Why do we suffer through hours of grammar exercises? Is it so we can check a box and say, “Yep! We did grammar—glad that’s over!” Do we really need to know what a predicate nominative is? Can’t we write well without knowing all those grammar terms? And does knowing the terms make us better writers? I’ve met students who could recite perfect definitions of all the parts of speech, but those same students wrote papers riddled with grammatical errors. Does that mean that studying grammar is a waste of time?
If you’ve asked yourself any of those questions before, this blog post is for you!
What Is Grammar Anyway?
People often think grammar consists merely of identifying parts of speech and correcting errors in writing. While those are components of grammar, they are only a small piece of the picture. Grammar refers to the structure of a language—how all the parts work together to create meaning and to impact rhetorical choices. To be truly impactful, a study of grammar should encourage students to think analytically about the English language so they can write, speak, and understand it more effectively.
Why Does Understanding Grammar Matter?
Understanding how language works helps students in more ways than you might think, but I will highlight four.
1. Being taken seriously: In an era when people communicate with emojis and abbreviations via text, students must understand that there are still times when “correctness” matters. When we write college applications, job resumes, client proposals, emails, or even social media posts, readers make judgements about us based on how we write. If we don’t understand grammatical structure, we can only guess where to use punctuation or which verb form to choose, and relying on AI to make choices for us is risky for a multitude of reasons.
2. Making meaning clear: Even if writing or speech is “error-free,” it can be unclear. Unclear communication leads to confusion and loss of time and resources. We might have great ideas or useful information to share, but if we don’t know how to craft sentences clearly, other people won’t understand exactly what we mean.
3. Understanding others better: That’s right! When we understand the intricacies of language, we can better interpret words we read or hear. If we don’t interpret the words of others carefully, we can be manipulated, misled, or at the very least misinformed.
4. Excelling on tests: Though testing isn’t always a crucial component of homeschooling, the fact is that college-bound students usually need strong SAT/ACT scores for admission and for scholarships—especially in the case of homeschoolers who lack qualifiers like class rank. Both the SAT and the ACT include sections that require students to understand the finer points of the English language.
How Can I Make Grammar Instruction More Meaningful?
Be sure that, instead of just completing disconnected exercises, your child is studying and analyzing sentence structure—understanding how nouns, verbs, subjects, objects, phrases, and clauses connect at the sentence level and how their connection impacts style, usage, clarity, punctuation, and even content.
If you need some professional support, consider a class with a live teacher. Excelsior Classes offers Writing Power, a live high-school-level course that helps students understand and apply grammar concepts in an environment that both encourages them and challenges them to boost their communication skills. And in this age of communication, those skills truly matter.
Dawn Burnette is truly excited to be part of the Excelsior family as an English teacher! Dawn holds a B.A. in English Education/Journalism from Lenoir-Rhyne University and an M.A. in English Education from Georgia State University. She has also earned National Board Certification and gifted endorsement. While teaching English at a public high school for 15 years, Dawn served as English department chair, coached a nationally ranked dance team, and won a few local, state, and national teaching awards. Dawn loves sharing her passion for reading and writing, and she works tirelessly to help students reach their academic potential and to glorify God in all pursuits. Soli Deo Gloria!
When it was time for their children to start school, Dawn and her husband Rod moved the family from an Atlanta suburb to the North Georgia mountains, acquired way too many animals, and spent the next 12 years homeschooling. Their daughter Ansley recently graduated from Samford University with a double major in English and Theatre and works at Sight & Sound in Pennsylvania, and their son Beck is a Communication major on a golf scholarship at Lee University.