The program is designed to be an "integrated language approach" so that:
"By reading fine literature and working with good models of writing, children will receive a quality education in language arts. If you desire to teach using this integrated approach to language, this curriculum is for you... The integrated language approach has the benefits of all teaching methods. By working with pieces of literature, you focus on grammar, vocabulary, writing, reading , spelling, penmanship, and thinking skills. Your student has the best advantage for learning skills in this effective and lasting manner." Learning Language Arts Through Literature The Purple Book, p. iii.
The Table of Contents shows four book studies for the Purple Book: Farmer Boy, Trumpet of the Swan, Meet Addy and Caddie Woodlawn. It seemed great. However, when we went to use LLATL, we found that appearances were deceiving. The novels for the Book Studies were fine, it was just that they weren't really "studied." I assumed (yes, I know what happens when you assume...in this case you get stuck with curricula that is not a good fit for your family) that the novels would form the basis of the "integrated language approach." WRONG! The use of the novels are not implemented to study the grammar, vocabulary, writing, reading, spelling, penmanship and thinking skills as laid out in the introduction to the program. The Book Studies are very brief asides separate from the meat of the curricula. For example, there are five vocabulary words for Farmer Boy, two sequencing exercises (containing five sentences each) and eleven short answer questions for the book. That is it. That is LLATL's version of a complete "Book Study."
Uh, that is not quite what I hoped for... Literary analysis? Not there either.
So how do the books provide the "integrated language approach" if it is not coming from the required novels for the Book Studies? The book is a series of excerpts from songs, poems, novels etc. from which the language arts exercises are drawn. Sure wasn't what I expected. The real problem was that my 5th grade daughter hated the program. She found the exercises to be completely unchallenging. To quote her, "It was boring, busywork on stuff that I already knew. It was a complete waste of my time." We completed 23 of the 36 lessons by Christmas. I exercised the freedom of homeschooling and quit the program after the holidays as it was just not working for us.
The pluses of the program are that the teacher's guide provides the answers to the exercises. It requires very little parent preparation for daily lessons. Parents need not read the novels of the Book Studies because there are basic answers provided to the short answer questions regarding the novels and the studies are not in-depth. (I consider the lack of depth a negative, but if you didn't want to read the books, then you are all set.) The sources for the language arts exercises changes often, so if you don't like one of the selections, you are not stuck with it for long. The lessons are very quick.
Second graders do not know a lot of grammar, so the "easy" aspect of LLATL would be helpful. However, we found that there were too few exercises (average about five) for each grammar or spelling concept or rule being taught. The exposure was very brief (too brief) and then the topic would not be revisited or reviewed for several lessons. Thus, the covered topics were not retained effectively. If however, you have a child who is a naturally gifted speller, then the brevity and the lengthy time span until further review might be an asset. The length of the required writing assignments was very brief. It would be an easy matter for a parent to extend the writing assignments to challenge children who loved to write.
Neither child will be continuing with LLATL. Caveat emptor for all the Latin fans. Know what you are getting if you purchase LLATL so that you will not be disappointed. The program might be an excellent fit for many families, just not ours.