Why We Choose Learning Language Arts Through Literature for Our Homeschool Year After Year

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.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review

*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.
Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review

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 Grey 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.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review

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.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review

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.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review

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.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review

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.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review

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.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review

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:

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 Bently, The Family Under the Bridge, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Tuck Everlasting, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review

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.

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28 thoughts on “Why We Choose Learning Language Arts Through Literature for Our Homeschool Year After Year”

  1. We used one of the gold books to help prepare for the Analyzing Literature CLEP test and it was fantastic! I remember looking through the series and wishing that I’d found it sooner to have used with my kids when they were younger. Really well-crafted!

  2. I’m so glad to hear that about the CLEP preparation. I haven’t even thought about that yet, but it makes sense!

  3. Claudia Wheeler

    We are a secular family. I really love the look of this curriculum. I love the dictation, copywork, and narration features (Charlotte Mason). What I’m having problems with is what looks like a lot of bible verses and stories. My son is going into 7th grade. I looked at the two levels for 7th and 8th and I see a lot of it. I am sad that we can’t use it. Wish there was a way around it. And wonder if the high school years are any different.

    1. I understand your concerns because you can only skip over so much in one book. Although it’s somewhat present in all of the levels, I’ve read before that the Christian worldview aspect is the most evident in the middle school books. I agree with that based on my experience with my oldest kiddo.

      You definitely won’t avoid that in The Gold Books, but I do think that plays out a bit differently in the high school levels because there’s such a heavy emphasis on analyzing the literature. It’s not equally present in all the literature selections, but it shows up significantly in others. Take the differences between Emma and The Tale of Two Cities or Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” and Tennyson’s “I Envy Not In Any Moods” as an example. It’s naturally woven in with one, but not so much in the other. All that to say, in the teen levels I think you’ll find it more a part of the literature itself, but the questions and talking points in the assignments could easily be used to compare and contrast personal beliefs with the author.

    2. Hi, Claudia. I would add, as an English major, that the vast majority of books published in the West over the past 2000 years have been written by individuals who were writing from a Christian worldview. So, in that sense, no one can get away from it. However, you can choose what commentary you wish to include from the guides. Something that is clearly meant to influence the student into connecting with evangelical Christianity, for example, can be skipped or replaced or noted as a point of interest. Also, even though most authors were “Christian” they do not necessarily reflect today’s polarized stereotypes; Christians, contrary to contemporary desires for easy labeling, are not as conformed to each other as folks on the outside might think. Or you can just read the books without the guide — though it can be helpful to know the Christian symbolism or worldview that informed or inspired the author broadly. Because you are so conscientious about this, you will likely do a good job no matter what you pick!

    1. The amount of writing instruction has been a good fit for us, but I have added and do add extra due to my oldest — he’s already a writer and wants to be a creative writing major. Since he wants more, I make it happen.I wouldn’t personally supplement if that wasn’t the case. 😉

  4. Your words have comforted my anxiety about homeschooling. I’m new this year, and I’m learning how to navigate. I bought the yellow book after two months in with a different LA program for my 3rd grader. I am beating myself up for not purchasing LLATL for my 5th grader who has had the most difficulty. I bought Grammar Galaxy for him since he was reluctant in all learning, but I’m not thrilled with that curriculum. My 5th grader has working memory weaknesses and I didn’t know if LLATL would work with him. Donyou think If I switch, should I start him a grd lower?

  5. If I use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, what level of LLATL would you recommend after we finish? I’m thinking Red, but I’d love to hear your input. Thanks!

    1. You’ll most likely be fine starting with The Red Book, but I recommend looking at the table of contents and sample pages from The Blue Book so you can compare it with 100 Easy Lessons. That will give you a good idea of what was covered and tell you if you should be able to skip it or not before moving on to Red.

  6. I couldve written your review! I successfully used the Yellow book with my oldest couple children then lost my nerve thinking it wasn’t enough (for all the reasons you mentioned).

    I revisited LLATL a few other times (my first run with it was in 1998, I think). About 4 or 5 years ago I came back to LLATL with my youngest 4 (of 13) children and we have finally found our groove. I plan to finish out with this series. I wish I would’ve stuck with it with my older ones.

    I, too, became much more acquainted with Charlotte Mason (and Ruth Beechick who I discovered first) over the years. This convinced me that drill and kill was not the way I wanted to take my family.

