Total Language Plus Review

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With its compact and straightforward study guides, strong Christian learning, curated selection of high quality books and a wide variety of fun exercises and multisensory activities to go through, Total Language Plus’ integrated resources can be an excellent, engaging and comprehensive way to study English Language Arts. 

What We Like

Compact and easy to manage
Teaches comprehension, vocabulary, spelling,
writing, grammar and more
Literature-based approach with high-quality,
classic novels
Includes a wide range of project and activity
options that can make learning multisensory
and fun
Very flexible, customizable
Integrates a good deal of Christian content and
Extremely flexible and easy to customize
Supports ELA learning from elementary through
high school

But watch out for

Not quite as much direct grammar and spelling
instruction in some levels as some other
Can involve some prep time from parents

What Is Total Language Plus?

Total Language Plus is a series of Christian, Charlotte Mason-inspired study guides that are intended to help students hone their critical thinking, communication and broader English language skills through the study of various classic novels. 

Each guide is focused on a particular piece of literature and is typically composed of various exercises, projects and activities across several areas of English Language Arts based around the work, including comprehension, grammar, spelling, writing, vocabulary and critical analysis.

The program also integrates a Christian worldview, weaving biblical verses and Christian thought into many of its exercises and activities. 

What Ages Or Grades Is Total Language Plus Intended For? 

Broadly speaking, the Total Language Plus series is intended for students in grades 3-12.

The series is built around a number of study guides, which are linked to specific novels that parents can choose from, and the company does offer parents some rough suggested grade level groupings for these guides, based on things like reading level, maturity and other grade level studies. 

Some examples of these grade level suggestions include:

GroupingExample of Titles
Grades 3-4Charlotte’s Web, Shiloh, The Whipping Boy
Grades 5-6Where the Red Fern Grows, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, My Side of the Mountain
Grades 6-8The Hobbit,  Julie of the Wolves, A Wrinkle In Time
Grades 7-9Call of the Wild, Anne of Green Gables, Treasure Island, Johnny Tremaine
Grades 9-11Around the World in 80 Days, Pride & Prejudice, To Kill A Mockingbird
Grades 11-12Lord of the Flies, Oliver Twist, The Scarlet Letter, Jane Eyre

With that said, Total Language Plus is not specifically grade-linked and homeschooling parents are pretty much free to pick and choose which study guides and novels they would like to work on based on their student’s ability, interest and needs. 

As there are very few (if any) proscriptions to be had, particularly when it comes to its lessons and worksheets, the program is very flexible and configurable as a homeschooling program, making it a good solution for on-grade, advanced and remedial ELA students alike. 

One thing that parents should be aware of, however, is that while the program does include fairly in-depth grammar, writing and spelling instruction in the guides aimed at the 3rd-5th grades, this does shift to more review and applications-oriented work when it comes to upper suggested levels (5th grade and up). 

Younger students working with these guides, therefore, may not get quite as much direct instruction in grammar and spelling rules and may need to supplement a bit more with other resources. 

To the company’s credit, they do lay out the different challenge levels of spelling, vocabulary and critical thinking questions for each guide pretty clearly on their website, which can be quite helpful for parents when making a selection for their child. 

What’s Included In Total Language Plus

Overall, Total Language Plus is a pretty compact curriculum.

In general, each novel study consists mainly of a single classic book and its related guide, with the latter providing essential instruction, activities and exercises covering analysis, comprehension, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, writing and more. 

As a result, aside from the usual need for dictionaries, whiteboards, thesauruses and so forth, there aren’t quite as many moving parts to the program for parents to buy, organize and keep track of compared to some other programs we’ve seen, making the series pretty efficient and homeschool-friendly as a whole.  

Parents should note that the study guides and novels are sold as separate resources and so they will need to buy copies of each novel alongside its related guide. 

Total Language Plus Study Guides

picture of total language plus study guide cover

The Total Language Plus study guides are black and white consumable softcover books that are, as we’ve mentioned, linked to a particular classic novel and are divided into different units.

The total number of units in each study guide can vary depending on the book in question, but are usually between 5 and 9.

