Eclectic Foundations Language Arts | Review

"A solid foundation is crucial to an excellent education," according to Eclectic Foundations who uses old fashioned textbooks from the 1800s and early 1900's, such as McGuffey's Eclectic Reader, First Lessons in English by Thomas Harvey, and Word Mastery by Florence Akin, to teach Language Arts.

All of these books are available online, but the company merges them into their Language Arts curriculum for an open and go program that covers reading, phonics, handwriting, grammar, poetry, and writing in an easy to use program with a Biblical worldview.

So, will Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B provide my child with a solid foundation?

First, I'll share a little bit about the program. 

Level B includes a consumable Student Workbook, Teacher's Guide, reusable laminated Phonics Practice Sheets, and card stock Word Cards. The workbook and guide are soft-cover with a spiral binding. The cover pages are laminated, and the back pages are regular card stock. Both books have what appears to be light ink marks from print rollers throughout the book, but this did not affect usability.

You'll also need:
  • McGuffey's First Eclectic Reader (Revised Edition)
  • simple supplies such as index cards, pencil, paper, crayons, scissors, thin dry-erase markers, a dry-erase eraser, and a few craft supplies. 
Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

The layout of the program is:
  • four short lessons per week 
  • 36 weeks of lessons
  • intended for first or second grade
I'll share the elements of a lesson and what the program is asking you and your child to do.

The lessons include:
  • McGuffey's Reader
    • two lessons per week
    • picture study, reading, and grammar drill 
Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

During this part of the lesson, Boaz who is six years old, reads the word list from McGuffey's which is asking him to read: "Rab, Ann, hat, catch, see, See Rab! See Ann! See! Rab has the hat. Can Ann catch Rab?"

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

Lastly, he studies the picture, answers a few questions like "Is this Ann's dog? What is she doing with a stick? and What season is it?, and then uses adjectives to describe the girl, dog, trees, etc. 

This section is easy and quick. I love that it includes a practical application of grammar learned in the previous lesson (and that Bo can easily read the selection.) Bo looks forward to this part of the lesson. 

  • Phonics 
    • short word lists recited until student can read easily
    • write the words on Phonics Spelling Sheet - not a formal spelling lesson
Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

Bo reads the words from the word list for Lesson 9. 

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

Then he uses the Phonics Practice Sheet to fill in the missing consonants, as I dictate words from Lesson 9 word list. They do not go in order, so I guessed that he is supposed to pick whichever one works. I felt a little awkward not knowing, Bo didn't really like this part, and having the student write and recite words from a list until they can read them easily seems to be a form of learning by rote, not phonics.  

Furthermore, we are reading short vowel CVC words in the Reader, but are practicing long vowel VCE words in the Word List for phonics. Because there are no explicit phonics instructions in Level B, I had to teach Bo about Silent E. We played the "name game" from our current reading program where Bo learned that Silent E makes the vowel in the word say its name (makes the vowel sound long) which is a lesson from Level 2 in our reading program. 

  • Handwriting
    • cursive handwriting practice
Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

Eclectic Foundations introduces D'Nealian cursive handwriting which was first introduced in 1978; however, it is a derivative of the Palmer Method which was created as a simplified style of the Spencerian Method, a script style used from 1840 to 1925. Since this is a modern version of old fashioned curricula, I love that! 

We currently use an italic style print handwriting, but I was willing to give cursive italic a try for this review knowing print italic moves very easily into cursive italic. Bo doesn't like to write yet, so I created tracing pages for him for each lesson to teach him the proper form. As he gains confidence, I can have him trace and then practice in the student book. 

  • Poetry
    • poem to be read each week
    • help student find the rhyming words and circle them using different color crayons for each rhyming pattern
    • comprehension questions
Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

I'm instructed to read the first two stanzas of the poem "Baby Bye" and help my child circle the rhyming words. 

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

He uses a different color for each set of rhyming words, but a pattern is developing. 

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

Finding a pattern wasn't mentioned in the Teacher's Guide, but I mentioned that "April Fools" (a poem from an earlier lesson), had an ABAB pattern, so Bo was interested to find that "Baby Bye" had an AABA pattern. I would love to see the grammar of poetry introduced. 

The focus of level B is on finding the rhyming words and comprehension. 

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

Bo was asked questions like "Who is the person talking in the poem?" (a baby), "What has six legs?" (the fly), and "What was the fly tickling?" (the baby's nose). 

When we read "Boats Sail on the Rivers," we were encouraged to draw a picture of a boat sailing on water and make a rainbow sun catcher with crayon shavings. 

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

Most of the poems come from "Poems by Grades" which was written by Van Stone Harris and Charles B. Gilbert. The selections in Level B are a joy to read, and we both loved the poetry aspect of the lessons. 

  • Grammar
    • lessons from First Lessons in English to expose student to grammar at an early age
Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

Bo is asked to color code the parts of speech as he identifies:
nounsadjectivesadverbsverbsprepositionsconjunctions, pronouns, & interjections.

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

He asks for help coloring, but this is one of his favorite parts of the lesson. We color word cards every other lesson, so he sometimes lets me double up on lessons to get to the word cards. 

