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.

Are the MCT books only for gifted children?

The curriculum is for all children. Ultimately, all children benefit from engaging, challenging academics, from materials that are beautiful and that invite them to explore and that encourage them to dig deeply into the material. One study showed, for example, that average-ability learners derived even greater benefit than did 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 children to read and reread, to explore and enjoy on their own. The entire curriculum is designed around the children’s 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 your child to be successful in college. By giving children student books that are their own at the earliest levels, we are establishing a structure in which we are asking the students 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 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 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 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 to focus attention for improvement. The practice books have the significant added advantage of letting children know precisely where they stand in understanding all of the elements of grammar and in seeing the other aspects of the curriculum.

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

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. Each level of the program is designed to be implemented over the course of a traditional school year, but in the first four levels, some children want to proceed at a faster pace, and that is certainly possible.

For a basic understanding of how Michael sees the program being used, check out the following links: one for the elementary level and one for the secondary level.

At which level should we start?

There is no hard and fast rule for knowing with which level to start. It depends, of course, on the age and competence of the child but also on how much work the child has done in language arts. For children who would be in grades 3 to 4, it is generally better to begin at Level 1, the Island Level. For those who would be in grade 5, the second level, the Town Level, is often the better choice. And for those in grade 6, the third level, the Voyage Level, is often the best place to start. For children who are beginning the curriculum a bit later, the recommended starting point is Level 5, the Lens I Level. Where appropriate, the use of the Level 3 writing book can be used in an abbreviated way to introduce the child to the basic concepts of the essay, and the child can then move on to writing text for Level 5.

Note that Level 4, the Classic Literature Level, is a special level that does not necessarily need to be done in order. It acts as a bridge between the elementary and secondary levels of the curriculum, but it is so enriching and engaging that children who have advanced beyond this level would benefit from going back to it and completing it.

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 diagramming required anywhere?

Diagramming is not required in the MCT curriculum. Instead, children 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 children derive a better understanding of grammar from using it.

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.

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