I have found that there are two aspects to our language arts programme
- Teaching basic skills of reading, writing, viewing, listening and speaking
- Using those skills and developing them further
I use a variety of resources to teach these basic skills – especially reading and writing, and then I have used Charlotte Mason’s methods of narrations and copywork extensively until my children are comfortable readers and writers. Once they are reading and writing independently I start increasing their skills – or fine tuning them.
There are two ways we can fine tune and develop language art skills
- We can do formal lessons
- We can integrate language arts skills into every area of learning (and this is my preference)
I have found with my children that when I labour on the lessons they actually lose interest and consequently lose skill as well. Alternatively, when I get them using their skills they see the relevancy in what I’m teaching and they get on board and therefore learn better. So I try to keep lessons to a minimum but always have ways to be using language arts skills.
The key to using life and other subject matter such as science, history and Bible study to cover language arts is to understand yourself what needs to be taught. This can be overwhelming which is why we grasp curriculum. I have found that if I keep myself informed as to what the different aspects are then I can keep fresh language arts ideas in front of my children during our regular learning times.
The main tool I have used is “The Write Source” handbooks. I have a different manual for each level. The children know which book is at their level and they can use it as a reference for their learning. Much like we have an atlas on hand for when we want to check up on geography or a dictionary when we want to check the spelling of a word, we use this manual when we want to learn about a different aspect of reading, writing or thinking. Josh and Jess used to take these books to bed as their night time reading – they are very engaging books.
Though I may flip through these books to find a random skill to encourage my child in, I generally use them as a spine, or study guide to find specific lessons I want to teach and see improved in a child’s writing, reading or thinking.
Our current focuses are:
- For Daniel we are focusing on spelling. We will read the section on “Becoming a Better Speller” which gives 5 tips (though we will ditch one of them as I believe it will confuse Daniel) Those tips are – Make a spelling dictionary, use your senses, proof read for spelling and learn some basic spelling rules (they give 4 basic spelling rules). All of this is written in language that Daniel can read, understand and connect with.
- Naomi’s focus is writing a report (we call it notebooking) I want her to learn to collect information from more than one source, to answer her own questions on a topic and to present me with a written report of her findings. The manual will help her brainstorm her topic, summarise information she finds, and write her report. She also needs to list her sources, and the manual tells her how.
- As a family we want to learn how to write a journal. Often when I want to teach something that all age groups can learn from I open all the different manuals and glean from each or I give a manual to each child for them to read themselves, and then we come back and discuss the idea. In this case “Writers Express” has the best information and I’ll present that to the kids, we’ll talk about journal writing in our family context and we’ll practice over the next few weeks.
Reading, writing, viewing, listening and speaking are key in our communication and relationships with other people. It is a life skill and if we can approach it as such, instead of a school subject, then we can find ways to teach it differently than schools do. I have found that as I approach language arts – or reading, writing and thinking as a normal aspect of our family life – instead of a dreaded school subject – we are able to learn and grow in these skills without a lot of stress.