HOMESCHOOLING WITH MCT

Your Most Frequently Asked Questions

If you do not find your question here, please call the office; we are always happy to explain, elaborate, and expound.

Can the MCT books be used by bright children, or are they only for those who are considered gifted?

The curriculum certainly can be used for anyone who is bright. One study showed, for example, that average-ability learners derived 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 teacher manuals?

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

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 is 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 teacher/parent 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 teacher 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 is a disadvantage to have only the student book or only the teacher manual.”

What is in the teacher manuals?

The teacher manuals contain the entire student books plus extra materials such as quizzes, as well as the answers to those quizzes and to any student questions within the book. In addition, scattered throughout the book are comments for instructors, Socratic questions to raise with the students, and teaching tips. There is an implementation section at the back of each teacher manual that offers helpful strategies for implementing the program, as well as Michael’s comments on the subject at hand.

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 teacher manual for the answers to the practice sentences. The other books are not considered consumable.

Do we need the practice books?

These are inexpensive workbooks that are helpful in making the curriculum successful in the home. Parents should purchase both student and teacher copies at the appropriate level. These are excellent guides to how well the child is doing and where he or she should focus attention for improvement. The practice books have the significant added advantage of letting the child know precisely where he or she stands in understanding all the elements of grammar and in seeing the other aspects of the curriculum.

Can we skip the grammar components of the curriculum?

The grammar is part of the foundation of the program. The MCT curriculum is different from other approaches to grammar, and many children come to love grammar as a result of it. Parents appreciate not only how their children respond but also what they themselves learn. You would miss much of the point in the other books if you skipped it. The series integrates nicely, and the grammar is a big part.

How are we supposed to use the curriculum? How long does it take?

Homeschoolers say that the MCT curriculum is their chance to sit down with their children, read the books together, and talk about words and how writing works. It fosters a kind of natural learning through conversation. An appreciation of poetics is engendered even with those who don’t think they like poetry. The format, style, and layout of the books all work together to enhance learning in an innovative and creative way. Each book at each level works in conjunction with the others, but each book can also stand alone if necessary.

On a practical level, The Word Within the Word books are designed to be used weekly for a thirty-week school year, and the Advanced Academic Writing books are designed so that students write a major paper each quarter of the year.

Above all, the curriculum is flexible. But although there is no one approach that fits all, there are guidelines included with every level package. Michael has provided two documents to help you understand how he sees the program being used: one for the elementary level and one for the secondary level.

At which level should we start?

For children who would be in grades 2, 3, or 4, it is most often appropriate to start with the Island level. Generally, children in the fifth grade begin with the Town or Voyage level. And children in sixth grade begin most readily with the Voyage level. For children whose entry into the curriculum is later, the recommended starting point is The Word Within the Word I, The Magic Lens I, Poetry and Humanity, 4Practice I, and Essay Voyage. Where appropriate, the use of Essay Voyage can be abbreviated and the child moved on to Advanced Academic Writing I.

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. There is no set lesson plan.

Which poetry book should we start with?

The best place to start is with The Music of the Hemispheres, and then go on to Building Poems. The Music of the Hemispheres provides a vital grounding, which is helpful if you are unfamiliar with the concepts of poetry.

Why are the literature books not included in the level packages?

The literature trilogies are not included because the interests and ages of children working at any level are so different from one another. Most of all, we want children to enjoy the literature they are reading, and that means choosing books that will engage them. So we have separated the ordering of the literature trilogies from the level packages, but we offer a discount for the literature if you are ordering or recently have ordered a level package.

As the levels get higher, is diagramming required anywhere?

The curriculum uses the much more elegant and simple “t-model” developed by Michael Clay Thompson rather than the old-fashioned diagramming, which compares to the t-model as a stick-figure drawing compares to a fully rendered drawing.

Are there any online courses with Michael Clay Thompson?

Yes! They started in 2016 and are continuing. Click here for information about them.

What is the best way of ordering?

All of the books can be ordered individually, but Royal Fireworks Press has put together homeschool packages containing books that complement one another at each level so that you can get the full benefit from the curriculum.

Members of the MCTLA Support Forum say: “Go for the package deals with the teacher/parent manuals, and add an extra practice student book for every extra student.”


Thanks to MCTLA Support Forum members, who through their contributions have helped us to put together the answers to these FAQs.

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