Researching language arts options for your homeschool? Here’s what you need to know about Learning Language Arts Through Literature and why it’s my go-to language arts curriculum year after year.
*This is a sponsored post and I received a complimentary copy of Learning Language Arts Through Literature: The Gold Book for review purposes, but I’ve happily used this curriculum with my kids for years. Also, this post contains affiliate links; see disclosure for further details.*
It’s hard to imagine it now that I’ve got a teenager who wants to be a writer, but language arts was a struggle for us in the earlier years of our homeschool journey. Because of that struggle, it took a few years to find a language arts curriculum option that met our needs.
The thing is, language arts came easily to me in my years as a student. Since it came easily for me, I assumed the materials I selected wouldn’t be a make-it-or-break-it factor when teaching language arts to my own kids. In a nutshell, I thought I could pick any language arts curriculum and make it work for us.
I was terribly wrong.
Granted, my curriculum selection process was quite different in our early years of homeschooling. After all, this was before I read any of Charlotte Mason’s volumes or spent time exploring educational philosophy, but I learned the hard way that choosing a language arts curriculum isn’t as simple as finding a program with a 4-star Amazon review.
It took time and experimentation, but we finally stumbled across Learning Language Arts Through Literature after four years of bad-for-us curriculum choices. Since then, it’s been a reliable part of our homeschool days and it’s made all the difference in how I teach language arts and how my kids are experiencing it.
Overview: Learning Language Arts Through Literature
Before I jump into why we choose Learning Language Arts Through Literature (LLATL) time and time again, I want to share a quick overview. Published by Common Sense Press through the lens of a Christian worldview, it’s a literature-based, comprehensive, and consistent language arts curriculum that spans from first grade through the high school years.
- It’s literature-based. – All language skills are taught within the context of carefully-selected literature passages.
- It’s comprehensive. – LLATL addresses all aspects of language arts. Each level covers reading, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and writing mechanics.
- It’s consistent. – LLATL takes a spiral approach to teaching language arts. The opposite of kill-and-drill, it teaches language arts through short, conversational lessons that build over time. This allows students to revisit and strengthen language skills consistently.
Each level is labeled by color and covers all language arts areas with additional skills added into each level.
- The Blue Book / first grade – phonics, reading, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, handwriting, and higher order reasoning.
- The Red Book / second grade – phonics, reading spelling, grammar, vocabulary, handwriting, and higher order thinking.
- The Yellow Book / third grade – reading, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, handwriting, and higher order thinking.
- The Orange Book / fourth grade – reading, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, creative writing, research skills, poetry, and writing mechanics.
- The Purple Book / fifth grade – reading, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, composition, research skills, higher order thinking.
- The Brown Book / sixth grade – reading, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, creative writing, research skills, and higher order reasoning
- The Green Book / seventh grade – reading, grammar, vocabulary, diagramming, poetry, Shakespeare, short story, research skills, and higher order reasoning.
- The Gray Book / eighth grade – grammar, vocabulary, word study, composition, research skills, persuasive and narrative writing, book studies.
- The Gold Books / high school – essay writing, creative writing, literary interpretation, and studies on short stories, novels, poetry, and plays.
Also worth noting, the opportunities for your student to work independently increase with each level. Even so, both the teacher book and student book are needed to effectively use the curriculum.
Want to view a sample lesson for Learning Language Arts Through Literature?
You can learn more about Learning Language Arts Through Literature and view sample lessons for each level by clicking the button below and selecting a level.
As for the literature selections for each level, most can be easily purchased through your favorite bookseller or borrowed from your local library. The only exceptions are with The Blue Book and The Red Book since both use readers that were written for the curriculum.
A Typical LLATL Lesson
Each level contains 36 lessons and, while skills taught within the LLATL books vary according to level, the framework for each lesson is generally the same.
Lessons are divided into five day sections that begin with dictation or copywork. Day 1 also includes an introduction to any spelling words for the week and some quick enrichment-style activities.
The Day 2 instructions point back to the literature passage from Day 1 and explore grammar mechanics and specific skills that can be taught with the passage as a guide. Days 3 and 4 continue to build on skills discussed earlier in the week and offer more opportunities for students to practice those skills.
The typical Day 5 lineup varies from level to level, but it usually includes a final dictation or similar activity based on the literature passage. Spelling tests, enrichment, and review activities are also included for some lessons.
LLATL Book Studies
Book studies are another big part of Learning Language Arts Through Literature. There are four or five of these studies found in each level. They focus on vocabulary, discussion based on the book, and other skills that correspond with the particular selection.
Learning Language Arts Through Literature:
The High School Years
The high school books for LLATL are the only ones I haven’t personally used yet, but I’m using the British literature volume with my big kiddo next year. Here are the main differences I’ve discovered while familiarizing myself with it:
The Gold Books
The high school books (the Gold Books) are broken up into four volumes covering British literature, world literature, American literature, and literary criticism.
Another significant difference between the lower levels and the Gold Books is that parents and students share the main book. These books include all the lesson instructions, assessment information, and answers to questions found in the lessons.
Since teens are expected to work more independently than they were in younger grades, they use this book to guide them through the lessons and keep their notes and assignments in a separate notebook. This replaces the need for individual student and teacher books used in lower levels.
Just like all of the LLATL levels, most of the literature selections needed for each course can be found easily at your local library or favorite bookstore.
Also, there’s a separate book with course notes, tests, and test answer keys for each of the high school books.
