Guide to Supplementing Essentials

What does my child need to be successful in Essentials?  How do I make sure my child is learning enough but not too overwhelmed?  Is the guide (the curriculum) enough? Or do I need to add extra practice?

We worry over the details of the curriculum.  First year students seem overwhelmed.  Third year students may become bored.  This is where supplementing the curriculum comes in.  By supplementing, I mean adding additional practice to help the student be successful.

Andrew Pudewa, in his talk on “Spelling and the Brain” speaks on the topic of modifying workbooks.  Workbooks are only as good as the teacher who uses them wisely.  Sometimes more practice is needed before moving on to the next skill.  At other times, too much practice on a skill already mastered becomes just busywork (tedious or boring or not the most valuable use of time).

A wise teacher can modify the workbook or any type of curriculum for the student.

Tips to Modify the Curriculum

  1. Remember your goals.

    In classical education, the main goals would be mastery and growth.   Modern education sometimes places the goal on grades and finished product.  Their goals might be quantity of work completed.  However, remember the goal is quality work.  This includes mastery – learning the facts or skills well before moving on.  Master those spelling words.  Master those math facts.  Learn to write a sentence well before writing whole papers.How would this apply to the Essentials grammar program of Classical Conversations?  Mastery would include learning the information on the charts.  It would also include knowing how to diagram each week’s pattern with the beginning level sentences and then later moving on to the more difficult sentences.In addition to mastery of particular skills or facts, the primary goal is growth.  This growth will not be at the same rate for every student, but we should expect growth over the course of the year.  Reading skills will improve.  Writing skills will improve.  Knowledge of grammar will have increased.If you are not meeting the goals of mastery and growth, it is time to evaluate the situation.Keeping an eye on the goals will help you to not overwhelm your student with unnecessary work and to add in additional practice where necessary.  It will keep you focused from comparing your students to those using other curriculums or methods, etc.

  2. Evaluate the level of understanding of your student. 

    If your student has mastered a skill, it is not necessary to add in more practice.  I’m not suggesting skipping review because things are easily forgotten over time.  However, I suggest using time wisely – to practice skills not mastered and to add challenges to those skills that are mastered.Here is how this is played out in Essentials grammar.If a student can easily diagram the three beginning level sentences each week, you do not need to supplement with more practice sentences.  However, you might want to add in a few challenging sentences for practice.If, however, your student has not mastered those basic sentences, you probably do want more practice sentences at the beginning level.  Repetition is a good thing at this

  3. Use repetition wisely. 

    In classical education, we model what we are teaching with MANY examples.  To the point that it is boring for the teacher.  We model the process of diagramming very simple examples before adding more difficult ones.  We model the process of writing good amazing sentences by doing them over and over and over again with our students.  A wise teacher will know the appropriate amount of repetition needed.  Moving ahead too quickly may cause the student frustration and keep them from mastering the subject well.  But moving too slowly may bore the student and not challenge them enough (remember – the growth goal).

4. Keep it simple.

Adding additional practice or challenges does not have to be complicated.  Sometimes the additional practice can be done orally.  Drill the math facts with flashcards or go over the charts and definitions orally.  Sometimes just do a few additional problems on a whiteboard or in a spiral notebook.  Those options don’t require finding things on the computer to print out and then feel the need to keep up with.  If your child needs more practice with the basic sentences, then simply change the words but not the number of words in the sentence.

For example, the sentence “The boy kicked the ball” can easily be changed to “The dog ate his food” or “The mother baked a cake.”  That is keeping it simple.

The trick comes when you begin making up more difficult sentences or pick a sentence already written (such as Scripture).  Now you are going into territory with no answer key.  So, if you are needing to supplement with more advanced skills, looking for resources from others is okay – it may be your way of keeping it simple.  I mean, I use the answer key to check my daughter’s math.  I think I could figure out all the answers, but do I really have time to do all the details of each of my kid’s schoolwork.  That’s a clear NO.

So, know when to utilize outside resources – when it will save you time but still meet those goals – mastery and growth but not busywork.

Of course, there is also an additional reason to supplement – the need to do something different.  Maybe you (and your student) are bored with the curriculum or with the sentences in the guide (maybe you’ve already mastered those last year!).  Or maybe what you have been doing is not working and a change of pace or scenery is need.  Or maybe you want to better integrate the subjects – diagram history sentences or science topics or Scripture.


Many people have asked for additional practice sentences.  What they are really asking for is an answer key.  Any of us could make up additional sentences, but we want to know we are correctly following the patterns.  We want the answer key.

And classically minded educators love the opportunity to INTEGRATE the subjects.  So we want the sentences we diagram to be subject related.

So, here is weeks 1-6 Science/Grammar/Scripture Connections.  It’s practice sentences for diagramming with the answer key.  I’ve done the research so that you don’t have to (who doesn’t love a time saver!).   Also, these practice sentences have in mind the beginning level student who needs more repetition on the very basic pattern and the more advanced student who needs the challenge.

Not every student needs to do every student.  Be the wise teacher to know what your student needs.


On a side note, I’m enjoying reading Scripture as it relates to science.  There is a lot about creation and our God as creator.  Even if you choose not to diagram the Scripture, reading over it will integrate the science with the Creator God, with His word.

ScienceGrammarScripture (1)






  1. Ginger


    Hi, will you be offering future weeks as well? We’ve been so blessed by these!

    • Christina Easterling


      Yes!! I’ve working all week to get them finished! So, they are now posted today! I’m glad you have enjoyed them.

  2. Cristin Fransen


    Do you have a link to weeks 7-12? (Or further?) I think I read rhat you finished more. Awesome work! Thanks! Feel free to email me the link i will buy future weeks! Thanks!

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