This is my sixth tour through Essentials as a parent, and my third tour through as a tutor.  I don't remember learning anything about the English language throughout high school or college.  I have vague memories of diagramming sentences as a freshman in high school, but I have no recollection of what I did or anything I learned.  I always assumed it was a subject I had no interest in. 

Through Essentials, I have not only taught myself about the English language, but I have learned that I truly enjoy it.  Language is logical and mechanical.  Studying it the way CC has enabled us, teaches us, and our children, how to learn and how to think.  Nothing is more important.

Seven years ago my husband, as an adult, scored 780 points (a near perfect score) on the Language portion of the GMAT granting him a full ride to Case Western Reserve University's MBA program.  My highest compliment now always comes from him when he says, "You know more about the English language than I do."  I learned all that I know from the Essentials program.

I've listed below many of my more popular Essentials enrichment activities that we have done at home alongside our Essentials curriculum.  I love the class, and my secret goal is to get all CC families to love it, too.

Draw Pictures -- We do this for Foundations, too.  The more you draw memory work, the more your children will grasp the concept.  Draw a picture for each part of speech.  Sketch out what a compound or complex sentence looks like.  Anytime you can help your children visualize a concept, it will begin to make more sense to them.

Use Color -- Never underestimate how changing the color of your dry erase marker can help your student understand what it is you're trying to teach them.  Right now, as we study complex sentences, we're writing our dependent clauses in one color and our independent clauses in another.  When writing compound sentences, pick out a different color just to write out the FANBOYS.  One activity I used to do with my children all the time (that never made the blog) was underlining/coloring in a book they've outgrown (Magic Tree House books work great for this).  Give them one color to read through a chapter and underline all the interrogative sentences.  Use another color for imperative sentences.  Find all verbs and color them red.  Draw triangles around all adjectives.  Put green parentheses around prepositional phrases.  As they progress, challenge them to find sentences that fit our Sentence Patterns.  Underline S-Vt-DO sentences one color.  S-Vl-PA another, etc.

Play Games -- There are so many games you can quickly create to make the learning fun.  Here are a few we've done in the past, but I'm sure you could come up with others for the other parts of speech or sentence patterns, purposes, and structures.

Roll the Die Sentence Creations

Task 5 -- If you are not completing Task 5 on your Analytical Task Sheet, I encourage you to start doing it now.  Dialogue with your student through these steps at first.   We were well into our second tour before we began doing Task 5 because I thought we didn't have time to accomplish anything more than what we were already doing.  I wish we had begun doing it immediately.  Once they understand how to rewrite a sentence by purpose and structure, encourage your student to begin writing sentences by pattern.  These activities teach your student how to think.  That is your main goal.

Review -- Charts don't always have to be filled out in page protectors.  Truthfully, I believe that most charts should be copied because that's a more classical approach.  However, our copy work is often done on windows, or mirrors, or construction paper.  Get creative.

Essentials Graffiti Wall

IEW -- Remember, IEW is a three year tour also.  One of your primary goals, especially at first, is to help your student be able to brainstorm through the IEW Sentence Openers and Dress-Ups until they come naturally.  Learn them yourself.  It helps.

IEW Sentence Openers

Math -- Play math games at home.  Your student will love it.  My advice to tutors is try not to have too many games.  It takes too long to give new directions each week and bring your class up to speed.  Try out a few and see which ones your class loves the most.  Then rotate between those two or three.


I'm often asked, "How long should Essentials work take me at home?"  My response:  Roughly one hour.  Especially at first.  Daily, spend 30 minutes working out of your EEL Guide and 30 minutes on your IEW assignment.  At the end of the hour, close your books and put them away.  The class is repetitive for a reason.  If you don't get everything accomplished on your first tour, that is okay. 

At my house, we attempt to complete at least one sentence (if not more) from the Analytical Tasks every day we complete school work at home.  I believe the Question Confirmation is one of the most important activities I can be doing right now with my almost-dialectic children.  Do not try to complete an entire IEW paper the night before your campus meets.  It's simply not worth the headache for you or your student.

I'm also asked, "What can my student do to prepare for Essentials?"  My advice:  Memorize all three cycles of Foundations English Grammar memory work.  That is all.  Nothing else is needed.  Seriously.

I hope this helps.  Essentials, especially at first, can be overwhelming.   However, I believe, if you take the time to learn the material, it can be loads of fun.  For you and for your child.


  1. You rock! Thank you so much for these wonderful ideas!

  2. This is so great! Thank you for writing all of this. My son will be starting Essentials in the fall (having completed 3 cycles of CC). I'm thrilled to have a resource like this. I'll be coming back to it over and over again. (I blog at about homeschooling adventures running the race God has put before us - including science experiments that Half a Hundred Acres sometimes shares). I really wanted to comment on how much I appreciated this and had to wrestle a little to figure out what ID I had to comment with. :) Ahhhh, I think this one will finally work.

  3. What a helpful, EXTENSIVE, and fun list! Thank you so much for sharing your great ideas!

  4. You are all so welcome. I love Essentials. I will miss it next year as I'm moving on up to Challenge A !!

  5. Thank you! Thank you. So appreciate this wealth of info.