The English communication skills curriculum I am writing about today is aimed at high schoolers and it’s not our regular choice.
I know we only just completed our 5th grade and started planning for middle school, but I am always on the lookout for new curriculum, so I was curious to see how M would do with a language curriculum aimed at higher grades (he is already doing several advanced curricula for math and science).
There are some tweaks we will have to apply to it in order to make this one work for us, but we will keep at it because I feel it helps me introduce some communication topics to him. Keep reading to see what we liked about it and what won’t work for us and needs to be changed.
This is a sponsored post. I was given the product to review and I might have been compensated for my time. I would never endorse or recommend programs we wouldn’t use ourselves. Read more about it in my Disclosure.
What is PAC?
PAC’s mission is to incorporate academics with character development and to create a thoroughly rounded curriculum that will help teenagers become their best versions both academically and virtuously.
Their courses come in both in digital and print formats and are mainly aimed at high school. The format allows for student independence and learning with confidence.
“Our entire focus is producing curriculum with character development qualities and superior academics that equip students with an advantage to make wise life choices and possess high academic competencies.”— PAC
*I need to make a mention here, that while PAC state they work for secular families too, they do have Christian and conservative views that transpire from the texts chosen and the way of expressing their opinion about certain topics. I will mention the ones we observed in our books in this review.
PAC English Communication Skills
The language arts curriculum we’ve got access to is called English Communication Skills.
It’s constructed as a kit that covers a lot of areas in English communication, including writing, note-taking skills, typing, grammar, literature, and more.
For older students (or even adults), this kit could be used to identify and cover possible gaps in English before graduating.
It’s aimed at 7th to 12th graders and is available in both print and digital formats.
We received it in digital format and I’ve got the full kit containing 18 PDFs:
- texts (5 files)
- activities (5 files)
- teacher resources: answers, tests, quizzes and forms (8 files)
The texts have color images but the rest of them (activity book and tests) are black and white, making them convenient to print.
I will do my best to present all the good (and not so great) aspects of this curriculum, but PAC offer free samples on their website. So you can check these out yourself to see if this curriculum suits you.
The textbooks are organized into 5 books (each book treats one chapter) of 15 lessons each and they cover enough material to last 9 months of school.
Each lesson covers multiple communication skills while including character-enhancing values and principles through quotes.
Lessons have 3 main parts:
- text – which includes vocabulary and comprehension questions in the activity book.
- communication skills – these cover multiple aspects of language: grammar, spelling, typing, literature, cursive writing, composition, note-taking skills, presentations, reasoning, etc.
- life principles – quotes and verses meant to encourage, inspire, and enhance character traits.
We’ve worked through some texts, and my first impression was that of quality and positivity. While reading the first text, I immediately felt that we found the continuity of our beloved LOE Essentials. There are a handful of texts, though, that we will skip over because they don’t align with our values and the way we chose to approach education in our family. Keep reading to find out more.
These, however, don’t dwarf the quality of the material overall, and I still think we have a lot to gain if we complete English Communication Skills.
M listened while I read aloud about Ernest Shackleton and his enduring adventures. Even though the text was only one page long, it was full of information, details, context, and vocabulary. Each vocabulary word is bolded in the text and then explained in the vocabulary box, making this very easy for children to read independently.
I like that the vocabulary is always on the same page as the context and it’s not limited only to the literature page. There are vocabulary boxes throughout, explaining all the complex words students might encounter.
On the next page, we had the grammar introduction to parts of speech. Reading through it all, I realized the explanations were to the point and very easy to understand and I immediately knew we will use this curriculum, despite having to tweak some parts to work for us.
It’s awesome how things line up and I loved that in the grammar section we could use our beloved grammar cards from IEW.
The life principles are usually encouraging, uplifting quotes (some written by the authors themselves). I found we enjoyed discussing and analyzing them and they offered us the occasion to delve deeper into the meaning of each of these. Here are some examples:
- “Successful people persevere beyond what they thought they could endure.” – Carmen Trimm, author
- “Do right and life won’t go wrong.” – Bob Jones, university counselor
- “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President
There are 5 activity booklets corresponding to each textbook. The text is black and white and the format is simple and straightforward.
There is an activity section for each lesson. They are all arranged in chronological order and correspond to parts from the textbooks.
The activities include:
- fill in the blanks
- word activities
- memorization – kids need to recall and write the life principle
M is used to worksheets, so he found the activity booklet easy to navigate. These are all standard worksheets, academic and structured, like in a school setting.
There is a lot of recalling information from the text and even memorizing the short life principle presented in the text. There’s not much accent on critical thinking or higher-order thinking.
Tests and Quizzes
The English Communication Skills kit also comes with tests and quizzes. These will ensure kids get plenty of possibilities to practice what they’ve learned. They also offer testing practice opportunities for those students that aren’t used to standardized testing.
