Hands-On English handbook (2nd ed.): Paperback. 182 pages, 8 x 10.5 inches. The cornerstone of the curriculum, giving quick access to the basics of English to people 9-plus years of age, including adults. With illustrations, index, appendices. © 2004. ISBN: 0966486757, $14.95.

Activity Book: 175 practice and test pages, plus 26 pages of answers and notes, in a 1-inch 3-ring binder. Correlated with Hands-On English handbook. Consumable Edition, ISBN 0966486773, $19.95. Reproducible Edition, ISBN 0966486765, $29.95. Content of these two editions is identical; the only difference between them is the right to make copies.

Student Workbook: 154 practice pages (identical to practice pages in the Activity Book) in a 3-hole-drilled bound book with perforated pages. Not reproducible. No tests, answers, or notes. ISBN 096648679X, $14.95.

Hands-On Sentences: Card game that offers an enjoyable and powerful way to review and solidify concepts presented in the above volumes, especially parts of speech and sentence construction. $9.95. (When playing a game, only 12–15 repetitions of a piece of information are required to build new synapses in the brain; 400 repetitions are required without the element of play!)

Hands-On Icons: Card stock (10 sheets). Part-of-speech, sentence-pattern, and sentence-type icons (most enlarged, but some mini). Includes suggestions for use. Reproducible. $4.95.

Package Deal: Hands-On English handbook, Activity Book (Reproducible Edition), and Hands-On Sentences for $50 — a perfect English curriculum that can span years of use, from elementary grades through high school.
Assessed by Michael Leppert

In my opinion and experience, the two aspects of language arts most important to master are vocabulary and grammar. The student who masters these elements will become a powerful communicator — in both the written and the oral realm.

Many find the mastery of grammar to be daunting, and selecting a grammar curriculum can prove equally daunting. Fran Hamilton, who has more than twenty years of experience teaching English language arts to students ranging from kindergartners through adults, has developed the perfect grammar curriculum for homeschoolers and classroom students alike.

The Hands-On English handbook is well laid out, unintimidating, and easy to use. The table of contents includes Parts of Speech, Sentences and Sentence Patterns, Usage (of verbs, pronouns, and modifiers), Capitalization, Punctuation, Spelling, Vocabulary, Reading, and Writing. There is also an appendix providing guidance in test prep, test taking, and more. The handbook can be kept accessible through the college years and into adulthood, to serve as a reference when a grammatical question arises in the workplace. This open-ended usefulness alone makes Hands-On English worth the price!

In Hands-On English, grammar is made visual, using symbols to represent parts of speech. The symbols are related to the function of each part of speech — a paintbrush representing an adjective, for example, because it can change the appearance of a cube, which represents a noun. Symbols can be combined to show sentence patterns (e.g., Subject – Verb – Direct Object) and sentence types (e.g., compound sentence). The visual representations help students understand and remember the role of each part of speech and the grammatical constructions. Throughout the Hands-On English handbook, explanations are concise and are followed by crystal-clear examples; simple drawings reinforce concepts.

A second distinctive feature of Hands-On English is that it is centered on a handbook that assumes no prior knowledge of grammar, usage, capitalization, or punctuation. It starts at the very beginning in those areas and includes concepts usually presented through eighth grade — in one book with one set of practice pages. Not having to buy a new book each year has an instructional advantage as well as an economic advantage: Students are encouraged to check their handbook whenever they are uncertain about correct usage, punctuation, etc. Because the handbook is familiar to them, they’ll find the answer quickly, and will then use language correctly, developing independence and confidence in their speaking and writing.

The Activity Book provides a variety of exercises that help students master the concepts presented in the handbook. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. While a sequence of study (which could extend over several years) is suggested, the program could easily be adapted to a different sequence that parents or teachers might prefer.

Hands-On English places more importance on using language (reading, writing, listening, speaking, and thinking) than on doing worksheets. Some pages in the Activity Book are designed to help students with their own reading and writing, perhaps in other subject areas: responding to literature, guiding their study of textbooks, selecting a writing topic, planning a composition, revising and editing their first draft. These pages are intended for repeat use — until students no longer need the formal guidance that the pages provide. Vocabulary and spelling also extend beyond worksheets as students develop their own personal vocabulary file and spelling dictionary.

If you are looking for a grammar curriculum, Hands-On English is ideal for producing powerful communicators — people secure in the fundamentals of English so that they can focus on effective presentation of their ideas. And the Package Deal is an excellent resource to cultivate mastery and confidence. MjL