Learning Language Arts Through Literature The Tan Book Review- 6th grade homeschool curriculum- monkeyandmom

The Tan Book Review | Learning Language Arts Through Literature {6th grade}

A real struggle over the years for us has been to find an all-in-one language arts curriculum that fits all the checklists: concise, easy to implement, affordable, and based on classical books.

While there is no such thing as a perfect curriculum, Learning Language Arts Through Literature from Common Sense Press has come pretty close to perfection for us this year and I am so excited to share my review on The Tan Book, their 6th grade language arts. We’ve been using The Tan Book of LLATL for half a year now, and I’m very happy with our decision. But we don’t use it as a full language arts curriculum, more like a literature curriculum, which is exactly what we needed.

If you want to see what our other sixth grade homeschool curriculum choices are, I wrote a post outlining every subject.

Read until the end to get 15% off ANY Common Sense Press curriculum!

At A Glance – Learning Language Arts Through Literature {Review}

I think LLATL is a great choice for parents that are looking for a comprehensive, affordable, and gentle language arts curriculum that’s easy to implement and teaches kids language arts in the context of rich literature choices.

LLATL is great for kids that struggle with language arts or that aren’t very keen on doing a lot of grammar or writing. It’s also perfect for families that have less time to cover these subjects because kids can do it almost independently.

LLATL can feel like it’s too light for advanced students. It won’t be enough to cover writing and grammar at a higher level, especially if your kids are strong in these areas.

Read the full review to see if LLATL is for you or not.

Our rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Grades: 1-12

Style: All-in-one language arts curriculum

Approach: spiral

Type: Christian

Components: Teacher Book + Student Book + Reading books

Price: $ 12-110

Formats: PDF or printed book


  • affordable
  • very gentle approach
  • no frills
  • based on classic literature
  • all-in-one curriculum
  • flexible – can be used with other curricula
  • allows for student independence
  • no-prep for parents
  • great for kids that struggle with language arts
  • short daily lessons
  • incremental approach


  • might be too light for some children
  • black and white pages
  • not enough writing or grammar for higher levels
  • teacher book is not scripted

Pin this image to read the article later:

The Tan Book review- homeschool language art curriculum for 6th grade

Common Sense Press – a true homeschool publisher

Since 1989, Common Sense Press has been producing quality educational resources for teachers and homeschool parents. They offer a wide range of curricula and resources for various subjects, such as language arts, mathematics, science, and history.

Their materials are designed to be easy to use for both parents and students and their accessibility makes them the perfect solution for so many homeschool families.

We tested another one of their products last year, when I posted about their separate writing curriculum, Wordsmith Apprentice and I loved their gentle, easy-to-use approach.


“[…] we believe that education is more than just getting the right answer on a multiple-choice test. Learning should be meaningful, comprehensive, and stimulating to the student. “

— Common Sense Press

What is Learning Language Arts Through Literature?

Learning Language Arts Through Literature from Common Sense Press is an integrated way of teaching language arts in line with Charlotte Mason’s idea that literature is the foundation of language arts instruction. She believed children should be exposed to high-quality literature from a young age, including poems, stories, and classic works of fiction and nonfiction.

LLATL has taken a similar approach to this philosophy and transformed it into an easy-to-teach, easy-to-understand language arts curriculum that’s great for anyone that wants to expose their children to rich literature choices and contextual language arts learning.

One strength of this curriculum is its focus on exposing kids to rich classical literature. Through this exposure, children develop a love of language and an appreciation for the beauty and power of words.

If you prefer to watch a video of this section, please check my YouTube video below:

Learning Language Arts Through Literature – Levels

Learning Language Arts Through Literature is a comprehensive language arts curriculum aimed at students in grades one through twelve.

The books are organized by color, making it easy for patents and teachers to place their students according to skill, not age.

All levels cover multiple aspects of language arts: phonics, reading, spelling, grammar, penmanship, literary analysis, research and study skills, and writing.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature levels - monkeyandmom review

Each level is focused on developing different skills in an incremental manner, which will allow kids to grow naturally in their language arts skills without feeling like they need to do cumbersome, endless work.

