Quick Review: Michael Clay Thompson’s Language Arts Program, Level 1 and Part of Level 2

I was lucky enough to receive Michael Clay Thompson’s Language Arts Program, Level 1, a.k.a. The Island Level for free when I wrote a comprehensive article on grammar programs for home/school/life magazine. Being able to see a full curriculum before buying it is a luxury most homeschoolers don’t have, and for that reason, I was so grateful. This is not a cheap curriculum, and I never would have bought it without seeing it first.

Over that year, I read all the books to my boys, but I didn’t have them work through the Practice Books, which are essentially the worksheets that reinforce the teaching. Also at that time, I picked IEW’s Fix it! The Nose Tree as my eldest son’s grammar program because it just worked better for him then. While I didn’t feel he needed to work through the MCT workbook at the same time, I did think that reading Grammar Island and Sentence Island helped him understand what he was doing in The Nose Tree better.

Also, I fell in love with these books. I am not exaggerating when I say they are beautiful. These books incorporate beautiful artwork and large, easy-on-the-eyes fonts. I think using a beautiful textbook makes a world of difference when trying to teach youngsters, and it made a world of difference to my adult eyes, which can get quite weary trying to read small text in the cluttered books of other curriculum.

This year I bought part of Level 2 because I have ditched the Fix It! series, and I’m going to continue on with MCT. However, I can’t afford to buy it all at once. I have bought only Grammar Town (teacher’s manual) and Paragraph Town (teacher’s manual). As much as I would like to buy the student books, I have to save money. So I use the teacher’s manuals, and I type and print the exercises on my computer for him to work through. Grammar Town worked really well for my son, and I’m very pleased with it. We’ll be working in Paragraph Town this coming year.

As for my younger son, we are going back and re-reading the Island Level this year, and he will be using the practice workbooks with this program – so they will not go to waste! (And I should mention that he loved the Mud trilogy, which he read this past year.)

I would love to buy Caesar’s English I (teacher and student books) and the next book on poetry, Building Poems (teacher’s manual), but it’s just not in the budget right now. My priority will be getting through the grammar and writing textbooks of this wonderful curriculum, and I’ll buy those as I we need them.

I should mention the one flaw with this program is that is doesn’t teach much punctuation! Kind of strange, don’t you think? However, this is easily remedied. I purchased a punctuation workbook on Amazon that I’ll have my son work through this year, and I’m pretty good at punctuation, so I can help him with that as he continues to work on his writing skills.

5 thoughts on “Quick Review: Michael Clay Thompson’s Language Arts Program, Level 1 and Part of Level 2

  1. MCT’s books are gorgeous beyond words. I had to let our daughter play with them for a while before she’d even allow us to dive into them. She spent about an hour before our first lesson just trying to imitate the artwork in Grammar Island. It’s hard to imagine a child falling in love with a grammar book, but there it is. We have started learning Latin separately, so the fact that the books dwell so much on the roots of language is a huge plus. It’s interdisciplinary in an effortless way.

    One of the design aspects of these books that I think is excellent is the lack of clutter on the pages. It’s something I would have not thought to much about that before we started using MCT. The friendly fonts and uncrowded pages make it so easy for kids to read the text themselves (again – effortlessly interdisciplinary – they are practicing their reading while they study other subjects) and to feel like they are making easy progress, which builds their self-esteem and makes them want to keep going. I wish there were books for other subjects with these design features and conversational tone.

    I would not have bought the books if I had not read about them on your blog first, so many thanks for that. They are an investment, but definitely worth every penny. We plan to stick with this program across future years. Our daughter would have a fit if we switched to something else.

    Royal Fireworks Press has some good Latin books, but they are not good (IMO) as stand-alone texts. If you pair Song School Latin with Ecce Caecilia as a first text for the very young to translate (applying what they learn in SSL at the end), it works brilliantly, however. And being able to translate a foreign language is so empowering. They also have gorgeous pictures of Roman life and famous landmarks every cultured individual should be familiar with, so it’s kind of like MCT in that respect.


  2. Thank you for this posting! I am trying to decide whether to spend the hundreds of dollars it takes for grammar island. Knowing that I can just purchase the teacher’s manual is a huge blessing. I don’t mind typing the remaining portions!


    1. You’re so welcome! I’m glad this information was helpful to you, and I completely agree about the money. The books ARE worth the money; however, it’s a lot for us homeschoolers. But the teacher’s manual has the student’s book in it. So it works! Also, it depends on what you want to focus on too. You may only need Grammar Island and Sentence Island and that’s it. Then you could add to that as you are able. Cheers!


Part of the reason I keep a blog is because being a stay-at-home mom can be lonely! So please reach out with a message, if you have a question or would like to chat. I usually write back within 24 hours, but please be patient.

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