Lastly, you can also purchase anthologies to go with the high school books. (The American literature volume is the only exception to this.) These inexpensive companions to the courses are a wonderful way to ensure your student has access to all of the shorter selections referenced in the lessons without you having to hunt down individual copies.
Why We Choose Learning Language Arts Through Literature for our Homeschool
Now that you know more about Learning Language Arts Through Literature and how it works, I’ve got a confession for you. I actually stopped using it about halfway through the first year I tried it with my oldest kid.
Don’t get me wrong, LLATL always worked for my oldest kiddo. We loved the selected books and he was doing well with the lessons. But somehow it didn’t seem like it could possibly be enough when I compared it to the other, albeit unsuccessful, resources we used previously.
I’m not proud of it, but I didn’t trust the curriculum because it seemed too good to be true. It was as if there was something wrong with it because my son wasn’t complaining and things were going smoothly. Sigh.
We stepped away from it for a while and tried something else. After a few months with another language arts resource, we knew it was time to go back to LLATL and stay with it.
It took trying it and shifting to another approach to learn why LLATL works so well for us, but it’s what we continue to choose for language arts each year. Here’s why:
1. It’s Charlotte Mason-friendly.
I was always intrigued by the idea of a Charlotte Mason education for my kids, but I didn’t implement her ideas in the beginning of our home education journey. (You can learn why that didn’t happen in my post about homeschool regrets.)
That said, it didn’t matter to me when we began using Learning Language Arts Through Literature, but I love knowing that it’s helped me implement Miss Mason’s ideas for teaching language arts even when I wasn’t trying to do so.
Here are a few ways LLATL specifically aligns with Charlotte Mason’s ideas for teaching language skills:
- Quality literature is the backbone of each level. Book studies play a big role in LLATL, but the language instruction always happens within the context of literature.
- Lessons include copywork, dictation, and narration exercises for most levels.
- Lessons are usually short. They take a bit longer in the books for older students, but that’s not uncommon for upper grades.
Also, while you won’t hear too many Charlotte Mason purists discussing language arts curriculum for first and second grade students, the “formal lessons” in the earlier levels (The Blue Book and The Red Book) are still gentle, short, and engaging.
There’s certainly no pressure or kill and drill in those levels. The focus is still on story and introductions, which allowed me to stay true to a Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool while moving at my kids’ paces.
2. It allows us to be consistent with language arts.
We’ve come across our share of fantastic language arts resources through the years, but none of them can be used for the long haul.
A language arts curriculum with one or two volumes can be truly wonderful and helpful to those who use it, but where does that leave the student and parent after completing the volumes?
Unfortunately it leaves them looking for curriculum yet again. That’s also true for curriculum options written with elementary or middle school students in mind.
It’s not that way with Learning Language Arts Through Literature. Since there are volumes for first grade through high school, it’s a long-haul solution to homeschool language arts. There’s no need to stress over what we’ll use next year because LLATL can be a part of the entire homeschool journey rather than a temporary fix that will only last a season.
3. It requires little (and often no) prep.
My kids are 5 years apart and I often say that I live with one foot in two different homeschool worlds because of their age difference. That age difference is exactly why LLATL’s low-prep nature is such a help to me.
Since I’m homeschooling high school with my oldest kid and in the middle of the elementary school years with my youngest, I’m grateful for language arts lessons that allow me to literally open the books and work through the lessons.
Homeschool life is challenging enough with a foot in two worlds; having to round up supplies for separate lessons and mentally prepare for two dramatically different levels would complicate things even more.
I go back to LLATL each year because I can glance through the lessons for the upcoming week and rely on the guidance in the teacher books to do the heavy lifting. I don’t need to spend additional time piecing things together because everything is ready and waiting for Monday morning.
(PS: When a little extra preparation is needed — like with the flip books and word wheels in The Blue Book and The Red Book — it’s quick and easy.)
4. It’s affordable.
Lastly, we choose Learning Language Arts Through Literature for our homeschool because it’s affordable. It’s certainly not the most important factor, but it’s one that matters to my budget.
I’m all for smart spending when it comes to my homeschool purchases, so I appreciate how LLATL replaces the need for separate curricula for reading, spelling, vocabulary, composition, and grammar.
The affordability also comes into play when I’m purchasing for my youngest kiddo each year. My only language arts purchase for her is a new student book each year since I’m able to reuse the teacher books I used with my teenager the first time around.
By purchasing one resource for all of these language arts areas and reusing when possible, I’m able to steward my homeschool budget wisely with LLATL.
Get Connected with Learning Language Arts Through Literature
Now that you know why Learning Language Arts Through Literature is a permanent part of our homeschool, you can learn more by visiting Common Sense Press. You can also purchase all of their LLATL resources there:
- Teacher books
- Student books
- Digital versions for each volume
Not sure which level to purchase? These LLATL placement tests can help you determine the best level for your child.
Also, be sure to check out the free bonus book studies offered by Common Sense Press. You’ll find resources to help you dig into wonderful books for all ages like Snowflake Bentley, The Family Under the Bridge, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Tuck Everlasting, and To Kill a Mockingbird.
In addition to purchasing through Common Sense Press, you can find a good selection of LLATL products at Rainbow Resource Center, Christian Book Distributors, and other homeschool retailers.
Lastly, if you have questions about Learning Language Arts Through Literature, leave a comment and let me know. I’m happy to help out.