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Your Most Frequently Asked Questions about the MCT Curriculum

These questions primarily pertain to homeschooling families, although classroom teachers and school administrators can benefit from learning the answers to several of them.

If you do not find your question here, please call us. We are always happy to explain, elaborate, and expound: (845) 726-4444.

Are the MCT books only for gifted students?

The curriculum is for all students. Ultimately, all students benefit from engaging, challenging academics, from materials that are beautiful, that invite them to explore, and that encourage them to dig deeply into the material. One study showed, for example, that average-ability learners derive even greater benefit than do gifted learners from the upper-level MCT vocabulary books.

Do I have to buy the student books, or can I just purchase the instructor manuals?

The fundamental starting points of the curriculum are the student books. These are for students to read and reread, to explore and enjoy on their own. The entire curriculum is designed around the students’ experience with the books. At the first levels of the curriculum, some parents have found success using the instructor manuals only, as the full text of the student book is also in the instructor manual, so parents determined to save money could do so (at some cost in pedagogic value) by giving their child the instructor manuals. However, many parents have found that the downside to this approach is a loss in the number of activities available for their child as follow-up. Ideally, use both student books and instructor manuals.

A fundamental goal of the curriculum is to empower students to be successful in college and beyond. By giving them student books that are their own at the earliest levels, we are establishing a structure in which we are asking them to read their books and then come prepared to discuss the material that they have read. This is the structure of college, and the sooner we establish it as a norm of expectation and behavior, the more natural it will be.

Michael Clay Thompson says:

“When I write, I look in my imagination through the student’s eyes, and I always imagine the student turning the page to see what’s next. On every page I try to put a good element, a surprise, either visually or intellectually. I want each page to turn lights on and make the student want to know more. Then I write the instructor manual, and I try to put things on most pages that will help the instructor ask questions about the page or provide additional knowledge about the content. In the instructor section I usually include discussions about the strategies and pedagogy, as well as exercises, activities, and answer keys.

“A key to this is that many of these instructor sidebars or bubbles, while propelling the teacher or parent, would ruin the page for the student. In many cases there are Socratic questions or comments to make that are designed to instigate intellectual interactions between the student and the teacher/parent about the content. Such things are defeated if the student can simply read them, seeing behind the scenes and making the conversation with the adult less necessary. It’s a disadvantage to have only the student book or only the instructor manual.”

Are the student books consumable? Could I get away with just one to share?

In the MCT curriculum, only the practice books are designed to be consumable. You will need a practice book for each student, and you need the instructor manual for the answers to the practice sentences. The other books are not considered consumable; they can be shared.

Do we need the practice books?

These are inexpensive workbooks that are helpful in making the curriculum successful. Adults should purchase both student and instructor copies at the appropriate level. These are excellent guides to how well students are doing and where to focus attention for improvement. The practice books have the significant added advantage of letting students know precisely where they stand in understanding all of the elements of grammar and in seeing the other aspects of the curriculum.

How long does it take to use the curriculum?

Each level of the program is designed to be implemented over the course of a traditional school year, but in the first three levels, some students want to proceed at a faster pace. We discourage holding students back if they are learning the material at a rate that will enable them to finish it before the school year is over; however, there are so many exercises and activities in most of the books that it is possible to expand lessons to include even greater depth and breadth of the material with the extra time that is available for rapid learners.

Level 4 is different in that it can be completed in slightly less than a traditional school year, but the content is so rich that should not be missed by students who are ready for it. Instructors might supplement the study of the Level 4 texts with great classic literature to enrich students’ study of language arts during the time remaining in the school year.

In each of the Complete Homeschool Packages, there is a schedule for implementing the curriculum, as well as a weekly lesson plan that parents can follow, although they are encouraged to use it flexibly according to the needs of their child. This booklet is ONLY available to parents who have purchased a Complete Homeschool Package; it is NOT available for purchase separately.

For a basic understanding of how Michael recommends the program being used, check out the elementary and secondary curriculum guides in the “Packages and Guides” section of this website.

How much writing should we do per week?

Writing is like playing the piano; practice produces better piano performances, and writing more essays generates better essay writing.

As the levels get higher, is sentence diagramming required anywhere?

Diagramming is not required in the MCT curriculum. Instead, students learn a system of four-level analysis of each sentence, which is more enlightening and revealing than diagramming. Michael’s system is simpler and easier to implement, and students derive a better understanding of grammar from using it.

What about punctuation?

Punctuation is inextricably entwined with grammar. You cannot understand punctuation if you do not know grammar. Consequently, punctuation instruction is embedded in the grammar lessons. There is no need for a separate grammar text; students who work through the grammar will understand punctuation at a higher level than anyone who tries to study it in isolation.

What is the best way of ordering?

All of the books can be ordered individually, but we have put together both homeschool and school packages containing books that complement one another at each level so that students can get the full benefit from the curriculum.

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