If you’re wondering what Learning Language Arts Through Literature level to choose, you can take the placement test on Common Sense Press’ site to find out. Their placement tests are short and they follow a similar style to the books themselves.

LLATL Format: Paperback or PDF

There are two books that make up a full level of LLATL for grades 1-8: the student book and the teacher book. For high school, these are integrated into a single student textbook.

Please note that you need to buy the reading books for literature separately for each level. Or make use of your local library to borrow them and save some money.

This language arts curriculum is truly affordable compared to other options out there, and to top this, Common Sense Press offers the option of buying LLATL as PDFs, too.

There are a lot of pages to print if you buy the PDF version, but everything is black and white, which should cut down costs when printing.

One idea to make this even more affordable is to get the PDF version of the teacher book and use it on screen to check your student’s work.

Learning Language arts through literature llatl pdf and paperback version - review

How to Use Language Arts Through Literature Curriculum

Like all the other Common Sense products, LLATL is an easy-to-use, curriculum, created especially for homeschoolers. It’s an open-and-go curriculum, which means it requires no prep from the parent. You just need to open your book and follow the instructions to finish a lesson.

Their approach to language arts is pretty straightforward: take classical text fragments and use them to learn language arts in context. This way, kids are exposed to valuable literature, not basal texts or texts written by the curriculum provider.

Students will only need to read a handful of complete books (usually 4 per year – except the first two years when they have more readers to go through as they learn reading) and for the rest of the time they will work on rich fragments of text. You can pace this however you want and Common Sense Press also provide free pacing guides on their website for reading the books; just check your appropriate level’s page.

The student and teacher books are well organized and follow a pattern that quickly becomes familiar: dictation, grammar, literary analysis, devices or mechanics, enrichment, and review.

LLATL review- The Tan Book

There are only a few units throughout the books that will break this model where kids are taught how to do research, oral presentations, book analysis or written work.

The student book is addressing the student directly, making it easy to read and do the work independently.  Students have all they need in their student book from the information to the worksheets they need to fill in. 

The lessons in the teacher’s book are not scripted, which means the teacher’s role is to supervise and help where needed and this encourages more autonomy from the student.

Teacher help and involvement are most needed during the early years. Once children are comfortable reading and working independently, parents will only need to be present for dictation, literature discussions, and verifying the work.

I especially appreciate the comprehension questions because I feel they open the opportunity for further discussion around the literature kids read, which is exactly what we’ve been looking for.

The Tan Book – a 6th grade language arts curriculum

The Tan Book is the 6th grade level of LLATL, a level we’ve been using for a full semester this school year. So most of my opinions on this curriculum are based on this level.

Being an all-in-one curriculum, it covers multiple language arts skills like grammar, spelling, literary analysis, study skills, and more. It also includes four book studies and separate units on using the library, memorizing and oral presentation, and writing a research paper.

It is designed to help kids develop their language arts skills through 36 weeks that are divided into easy-to-use daily plans. There are also tests and assessments peppered throughout the book.

The Tan Book, like all the other Common Sense Press curricula, is teacher-friendly, with little or no teacher preparation needed, making it ideal for independent use.

If you prefer watching a version of this section instead of reading, check my YouTube video:

Why we chose LLATL The Tan Book for 6th grade

Finding the perfect language arts curriculum that fits our family’s needs has been a challenge, but we found a solution in mixing and matching multiple curricula to create our perfect curriculum. This is why our focus has been on using Learning Language Arts Through Literature mainly for its literature and book study components, as these are the areas that we were missing in our curriculum.

What I love about LLATL is its versatility, allowing us to tailor the curriculum to meet our specific needs. We can skip sections, add extra work, or adjust the pacing as needed. This is especially important to us, as Marc has different strengths and weaknesses in language arts. While his reading skills are advanced, he struggles with writing. Moreover, as a working homeschool mom, my time is limited, so having a flexible curriculum is essential.

Before discovering LLATL, we didn’t give much thought to the study of literature. We did book reports in 4th grade, but we never took it further. This year, I wanted to find a curriculum that would introduce literary analysis and book studies in a gentle and manageable way. LLATL has met that need and more. I’m thrilled with our decision to use The Tan Book, their 6th grade language arts curriculum, and I’m excited to share our experience with others.