The guides themselves contain mostly text, either in the form of short instruction or workbook-style exercises, although some visual puzzles (crosswords, for example) and games/activities can be present in a unit as well.

While not the most colorful or fascinating to look at, particularly compared to some other ELA programs out there such as The Good and The Beautiful, the guides are pretty straightforward and logically laid out. 

Newer editions of the series offer a master sheet of each guide’s projects and critical thinking exercises towards the front of the book, an excellent quick reference for parents, before diving into the guide’s units and lesson worksheets. 

The units themselves are pretty well-structured, as well, being made up of a sequential series of activities, questions, project ideas and workbook exercises that more or less guide students and parents through a week’s study and touch on each area of language, i.e. with every unit having individual enrichment/writing, reading, vocabulary, spelling and grammar worksheets. 

screenshot of total language plus reading worksheet found in study guide

This structure tends to make things a lot easier for both parents and students to use, allowing them to move more logically through the study of a few chapters and work on specific skills in turn.

It also makes it easier for parents to configure learning around their needs, allowing them for example to skip or substitute certain sections of each unit (grammar or vocabulary for instance). 

It also makes it easier for parents to build their own completely custom schedule of ELA topics (approaching grammar first and spelling last over the course of a week, for example) by simply flipping back and forth through a unit. 

On the whole, we found the study guides to be fairly well scripted compared to many other ELA worksheet-based programs, with the guides providing detailed instructions for its activities, questions, projects and exercises, as well as clearly written and pretty solid grammar instruction that makes things quite easy for students to learn from (or parents to teach with, if necessary). 

Towards the end of each book are a number of resources that students may find helpful, such as a glossary of terms from each novel they can fill out for later review and practice, vocabulary reviews, an easy-to-read review of the program’s vocabulary exercises and an answer key with solutions to the guide’s various workbook exercises and puzzles, as well as various potential responses to its comprehension questions and discussions. 

picture of vocabulary review found in the back of total language plus

As with other curricula that include answer keys in their resources (rather than offering them as a separate resource), while this does make things a bit easier to handle, some parents will have to keep an eye on things to prevent cheating.

Other Total Language Plus Resources

In addition to their core novel study guides, Total Language Plus also offers what it calls Focus Guides. 

Similar in style to the main series, these Focus Guides are a bit shorter (taking around 3 weeks vs. 8 weeks to complete), are based around a different selection of novels (Animal Farm, The Good Earth, Dragon’s Blood and more), and tend to center more around analysis and comprehension than vocabulary development, spelling and grammar.  

These guides also tend to center more around particular writing skills, such as opinion writing, report writing, letter writing, the 5 step essay writing approach and so on, and tend to spend more time discussing and examining particular character traits, such as perseverance, imaginativeness, determination and so forth. 

Interestingly, there is also a teacher’s manual for Total Language Plus. 

Unlike most other ELA programs, the manual is intended to serve the series as a whole (rather than being available for use alongside individual study guides) and mainly explores and explains the program’s methodology, approach and various exercises. 

It also offers an assortment of general tips and scheduling help that can actually be pretty useful for new homeschoolers, those just starting out with the series, those unfamiliar with a literature-based approach or switching in from another ELA curriculum. 

Approach to Language Arts Instruction

Literature/Novel-based Learning

Each guide in Total Language Plus is linked to a specific novel and derives a wide range of English language practice and instruction, including its vocabulary lists, comprehension and analysis questions, writing exercises and spelling work, from the main text.

This approach to learning even extends to the selection of the program’s bible verses, which are usually linked to the main story, theme or message in some way. 

As a result, Total Language Plus can be a great option for homeschool students interested in a literature-based English Language Arts program, allowing students to hone their skills and knowledge while enjoying high-quality, award-winning works of literature. 

And, to be sure, the program does make use of high-quality works of English literature.

With guides based around novels such as Jane Eyre, Charlotte’s Web and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, the books selected by Total Language Plus are largely considered classics of their genres.

The books chosen by the program tend to offer a rich exploration of the English language while also offering interesting character studies and moral lessons that we feel homeschooling parents will appreciate. 

