We’re already a term into our school year and there are some changes a-happenin’ over here in our homeschool. I’m a little nervous and a little excited. But more on that another day! Today I want to share with you the easy way I am currently teaching language arts in our homeschool.
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.
Now for those of you who prefer to listen to me chat, you can find a video about our current language arts plan here. If you prefer to read, scroll on down 🙂
What We Do
For context, Nikolai is currently in third grade. We take a holistic approach to home education that you can read more about in this post. We tend to combine elements of both Charlotte Mason and Steiner/Waldorf methodologies, but we aren’t averse to pulling elements 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 3 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 HearthMagic 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 3 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. 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.
What We Don't Do
So there you go. We’ve covered reading, writing, listening, viewing and speaking, all in roughly an hour a day, 3 days a week. And we have fun!
What don’t we do? Workbooks, spelling lists, copywork, 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?
Is there something about our homeschool you are just dying to know? Feel free to ask in the comments section below xx