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.