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B Review

This day we were working in Lesson 10. I was asked to help him color and add Lesson 10 cards to the word box. (We are currently using an envelope for each part of speech). "Rab," "Ann," and "hat" are nouns (red), and "catch" and "see" are verbs (green). He also learns what a noun and a verb are. 

In other lessons, he has learned about proper and common nouns, how to make a word plural, what a declarative and interrogative sentence is, and how to punctuate. 

These are just a few samples of the activities and questions my child was asked to answer and do during the lessons.

What is my opinion of the product?

My overall feeling is a positive one. My child likes it, and I enjoy teaching it.

What I like about Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B:
  • it has a Biblical worldview but ties in Biblical content naturally through poetry, discussion, and copywork.
  • it teaches reading, handwriting, grammar, poetry, and writing in one program
  • it uses the McGuffey Readers and methods of Charlotte Mason
  • it is based on 1800's and early 1900's educational values, morals, and standards. Eclectic Foundations is not a new curriculum. It is a combination of historic textbooks modernized for use today. 
  • my student was engaged and picked up on concepts I thought he was too young for
  • there are a few hands on projects, like drawing a boat and making clouds or making a rainbow sun catcher with crayon shavings and wax paper, but they are not too often nor overwhelming
  • Copy work is meaningful with quotes, Proverbs, and sayings. 
  • there is room for copywork and handwriting practice in the student book
  • it is truly open and go - I found that if I had Bo start with handwriting practice, I had enough time to read over the lesson for the day. I needed no advance preparation. 
  • lessons are short, succinct, and sweet - about 15 - 20 minutes a day
  • it introduces cursive handwriting at a young age  
  • it is reasonably priced for all that you get. You can download the whole program for $30, and a link to download the Revised Eclectic Reader is included. (Eclectic Foundations generously included a printed copy of the McGuffey's Eclectic First Reader as a courtesy to help facilitate my review). Currently, you can purchase the printed Student Book, Teacher's Guide, and Word Cards for $54. 

What I didn't like:
  • my student was asked to write, spell, and correct words he had not yet learned to read or spell
  • the words in the Word List are for reading practice, but they don't match the words being learned in McGuffey's Reader. 
  • there are no actual phonics instructions in this program - the "phonics" part of the program is simply a list of words the child is to memorize by practice. 
  • that it was missing actual teaching instruction. It seems more like a list of things to do, words to read, questions to answer, and things to explain. For example, after instructing the child to read the word list in Lesson 15 which introduces possessive nouns, the teacher's guide simply instructs, "Review any words that may be difficult until the student is reading the words fluently. Lesson 9 - 14 will use Phonics Practice Sheet C. The purpose of this lesson is to show how to write the possessive form of a noun." So, it is to show the possessive form through modeling; however, it was necessary for me to give an explanation of what was happening. 

A Solid Foundation

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B teaches many foundational concepts; however, because it is missing explicit phonics instruction, it may not stand alone as a phonics program. I believe phonics and reading instruction are foundational to an excellent education, so I would have liked to have seen phonics included in this level. I believe the first 26 phonograms are taught in Level A, but we have not (yet) been introduced to new phonograms in Level B.

For example, the final blend "tch" is introduced in Lesson 9, but we are given no instructions on how to read it. Furthermore, the c has a mark in McGuffey's presumably to show that c is using it's hard sound, but it is not mentioned in the Teacher's Guide. My older students know that the sound of "c" is /k/ when it comes before an "a" and that "tch" is the sound of /ch/ and is only used after a single short vowel. This blend is not introduced until Level 3 of our current reading program, so it is an advanced blend for the target grade range, but then again, a student's education was generally completed by the 8th grade in the late 1800's.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, but I'd prefer that you have a good knowledge of phonics, have a natural reader, or use it alongside a good phonics program and use the elements that fit your style. Please preview the first four weeks if you think it might be a good fit for your homeschool.

I agree that 1st or 2nd grade, as recommended by the publisher, is a good target range for Level B. See What level should I start with? for more details.

How did Eclectic Foundations benefit our homeschool? 

I mentioned that Bo liked the word cards. Before we were really using them, alphabetizing them, and forming sentences with them, he was using them on his own and asking me to create extra words and punctuation for him to use. He spent an hour or so creating new word cards and making them into sentences one day.

When he asked me to make a new word, I had him tell me the correct part of speech by identifying which color it should be. It was wonderful to see him doing this, and he asked if we could do this again.

Furthermore, he is learning the parts of speech. He can easily tell me what a noun and a pronoun are plus what proper and common nouns are. 

Will I continue to use it?

I will, as long as Bo is interested, but I'll continue to use Level B alongside our current reading program.

To be honest, I love the programs we are currently using for reading, spelling, and writing/grammar and had my heart set on them for next year. I first thought that I would continue Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B just for the McGuffey's Reader, the Poetry lessons, and Word Cards, but since the lessons are so short and simple, it would be easy to continue the whole program.

My Crew mates reviewed reviewed Levels A, B, and C (Level D comes out this spring). Click here to read their reviews!
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1 comment

  1. Thank you for such a detailed review of Level B! We are using the Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level A program and really enjoy it, so I'm thinking of also picking up Level B to keep on hand for later use.