Through the years, there have been many – and I mean many – changes in curriculum in our homeschool. In fact, I’d be pretty embarrassed to tell you the times we’ve changed curriculum.
The reasons for our many curriculum switches is a post for another day that I hope to write soon. As much as I hate being vulnerable (don’t we all?!), I would love for you to learn from my inexperience and mistakes.
That being said, one of our only mainstays in my past 10 years of homeschooling has been Rod and Staff English. It’s a workhorse and the fruit it has produced in my older children is invaluable!
Side Note: I know that some homeschool parents only teach grammar through 5th or 6th grade. We choose to teach grammar and formal writing, in addition to learning Latin, so our children can read well and articulate their thoughts in speech and also through writing. More importantly, we teach the subjects in the way that we do so our children can learn to think critically about not only their subjects in school, but the world around them. That’s why we do it this way!
➡ Browse through all of the homeschool curriculum posts here at Mama’s Learning Corner.
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About Rod and Staff English
The Rod and Staff English series is actually called the Building Christian English series, and it ranges from Grade 2 to Grade 10.
It is an interesting blend of grammar instruction and composition practice. Each unit contains 2-3 lessons of composition practice, starting with very simple paragraphs in Grade 3.
The amount of units vary by grade, but the approach for each grade is similar in that a new concept is introduced in baby steps and there are ample practice exercises that continue throughout the book.
This series is unapologetically Christian, as are all Rod and Staff materials. Most of the exercises in the book center around a Bible account, or sometimes a historical event or inventor.
Another aspect that is important to note: Rod and Staff is written for the classroom setting. While that might be a stumbling block to homeschoolers that need a word-for-word script for teaching (a la All About Spelling), it is easily adaptable in my opinion.
From Grade 3 and up, a unit is taught with a few quizzes throughout, and then a unit test is given at the end of each section. Rod and Staff English does not include a final exam in their test booklet.
Lastly, each grade includes a textbook, Teacher’s Manual, workbook packet, and test packet. I’ll explain how I use each of these below, as they haven’t all been necessary for us.
How We Use Rod and Staff English in Our Homeschool
We have three non-negotiables in our daily homeschool: math, Latin, and literature.
I’d like to say that English is a non-negotiable, and it would be if we didn’t also do daily Latin work. I teach English 3-5 days per week in our homeschool.
How I use Rod and Staff English varies based on my child’s grade and ability. I teach my 3rd grade directly every day, I teach my 5th grader about 3-4 times a week, and my 7th grader comes to find me with trouble spots.
I’ll break each one of these grades down for a bird’s eye view.
3rd Grade Rod and Staff English
3rd Grade English focuses heavily on sentence mechanics, and introduces 5 of the 8 parts of speech.
While the concepts in 3rd Grade English are certainly simple enough for me to teach without the Teacher’s Manual, I use the Teacher’s Manual daily. It’s where the good stuff is.
Before the lesson:
Each lesson, I do the ‘Oral Review’ and quickly cover any other concepts that need attention. We also go over the previous day’s material if it wasn’t covered in the Oral Review. We go through a few gray boxes from previous lessons. This takes about 5 minutes.
→ I equate this part of the lesson to the flash card drill you would do before the beginning of a math lesson. It’s a warm-up of concepts they should know, and those that only need brief reinforcement.
I put any examples on our big white board for the day’s lesson. We go over all of the examples from the book up on our white board. I make sure I teach every teaching point in the ‘Class’ section in the Teacher’s Manual, including all of the examples.
The gray box on each lesson is always what the student has to know. I have my child read the box, I read the box, and we read it again. Because we teach to mastery in most of our homeschool subjects (not just exposure), I require them to memorize the gray boxes.
We then go over the directions in detail for her written part of the assignment. We answer a few aloud and I make sure she understands how to number her paper and what I’m looking for in each answer.
I have found that it’s much easier to teach these types of concepts explicitly in the younger years so I don’t have to do quite so much reinforcing in the older elementary years. This varies by child, of course, as my current 5th grader seems to require a reminder for every single paper she writes.
Quizzes and Tests:
The quizzes are listed in the Teacher’s Manual, however, there is not a paper copy of these quizzes. Prior to the beginning of each year, I duplicate those quizzes in Word and have them printed and all ready to go in my teaching file.
Because we teach to mastery, I tell my daughter what will be on the quiz the day before and we do an example if needed.
I buy the test booklet each year since it’s so cheap. Like quizzes, I make sure that my daughter knows exactly what is on each test before she takes it. We always practice the day before.
