Kolbe Reviews: Voyages in English (Grammar)

Voyages in English is a vintage Catholic-school grammar book series. My mother-in-law used it growing up, and I love this because whenever my kids complain it’s so hard, Grandma is there to remind them she did just fine with it.  And went on to have a story published in Redbook Magazine, no less.

Originally published in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s, it is available as a reprint from Lepanto Press.  There is an modern version of Voyages in English still being published by Loyola Press, and I am told that Lepanto’s vintage reprint will soon be re-named Lepanto English to avoid confusion.

What I love about the old Voyages:

  • I like using vintage and historic textbooks, because they double as primary sources for history.
  • The grammar is rigorous.  Studied well, students will learn to write clearly and edit effectively.

What other people hate about the old Voyages:

  • It’s so old-fashioned.
  • Not everybody wants to grow up to be an editor.

Realistically, some of the material in the sixth grade book was new to me, and is understandably overwhelming to parents who aren’t word-geeks. (Fourth grade is no problem.)  The teacher’s manual has explanations and answers, but could make your eyes swim if you don’t already know roughly what the book is talking about.  Also, I giggle every time I see the word “copulative”.

The Kolbe Course Plans

The course plans assign the exercises, and every now and again tell you to diagram some sentences, or write a letter, or something like that.  There are quarterly exams and answer keys in the course plans.  If you aren’t enrolled with Kolbe I’d skip the plans and just type up your own list of dates and assignment numbers at the beginning of the school year.

I would encourage you, if you do follow the Kolbe plans, to blackline assignments that cover topics your child has clearly mastered, and generally avoid anything that smacks of busy work.  The plans, like the text, cover every possible grammar need, allowing you to be the Benevolent Dictator, mercifully skipping over long exercises training students out of bad habits they had no idea existed until seeing them in the book.

What if you can’t stand VOE?

You’re not alone.  A popular alternative used by Kolbe and Mother of Divine Grace families is Easy Grammar.

I picked up an older edition at a used book sale, and I like having it on hand as a resource for extra practice pages.  The edition I have (1994) has reproducible worksheets and then the filled-in worksheet on the facing page.  It seems to cover all the topics normal people cover in English grammar.

Another option that comes highly recommended  is the free online K.I.S.S. Grammar Books by Dr. Ed Vavra.  Worth a look.

Do you even need a formal grammar program?

Sooner or later, sure.  But if standard English is the language spoken in your home, I’m not persuaded students need to do a rigorous study of grammar every single year.   And note that if you are studying a foreign language of any kind, then the kids are getting quite a lot of grammar education that way.

Having largely unschooled grammar until 4th grade, I had no difficulty transitioning both kids to Voyages this year.  I looked through the Kolbe Placement Exams early last summer, and used a selection of worksheets from the Super Teacher Worksheets to give the kids an introduction to the concepts they’d be seeing in the fall.

So although I happen to like the Kolbe selection on this one, and I find that using it this year was well-timed for us, I wouldn’t make your child’s love of Voyages in English the make-or-break on your choice of programs.  I would be very comfortable with giving any student a year off of hardcore grammar study here or there, if that seemed like a better way to manage time and energy and avoid frustration.

7 thoughts on “Kolbe Reviews: Voyages in English (Grammar)

  1. Thanks for the link. I updated my post about KISS grammar a bit with some more information from H., who is the one who actually uses it to teach my children.

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to review Kolbe! We have been enrolled with Seton for the past two years and are discerning switching to Kolbe. I have been reading many of your posts and they are very helpful! You mentioned the Loyola Press Voyages in English. Are these drastically different from the older versions? Could they be used with the kolbe program?

    • Kolbe uses the older edition, and I think they’ve recently changed the name to distinguish it from the contemporary series still put out by Loyola Press. The one Kolbe uses is vintage. Very different from a modern language arts book. I think if you’re used to Seton, the rigor of the classic VIE will be pretty comfortable for you.

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