Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review

Go online and look up reviews for Learning language Arts Through Literature (LLATL) and you’ll find plenty of people saying plenty of wonderful things about this program. It’s won several awards, so surely it must be good program, right?

I’m going to be the salmon swimming against the stream on this one. LLATL failed to impress me in any way. That’s not to say I hate the program; I just don’t find it good enough to use in our home school. This leaves me totally confused as to why everyone else seems to think it’s so great.

When I started kindergarten with my oldest son, I was overwhelmed. It was our first year home schooling, and I had no idea what I was doing. I needed something easy and reassuring to handle all the frightening ‘language arts’ that I wasn’t entirely sure about. I honestly wasn’t even sure of what ‘language arts’ was. Reading and phonics, sure. Spelling? Grammar? Writing? Literature? I had no clue.

So when I saw a lovely all-in-one language arts curriculum, I jumped on it. It had good reviews, it was affordable (around $100), and it took care of everything all in one place. LLATL seemed to be the solution to my language arts fears. The fact that the program was based on real literature sounded so great too. So I ordered LLATL and we started kindergarten with level 1.

We were just a week or so in when I decided my son wasn’t getting enough handwriting practice. Handwriting in the program was pretty minimal, really. Since my son had the handwriting of a drunk axe murderer, I thought more handwriting was in order. So I made up some daily drills to add to our program.

A few weeks in, and his handwriting was showing no improvement, still. So I ordered a handwriting program. Not long after that, I started to feel that the spelling in the ‘all-inclusive’ program was more than lacking. Sure, it was only level one, and reading and phonics were certainly more important, but why not start with a few of the basics? So I ordered yet another supplemental program for my all-inclusive program.

I also started feeling as if the reading wasn’t really being practiced enough. Out of a typical week, reading was only really done on one day. Decoding practice on another day of the week helped, but it still wasn’t enough. So I started checking out lots of readers from the library to supplement LLATL.

As we reached about the middle of level one, it became clear to me that my son was learning more about reading and phonics from the spelling program we had gotten. When LLATL covered topics that were also covered in All About Spelling, the spelling program did a better job of being logical and straightforward about the rules. I was starting to get very disappointed with LLATL.

When it came time to learn long vowels, I could hardly stand the curriculum any more. LLATL made no attempt at all to distinguish between the long vowel spellings. For example, the long e sound could be spelled ee, or ea. How was my son taught to know when to use which? He simply wasn’t. The tests called for correct spelling of learned words, but LLATL never gave him the tools to figure out how to. Sure, the student was supposed to sit down and build the words during class time, however, all they did was memorize the word.  No real language skills were gained at all.

The program also felt a little sloppy. Several times disorganized lists or errors in references threw me off, or were simply misleading.  For example, the teacher’s manual called for a book for one of the lessons.  Thinking this was one of the readers, I searched through all the material to find it.  Only after searching frantically through everything a few times over, did I discover this was a real book I needed for the lesson.  I figured this out a day before I needed it, and it wasn’t available at the library. I learned to recognize this sort of thing as I went along, but should I have had to?

The program wasn’t a total waste.  LLATL contained some helpful and fun activities that I felt were high quality. I also found the readers to be effective.  So, I can’t say the entire thing was garbage, but its strengths were not enough to carry the program. The program just tried to do too many things, and shortchanged all of them. I’ve heard that LLATL starts to pay off in later levels, and you just have to stick with it, but I don’t think I want to risk it. For first grade, we stitched programs, and my youngest son skipped the program entirely.

Overall –

Pros: Great readers, fun activities, all inclusive, good price

Cons: Coverage on many subjects is too light, disorganized, teaches memorization instead of rules

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