    I have 2 finishing up the Green book this year (after having done Yellow through Tan before this). They have a good grip on language skills.

    If anything I wish I want to better utilize the spelling component. Not necessarily supplement it, but milk what is there for more.

  7. Emily Hennessey

    I am currently researching language arts options for first grade and came upon this curriculum and your review – thank you for the thorough explanations and real-world commentary! 🙂 I love the “all-in-one” formats, they take so much pressure off.

  8. Hi! I’m currently using Abeka (k5 and 2nd) and this is our first year homeschooling. I am drawn towards the CM approach and have been leaning towards switching to that style for school next term. I had someone recommend LLATL to me, but said that they’d stay with Abeka until 2nd grade for a stronger phonics background. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. Hi Beth,
      I can’t say for sure since each child is different and I haven’t personally used Abeka materials, but I do think you would be fine to go ahead and transition to LLATL, especially considering your interest in the CM approach. LLATL still provides plenty of phonics instruction, but in a gentle way that’s more in line with Miss Mason’s philosophy than Abeka tends to be.

  9. Hi, I am currently working my way through All About Pre-Reading with my 4 (almost 5) year old. It is going great and I was just planning on continuing with All About Reading Level 1. Do you know how this program copmares to LLATL?

    Thank you!

    1. I haven’t personally used AAR, but the biggest differences I’m aware of involve the comprehensive nature of LLATL and the focused nature of AAR. All About Reading primarily teaches reading and phonics, but LLATL covers all aspect of language arts.

      1. Marita van Wyngaardt

        Hi Emily
        We have started homeschooling at the beginning of this year. As our mother language is Afrikaans; we decided on LLATL because of the program’s gentle approach. My boys, respectively in grade 4 and 7, are progressing quite well in spite of doing English as a first language. Should I continue with LLTAL or switch to the Cambridge Language program as we are working towards a Cambridge school leaving qualification?

  10. Do you think it would be appropriate to start the blue book with a kindergartner? I want to do phonics with my kindergartner so I’m thinking about starting the blue book and going through it slowly.

    1. Definitely think it’s a good choice for a kindergartner; that’s what I did with my youngest! 🙂

  11. I have 2 children who will be in the same level. I understand each will need their own student workbook however, will it be necessary to get two sets of the literature books required for each level?

    1. One copy of each reading selection should be fine. You could use them as a read aloud or just let your kids take turns with them while working through the book study units.

  12. I’m looking at LLTL Gold British Lit for my 9th grader next year. He’s not a huge reader and probably a little behind. I used this program and loved it with my daughter years ago. Can you give me an idea of about how long (including reading, which I may end up doing for him…I love reading, LOL) these lessons take? Looking at a sample it looked like several chapters were read in one lesson, but I can’t tell how many lessons there are by the Table of Contents. Reading 5 chapters of A Tale of Two Cities in one day’s lesson I know will be too much for him. Are they weekly? Thank you so much for this review. I didn’t know LLTL had high school books!

    1. It’s hard for me to say for sure because it varies from unit to unit. I’d say lessons in the poetry units take considerably less time than the novel study units. In the poetry studies, my son was able to stick to the 5 lessons a week format pretty easily. However, because he had other things going on, I divided the novel studies up a little differently when there was a lot of reading required per lesson. For example, what may have been written as one day, we divided into two or three if needed. We’ve worked more slowly through the book than anticipated, but we’d rather do that than cram it all in each week. Hope that helps!

  13. Thank you for your thorough review! I am strongly considering the gold level for my son next year and your review really helped to clarify.

  14. Heather Nelson

    I have three kids EXTREMELY close in age but varying in educational levels. In your assessment of prep and mom-teachability, do you feel I could juggle three levels of this at the “same” time allowing each kid to advance at their own pace?

  15. Angela Donaldson

    I’m teaching 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th! Approximately how much of my time daily would this curriculum take ME to do with them?

    1. Hi Angela,
      It’s hard to say for sure, but most days your 7th, 9th, and 11th graders would be working independently through LLATL. So, your main time would be spent with your 3rd and 5th graders. I’d estimate around 20-25 minutes for your 3rd grader on most days and 15-20 minutes for your 5th grader. Hope this helps!

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