One thing parents should consider, however, is that, as a novel-based approach (as opposed to one based on shorter stories, several books or excerpts/passages, such as Learning Language Arts Through Literature), not every student will necessarily be a fan of studying a single piece of literature for several weeks at a time, even if the activities and exercises are varied. 

Charlotte Mason-Inspired

Total Language Plus also integrates a number of elements from Charlotte Mason into its studies. 

The program, as we’ve mentioned, tends to take a literature-based approach to ELA studies and uses a selection of classic, morals- and values-rich books to introduce and practice skills and concepts. 

Further, in addition to each unit including straightforward comprehension questions, writing prompts and skill-building workbook exercises, they also may include things like memory work, puzzles and games, nature walks, arts and craft activities, oral presentation, narration exercises, dictation and more. 

screenshot example of charlotte mason inspired activities found in total language plus

On the whole, the integration of these different activities into a novel study can make learning far more engaging and interesting for both parents and students, especially compared to a standard ELA textbook or curriculum, and often add a multisensory aspect to language learning, which we always appreciate. 


Total Language Learning Plus is also a faith-based, Christian curriculum.

In addition to offering thorough story-based comprehension and critical thinking questions, the series often explores themes of good, evil, character, morality and faith in the books it offers. 

example of christian faith based analysis found in total language plus

At times, the series also integrates Christian themes and examples into the vocabulary and spelling work it includes, such as providing Bible-themed sample vocabulary practice questions or offering biblical passages and proverbs alongside passages from the main text in its dictation exercises. 

screenshot example of verses and psalms found in total language plus workbook exercises demonstrating christian content

To be sure, not all the exercises and activities included in Total Language Plus are faith-based or centered around the Bible.

As a novel-based program many of the practice problems and exercises in each guide are specifically related to the story, characters and themes of its respective book.

That said, in our opinion there is a good amount of faith-based content overall, and for those that are interested in a slightly stronger faith-integration, there are the Focus Guides, as we’ve mentioned. 

Consequently, we feel that Total Language Plus can be a solid addition to any Christian homeschool, particularly for those interested in a faith-based literature approach to ELA, although it does mean that the program may not be the most appropriate for neutral and secular families, as well as those following a different faith.

More Than Just Reading and Comprehension

Although it is a novel study series, Total Language Plus offers far more to homeschooling families than reading, comprehension and critical analysis development and practice. 

Each unit in a guide offers specific worksheets and activity ideas to help students develop skills in:

  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Writing
  • Spelling
  • Vocabulary
  • And Grammar 

All this makes Total Language Plus much more of a comprehensive language arts program and makes it a potentially valuable resource for homeschooling families, particularly as the series can extend all the way to grade 12. 

More than that, given the high quality nature of the series books, as well as the many projects, activities, puzzles and even games that are integrated into its lessons, Total Language Plus can make studying English a little more interesting and engaging for students. 

That said, although it does cover most language arts learning, in some areas (in particular with grammar and formal spelling rules), the series may not provide as in-depth or extensive instruction as some students might need, and so may need to be supplemented with other programs. 

How It Works

Although it teaches and works on several different components of English Language Arts, Total Language Plus is a pretty intuitive resource to use. 

As we’ve mentioned, each study guide is centered around the study of a single novel and is divided into several units.

Units usually begin with students reading a couple chapters from their book. 

Following this they then begin working on various worksheets, each of which is designed to work on a specific ELA skill set, notably: 

  • Reading, reading comprehension
  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary
  • Spelling
  • Enrichment and Writing (in later levels, Communication)
  • And usually a Spelling/Vocabulary Review

Each of these work pages contains a number of different workbook-style activities and exercises, such as:

  • Author profile (Reading, usually done at the very start)
  • Questions about the story, its plot and its characters for each chapter (Reading)
  • Dictation exercises (Grammar) 
  • Sentence Rewrites (Grammar)
  • Editing (Grammar) 
  • Word and definition matching (Vocabulary)
  • Glossary work (Vocabulary)
  • Crosswords (Vocabulary)
  • Putting words in context (Vocabulary)
  • Reorganizing words (Spelling)
  • Memory work
  • Analogies, synonyms, antonyms
  • Flashcard work 
  • Fill in the blanks (Spelling)
  • Word searches (Spelling)
  • And much more
screenshot example of workbook style exercises found in total language plus

