Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Language Arts

I really have a love for the English language as an art so I am very selective when it comes to my children's language arts curriculum. I have looked into many programs and even tried a few. Most English lessons out there are based on repetition which quite honestly is boring even for a person who LOVES English. English can not be learned by rote. 

Last year we tried Rod and Staff English. It was thorough. You can't finish that book without knowing the structure of the English language inside in out. You can't finish that book without falling asleep or wanting to beat your head against a wall. You can't finish that book without HATING English. Actually you just can't finish that book. 

The problem with teaching English by rote is that it is necessary to understand the reasoning behind language structure because quite honestly the rules don't always apply. There are just too many rules anyway. I don't even know all the rules. How can I expect children to? The best way to learn a language is through immersion. We know that is true with the spoken language. It is true with the written language as well. 

I am a Charlotte Mason homeschooler. Charlotte's philosophy on homeschooling came from years of experience educating children in a classroom and at home. She came up with a system for teaching language arts to children without using rote instruction. 
  • Literature- Exposure to great literary works rather than text books and "twaddle." Even preschool age children should be exposed to nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and fables not just beginning reader type of books. Many of the reasoning behind the structure of the English language can be gleaned from reading well-written pieces of literature. 
  • Narration- The retelling of a story in the child's own words instead of filling out worksheets with fill-in-the-blank questions. Children can start giving oral narrations in preschool. Once they are able to write fairly well, they can start writing their narrations down. 
  • Copywork- Copying well-written literature for handwriting practice also teaches grammar, spelling, structure and character. 
  • Dictation- Writing down a phrase, sentence, paragraph, and eventually a full paper as it is read using proper spelling and grammar. 

This time last year I had already thrown out our Rod and Staff English book and pulled out my copy of Simply Grammar instead. It was so refreshing. It was so easy that I wondered if it could really be teaching them everything they needed to know. The only problem with Simply Grammar is that it is too short. It needs to be supplemented to even make it a full year much less through several years of education. Many Charlotte Mason homeschoolers use copywork alone as their daily grammar. Copywork is wonderful but I feel they need more instruction on writing; outlining, editing, creating a research paper, etc., if I want them to be successful in college. 

Then I found Queen Homeschool Supply's Language Lessons. These lessons are like an expanded form of Simply Grammar. They incorporate all of the key elements of Charlotte Mason language instruction and also teach the things that children need to know to be successful in college. Each book builds on itself. In fact they are not listed by grade level but rather by skill level. This way you know where to begin for each child. There are 180 lessons in each book, a full year's worth. We do one lesson per day. They are short and sweet. My kids LOVE them. I love them too. 

We are coming to the end of our school year. Soon the tax return will be coming in and I will be ready to order next year's curriculum. It is time to evaluate what has worked and what has not worked for us this year. Without a doubt we will be keeping our Language Lessons. In fact I think they are already in my cart waiting to be purchased. 

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