I’m really liking Rod & Staff English (and various thoughts on a Christian education)

I was raised in a Christian school — the same one, for preK-12th grade, save 9th grade, when I went to a different Christian school.  In retrospect, my feelings are very mixed about the education I received.  Everything was *so* Christian that anything non-Christian just wasn’t investigated. 

During my freshman year of college, as I was holed up in the library at Tulane, figuring out *why* I didn’t believe in evolution, I determined that my own childrens’ education would be different.

I don’t just want to say to my kids, as a blanket statement, “Evolution is wrong.”  I want to investigate why it is that we believe what we believe, and what it is that many others out there believe, and why we don’t believe that.

My desire for that extends beyond science.  I feel similarly regarding the study of other cultures, religions, history, all of it.

We are intensely Christian.  That is just who my dh and I am — we are children of God, seeking to go “further up and further in” with Him, learning to know Him and love Him and His ways.

BUT… that doesn’t mean that, for my kids’ education, I wanted Christian handwriting, and Christian math, and Christian history, and Christian English and so on.  There are a lot of EXTREMELY Christian curricula out there, and IMO, it can get goofy.  I just don’t think there needs to be a Scripture verse that applies to every math lesson.  I’ve learned, by experience, that just b/c one slaps the label of “Christian” on something doesn’t necessarily make it better.

So, for much of my kids’ education, I’ve eschewed Christian-for-Christianity’s-sake curriculum choices.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons I chose Sonlight.  They believe, as I do, that we can still be Christian, but study from a book that isn’t necessarily Christian.

For example, I studied Greek myths for the first time with my kids.  I’d never been exposed to them before.  We were able to laugh at the humanity of the Greek gods, and it made us appreciate our own, non-capricioius God.

That said…  This past Spring, I did cave and purchase Reason for Handwriting for Ethan.  I thought that it might be a good idea to combine learning cursive with learning Bible verses.  I have really enjoyed having him do these…  He’s enjoyed them, too.  He really likes having something to show off on our fridge.  Here’s Thursday’s:

Also, this year, I was determined to find a better Language Arts program.  I do not like Sonlight’s at all, and for the last 3 years, have been doing pieced-together stuff, mostly workbooks.  That worked all right — for 2 or 2 1/2 years, Ethan really didn’t “get” English at all, and we had to take it really slowly.  But, something clicked this past Spring, and what we were doing almost-suddenly became way too simple.  I wanted to choose a new curric that would bring some continuity to our study of English, and challenge him, but not *too* much, resulting in his frustration and/or discouragement.  After much searching and angst, I settled upon Rod and Staff.

Rod and Staff is a publishing company that produces material for use in Amish schools, which I find sort of ironic, given our recent mini-relationship building with a young Amish man this past summer.   

The only problem I had is that, seemingly, the only online source from which to purchase these books had an unattractive website that didn’t really have a whole lot of info on each item.  The whole setup was startlingly unprofessional.  They didn’t give est. ship times until after I ordered.  They didn’t ship the books until more than 2 weeks after I placed my order.  What’s up with that?  I did see this tidbit on the website, which I apparently missed when I placed my order, so maybe it’s not their fault after all:

 This is not Rod & Staff’s site. Such a site does not exist. In fact, they don’t even have an email address.


How soon do you ship? 

Within two weeks of receiving your payment, the Lord willing.

I think that’s odd.  I just don’t think one should pawn off the ship dates on God’s will.  I really don’t.  I don’t think that God has a WILL for when Mark, the sitemaster, ships the material that’s been bought on his site.  And, if they don’t get it out in two weeks, it’s like they have an automatic escape clause, b/c it, apparently, wasn’t God’s will that they ship it out in a timely manner.  Hmmm….

But, I digress.What I really wanted to say was that, to my suprise, I’m really, really loving Rod & Staff’s English program.  Their Reading, too, but that’s another matter.  I like that R&S doesn’t pull any punches;  they say it like it is.  They’re also completely unapologetic for being Amish.  There’s nothing in those books that makes allowances for anyone non-Amish using the books.  So it reads very “old-fashioned,” very agriculturally-oriented, and *very* Christian.  But…  I think what I’m loving is that it’s not a slapped-on kind of Christianity.  It’s sincere.  It’s… intrinsic.  The people who wrote this book obviously weren’t just writing to Christians;  they are Christians, and it comes out in how they present each topic.

On top of that, the material is fabulous.  It is meaty w/o being smarter-than-thou.  It is substantial, but presented in a way that makes it seem easy.  The teacher’s manual is nearly scripted, with an overview for me to read, oral review, an idea for presenting the topic (using “real life” — that is, real Amish life — examples)…  The text for the day is kept to one or two paragraphs, some examples, then oral drill, which is great, b/c it becomes quickly apparent whether or not my son understands.  Then, it has written work for him to do — and it’s not too little, not too much.  And the answer key, both for oral work and written, is written in the margins of the teacher’s text.  It works really well. 

*AND*, the material is dirt-cheap.  


