You noted that CLE spends too high a percentage of time on grammar mechanics and that you are considering A Beka or Bob Jones.
I understand your quandary. A peculiar thing about grammar teaching in elementary grades is that most curricula introduce parts of speech, phrases, and sentence types in lower elementary and continue to reteach those concepts practically every year thereafter. Most students don’t really “get” these rather abstract names for categories of grammatical structure until the secondary years. And while there’s nothing wrong with introducing them to elementary children, the problem is that the time taken up in doing so is robbed from time that the student could more profitably spend reading and writing.
I think you will find that A Beka (especially) and also Bob Jones curricula are also relatively heavy on analytical grammar study as compared to their focus on reading and writing.
I suggest you consider the conclusions of the Pilgrim Christian School of Kansas, which recently studied this quandary and chose curriculum that emphasizes more reading and writing. The document linked below outlines their philosophy and actual curriculum choices.
Also, Arlyn Nisly, the principal of Pilgrim Christian School, sent me this reply recently when I asked him what they are doing regarding secondary language arts following the same philosophy:
We have extended this plan in principle to the secondary level, giving a little more emphasis to grammar than we do in the elementary. Again, it’s not a neat-and-tidy package, and we’re still tuning it, but basically we are working with these components:
Grades 9-10 (combined, Year A/B rotation)–4 semester credits:
- English from the Roots Up. We never got this integrated at the lower levels, so we’re implementing it here.
- Winston Grammar. We spread this out over two years, splitting each lesson so that the 10th-graders take the more challenging problems.
- Easy Grammar Ultimate. More with the mechanics of writing: capitalization, punctuation, sentence combining, etc. Grade 9 does the 9th-grade level, and Grade 10 the 10th-grade level.
- Weekly writing assignments. This includes journaling, which is not graded.
Grade 11: Composition Class–1 semester credit. The text for the course is Lucile Vaughan Payne’s excellent, but very dated (copyright 1965!) Lively Art of Writing. We intend to update this, but it has provided a very solid foundation for essay writing for our students for over 40 years. Two projects have dominated this course: a research paper, and a whole-class project, in which the students interview members of the community and compile their work in a 30-40 page booklet that is made available to the community. Topics have included the history of our school and noteworthy storms in our community’s history.
Grade 12: Speech Class–1 semester credit. The course involves a handful of shorter speeches of different purposes (inspirational, informative, persuasive, etc), some oral interpretation, and one major speech, addressed to Grades 7-12 in a Friday morning assembly.
Grades 9-12: Current Issues and Literature–2 semester credits. Each month, the entire high school researches a current issue (water, human trafficking, social media…) or reads a noteworthy book (Les Miserables, The Chosen, Othello…). After some discussion, each student writes one report and presents one report orally, selecting a topic for each one from a teacher-generated list
We always see room for improvement–in the program and in the student output, but we feel positive about the basic approach.