Grammar Made Easy: Writing a Step Above
Now updated with new, extended answer key!
For several years, I have been recommending Connie Schenkelberg’s Grammar Made Easy: Writing a Step Above grammar program as a homeschool grammar resource. I bought it years ago, and used it with my boys, and found it simple, intuitive, and streamlined. Grammar Made Easy is actually more than just a simple grammar book — it’s a strategy for improving a student’s reading, writing, and listening skills.
Why Do I Like Grammar Made Easy: Writing a Step Above?
Practicality: What I liked about this resource was its practicality. I used it with all my boys at once (their ages span about 6 years). We’d sit around the dining room table and go through the scripted lesson, then practice the different sentence forms. I couldn’t believe that we were diagramming from the very first lesson! If your grammar education was as sketchy as mine was, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to start with Connie’s gentle linguistic approach. (If you want to know more about linguistic grammar, be sure to check out Connie’s explanation on the FAQ page.)
Easy to use: Busy home school moms will appreciate the fact that they can just pick up the book and start the lesson. There is no separate teacher’s manual that you’ll have to spend hours reading — the book starts with easy grammar exercises, including sentence diagramming. Skills build one on the other, so that you make steady progress without being overwhelmed with busywork. Answers to each exercise are found in the back of the book so that you can provide instant feedback on your student’s exercises.
Short lessons: Lessons are brief enough to be memorable (Charlotte Mason would definitely approve!), and my boys thought the cryptic chapter headings — things like “N/V” or “Aj N V” — were pretty cool. I liked the fact that we didn’t have to spend grueling hours at it. By the time we worked through the book at a leisurely pace, the guys knew what they needed to know, and that was all the grammar study we ever had to do!
Cathy Duffy says:
“This ungraded manual can be used with student in junior and senior high (and perhaps even earlier)… It combines sentence patterns… and sentence combining to improve student composition skills… As students see the expanding, logical connections between words demonstrated in diagrams, they reinforce understanding of syntax…. Students who already know diagramming can still be challenged… these exercises will teach them to write in sentence patterns and combinations that they might never have tried before.”
From a review of the first edition in the Christian Home Educator’s Curriculum Manual; Junior/Senior High by Cathy Duffy (Grove Publishing, 2000).
When Should You Use Grammar Made Easy?
For most students, I think that middle school is the best time to use this book, but it is very flexible. When we used it, I had one boy in elementary school, one in high school, and two in middle school (all homeschooled, of course). It worked just fine for all of them. We went through it together, and did one lesson per week.
The Grammar Made Easy Story
Grammar Made Easy: Writing a Step Above was written by Connie Schenkelberg, a teacher, for her students. It was originally published in 1996 as Writing a Step Above: A Strategy for Improving Reading, Writing, and Listening Skills. The title was chosen because the book provided such a strong, structural foundation for writing, but over the years Connie discovered that many people didn’t realize it was actually a grammar course. That’s why when Everyday Education republished the books in 2011, it made sense to add Grammar Made Easy to the title.
When Connie passed away, we returned the publishing rights to her family. Her daughter has now updated Grammar Made Easy with new tips and notes, added Connie’s extended answer key (includes diagrams for every single exercise, even the sentence-combining exercises that were originally not intended to be diagrammed), and republished the book. We are delighted that it’s back!
Free Sample Lesson
If you’d like to see a sample, I’ve posted the first lesson as PDF download (below). Take a look at it, and see for yourself how easy grammar can be (this is the lesson as it looked in the 2011 edition; you can see the added tips in the new edition’s page-spread photo above).