Eclectic Foundations is an elementary language arts program that takes the best of several tried and true vintage English texts and combines them into one cohesive, comprehensive, and easy to use program. If you like McGuffey’s readers, but aren’t sure how to implement them in your homeschool…or if you like Harvey’s grammar texts, but aren’t sure how to fit them in with everything else, Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B might be just the program for your 2nd-3rd grader.
For grades: 2-3
This complete 1-year English curriculum includes:
- picture study
- cursive handwriting
- poetry study
The complete set includes:
- Student Workbook (consumable)
- Teacher’s Guide
- Laminated Phonics Practice Sheets and Word Cards
You can purchase the set as spiral bound books ($56 + shipping) or as a pdf download ($30).
Levels A and C are also available.
Also needed for this program: McGuffey’s Eclectic First Reader, Revised Edition (available as a free download), pencils, dry erase markers, colored pencils or crayons, and some basic arts supplies.
How does Eclectic Foundations work?
I recommend reading the introduction prior to beginning to get a handle on how the program fits together and then cutting out apart the word cards and putting them into a card box. It’s also a good idea to skim over the lesson each day before beginning (occasionally you will do an art project that may require additional household supplies or some prep), but the program is very straightforward with a daily rhythm. Each day, you will open up your teacher’s guide and do what it tells you to do. How simple is that?
Each lesson is divided into 5 sections.
Most odd numbered lessons will have your child reading from McGuffey’s and doing the picture study. The even numbered lessons typically have your child studying the words from the McGuffey’s readings. This is where you use the word cards---she will color the words according their part of speech as they are used in the reader.
The cards will then be used for other activities. So far we have: sorted common and proper nouns, alphabetized letters, thought of describing words for the nouns, and more. All of these activities are contained in the Teacher’s Guide.
Each day, your child will have a new list of words to read in her workbook. These are primarily intended for building reading fluency, but she will also practice spelling them by using the laminated phonics sheets.
The beginning of Level B begins with teaching each of the letters in cursive, one letter per day, both capital and lower case. Once the alphabet is completed, it continues with a single line of cursive copywork each lesson. The lines to be copied are printed in a regular typeface, however, so if you wish to skip the cursive, you could simply have your child print them.
Each week, your child will study a new poem which is printed in her workbook. Each day she will focus on just a small part of one poem, paying attention to the rhyming scheme and discussing with you what the poem means. The Teacher’s Guide includes questions to ask your child (and answers). Occasionally there will be a short creative project to do, like this 3D picture Emma made for “Boats Sail on the Rivers” by Christina Rossetti
The grammar lessons come directly from Harvey’s First Lessons in the English Language and cover topics such as simple punctuation, capitalization, what makes a complete sentence, types of sentences, verb tenses, plurals, etc. etc. etc. Sometimes you will do the grammar work on a whiteboard and/or orally and sometimes there will be a worksheet to complete in the workbook.
Examples of the some of the activities we have done in grammar:
- taking a list of words and putting them into the correct order to make a statement, then reordering them into a question
- correcting sentences with mistakes, like improper end punctuation, incorrect capitalization, etc.
- practicing making plurals of words
The different sections complement each other, but they don’t really overlap or line up with each other. The McGuffey’s reading, for instance, does not match up with the words studied in the phonics section or the grammar lesson.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this:
It is easy to drop, say, the cursive handwriting and use your own program for that or even the phonics bit if you are already successfully using another phonics program and it won’t have a negative impact on the remaining parts that you are using. Or if you don’t want to cover grammar quite so formally at this age, you could drop that and simply use the copywork and McGuffey’s word cards for grammar.
But for some children, the lack of full integration may be confusing since they will be phonetically studying words they aren’t reading in context.
While we are using the full program, I like the fact that it is easy to leave parts out if you need/want to.
It may sound like a lot, but usually each part of the lesson takes only a short while. Lesson lengths do vary a bit---obviously it will take longer if there is a creative project that day---but we typically spend maybe 30-40 minutes on Eclectic Foundations each day.
Eclectic Foundations is a Christian Program.
It draws many of its copywork selections from scripture and sometimes includes discussion questions that align scripture. While discussing Christina Rossetti’s “Boats Sail on the Rivers”, for instance, you will be prompted to ask questions like: “Who made the rainbow? (God) What does the rainbow symbolize? (a promise from God that he would never flood the entire earth again).” The poem itself does not directly refer to God or His promise.
What do we think of Eclectic Foundations?
Emma asked: Is the review period over? Can we keep doing it? Please?!
And Mama said: Yes, let’s keep doing it!
What we like:
While I do need to use 5 different pieces (the teacher’s guide, workbook, cards, phonics sheets, and the reader), it’s very easy to do that because all the pieces are planned out for me.
We both like the predictability of the lessons (they all follow the same basic routine) AND the variety (every day is not the same ole same ole).
I love that its well-rounded and includes everything I could ask for in early elementary language arts program.
I love that it works well with a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education---each part of a lesson is short and targeted, there’s no busywork, and the discussion questions dig deeper than what seems typical for this age group.
Emma loves the poems.
There are a few things I have had to tweak:
The cursive instruction is very minimalist and Emma needs more in this area. The program introduces the letters in alphabetical order and does not demonstrate joining the letters or review the letters. As each new letter has been introduced, I have modeled the correct letter formation for her. When we get to the sentences, I may slow down the copywork to a word at a time, modeling connecting the letters, and working her up to doing the full sentences. We can go back to previous page to review or practice letters if she has difficulty.
The sentences for copywork are also not given in cursive, but regular typeface. I feel that cursive beginners need more modeling, so I will model the sentences for her before I have her copy them.
We’ve enjoyed most of the grammar exercises, but sometimes I have to modify them a bit. A few, for instance, had her correcting sentences not just for punctuation and capitalization (which the program teaches), but for spelling of irregular words that have not (yet) been taught by the program and are above her current spelling level. While I can help her correct them, this seemed counterproductive and it was frustrating for her, so I decided to focus more on the point of the lesson: reviewing the capitalization and punctuation rules already taught.
I copied the exercise onto a whiteboard, leaving out the spelling errors and had her make the grammatical corrections. This worked just fine and even helped to reduce her writing fatigue.
I’ve never found an language arts program that didn’t need a few adjustments to fit the child I’m using it with and these changes are very easy to implement.