As we travel around the country, I am often surprised at the lack of understanding regarding language arts. Some people feel that as long as their children are reading then no other language arts is required. Others insist that their children are doing a grammar program and writing in a journal, so their language arts is covered. While these are all excellent activities, they do not necessarily constitute a complete language arts program. So what is language arts and what do we really need to cover? Today we are going to address just that as we think about the various components of language arts.
Kindergarten to Gr.3 - Phonics, Reading, Spelling, Writing, and Grammar
Language arts for Kindergarten up to Grade 3 centers around learning to read and to read well. Teaching a child to read can be easy or difficult depending on the child. While there are a few children that read almost innately, most will need to be taught. For many children, this means using a phonics program. Phonics programs abound. Two of our favourites are All About Reading and Beginnings from BJU Press. Up until Grade 1 this will be the most important part of language arts. Once a child has mastered the beginnings of phonics, i.e. reading, then spelling can be introduced. In my mind it makes no sense to try and teach a child to spell words, write stories, or diagram a sentence if they cannot read it independently. On the other hand, if they can read well then each of the other elements of language arts can follow naturally and without undue stress. As students master more advanced phonics principles, reading for content and answering questions about what has been read follows naturally as well. By the time a student is in Grade 2 or 3 they should be finishing phonics, doing some reading for content, spelling and a little writing and grammar. All this sounds like a lot, but remember, each of these areas of language arts does not need to be done every day. As well, some programs will incorporate two or more of these components into one program.
Gr. 4-6 - Literature Study, Writing, Grammar and Spelling
By the time a child is in Grade 4, it is hoped that phonics has been mastered. By this time many students are reading voraciously and ready for the challenge of a full spelling program along with writing and grammar. At this point it is also good to introduce some literature study or to carry on with a reading program. Progeny Press and Classroom Complete offer literature study guides to coach students in various aspects of literature study and to stretch their minds in the area of comprehension. While it would not make sense to demand that students do a study guide for each book they read, completing two or three study guides over the course of the year will ensure that your students are challenged in their thinking. It will also give more practice in putting pen to paper to formulate a well thought out answer.
Gr. 7 up - Literature Study, Writing, Grammar and Spelling (optional)
At this point in the educational process, some students will be accomplished spellers and may not need a spelling program at all. Others will need to continue this until Grade 8 or possibly beyond. These years are important in beginning to get the essay writing process in place. Essentials in Writing is a real favourite for us in this regard. It gives students exactly what they need in terms of writing and grammar without being overwhelming and time consuming. Literature study will continue through these grades.
Gr. 9-12 - Writing, Literature Study, and Grammar (optional)
Easy Grammar Ultimate that takes just minutes a day to complete.
More academic students may or may not carry on with grammar. Certainly, someone interested in English as a major later in life would want to refine their grammar skills. Learning to write a variety of essay types will be important preparation for future studies, as well as continuing to include several literature studies each year.
The above outline is a sample of what could be done at various points in your language arts. I realise that students do not necessarily fit in boxes or follow guidelines perfectly. In fact, that is what makes homeschooling such an amazing experience. We have the opportunity to customize our student's program so it fits them where they are at, at any given time. There are students who are still mastering reading at Grade 4, (and beyond) or others who will need to work on spelling skills through high school, and that is fine. Grade levels aside, the above outline can provide guidelines for the progression through language arts in the homeschool years.
As the parents of children who struggled tremendously with learning to read, we understand the challenge many face in teaching language arts. While it is great to plan for college or university, this was not our ultimate reason for wanting our children to become accomplished readers. More than anything else, we wanted our children to read well so that they could read the word of God for themselves. Even more, we wanted them to read with understanding so they could allow the scriptures to speak to their hearts, and so they could discern the will of God in their lives. Many of you desire the same things for your children. Even though it may be difficult, it is worth the time, effort, and in some cases agony, to accomplish this goal.
Need some help to put this together for your family or if you have questions don't hesitate to contact me. God bless you as journey through Language Arts.
Unless the Lord builds the house they labour in vain to build it.