LLATL The Tan Book components

So taking these aspects into consideration, our language arts curriculum needed to cover these points:

  • Not being too repetitive, as Marc is a quick learner and we both dislike busy work.
  • Independent, as I wanted something that Marc could work on alone if needed.
  • Tests and assessments, as we needed to send these to our advisor.
  • A gentle approach, to gradually introduce literary critiques and devices without overwhelming him.
  • Literature-based, as classical literature has always been an important aspect of our homeschooling.
  • Easy to implement, as I don’t have a lot of time to spend on extensive preparation and planning.
  • Flexibility, as we already have favorite writing and vocabulary resources that we want to continue using into high school years.

The Tan Book from Common Sense Press was the perfect choice for us this year. It fulfilled all of our requirements and provided us with the opportunity to delve deeper into literature in a gentle and manageable way. Additionally, with our literature-based history curriculum already incorporating a lot of reading, The Tan Book was the perfect complement, as it only requires reading and analyzing four books per year.

Combining LLATL with other curricula

I appreciate the versatility and flexibility of LLATL and have effectively integrated it with IEW’s Structure and Style for Students 2A for writing, Growing with Grammar for grammar, and Vocabulary from Classical Roots for vocabulary.

The ease of customization makes LLATL a perfect fit for our homeschool schedule, as it can be tailored to meet our specific needs and the pace of my student.

LLATL The Tan Book Review - 6th grade language arts curriculum- monkeyandmom

The Tan Book Components: Teacher and Student Books

The Tan Book consists of two primary components: the teacher book and the student book. Additionally, you need to get 4 literature books that you will be studying throughout the year. You can either buy these or borrow them from your local library.

Both the components of this curriculum are printed in black and white, with very few illustrations or other decorative elements. While this can be a problem for some children, I appreciate this straightforward approach that focuses purely on the content. This is an aspect we’ve grown to love in our homeschool.

To get a better idea of the format and content of this curriculum, I would encourage you to check out the comprehensive samples provided by Common Sense Press. These samples include full lessons that you can preview and try out with your kids to determine if this curriculum is a good fit for you.

The Teacher’s Book is essentially a copy of the student pages with answers and additional information provided in the margins. This makes it easy for the teacher to monitor the student’s progress and provide guidance as needed.

The lessons are not scripted, which makes it easy to scan for information and find it quickly, allowing for flexibility and ease of use for the teacher. The teacher’s role is mainly to supervise and review the student’s work, rather than deliver formal lessons.

Learning language arts through literature the tan book teacher book page sample

The Student Book is a simple, straightforward workbook designed for independent learning. Most of the work can be filled in directly on the pages of the student’s book, making this a compact curriculum by eliminating the need for additional materials.

There are information boxes scattered throughout the lessons which serve as a helpful reference for students as they work through the curriculum. These boxes summarize key concepts and highlight the most important rules to keep in mind, making it easier for students to quickly review and reinforce what they have learned.

Learning language arts through literature the tan book student book page sample

In addition to these, we like using a composition notebook, which Marc uses to answer the literature questions and to organize his writing.

Literature Selection for The Tan Book – The Classics

The four literature books included in The Tan Book curriculum are:

I absolutely love this selection of books and I think these are at the right level for a 6th grader that likes reading. They feel challenging enough when it comes to vocabulary and comprehension exercises and they make for great books to discuss with your children.

The questions for these books go in-depth (beyond the simple comprehension questions from elementary years) urging kids to find the mood, theme, or conflict and making them think deeper about the meaning of what they just read.

Discussion questions the bronze bow, the tan book review

The reading books have a separate suggested reading schedule and I think this fits perfectly with any reluctant reader since 4 books per year are very accessible and doable.

Marc already loves reading classical books, so LLATL fits him like a glove. But if you want to open an appetite for the classics, I think LLATL would probably help your children discover the beauty of reading classical literature and appreciating it.