12404.3 Pupil’s Textbook   $14.90
12424.3 Worksheets   $2.95
12494.3 Teacher’s Manual   $20.20
12414.3 Test Booklet   $1.95

It’s not fancy; it’s b&w… but most of the materials are hardcover and nicely bound.
I don’t think we’ll get through the whole book — there are 127 lessons, but we’re only doing English 3 days/week for 35 weeks.  But I am confident that whatever my son gleans from this program will be superior to what most other 4th graders have studied.
“Superior” in the sense that it works.  There’s no sense, IMO, in having a mentally superior curric if it’s not effective.  I’m thrilled to have everything that I was wanting in an English program, and also have giggles here and there about references to nut grinders and “our new calf.” 

I’m thrilled with it, even though it IS Christian English.  😉 


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on September 16, 2006, in God/Christianity/Church, Homeschooling, Introspective Musings, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. rubber chicken girl

    You silly, cheap is the best kind. I’m glad you are forgiving them for not checking their Christianness at the door!! What you said reminds me of Elisabeth Elliot’s description of her Father in The Shaping of a Christian Family (highly recommended). She said of her Father that he didn’t talk about his faith, he didn’t describe his own spirituality. He was the exact opposite in fact of the current brand of emergent Christianity which is all about ME in my faith instead of the faith in me. She said he just WAS Christian, spiritual and godly. He read the Word, they sang hymns, they just lived it. I find that refreshing in this is climate of, opinion, debate and open theology etc.

  2. I’ll have to look for that book. I’m still reading Last Child in the Woods. It was slow going anyways (just a lot to think about — not a quick read at all, even though it’s easy to read), but when we started school, as always, my own personal reading time takes a hit.

    Oh! :blush: and the Johnny Cash biog. I haven’t read it yet!! Martin has, though. He liked it a lot. At night, I’d be washing dishes, he’d be reading, then tell me all about the chapter he was on, or read from it to me. So, it’s almost like I’ve read it!!

    Anyways… I guess the farther we get into hs’ing, the more I appreciate works that reinforce what we believe… I still agree w/ SL’s approach of not shying away from non-Christian literature, but it’s refreshing that whenever we do English, it’s also like a Bible lesson. And the R&S Reading *is* a Bible lesson. He’s doing 4th grade in that, too, but starting w/ section 2, on Acts, b/c the first section is John, which we’ve read through before. I wish we could fit in more of the Reading. It’s so meaty, too!! But, I could only squeeze it in one day/week. ~sigh~ So much good stuff, so little time.

  3. I love Rod and Staff. This is our second year, we did 3 last year, 4 this year. Spelling is great and their reading program is killing 2 birds with one stone,…..ya learn Bible and do reading. They review what we learned last year in grammar. It is cheap. What not to love?

  4. Good for you for making sure your kids are going to know the WHYs behind their beliefs. Many, many Christians don’t … and it makes you wonder how effective a witness they can be when they don’t even know how to explain why they believe what they believe.

  5. rubber chicken girl

    I was thinking more about why the Bible verse on every page approach doesn’t tweak me. I went to an ACE school, and among all my gripes about my education, the verses on every math lesson was not among them. What it strikes me as is not an attempt to make math or ACE look spiritual (only the Lord knows the heart), but it was an attempt to do the work that God calls parents to….to teach the Law of God when you sit and when you rise and when you lie down…..and when you do math….blah blah blah. Just a way to have added ONE more verse to your heart and mind by the time you finished a PACE. Just a tiny dose and over the years that added up to heaps of verses in there. I swear the reason I adhere to the Word so strongly is how much of it I memorized in school, here a little, there a little.

  6. Yeah, I might be changing my mind about the whole verse-on-every-page thing, too.

    Wes is using ReadyWriter, and each section (I think there are 16), there are 10 identical pages in each section. At the bottom of each page is the same verse for every section. Wes makes sure I don’t forget to read it, and by the 3rd or so time of reading it, he has it memorized.

    I’ve thought more about this, too… and even if I don’t necessarily trust the intentions of the curriculum creators, God’s Word is still good and right and true and powerful, definitely worth reading and memorizing. KWIM?

    I’m still not seeking out Christian-for-Christianity’s sake material for our school work, but I don’t think I’ll be so averse to it anymore. 🙂

  7. Lisa ~ Is it Nat that you’re schooling? For some reason, I thought Nat was back at school and you were hs’ing Ethan. I didn’t know you were doing R&S!! It makes me oddly happy that our kids are doing the same thing!!

  8. WE are schooling both boys in a newly renovated basement. I use R&S for English, reading and spelling with NAT, other stuff with Ethan. I abandoned Sonlight, there is other stuff out there that is good….we are doing Considering God’s Creation for science….very hands on and Beautiful Feet for American History. I still troll the Sonlight forums and love your blog……

  9. This is partly an ad, so feel free to delete it if it smacks of spam.

    I am representing Milestone Ministries, and I would like to enlarge upon a couple statements made in this post about buying Rod and Staff curriculum. The Anabaptist Bookstore you purchased from is not your only online source for Rod and Staff books. We also resell their books online at our website Rod and Staff Books. We don’t want people to be turned off by a long wait time, so we are committed to shipping as many orders as we can (over 90%) the same or next business day. We offer standard (1 – 2 week) and priority (2 -3 days) shipping.