There are also a few more unique activities that can be found throughout a unit, such as:

  • Pen and Paper – which can be various writing projects and exercises, such as research papers, letters, psalms and poems, arguments, opinion pieces, oral reports and so on.
screenshot example of pen and paper exercise in total language plus
  • Personally Thinking – writing and oral exercises that are designed to spark more introspective analysis, using helping the student to express their own opinions, thoughts or feelings about a topic or event related to the novel.
screenshot example of a personally thinking question in total language plus
  • And an assortment of Charlotte Mason style projects, which can be anything from field trips suggestions, arts and crafts related to the story (such as making a fishing hook), trying out various recipes, having a race, doing a nature walk, creating a personal narrative, mapwork and much more. 
screenshot example of projects found in total language plus

It should be noted that the guides provide a relatively large number of these activities to choose from, with parents and students being expected to pick a couple per unit that they find interesting or that fits their desired learning outcomes. 

Generally speaking, the series is intended to be a mix of parent-led and self-study.

While many of the workbook exercises can be done by students on their own, parents are generally expected to set a schedule and pace of learning, set up and organize activities, add extra learning resources if necessary, discuss various topics with their students and generally encourage and support the learning process. 

The study guides do come with a suggested schedule, or planning grid, which is located at the very beginning of the book, and this lays down a potential progression through a unit based on a four day a week schedule, with each unit taking around 1.5-2 weeks to go through and each study guide taking around 8-10 weeks to go through (although this really depends on a student’s reading pace and how many activities and exercises a family decides to include). 

picture of suggested schedule in total language plus

Although it really depends on the student, their needs and abilities and how many exercises or activities a family chooses to include, most worksheets should take only up to around 30 minutes per day to complete. 

Parents are, of course, completely free to pick and choose the order of the worksheets they go, the number of chapters to tackle at one time, the number and type of exercises to include and, because the work pages are centered around individual skills, even what ELA skill sets to work on. 

Should they so choose, parents can for example skip a particular category (vocabulary, grammar, spelling and so on) simply by choosing to flip past those worksheets during a unit, something which can be helpful in personalizing the program and which can make integrating Total Language into another preferred ELA curriculum or program pretty easy. 

Pros and Cons


Affordable and compact

Study guides in Total Language Plus usually cost around $30, cover a number of different areas of language arts and are usually good for a couple months of fairly rigorous ELA study. 

In addition, they don’t really require parents to go out and buy tons of different resources, making them pretty easy and efficient for most families to use. 

Comprehensive ELA learning and practice

Each guide in Total Language Plus covers a number of core language arts skills, including grammar, spelling, vocabulary, communications, writing and comprehension, making them a pretty comprehensive ELA resource. 

Excellent selection of classic, high quality novels

With titles ranging from Charlotte’s Web to Jane Eyre, Total Language Plus offers study guides based on a wide range of classic, award winning titles, helping students develop key skills while exposing them to great works of literature. 

Integrates interesting, engaging Charlotte Mason activities into learning

While the series does offer students a good variety of fun and effective workbook-style exercises, it also includes a number of Charlotte Mason-inspired activities in each guide, including nature walks, crafts, cooking, narration, dictation and much, much more.

Makes ELA learning very multisensory

Integrating hands-on activities, kinesthetic projects, listening activities, writing work and even art exercises, Total Language Arts can make lessons very multisensory, which in turn can make learning far more memorable and engaging for students with different learning preferences. 

Extremely flexible, customizable

Total Language arts is also very flexible and customizable. 

With a wide range of titles to choose from, very few proscriptions surrounding its use and its units divided into skill-centered worksheets, it is very easy to configure learning around a student’s needs or a homeschool’s preferences. 

Solid Christian content

Total Language Arts also integrates pretty thorough Christian learning and thought into its guides, frequently analyzing texts, plots and characters from a faith-based perspective and often integrating scripture and Bible verses into its exercises.