  • The Taming of the Shrew – William Shakespeare
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowdich – Jean Lee Latham
  • Bambi – Felix Salten
  • The Eagle – Lord Tennyson Alfred
  • Little House in the Big Woods – Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Story of a Bad Boy – Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  • Prince Caspian – C.S. Lewis
  • Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott
  • King of the Wind – Marguerite Henry
  • The Wheel on the School – Meindert DeJong
  • Jest ‘Fore Christmas – Eugene Field
  • The Swiss Family Robinson – Johann Wyss
  • The Hiding Place – Corrie Ten Boom
  • Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
  • Kidnapped – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Robinson Crusoe – Daniel DeFoe
  • The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  • Caddie Woodlawn – Carol Ryie Brink
  • Gettysburg Address – Abraham Lincoln
  • Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls
  • The Railway Children – E. Nesbit
  • The House at the Pooh Corner – A. A. Milne
  • Big Red – Jim Kjelgaard
  • Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery
  • Aesop’s Fables
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • Invincible Louisa – Cornelia Meigs
  • The Undecided Man – W. S. Gilbert

Look Inside The Tan Book – Lesson Breakdown

The Tan Book is broken down into 6 sections per lesson. One lesson will cover a week of instruction and there are 36 lessons numbered for ease of use.

The weekly lessons all have a similar layout (starting with a fragment of text, dictation, spelling lists, grammar, literary analysis, and language mechanics), so it will be easy to get used to working from them. This aspect is very important if you want your children to do this independently because they will quickly become familiar with the format.

Weekly Lessons: dictation, spelling, work on the text

Each week (or lesson) begins with a dictation exercise. I like to cover the text in the student book with a large sticky note and dictate the passage from the teacher’s book to Marc.

When he’s done, he can check his work by uncovering the fragment and checking his own work. I love this traditional method because it hones important skills such as editing, reading comprehension, and attention to detail.

Learning language arts through literature the tan book student book page sample

Any misspelled words will go on a spelling list and kids will repeat these throughout the week. We usually skip this step completely because Marc is a good speller, but it’s a great option to have if you need more practice.

For the next assignments (spanning over the whole week) kids will dissect the fragment of text further to learn grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, and writing in context.

Learning laguage arts in a contextual manner makes it relevant to kids and I love how the instruction for these is kept light, to the point, and well-organized throughout the lessons so it doesn’t even feel like hard work, just a natural flow from the passage studied.

Learning language arts through literature the tan book student book page sample

Additional Activities

Besides the weekly lessons, The Tan Book has dedicated units where kids learn about different aspects of language arts:

  • How to conduct personal research – the curriculum takes students through the process of conducting personal research, starting with the meaning and then guiding them through various activities that lead to creating their own personal research project on a topic of their choice.
  • Research essay – teaches students how to use a library for research and helps them develop their own research essay through a step-by-step process.
  • Memorization and oral presentation – teaches students how to memorize and present the Gettysburg Address.

The enrichment sections, in The Tan Book are optional, but they are a great opportunity for students to develop their skills in making analogies and critical thinking. We love working on these sections.

Learning language arts through literature the tan book student book page sample


There are 3 types of assessments peppered throughout the book, and you can use these to see exactly where your children need more help.

  • Weekly reviews – these will cover all the new concepts from that week. They are a great way to see where your child struggles.
  • Assessments sections– these are 4 spiral assessments covering multiple lessons. Very helpful to see if kids still remember previously taught concepts.
  • Book studies – This isn’t a formal assessment, but I also use this section to test whether he has issues understanding or analyzing a book he read.

We use these assessment sections to send to our school because we need to submit tests, so I just grade his work on the assessments. Normally these don’t have a grading system, so parents can use them simply to see where children struggle.

Learning language arts through literature the tan book student book assessment page sample

Book Studies

The Tan Book contains 4 book studies each of which provides a range of engaging and educational exercises to help children further comprehend and analyze the books they’ve read. These exercises include comprehension questions, crossword puzzles, vocabulary exercises, discussion questions, and fun activities for children.

