We use living books in our homeschool for most subjects: history, science, music, art, and even maths. Books which are passionately written, bring their subjects to life, and are as enjoyable to read – for both adults and children – as they are educational. But a living book to teach the names and functions of the parts of speech? Surely not!
Enter Grammar-land – 135 years old and brimming with more life than any twenty-first century workbook ever did!
Where is Grammar-land?
The story takes place in – you guessed it – Grammar-land, “a place every bit as real as Fairy-land, and much more important”. Grammar-land is ruled over by stern, old Judge Grammar, who is “far mightier than any Fairy Queen, for he rules over real kings and queens down here in Matter-of-fact-land”.
We are told that just as William the Conqueror divided England among his nobles, when Judge Grammar took possession of Grammar-land he gave all the words to his nine followers. He called these nine followers the Parts-of-speech, “and to one or other of them every word in Grammar-land was given.”
Included among the Parts-of-Speech there is “rich Mr. Noun, and his useful friend Pronoun; little ragged Article, and talkative Adjective; busy Dr. Verb, and Adverb; perky Preposition, convenient Conjunction, and that tiresome Interjection, the oddest of them all.”
As some of the Parts-of-Speech are richer (have more words than) the others, they are given to quarrelling, and one day they make so much noise that they wake Judge Grammar from a very comfortable nap.
Angrily, Judge Grammar summons his learned counsellors, Dr. Syntax and Serjeant Parsing, and demands an explanation for the noise. The counsellors explain to Judge Grammar that some of the Parts-of-Speech are greedy, and have stolen their neighbours’ words:
“Some of them have got hold of new words, which the others say they had no right to make, and some of them are even inclined to think that Dr. Syntax is old-fashioned, and need not be obeyed.”
To prevent the laws of Grammar-land going to wreck and ruin, Judge Grammar summons every Part-of-Speech before his court, intending to settle any disagreements once for all. The judge also invites “our friends in Schoolroom-shire … to keep an account of what we do”, since “if we wish to have peace among the Parts-of-Speech it is most important that the people of Matter-of-fact-land should know how to use them well.”
In subsequent chapters, Judge Grammar cross-examines each Part-of-Speech in turn to find out which words properly belong to it, and how those words may be identified.
To help the children of Schoolroom-shire in their role of keeping account, Judge Grammar sets a short practice exercise at the end of each chapter. Jessica Cain has generously shared beautifully formatted versions of the exercises here.
How We’re Using Grammar-land
Listening to one chapter of Grammar-land per week has been a fun part of our Grade 2 English curriculum this term. I’m not a fan of repetitive grammar drills or rote-learning of lists of prepositions and the like, so the rest of our grammar curriculum consists of good quality literature, daily copywork and games like Mad Libs.
C (8) is going to start learning Latin soon (we’re both loving the look of Visual Latin) and what she’s learning from Grammar-land is a great foundation for beginning to understand concepts like adjective agreement and verb declension.
Grammar-land for Free
You can find the complete text of Grammar-land free online, here, for example, and there is also a beautifully narrated free audio version. I came across Grammar-Land among various other gems I bought as part of a bargain package from Yesterday’s Classics. It’s also available from Amazon.
Now, to find a living book on punctuation. Suggestions welcome!