We just finished our 3rd week of Bigger Hearts, and I couldn’t be happier! We are all loving Heart of Dakota! Placement seems right for everything, except R & S English. My 2nd grader is using level 2, and my third grader is using level 3. The work isn’t too hard. I just keep wondering why it’s necessary to learn formal grammar at this age? I know Charlotte Mason started grammar later. I’m not sure what I think about that either. Or, I could switch to Primary Language Lessons? But, I’m not sure about that either. R & S English seems more thorough. Any thoughts or suggestions on delaying grammar? Thanks!

We don’t delay starting grammar because we find more time is needed for solid retention.

Charlotte Mason (CM) advocated delaying formal grammar instruction until age 10 or even later. She felt all grammar could be absorbed in a single year with review after that. I was definitely on board with her idea when we switched to a VERY CM education for my oldest son during his third grade year. But, even CM’s own grammar book (republished by Karen Andreola as Simply Grammar) needs to be used more than once over time in order to cement the grammar concepts. Catherine Levinson, a leading CM educator, mentions using Simply Grammar two or three times to get retention from her kiddos. So, grammar is not a one-shot deal as we’d love it to be. So, at Heart of Dakota, we don’t delay starting grammar because we find more time is needed for solid retention.

We don’t delay starting grammar because of the increased requirements in state standards.

We also don’t delay the start of grammar due to the upped requirements in states with writing assessments. In order to have a common language about how to write better, we found it necessary to do an earlier introduction to formal grammar than CM proposed. For example, to point out whether kiddos are writing in complete sentences, they need to understand what a subject and predicate are and what is missing from their sentence (making it a fragment).

We don’t delay starting grammar because it is helpful for students to have a common language about how to write better.

This common language between parent and student helps make the editing process smoother. If we wish to have the child add more detail, it is VERY helpful for kiddos to understand what adjectives and adverbs are and how they function within a sentence. When we ask for written answers, it also helps if they can compose their sentences in a way that makes sense (with parallel usage). When asking kiddos to fix sentences that aren’t grammatically correct, it helps if the kiddos know their basic parts of speech. If we delay starting grammar, there is no common language to base our editing comments upon.

We don’t delay starting grammar because the mechanics and usage portion of state tests expect students to know this common language.

Another reason we don’t delay starting grammar is because in the mechanics and usage portion of standardized tests (Iowa Basics or SAT’s) kiddos need to understand the use of commas, end punctuation, and capitalization. Kiddos are expected to recognize proper mechanics and usage to be able to know the right answers to the questions. So, even though it makes sense to delay formal grammar instruction, we are forced by the state to show progress in these areas by the way we report to them.

We use Charlotte Mason’s language arts approach to copywork, dictation, narration, poetry, and literature. 

At HOD, we use copywork, dictation, oral narration (and later written narration), poetry, and literature in a very Charlotte Mason way. We delay formal grammar instruction until Bigger Hearts. However, at that point we find it easier to do a little grammar instruction each day, rather than waiting for a heavy introduction to grammar later. That happens to be our philosophy.

While Rod and Staff is not flashy, it thoroughly gets the job done and has better retention overall.

If your heart is leading you toward a different grammar program, by all means follow it! That is the beauty of HOD. But, for the record, I will say that Rod and Staff while not flashy, does get the job done. For the time I put into teaching grammar in the past (including “Intermediate Language Lessons”), I will say that Rod and Staff sticks much better, making the teaching time better spent for me!