For example, after reading Carry On, Mr. Bowdich, Marc had to label the parts of a ship and trace the voyages of Mr. Bowditch on a map. Similarly, after reading The Bronze Bow, students are challenged to research old Israelite cities from the time of Jesus and locate them on a map.

These sections also feature a self-check assessment to encourage children to strive for their best and be mindful of their work. Additionally, the book study includes step-by-step checklists to guide children through the exercises, helping to foster important skills such as following instructions and completing work independently.

Learning language arts through literature the tan book student book study page sample

Why we love Learning Language Arts Through Literature – The Tan Book

I love LLATL and I’m surprised that it’s been around for a while, yet few people know about it in the homeschool communities. I think it’s an excellent language arts curriculum that could work for a lot of homeschoolers because it’s so versatile.

The Tan Book is an excellent comprehensive 6th-grade language arts curriculum, perfect for parents that need to introduce language arts in a gentle, progressive manner. There are so many aspects I love about this curriculum and I urge you to check their samples and see if it’s something that you would love as well.

Versatile and easy to implement

The Tan Book
is designed to make learning enjoyable and simple, and that’s exactly what we needed. The daily lessons are quick and efficient, taking no more than 20-40 minutes, which I find to be the perfect amount of time to touch on the skills Marc needs to know to prepare for high school.

Not only is this curriculum easy for the students, it’s also teacher-friendly. No need for extensive preparation time or jumping through hoops. The lessons are organized and laid out in a way that makes it simple for me to follow along and support Marc’s learning. And with everything he needs in one book, from lessons to workbook pages and informative boxes, it’s a compact and convenient solution for us.

Skipping sections my son had already mastered is a breeze, and I even condensed the 6 sections into just 3 days a week to make room for additional language arts curricula or enrichment activities. I think this language arts curriculum works great with other homeschool-friendly curricula and we used it successfully in our homeschool in conjunction with separate writing, grammar, and vocabulary curricula.

The Tan Book review -Carry on Mr Bowditch

Short and to the point, no frills

As a busy homeschool parent, I appreciate a curriculum that gets straight to the point and teaches the necessary skills in the most efficient way. That’s why I love Learning Language Arts Through Literature.

Although the black and white pages and simple design may not be visually appealing to younger grades, it’s perfect for my sixth grader. He’s more interested in the ease of understanding and straightforward way of working through the material, and The Tan Book delivers just that.

In the past 6 months of using The Tan Book, I’ve seen a significant improvement in Marc’s love for literature and appreciation for the English language.

Allows student independence

One of the things I love about LLATL is that it encourages student independence. The daily lessons are clearly organized and laid out in a way that most kids can work through them with minimal assistance. Of course, this may vary based on the child’s age or areas of difficulty, but I believe that most kids in 5th grade and up should be able to complete these lessons on their own with minimal help.

I find this aspect of The Tan Book particularly beneficial, as Marc is able to work through almost all of his daily assignments independently. I’m only there to assist with the weekly dictation section and to check his work, freeing up more time for me to focus on other aspects of homeschooling. Even for the book study sections, Marc is able to complete the final work independently, after we have a discussion about each point.

This level of independence not only helps my son build confidence in his abilities, but it also allows him to work at his own pace and take ownership of his learning, making the process more engaging and enjoyable for him.

Sample of The Tan Book 6 grade literature curriculum review

Integrated approach to language arts

Teaching language arts in literature, through exposure to great writing, is a sure way to develop a love for correct language structure, rich vocabulary, and high-level writing that’s only found in classic literature. This is important for children, particularly to develop critical thinking, analytical, and higher-order thinking skills.

I really love this integrated approach to learning language arts and it’s something that we love about Fix It! Grammar, too. Learning in context makes concepts stick and they are much easier to understand.

Embracing Rich Literature and Engaging Discussions

I have always felt that curricula that rely solely on basal readers, or even texts written by the curriculum providers are unsatisfying and lacking in depth. I believe that kids should be exposed to wholesome, classical literature that challenges them to use a wide range of skills, including decoding, analysis, summarization, and contextual understanding.

That’s why I am a huge fan of Learning Language Arts Through Literature. The curriculum includes a fantastic selection of classic literature, and the book study sections are designed to spark engaging and thought-provoking discussions. Each week, we devote time to working through the activities and analyzing each book in the special sections and it’s been a pleasant experience for both of us.