I very rarely use the workbooks in general, as they’re is always so much practice in the daily lesson. I find I use the workbook most often during the 4th grade year, when the content steps up a bit and there needs to be more reinforcement.
I never assign a workbook page in addition to the daily lesson exercises, as that’s just too much written work for my children. If there is a struggle with a concept, I’ll reteach it the next day and then use the exercises from the workbook for that day’s practice.
5th Grade Rod and Staff English
I love the 5th grade Rod and Staff English book. If you have a child in 5th, 6th, or maybe even 7th grade, the 5th grade text would be a great place to start if you’ve never used Rod and Staff English before.
The concepts are fundamental and worthy of learning.
Rod and Staff builds on itself year after year. While parts of speech are introduced in 2nd grade, the teaching becomes more indepth with those parts of speech as the years progress. By 7th grade, the concepts have moved on past parts of speech, since it’s assumed those are mastered, and onto much more difficult grammar concepts.
Before the Lesson:
Just like in Grades 3 and 4, I go through the ‘Oral Review’ section and hover on any concepts that need more help. We go over quite a few of the previous gray boxes, re-explaining any concepts that need more attention. Again, this is only about 5 minutes.
I can wing it with 3rd and 4th grade English, but I try to glance over the Grade 5 English in the few minutes prior to class time. While the concepts are not hard for my adult brain, I want to make sure I cover everything included in the ‘Presenting the Lesson’ section.
If there are examples in the Teacher’s Notes that aren’t in the student text (and there usually are), I make sure to write those on the board for me to explain as we go through the lesson.
After presenting the lesson and going through several examples, I make sure my daughter reads the gray box aloud to me at least twice. Again, the gray boxes are the main facts to know from the lesson, and those must be memorized and understood.
We then go through several, if not all, of the Oral Drill section from her textbook. Assuming she understands all of those, I give her the assignment, which is almost always in the ‘Written’ section.
Depending upon the lesson, I have her complete 2/3 of the written exercises. If there are 10 or less, I have her complete all of them. Usually there is an A. B. and C. section, and she must complete at least a few (and often all) from each section. I almost always assign from the ‘Review’ section as well, as this particular child needs quite a bit of spiraling back through concepts.
In 5th grade, I consistently go over the directions for each section. Often Rod and Staff English has 2- and occasionally even 3-step directions, and my kids are famous for not completing all of the directions. This particular trait seems to subside just a little in 6th grade, so I’m assuming it’s tied to maturity and attention to detail in my kiddos. 🙂
Quizzes and Tests:
The quizzes for 5th grade are also listed in the Teacher’s Manual and I already have those ready to go like in 3rd grade.
Tests are also the same as in 3rd grade, in that I tell them what will be on the test the week of or the day before so they can prepare. The end of chapter Review is excellent as test preparation and I always have my children complete at least a portion of it.
I rarely use the workbook in 5th grade, as there is ample practice in the book.
6th Grade Rod and Staff English
Even though my oldest girl is in the 7th grade, she’s finishing up the Grade 6 Rod and Staff English book. I intentionally only had my 7th grader complete a little over half of the 6th grade book last year, working at a pace of 3-4 lessons per week, and occasionally only 2 per week.
My 7th grader is in her 2nd full year of Latin, and it is very grammar heavy. She has consistent reinforcement and introduction of new grammar concepts through Latin, so I feel fine about her completing the Grade 6 book at a slower pace.
After she finishes Grade 6, which will be by Christmas break, she will just move on to Grade 7.
I do not teach this particular child English at all. She teaches herself straight from the book, and comes to me when there is help needed.
I pre-read all of her English assignments for the week, so I usually have a good feeling of when there will be trouble spots. I also correct her work nightly, so I know when problems arise and she needs to go over concepts with me one-on-one.
While this method of self-teaching has worked beautifully for my older two children, I’m not sure how it will go with my others since all children are not the same. I’ll evaluate for each child when they reach this stage.
Quizzes and Tests:
I treat quizzes and tests in the 6th grade exactly as I do in the younger grades – I tell them what is going to be on the test or quiz prior to its administration.
Do you use Rod and Staff English in your homeschool? Do you use it differently in your homeschool? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
More Honest Homeschool Curriculum Reviews
Browse through more homeschool curriculum reviews:
– How I use Handwriting Without Tears in our homeschool (with a video)
– Why Math Mammoth is a Good Fit For Our Family – although I must tell you that we now use Rod and Staff Math. I went to R&S Math kicking and screaming because I didn’t want to change math yet again, but I am tickled we did. I’ll try to have a post up about Rod and Staff Math this month so you can compare the two curricula for yourself. 🙂