  10. Well, Joel, I would call that “completely” an ad, but in this case, that’s OK. 😉 I checked out your website, and it looks much more user-friendly than the Anabaptist one, and I like your shipping policies! I forgot to check your shipping rates. I hope those are good, too.

    You must be a new store, b/c I’m a pretty thorough Googler, and I did not come across your store at all when I was getting ready to purchase the R&S books that I did.

  11. Just an FYI! Rod and Staff is not Amish. They are Mennonite.

  12. Thanks for the comment, Jennifer. I tried e-mailing my response, but it came back; must have been a typo or something in the addy.

    It’s my understanding that though Amish and Mennonite have some distinction, they’re nearly identical. You’re right though, they’re not exactly the same.

  13. Thanks for the write up on this! We have used R&S for the past 3 years and love it. Very solid.

    I would also echo that they are not Amish, and that their actually is a big distinction btw the two.


  14. I have purchased multiple times from Milestone Ministries. Their website is very easy to navigate, taking only a few minutes to put everything in my cart. My orders have been shipped either the same day (order late morning and shipped that afternoon) or the next day. I once ordered on a Friday and received my order on Monday (shipped from Oregon to Iowa). I would highly recommend them.

  15. Help? I am considering switching going for my son from 2nd grade Grammar/Composition in ABeka to R&S English – heard rumors its best to go back 1 grade? He did well in ABeka but heard their writing instruction becomes cumbersome and heard so many good things about R&S. Any suggestions? Anyone else switch from ABeka to R&S in English? I will stay with ABeka’s reading and spelling.

    • Well, first of all, first grade English Rod & Staff does not exist. They don’t introduce grammar until 2nd grade. So, you couldn’t go back to 1st grade with him even if you wanted to!

      The earlier lessons in R&S English do a good job of reviewing principles that were supposed to be learned in the previous year or two. So, I think it would be fairly simple to switch from any other curriculum to R&S, at least in the elementary grades. It is also easy as a teacher to switch, since R&S lessons are scripted in the teacher’s text — even if YOU are not familiar with R&S, you can effectively teach it.

      Just last week, I sold an entire 2nd grade R&S English set. You just missed it! 🙂

  16. I am considering switching to R&S Science 3rd grade. Any one used it and care to comment? I realize it is mainly text and observation but that fits us fine for now. I am interested in w

  17. I am considering switchin from ABeka to R&S Science for 3rd grader. I am mainly interested in whether the material is solid in content (meaty?) and whether the student can understand the material as presented? Also, teacher friendly? Seems to offer a wide variety of subjects over the elementary years and yet cover topics fairly in depth for this sort of text? Would we need to repeat Grade 2 – looks like a neat little overview of nature. Thanks

  18. Michelle Timmons

    Thank you for this VERY helpful review of Rod and Staff…I am new to the homeschool scene and was looking for some “confirmation” that I did the right thing ordering r&s language yesterday!! I just wanted to chime in that I called Rod and Staff books yesterday and talked to Joel…placed my order over the phone….received a “your order is shipped” email THE SAME DAY!! Very impressed with the service so far….I hope I love the material as much as you have!!
    God Bless.

    • Michelle, we happily used R&S for three years. This past year, we switched to Easy Grammar, and it was a good fit for us; we’ll continue with Easy Grammar for the upcoming school year. Though we switched, I still think highly of R&S’s English Grammar program. I hope you like it!! Especially as a new homeschooler, I think you will find the teacher’s texts especially helpful. Some teacher’s texts have the answer but not much TEACHING assistance. The R&S teacher’s texts are really thorough, and extremely helpful.

      • I just got the preschool books from them and they are really well presented.I did not get the others in the continuing set.I used Rod and Staff years ago from 1st grade on.We really loved the Bible/reading.The Math was really awesome as it was replay daily on the facts.My daughter really enjoyed the program.I was seriously considering another program but I think I will relook at RnS again.

  19. We have used Rod & Staff math for grades 1, 2, 3 & 4 so far and absolutely love it. We have also used grammar 2 & now using 3 and it’s awesome. We always purcahse from http://www.rodandstaffbooks.com/ and it’s super fast shipping. Love Rod & Staff at our home!!

  20. Alison Anderson

    Hello! I was searching for reviews of Rod and Staff Language Arts and came across your article. We used Sonlight also and your LA story is just like mine…I received a sample for 2nd grade (shes actually officially going to be in 3rd but has some speech/learning difficulties as well as some curriculum problems). It looks great and am very excited to use. I will be picking up in june in person at my local homeschool conference. Thanks for your article..it cemented what I felt as a great program!

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