Many high schoolers question the usefulness of studying grammar. I know I did.
My parents started homeschooling when I was in seventh grade. I was a good student and had stayed on the honor roll throughout elementary school. I loved learning and generally spent my spare time either reading or typing out stories on my family’s computer. I enjoyed my distance-learning history and literature classes enough that I often watched the videos twice. But I loathed the English class in the distance-learning program that my parents chose.
During that class, I rarely paid attention, choosing instead to either doodle in the back of my notebook, write stories, or get a head start on the evening’s homework assignment.
I had several reasons for disliking English. Minor reasons included the fact that the teacher on the videos was annoying, the textbook was visually uninteresting, and I never felt like I learned anything new. But the main reason that I hated the class was that the content seemed useless. The distance-learning program that we used (not BJU Press) was effective at drilling the course content into my head, but it failed to answer my burning question of why the content should be learned in the first place.
It wasn’t until a few years later when I took a missions trip to Micronesia that I began to understand the usefulness of grammar. That summer, I traveled with some friends and spent almost a month on Majuro, the main island of the Marshall Islands with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, who were missionaries there. During our stay, my uncle gave us daily lessons in Marshallese. I had expected to learn a collection of useful Marshallese phrases such as “How are you?” “How much does it cost?” and “Where is the restroom?” Instead, we talked about things like pronouns and verb tenses and where to place adjectives in relation to nouns. All those grammar exercises in English class were finally coming in handy! I was so thankful that I knew the “lingo” of language. I knew what adjectives and pronouns were, and I knew the role they played in sentence structure. That knowledge helped me immensely, and I was able to learn quite a bit of Marshallese during that brief time.
Three years later, I was a sophomore in college taking an expository writing class and learning another use for all those grammar exercises. That semester, my professor used a lot of terms like gerunds, participles, and nominative absolutes as he tried to challenge us to experiment with sentence structure to create compelling prose. Again, I was thankful for those years of studying grammar. I knew the terms as well as the concepts, and that knowledge was helping me become a better writer.
Seeing grammar at work in the real world got me excited. I was beginning to see grammar not as a tool for torturing students but as an essential part of producing clear, God-honoring communication. I realized students needed to be taught grammar through this worldview lens. And I decided that I wanted to teach them. This former English-class-hater actually ended up pursuing a master’s degree in English education.
In the providence of God, I’m not currently teaching grammar in a classroom. I’m a stay-at-home mom with three daughters. But someday soon I will begin teaching them the fundamentals of English grammar. And from the very beginning, they will know its value.