Language Arts

Math and geography are easy to teach.  When we talk about “math” everyone has a pretty good idea what we mean.  The same goes for “geography.”  Not so with “language.”  English language?  Foreign language?  Written language?  Spoken language?  What exactly does this mean?

Rather than getting bogged down guessing what the legislature meant, I’ve concentrated on the skills my kids should learn.  Reading, writing, spelling, public speaking, grammar…

Kids should begin by learning to read.  I’ve written separately about this topic, so won’t duplicate that information here.  Depending on the child’s readiness, beginning reading instruction can usually begin in kindergarten or first grade.  Depending on the reading curriculum you select, you might also like the Explode the Code series.

Around age six, kids can begin learning how to write.  Penmanship requires kids to have a strong torso, so playing on the monkey bars is good for writing readiness.

Once kids have begun to read, add in a couple vocabular-building activities:

Both of these are good for basic English etymology.  Another excellent curriculum for etymology and grammar is the Latina Christiana series from Memoria Press. If you’re just looking for grammar and a quick Latin introduction, Prima Latina can be used by kids as young as five – which means that this beginning level is pretty easy.  Get the video lessons and have fun learning along with your kids.

There are a couple very good language arts programs.  I like Learning Language Arts Through Literature, however it is fairly time-intensive for the parent.  It works well for one or two children.  I found it impossible to do for four kids.  If you have a smaller family, this is one that is worth investigating.  There is one workbook for the student, and a separate lesson book for the parent/teacher.  The format is very easy to follow, and little-to-no lesson prep is required.

For a less time-intensive curriculum, we have used Shurley English.  This is grammar and writing, but no spelling or reading. It was written for classroom use, then modified slightly for the homeschool tutoring model.  I like level one for the way it makes nouns and verbs very easy for young kids to understand.  There’s quite a bit of prep in the beginning, but worth taking the time for so that kids easily understand the concept of classifying words.  After the first couple months, there is almost no prep.  I would not use this curriculum every year; it would get too boring because there is a lot of repetition from one year to the next.  Kids who learn using this method have excellent grammar skills.

For writing, my top recommendation is to use the approach taught by Institute for Excellence in Writing.  This is Suzuki-method writing lessons.  Although expensive, it is worth every penny. Level A can be done beginning in third grade. Level B is for those who start IEW is middle school, and level C is for those who begin IEW in high school.  There is a Continuation B for those who started in elementary school with level A, and a Continuation C for high schoolers with previous IEW experience.

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