A Gentle Grammar Lesson

Posted on 2 Comments
gentle grammar

In the first place, grammar, being a study of words and not of things, is by no means attractive to the child, nor should he be hurried into it.

–Charlotte Mason on a “gentle” grammar approach


Charlotte Mason didn’t believe you should teach grammar to children under ten.  She also felt that children were ready at that age to begin only short, gentle, grammar lessons.

As your child’s parent, you are in the best position to evaluate whether your student is ready for gentle grammar before ten or whether ten is the right age. 

One of mine was crying to learn everything there was to know about writing early, and one wasn’t in a hurry at all, even when it ‘was time.’   

Either way, in the beginning, simple oral lessons of about 10-15 minutes are enough to get started.


So how do I teach a gentle grammar lesson?


Charlotte Mason felt that rather than memorizing the parts of speech, grammar studies should begin with the ‘whole concept’  of a sentence.

Understanding the ‘whole’ first makes it easier to understand the ‘parts.’  So you can see just how easy this method is to use, here is a short reprint of a first grammar lesson from Volume 1 of Charlotte Mason’s Original Home Schooling Series:

Words put together so as to make sense form what is called a sentence.

‘Barley oats chair really good and cherry’ is not a sentence, because it makes no(n)sense.

‘Tom has said his lesson’ is a sentence.

It is a sentence because it tells us something about Tom.

Every sentence speaks of someone or of something, and tells us something about that of which it speaks.

So a sentence has two parts:
(1) The thing we speak of;
(2) What we say about it.

In our sentence we speak of ‘Tom.’

We say about him that he ‘has learned his lesson.’

The thing we speak of is often called the SUBJECT, which just means that which we talk about.

People sometimes say ‘the subject of conversation was so and so,’ which is another way of saying ‘the thing we were speaking about was so and so.’

To be learnt––

Words put together so as to make sense form a sentence.
A sentence has two parts: that which we speak of, and what we say about it.

That which we speak of is the SUBJECT.

Lesson I Exercises

1. Put the first part to these examples:

—has a long mane.
—is broken.
—cannot do his math.
—played for an hour;
etc., etc.

2. Put the second part to—

That poor boy—.
My brother Tyler—.
The broken flowerpot—.
Bread and jelly—.
Mr. Brown’s tool-box—.

Continuing the lesson

Following these exercises, Ms. Mason suggests that your student create new sentences by again replacing the missing parts.

Then she reminds us to remember to call the first part of the sentence – what the sentence is about – the SUBJECT.

After the student has finished creating all of his sentences, he is to go back and draw a line under the part of the sentence that is the subject.

It seems too easy, doesn’t it?

But this method of learning is amazingly effective, especially when you review a new grammar skill for a few days in a row.


Reinforcing the grammar lesson with copy work

Once children heard the lesson, the teacher used short passages of copy work to reinforce the teaching.  The perfect copy work for this lesson would be the “To be Learnt” section above:

Words put together so as to make sense form a sentence.
A sentence has two parts: that which we speak of, and what we say about it.

That which we speak of is the SUBJECT.


Making your own perfect pages for copy work examples

I recommend using Productive Homeschooling to make all of your copy work pages, especially if your student is a new writer or just learning cursive.

Or if you write like me. This is why I type almost everything.  

Anyway, this program allows you to give your child a perfect example to follow, in the type of handwriting he’s learning.

If you’re going to be homeschooling for a while, getting a lifetime membership gives you TONS of already made notebooking pages as well as the opportunity to quickly make copy work examples for your children.

Create your own homeschool printables with the ProSchool Publisher


How to continue the lesson

Each child keeps a list of grammar rules in his notebook.  Each time he learns a new grammar rule, he records it as copy work and adds it to the notebook.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Mason advocated that the teacher should choose copy work from the Bible as well as other living books.  In our Daily Lesson Plans, we choose copy work from our history and science selections, as well as from the Bible.

Doing this allows the copy work to serve multiple functions. For example, in addition to grammar study,  you can use copy work for handwriting and spelling practice, for memorization, and to review history and science concepts.

As you may know if you’ve read my blog a while, my goal is to help you bring your homeschooling to life while helping you get your other duties done as well.  So think of the time you’re saving here using your copy work for so many purposes!  Anytime you can get all this benefit from one activity, it’s a very good thing!


Back to our grammar lesson…

So for the next day’s practice on this grammar concept, use a history or science book to generate some sentence parts, and let your student copy and add the subjects and predicates, as she did before.

Continue to have her underline that part of the sentence that says what the sentence is about, and reinforce what that part of the sentence is called — the subject.

So what do you do to teach grammar? How is it working?

If you think this would be an easier and more engaging way to learn grammar for your student you might want to give the Charlotte Mason method a try for teaching grammar. And history. And science.

Have you used this method of teaching grammar before? How do you like it? If you haven’t used it, how do you feel your kids might respond to this way of teaching grammar? Tell me in the comments!

teach gentle grammar - dana



P.S. Coming up — I’ll post a week of grammar lessons using this method.

one or more affiliate links here


2 thoughts on “A Gentle Grammar Lesson

  1. Thanks for sharing this…it is encouraging! 🙂

    1. So glad to hear this way of teaching grammar is encouraging to you, Rachel. Sometimes the simplest way of presenting something is the best!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.