The tests and quizzes come in a black and white format and they are organized as follows:
- Quizzes – every 5 lessons, making these 3 quizzes per chapter
- Tests – one test per chapter
The tests and quizzes are the classic multiple-choice questions, matching or fill-in-the-blank.
If the students get over 85% on all 3 quizzes from a chapter, they might be exempt from the chapter test.
🐵 Our take
The quizzes and tests are pretty traditional. The focus is mostly on memorization and recalling information. There is no higher-order thinking or analyzing involved.
For this stage (we just finished 5th grade), this type of testing is ok for M, but as we approach high school, I want to transition to more analysis of information and some more critical thinking.
The teacher resources cover all the answers for activities, tests, and quizzes. They also have various forms that might be useful for independent homeschool families for reporting or portfolio purposes.
I feel that English Communication Skills is a great tool for reinforcing and bridging the gaps some students might have.
It’s also a great introductory tool for communication skills for younger students (grades 7-9) and we will use it in this range and purpose.
There are things in these materials that don’t line with the way we homeschool and with our values. So we will adapt or skip these.
❤️What we liked
I already mentioned a few of the things we like, so I will just make a list of the things we appreciate about this program:
- short lessons – the texts are short, about 1-2 pages, and the lessons can be done in about 30 -40 minutes.
- independent – it’s so easy to implement and can be used independently by the students. They could even correct their own tests and grade themselves.
- versatile – great for struggling older students or for introducing concepts to 7th graders and up. I find this to be very versatile when it comes to age and skills.
- neatly organized – I love that you have all books lined up, and the system is easy to follow through.
- accessible pricing and formats available – having the option to pick between PDF or printed books makes these accessible worldwide, something I always appreciate in a program.
- qualitative texts – for the texts we liked, I was impressed with the choices made. They cover a variety of topics meant to inspire and engage students.
- inspiring – the life principles are mostly quotes that can spark further conversation, and it’s something I was looking to incorporate in our homeschool. I want to slowly introduce M to the art of analyzing and dissecting a text and what better way to start than with short quotes.
- thorough – I found the communication skills section to be thorough. I love the variety of skills covered, and this section made my mind up about the kit. It adds a lot of value to our homeschool and covers some important topics for us like note-taking, reasoning, typing, and composition.
The choice of texts, for the most part, was great for us and I loved reading about explorers, courageous people that went against all odds, funny animal tales, lovely descriptions, and more. I am attaching a few samples of my favorite texts here:
💔 What we didn’t like
I felt that English Communication Skills had a few instances where it clashed with our view of the world. I am aware that these exact issues I have with the curriculum might be what some families are looking for. So I will present the things I didn’t appreciate about it with examples to help you decide for yourself if it’s something that would work or not for your family.
There are a few biblical references that I didn’t mind because they were mostly presented in historical contexts. We will also use them as a way to discuss how various people think and what they believe. These might not work for 100% secular families.
What I minded, though, were the overtly conservative views in some texts and what I felt to be unsuitable topics in a literature book.
I didn’t appreciate the choice of texts for about 5 lessons (and especially the below 2 texts) that were treating topics about infatuation, lust, teen pregnancies, inappropriate dressing, dating, etc.
Finding this handful of texts mixed among encouraging, positive-example texts felt very off to me. Maybe they won’t feel the same for the more conservative homeschoolers.
Still, overall, this kit is a treasure and we will skip the parts that didn’t sit well with me (only 5 texts) while taking advantage of their great choice of texts, vocabulary in context and English communication skills present throughout the book.
English Communication Skills would be great for struggling students, but it might seem too light for older students that don’t struggle. If you have a bright high schooler, they might need more challenging work. My 5th grader is working through these with no issues.
Our rating and video
After considering all points, we rated English Communication Skills from PAC at 2.5 out of 5 stars. It’s a program we will continue using by tweaking it to suit our needs.
I am happily contemplating trying out their chemistry and physics for a conceptual approach to the subjects.
I feel that this program would be suited for Christian families and that it would be a tremendous help for busy parents or students that struggle.
- quality texts
- organized neatly
- discussion opportunities
- focus on harmonious growth academic-personal
- important communication skills choices
- complete kit
- some texts choices are unsuitable for us
- not for secular homeschoolers
- might be too easy for advanced students
For those of you that want to see inside, I made a short video presenting this program:
A tweak I made for organizing purposes was to create covers for each section of the kit books and I bound the whole books together to condense the materials. This year I decided to have the least amount of books possible, so we can keep it all together and organized.
You can download the covers from my Resource Library for free, by subscribing to my newsletter (don’t worry, my emails just go out about once per year hahaha 🤣).
If you want to try out Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum‘s materials, you can get a glimpse into all of them by accessing their samples for each material.
They also offer 15% OFF & FREE shipping on all PAC print-based, Full Course Kits with coupon code PACIHN22. (Expires 8/31/2022).
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