Not quite as much direct grammar and spelling instruction as some other programs

While there is certainly a good deal, certain guides in Total Language Plus may not contain quite as much direct instruction or spelling rules as some other resources out there, which means it may need to be supplemented from time to time for some students. 

Can involve some prep time for parents 

With TLP, parents will need to go through units ahead of time, selecting exercises, familiarizing themselves with project requirements, getting ready for discussions and, of course, gathering materials and preparing for different activities. 

As a result, the program isn’t exactly open and go and can require a bit of prep-time on the part of parents. 

Who Is Total Language Plus Ideal For?

Families looking for a fairly comprehensive, all in one ELA resource

Teaching comprehension, composition, spelling, grammar, vocabulary and critical analysis from a single guide book, Total Language Plus can be a pretty comprehensive and efficient way to study ELA.

Those looking for a program that blends faith-based and literature-based learning

Total Language Plus combines rigorous language arts instruction and skill-building exercises with a pretty strong Christian outlook, making an ideal solution for Christian faith-based families looking for a literature-based ELA curriculum to work with. 

Fans of the Charlotte Mason approach

Total Language Plus also integrates a good number of Charlotte Mason-inspired activities and methods into its learning, such as nature walks, dictation exercises, crafts, classic texts and more, making it a great option for those who appreciate a Charlotte Mason approach. 

Those looking for a curriculum without a lot of moving parts

Generally speaking, studying with Total Language Plus really only requires a novel, a study guide and some typical language arts tools (dictionary, thesaurus, whiteboard and so on), making it a very easy, efficient and compact resource for parents to work with. 

Families looking for resources that they can tailor to their own needs

Overall, there are very few proscriptions with Total Language Plus, and while the series may make suggestions regarding scheduling, exercises and activities, by and large the series can be easily configured and modified to suit student and homeschool needs. 

Who Is It Not Ideal For?

Those looking for a hands off self-study program

While many of a study guide’s workbook exercises can be done by a student on their own, parents are expected to schedule, guide and encourage student learning throughout. 

Further, the inclusion of various discussions, optional exercises, projects and hands-on activities does mean that parents will have to spend a bit of time doing prep work. 

Students who get bored studying one book for a long period of time

At the end of the day, students will likely spend between 8-10 weeks (or more) using a single novel as the basis for studying grammar, spelling, vocabulary and more, which can be a bit much for some students. 


Note: Prices correct as of writing, all prices in USD.

Generally speaking, most Total Language Plus study guides can be purchased for around $29.95 for a print edition and around $25.95 for a digital PDF copy. 

This does not include a copy of the covered novel, however. 

These must be purchased separately, although the company does sell copies of these, too, for around $7.99.

As always, parents should check for the latest prices, as well as for any discounts or offers that may be available. 


Check it out on Exodus Books

Is It Worth the Price?

While it is a fairly affordable way to learn language arts, we feel Total Language Plus still offers a great deal of value to the right homeschooling families.

The series is essentially an integrated language arts program, whose guides help students learn and practice a fairly full suite of skills, including reading, comprehension, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, listening and speaking, all with a single study guide.

Total Language Plus is also a strong literature-based program, teaching these skills with the help of a curated assortment of high-quality and award-winning novels. 

As a result, and especially when compared to a typical textbook, learning can be a lot more engaging, thought-provoking and interesting for students, especially when paired with the program’s wide variety of workbook exercises, games, puzzles and multisensory, Charlotte Mason-inspired activities. 

Perhaps as importantly, Total Language does all this while getting students to read and explore great works of English literature, which is always a plus. 

Finally, the series also takes its Christian learning seriously, frequently exploring themes and topics from a faith-based point of view and often weaving highly relevant and even thought-provoking verses and scripture into its exercises.

Bottom Line

With its compact and straightforward study guides, strong Christian learning, curated selection of high quality books and a wide variety of fun exercises and multisensory activities to go through, Total Language Plus’ integrated resources can be an excellent, engaging and comprehensive way to study English Language Arts.

Picture of our author and editor Anne Miller

About the Author

Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.