One would think choosing a grammar program would be an easy matter. I began my research where I always did; I searched the Ambleside Online (AO) Forum. Of course everyone would agree on a program. I would order it, and we would be on our way. My plan, though simple in concept, proved to be difficult in execution. There was not a slam-dunk, agreed upon program: Our Mother Tongue, Simply Grammar, Winston Grammar, KISS, and many, many more. How could this be? In the end, I went with KISS for my sixth grader. It appealed to me not only because it was highly recommended on AO but also because it was the project of someone who loved grammar and was offering all of his work for FREE. Then, as I already owned some grammar from my previous schooling, I made the decision to just keep using it with my second and fourth grader, even though the format was twaddly and the pictures uninspiring.
KISS did not last in my home. I don't know if it was KISS or if it was I; I think it was most likely the latter. We were in the middle of a tough transition to Charlotte Mason, and grammar definitely suffered from inconsistency. This was indicative of deeper issues, but I did not know how to deal with these, and, looking for an easy fix, I ordered Simply Grammar. It was never used. I'm not sure why I set the book aside. Perhaps I didn't think I knew how to use it; maybe I didn't like all the idealistic pictures which seemed hard to relate to. Instead, we moved on to Our Mother Tongue. My son found it to be a much better fit; I did not. Again, the problem really wasn't with our choice of grammar books; the problem was with our schedule or potentially our lack of a schedule. Two years into a Charlotte Mason education, my son had not made it out of Unit One, and I had long since stopped any grammar with the other children (good for the second turned third grader but not so good for the fourth turned fifth grader).
At the beginning for our third year, we made some drastic changes to our schedule which finally allowed grammar to have its rightful place. My eighth grader was switched to a program called Analytical Grammar, and I dug Simply Grammar from the bottom of a box and gave it a go with my fourth and sixth grader. It was a long journey back to a book which had been with us almost from the start and has ended in the small reward of actually sticking to and completing our first grammar book since implementing a Charlotte Mason Education in our home.
Overall, our experience with Simply Grammar was very good. I found the lessons easy to follow and implement. Each lesson in the book followed the same pattern of
1. Teaching of new concept with examples.
2. A short summary of the key concepts in a section called To be learned.
3. A page of exercises, usually including a picture from which the children can make up sentences trying to use the concept from the lesson.
Here is what a typical lesson looked like for us.
We begin with a recapitulation of the last lesson. Usually, I will prompt with a statement such as, "Tell me what you know about verb tense." If I get blank stares, I know we are not ready to move on to the next lesson, and we will spend another day working on the same concept. If I receive a good recapitulation, I read the text for the next lesson. Most often, I read it word for word, but there are times when I tweak it on the fly. Then, the students orally narrate the lesson. They also always do a written narration of the key concept in their grammar notebooks. Here, too, I will typically prompt them with a statement. For example, I might say, "Write down what you know about pronouns." or "Write down what you learned this lesson." We share the written narrations and correct any misunderstandings. Then, we do several of the exercises. We do all but one orally. I have them do one written one in their grammar notebook. This takes about 20 minutes, and we typically finish a lesson. This pace allowed us to finish the book in 2.5 terms.