I will have my first child in the Essentials of English Language at CC this year. When we started our CC community, my oldest could have gone, but I had a 2 week old infant and we live about 30 miles from our CC community, so I opted to not put her in it and instead go home after lunch. I had no idea how valuable the Essentials program is to teaching kids to write. Over the last couple of years I can really see the vision and scope of CC. I see how all of the programs work together and lay foundations for the future programs.
This next year I will be directing a Challenge I class. My daughter really struggled with the writing in the earlier Challenge program and so this year I am using some of the curriculum suggested in CC to help her get ready for this next year of Challenge I. I am also doing similar work with my son who will be in CC Essentials in the fall. They are both completing a basic grammar book this summer. I know, I'm a mean momma! Miss A is working through MegaWords for spelling (she is dyslexic and this is a spelling text designed for that) and Our Mother Tongue. I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful Our Mother Tongue is! Lots of rich literature is used to teach the grammar lessons. I also love the notes about how Latin influenced various aspects of English grammar.
With my son, I'm using and old (like 1950's) grammar text that I purchased at a library sale. In our little town, our library is the recipient of many teacher's libraries when they retire so I have found some neat old books there. For spelling, he will continue with Spell Well. It is an easy to use, phonics based curriculum and he likes it. In addition, to that I will get the Trivium Tables at the Parent Practicum that I'm attending in a couple of weeks. I intend to use the Trivium Tables as copywork for both older children.
My Miss J is only 8 and in our house, we don't do formal grammar studies until they are around 10. So she spends her language time, with phonics, copy work, draw write now, reading, listening to poems, etc to build up her vocabulary, teach good reading skills and teach her to appreciate good literature. I love the Ambleside Online for ideas of books to read. So in a nutshell, here are the main things I'm doing to prepare for Essentials (and also Challenge I)
1. Copywork using the Trivium Tables
2. Going through a formal grammar book this summer
3. Continuing to read good literature
4. Focusing on spelling, making sure that the spelling learned is applied in daily writing, texts, e-mails, etc
5. Review English Grammar learned so far in CC Foundations