Thursday, September 27, 2012

2012-2013 Homeschool Year: Language Arts

Grammar is one of our favorite subjects.

Yes, I'm serious.

Just yesterday Polly told me, "You know, sometimes I diagram sentences in my head just for fun. And the good thing is, my spelling is always right." (Spelling is not Polly's strong point.)

Diagramming for fun? Oh, yeah, I do that, too.

Required by the state: Yes, although it's called "Language Arts."
Curriculum used: various items, although we depend strongly on First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind
 Just as a refresher I'll show you the book we use to teach phonics:

No bells, no whistles, just fabulous results for all of our girls so far. If it's too repetitive, we skip. If it's not sinking in, we take our time or go back a few lessons. Sweet Pea has been working through this for about a year, taking it very slowly.

Once a child is reading on their own (Sweet Pea's not there yet), we start Grammar with the First Language Lessons series.

This year Tigger is working through Level 3:

(This requires a Teacher's manual and a consumable student book)

Tigger also does a few pages out of this workbook:

We happen to have this on hand because someone gave it to us, otherwise I would just print some phonics review pages off of the internet. (Which is what I do for Sweet Pea.)

Polly is working through this book:

as a review of the things she learned in four levels of First Language Lessons. Susan Wise Bauer is supposed to be working on an Advanced Language Lessons book but it's been delayed.

Polly also narrates and does simple outlines, using some of our History and Science books. She's also reading and working (slowly) through this book:


I do not believe in making children younger than 5th grade write anything. No book reports, no stories, nothing. Instead we have them narrate (to a parent or even an older sibling). They write for fun - a lot. You would not believe how much paper and how many notebooks we go through! - but Philip and I do not grade these efforts. We make suggestions if they ask, help spell words, and so on, but otherwise we do not interfere. They write and illustrate stories because they want to.

We do work on penmanship - Sweet Pea is learning manuscript, Tigger's starting cursive this year, and Polly's improving her cursive. Polly's handwriting is improving, I'm happy to say. I used to blame it on the fact that she was a lefty, but Tigger's a south-paw too, and has never had sloppy handwriting. So I have no excuses left and I'm thankful that Polly's finally enjoying and getting the hang of cursive. This is not a favorite subject for any of my girls but we keep working away at it.

We try to keep handwriting time to a minimum. I'd rather have three, well-formed cursive B's than a row of sloppy, illegible specimens.

We don't use a spelling curriculum. We review phonics rules, have Polly correct her spelling on her history outlines, and we don't stress about it. Tigger seems to be a natural speller, Polly is not. It's OK, either way. It is not a moral failure to not be a great speller. And it doesn't seem to hamper her grammar ability. She can spot a poorly constructed sentence a mile away.

I pick up workbooks at the thrift store: dictionary skills, study skills, spelling books, phonics pages, even handwriting... The girls like to play with these and occasionally I'll actually assign a page or two to someone who needs extra review.

All in all, we try to do grammar about three times a week. We try to do a little handwriting every day. We try to do a phonics lesson (or half a phonics lesson) with Sweet Pea every day. The girls read through their poems to memorize every morning. Or, at least, that's the way it's supposed to work.

Some online resources:
Starfall. Absolutely a favorite. Sweet Pea loves this site but you can also still find Tigger playing some of the games. Miss Lili likes to watch. I encourage this because I hope when the time comes to break out "the phonics book" for Miss Lili she'll just tell me, "I already know this stuff." (Hope springs eternal.)
Grammar Practice Park.
Language Arts Games.
Grammar Ninja. (Auto play music warning!)
Reed-Kellogg Diagrammer (type in a sentence and this site will diagram it)

Free printable things:
Grammar Worksheets
Paragraph Correction Worksheets
Phonics Games
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