For English Literacy
The Mosdos Press Literature Series for grades 3-8. We use only the student textbooks for this series. They are more than enough. The content is delightfully multicultural, ethical (but secular — so it does not matter what religious background you come from, they still teach good moral values), and very diverse in types of reading materials presented. And also, the selections are fascinating reads, even to a grown-up! We use it for practice reading aloud (for diction and pronunciation), for comprehension, and for writing composition (answering the questions about the readings & doing the creative writing exercises).
All of the basic rules of writing — spelling, grammar, and composition — can be absorbed by young scholars in the same way that they absorbed the skills of walking and speaking their mother tongue: through observation, experimentation, and feedback. When children read A LOT, and see their mentors reading and writing A LOT, and have daily opportunities to practice writing on their own, they just learn. At Quercus Academy, our young scholars are asked to write a few paragraphs about something they are studying, every day. At least 1-2 times per week, they are asked to do a beautiful, perfect rewrite of one of their writing assignments, following the corrections made in red, by their personal “editor” (Mentor). For young scholars seeking more independence…
“It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences,” by June Casagrande. The only book an older student really needs to understand all the grammar necessary to write well. If your student wants to be a linguist, look elsewhere.
For younger students, we like the Saxon Grammar & Writing Series, by Curtis Hake. Like the Saxon Math series, discussed below, the series (beginning at a 4th grade level) uses an incremental learning approach, and offers concise written lessons to introduce each new concept, allowing for independent learners to self-direct. It covers all aspects of grammar and writing — spelling and usage rules, capitalization and punctuation, sentence diagramming, and contains prompts useful for dictation practice and short journal-entry style writing assignments. As the mentor, you can assign as much or as little of the review material as you feel is needed. Strangely enough, this book series made grammar my son’s favorite subject.
The Saxon Math Series (early editions, ONLY, which emphasize brain work over calculator work for early math — it is worth the effort to hunt these down through Amazon, or elsewhere). Saxon math takes a robust, incremental approach to learning math, which does not merely get the student to the point that they “sort of get” the material, but to the point where they understand it so well that they can no longer get anything wrong. Superb pedagogy in this series. And again, we find it more than enough to use just the student textbooks for this series, though, depending upon the mentor’s skill in math, you may want the answer keys for upper level math:
For Illustration Skills
“Keys to Drawing” by Bert Dodson. Straight forward, and no-nonsense. This book provides an array of short lessons and practice “projects” that can help beginning illustrators — adults or children — develop the perceptual and analytical skills needed to more accurately represent the things they see, on paper.