Homeschool language arts made simple

From spelling, grammar and comprehension to phonics, handwriting and composition: here is the simple way to teach your kids language arts.

children reading together

By Kirstee Raki | thiswholehome.com

What is language arts? Well, you and I probably just called this English when we went to school.

Basically, the term language arts is a catch-all that encompasses everything from phonics and handwriting, to comprehension and composition. Vocabulary, spelling, grammar, punctuation - they're all in there too. Anything that relates to the five strands of English Language Arts is included: reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing.

PHEW! That's a lot to cover. But does that mean it's hard to do?

Well, yes and no. For us, if I put a lot of workbooks into our program, things become hard. If I put a lot of writing into our program, things become really tough, really quickly. Maybe your child is different, but these two things are definite no-nos with my kiddo. But with a little help from my friends Charlotte Mason and Rudolf Steiner, I've managed to come up with a plan that is working really well for us.

What we do in language arts

For context, Nikolai is currently in third grade. We take a holistic approach to home education and tend to combine elements of both Charlotte Mason and Steiner/Waldorf methodologies, but we aren't averse to pulling items from elsewhere if it's what best fits our needs at the time.

Morning Circle

I include poetry (memory work and recitation), introduction to Shakespeare and speaking work in the form of tongue twisters. FUN! Grammar and vocabulary related games come in here too.

Reading

I assign a classic novel and expect Nikolai to read a chapter at night ready for narration the following day. This only needs to be done when we have lessons the next day, so only three days a week. That's pretty low key. We are working on a second classic novel together. This one we do as a read aloud once a week and then follow up with activities from a Hearth Magic Unit Study. I get Nik to take a turn reading to practice reading aloud. He also reads aloud to his little sister, so we sneak some extra practice in that way. Free reading happens on top of this.

Narration

This is an idea popularised by Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. Basically, you have your child tell back what they have read (or have listened to) in as much detail as possible. We use this as a way to practice sequencing, recall, comprehension and the like. I also tend to include a conversation, always informal in our home, where we discuss what we liked (or didn't), why we think a character acted a certain way, what we would have done instead, etc. We practice this skill three times per week, using the reading Nikolai completed the evening before.

Composition

This term we are focusing on sentence structure, paragraph structure and summarising information. After Nikolai has delivered his narration (we do this orally) we sit together and I help him to pick out the main idea from the chapter. We look for the problem, the action and the solution which he boils down to 3-5 sentences, depending on the complexity of the chapter. Nikolai comes up with the sentences and I dictate them back to him slowly so that he can concentrate on the mechanics of writing without the distraction of trying to remember the words he wants to use. We have found this technique so helpful in reducing stress when writing.

Once the day's summary is written down, we flick back a page to the previous summary and go over it, looking for errors in spelling and punctuation, which Nik marks with a coloured pencil. Nikolai makes corrections and looks up any words he is unsure of in the dictionary. Why do this the next day? Putting that little bit of distance between the writing and the editing helps ward off feelings of inadequacy.

handwriting girl

Correcting straight after writing can feel overwhelming and demoralising to a small child (or let's face it, even certain adult bloggers who may be typing as we speak!) We also take the chance to engage in short spelling lessons where necessary. Once we come to the end of the book, we will watch a movie adaptation of the novel.

Once a week we also try to include a poetry picnic in our day. This is always a highlight.

So there you go. We've covered reading, writing, listening, viewing and speaking, all in roughly an hour a day, three days a week. And we have fun!

What we don't do in language arts

Workbooks, spelling lists, copy work, creative writing, oral presentations of projects or specific handwriting practice. If it's busywork or is sure to elicit strong resistance, I omit it. It just isn't worth the headache.

If you haven't already, take a look at the video above to see the books we are using, and to get a look at the work Nikolai is doing.

And now I would love to know, how do you teach language arts in your homeschool? Feel free to comment below.

This post was originally featured on This Whole Home and has been republished here with permission.

Kirstee Raki

Kirstee Raki

Contributor

Kirstee is mum to two from QLD, collector of chickens, a terrible housekeeper, a no-nonsense country-style cook, lover of mason jars, passable vegetable gardener, holistic homeschool educator, to-do list fanatic and bush wanderer. She blogs at thiswholehome.com and shares advice and encouragement on implementing a holistic model of education in your home, as well as practical tips to stay sane as a homeschool mama. Instagram - @this.whole.home

Becky McIntosh - June 18, 2017

I loved this Kirstee! I came straight to read it as it although I see organic maths everywhere, I fall into the trap of thinking I’ll need to use workbooks for literacy. You’ve clearly outlined how unnecessary that is. I remember a homeschool mum telling me how upset her son got with his handwriting practice EVERYday (poor lad) and it is just so unnecessary when we have this freedom to suit the learning to the child. I particularly loved the tip about correcting mistakes! What a simple way to make writing more enjoyable.
Thank you!

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