I love how the skills we learn through LLATL can be easily applied to other texts, and it’s exactly the type of literary analysis I wanted to introduce to my middle-schooler.

LLATL The Tan Book components3


Finding affordable resources that support my children’s learning can be a challenge. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to discover that LLATL is not only high-quality but also affordable. Common Sense Press offers PDF versions of the books, making them more accessible for families who are on a tight budget.

Furthermore, Common Sense Press runs regular sales, making it even more affordable for homeschoolers.

Keep reading to the end of this article to get a discount code for 15% off your order regardless of the curriculum you choose!

How do I know if LLATL is right for me?

I believe that the Learning Language Arts Through Literature curriculum would be a great choice for many families. However, I understand that every family is unique and may have different needs and preferences. That’s why I’ve created a list of pros and cons to help you determine if LLATL would be a good fit for your family.

I highly recommend checking out the previews and trying out LLATL yourself before making a decision. This way, you can get a better sense of whether it would be a good fit for your family.

Do I need to buy both the teacher’s book and the student’s book for LLATL?

You can opt for just the student book if you are comfortable making some modifications. The teacher book includes answers on the page margins, so you may need to cover these. Additionally, the student book allows for in-book writing while the teacher book has limited writing space. A composition notebook could be used as an alternative for your child to write down answers. But I suggest buying both the student and the teacher book if you plan to encourage your children to work independently through this program.

Is LLATL secular?

No, LLATL is not a purely secular curriculum. It contains some religious themes and references in certain passages or literary works. For example, The Bronze Bow, a book suggested in The Tan Book, features Jesus and Christian elements in its comprehension questions. It’s important to review the curriculum and literature suggestions before deciding if it’s a good fit for your family’s beliefs and values.

How does LLATL work?

LLATL is a comprehensive literature-based language arts curriculum designed to be versatile and flexible to fit the needs of different homeschooling families.

The curriculum is user-friendly, with a clear and straightforward format, making it easy for parents to follow and implement. It’s also an open-and-go style curriculum, which means that there is no need for additional preparation or planning, making it an ideal option for busy homeschooling families.
Additionally, the curriculum is self-contained, meaning that children who are able to read and write on their own can work through it independently, with minimal help.

This flexible and easy-to-use curriculum provides a comprehensive learning experience that covers reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, and more, making it a great choice for homeschooling families who want to provide a solid foundation in language arts for their children.

Where can I get help with LLATL?

Common Sense Press, the publisher of LLATL, provides top-notch customer service and is the best place to get help with any questions you have about the curriculum. You can visit their website for more information.
If you’d like to connect with other parents who are using LLATL, there are various Facebook groups you can join by searching “LLATL”. These groups offer a community of support and a place to share experiences and insights.

FREE Sample of my Figurative Language Pack

Since we focused on literary analysis this homeschool year, I created a Figurative Language Pack for Marc that will soon be ready for purchase in my shop.

I am offering a sample of the Figurative Language Pack for free for my readers. You get a full preview of the Simile and Metaphor sections and a sneak peek into the other sections.

My subscribers will get a generous discount on the upcoming pack and they already received this file in their inbox. So make sure to subscribe if you want to benefit from all the exclusive offers.

Conclusion and a LLATL Discount CODE for my readers

The Tan Book from Common Sense Press is an invaluable resource for us. This curriculum takes a gentle and progressive approach to language arts by immersing students in rich literature and providing them with opportunities to model their skills through supporting questions and activities.

And since you’ve stayed with me till the end, Common Sense Press gave me a special discount coupon of 15% off just for you to use when you purchase any Common Sense Press curriculum:


Did you use LLATL in your homeschool before? What was your experience? If you didn’t use it, would you consider trying it?

Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to talk to you about this curriculum.

best tools for homeschool

This post may contain affiliate links. By making a purchase through these links, I get a small percentage for the item you bought while the price stays the same for you. Thank you for supporting me.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Read my Disclosure to find out more about how I support my website and how you can help.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *