Let’s Make Learning Fun!

Photo by Jeremy Alford on Unsplash

Make Learning Fun with We Love to Learn Stations

As parents, we’re sailing in uncharted waters right now, with the social distancing, stay at home requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parents are teaching their children academics at home for the first time. All parents are likely getting complaints from their children that they want to play with friends or go do something they aren’t allowed to do because of social distancing. I’m hearing parents say they’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

Whether you’re a homeschool family or an emergency distance learning family, having some fresh ideas for making learning fun can help change your children’s attitudes about being stuck at home!

The first idea I want to share will help your children enjoy learning more with the “We Love to Learn Stations”.

We Love to Learn Stations

In the dead of winter here in Minnesota, we often have to stay at home because of the weather, our days get long, and kids can become bored. That’s why I typically added a learning station’s day on Fridays to give us all a change of pace.

 This pandemic with the stay at home requirement is the perfect time for you all to try a Learning station day! It only takes a little time to prepare for it, and your kids will LOVE it!  Basically, you’ll set up learning stations throughout your house, and your children will rotate to the various learning stations doing whatever you’ve set up there. (Teams of two work great, but if you don’t have enough children for teams, you’ll need to participate or set up stations that can be done by one child at a time.) You can even use some of the learning resources that you already have, either from your school teacher or your curriculum.

All you need to do is prepare your learning stations, usually the night before. Then start your We Love To Learn Stations Day with explaining the different stations to your children. Set the timer and begin!  (Approximately 15-20 minutes per station)

Prepare the Learning Stations

1. Language arts station (you can have more than one language arts station if you wish or just choose one of these)

  • Phonics game for the pre-readers or early readers (Memory, Go Fish, puzzles or see options in my recommended page.)
  • Grammar game using Mad Libs
  • Write a short creative story alone or with your partner using some story starter ideas if needed. (share your story with family afterward)
  • Audio books with audible.com for listening comprehension (free books available to children during the pandemic!)
  • Spelling game – Make your own using a manila folder! Game instructions.
https://youtu.be/oz9YsJGUrZ8
Make your own basketball spelling game!

2. Reading station

  • Have a basket with library books or topical encyclopedias (Usborne has some great ones) and at this station, they read or look at pictures for 15-20 minutes.
  • Or you can have your child read from the book they’ve been reading already.

3. Math station

  • Play math games together (see my recommended page for ideas on games) – you can use regular board games or dice.
  • If your child likes speed games, do a few speed math worksheets where they time themselves and see how many they can get done in 10 minutes. They can do this twice and see if they can beat their first try. Drill worksheets available HERE.

4. Science station

5. Geography or History station

  • Have a globe or map out. Give your children each a list of places that they need to find on the map and write the longitude and latitude.   Or have separate maps for each child and they can mark the places you’ve listed.
  • Play “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”?   This is a fun game that teaches geography, world cultures and history for children ages 8-12!
  • Set up a project for your children to work on related to the time period they’re studying in history. (e.g. build a teepee if studying American Indians)

6. Music

  • Set up a CD player or have a link ready for your child to listen to a piece of classical music and provide a link or print up a short biography about the composer for them to read while they listen.
  • Set out musical instruments for your children to play with (if you have older children, they could practice their music lesson for this station).
  • Provide resources for your child to make a drum or a guitar using a box, etc.

7. Art

  • Set up an art project for the children to work on.
  • Have pictures of various artist’s work with information about each piece.
  • Set up paints with information about how to mix primary colors to make secondary colors and let them have fun mixing and painting. Here’s a video to help you teach these concepts!

8. Bible

  • Choose a memory verse for all the children to learn and post it on the wall. Have them say it together three times and then write it on a note card. Then have them use one of the following games to practice:
  •  Write each word of the verse on a separate index card and mix the cards up – have your child unscramble the words to make the verse. (Include the verse address on a card, i.e. ‘Galatians 5:22-23’.)
  • Use a dry erase board and write out the verse. Read the verse through together a few times, then erase one word. Read the verse again saying the right word for the erased word. Take turns erasing words, saying the right words for each erased word as you recite the verse. Eventually you should have nothing on the board and be saying the verse from memory.
  • Play Sword Drill with SALVATION verses. (For children who can read well and know their Bible a bit.  You’ll need to help with this one) Using the list below, have each child hold a closed Bible above his or her head. Dad or Mom calls out the first reference twice and then says, “Swords ready…Go!” and the children try to be the first one to find and read the verse out loud. (If you have an only child, make the clock the thing to beat.) You may challenge your children to figure out what the common theme of all the verses is. You may also give a prize to the winner, if you wish, but everyone gets the benefit of knowing his or her way around the Bible better and of hearing God’s Word. “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17.
  • Key Word: Salvation
  • Exodus 15:2
  • I Samuel 2:1
  • Psalm 27:1
  • Luke 2:30
  • Acts 4:12
  • Romans 1:16
  • Ephesians 1:13
  • Ephesians 6:17
  • Psalm 18:2
  • Isaiah 12:2

*These memory games and the Bible game were taken from Growing the Fruit of the Spirit, a wonderful family Bible study guide for children of all ages, available on my store page or on Amazon.

Growing the Fruit of the Spirit A family Bible study guide for children of all ages.

8. Create your own station to help your children learn about something they are currently studying in their school lessons!

I hope you enjoy having your We Love to Learn Station Days!  Please comment below with your ideas or let me know how it goes if you give it a try!

10 Tips for Teaching Your Children through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tips for Teaching Your Children through the COVID-19 Pandemic

We are living in unprecedented times, with the Coronovirus pandemic throwing our lives into unexpected turmoil and change. To stop the spread of the virus, almost everything is cancelled. Suddenly schools, restaurants, stores, and more are closed for an indefinite amount of time. 

Parents are finding themselves responsible for teaching their children at home for the first time, some while they are still required to work themselves.

If you’re a parent in this situation, I want to encourage you to look at this as a wonderful opportunity to spend time with your children and enjoy learning with them.  Give yourself and your children time to transition, this is a big change for both of you. Talk openly about what’s happening in the world and help your children process their emotions through this.

Realize that you have already been teaching your children so many things! Who taught them to walk, talk, get dressed, and to get along with others, etc.? YOU did!   You’re just adding the academic piece to the picture. You can do this! And there are a lot of resources available to help you!

Here are 10 tips for teaching your children during this time:

1. Focus on developing a learning lifestyle rather than trying to imitate what the public school does. You’re a family, not a classroom of 30 kids, so structured learning times will often be shorter than the eight-hour public school day.  Look for learning opportunities throughout your day and take advantage of them. Listen to your children’s questions and help them find answers – discovery learning like this is one of the best ways for kids to learn. Encourage your children to think of things they want to learn about and then provide the resources for them to do it. Read Charlotte Mason’s approach to learning, it’s relaxed and very effective.

2. Focus on Math and Language arts skills. These are core subjects that your children should continue to work on during the pandemic.  If you plan to have your children return to the public school system once this pandemic ends, teachers are recommending that you follow the Core Standards, especially for these two subjects. 

 If you don’t know your children’s skill level in these two subjects, do an assessment through Let’s Go Learn –  use the family version under retail and do the assessments. This assessment will help you learn what areas your children need extra work in as well as where they have strengths. Focus on helping them retain what they know and continue learning from where they are at. There are many free resources to help you do this (see list below). 

The other subjects are also important, so as you can fit them in, also provide resources for your children to learn science, history, art, music, phy-ed and health. There are resources listed below for these as well.

3. Find ways to make learning fun!  We have a plethora of fun learning opportunities on the web that are free or inexpensive. Use Pinterest or one of the many resources I’ve listed below to help teach your children.

  • Play board games with your children (check out my blog posts on using games and my Recommended page for ideas)
  • Read aloud to your children (Read Aloud Revival is a great resource for book ideas)
  • Do virtual field trips via video or on the web
  • Bake together, do fun projects around the house together
  • Be creative, find fun things to do related to your children’s interests. If they’re fascinated with Legos, find some fun things to build on Pinterest (there are some great creative ideas for things to do with kids on Pinterest!) If they love animals, consider getting a new pet and having them help with training and care. Build learning opportunities around their interests.

4. Teach your children life skills. Do your children know how to clean, wash clothes, make food for themselves, etc.? This is a great time to help them develop these skills.  With them home all the time, you’ll need their help in keeping the house clean, and they need to learn these skills. Set up a chore system to keep things running smoothly so you’re not nagging them. This is a great time to do some organizing and teach your children organizational skills. Teach them basic hygiene, how to avoid catching or sharing germs in a pandemic! (Download a free PDF of age appropriate chores)

5. Set up a daily routine. Children need routine and your children will be looking for structure to their day.  Some children may even benefit from having a schedule posted on the wall showing when you will have structured learning times and when they have free time.  Remember to take breaks between any structured learning times.  Children need physical activity to get refocused, especially younger children. (Download a free PDF of a sample schedule)

6. For the working parent. If you’re working full or part-time you can adjust your schedule so you’re teaching your children when you’re free. For the times that you’re working, provide your children with learning opportunities and resources that they can do on their own. Have an hour quiet time each day and have older children help with younger children as needed. Enlist your children’s help with home chores and meal prep/clean up, it helps them build essential life skills and will ease your stress.

7. Create age appropriate learning stations in your home (art, science, math, reading, geography, etc.). Learning stations can be a bin with materials in it, or a specific area of the home with learning materials.  An Art station would have creative arts and crafts materials with idea books or printed guides from Pinterest or the web.   A Reading station would have great literature for them to read.  A Math station would have math games or an IPad with math learning apps, games. A Science station would have materials for them to do an experiment and information on how to do it. A Geography station would include a map of the U.S. or the world, with books about the world and the different areas, or geography games.   Require your children to spend time doing at least 2-3 learning stations a day as well as independent reading and doing some math exercises.

8. Listen to audio books. Listening to books builds literacy skills, listening skills, focusing skills, imagination, and more. Here’s a free app with audio books or access the public library online through the cloudLibrary app.  http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks. Audible stories are also offering free audio books for kids during the pandemic.

9. Encourage a love for learning. Help your children understand the importance of being lifelong learners – there’s always more to learn and it’s to our benefit to keep learning all through our lives! You can be an example to them by showing them that you are still curious and want to learn new things.

10. Seek advice from friends or experts.  Call friends that are in the same boat to see what they’re doing for teaching their children. On Facebook join the group called “Emergency Homeschooling” – there are lots of great ideas there! There are also many other Facebook homeschool groups, just plug in “Homeschool” and join some. Call a homeschool family you know and ask them for advice. I’m also happy to schedule an online meeting with you to help you figure out a plan for your family. Contact me for a consultation

If you’ve got teens at home, check out this post on the 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Homeschooling your Older Student from Crosswalk.

Most importantly, as a Christian, I encourage you to pray for God’s peace, guidance and help during this time as well. You aren’t alone in this. He is there for you if you reach out to Him and pray.

Do you want to learn more about trusting in God?

God loves you and wants a relationship with you – He wants to help you through this stressful time, I encourage you to turn to Him and trust in Him.

Free or Inexpensive Teaching Resources:

All subjects:

Teachers Pay Teachers:   there’s a plethora of free worksheets and teaching resources for many subjects and all grades, many are free.

Kahn Academy   – sign up to access teaching resources for math, science, arts and humanities, computing, ELA, and more.

Free audio books and courses on many subjects at Open Culture

Audible Stories – free audio books

ETap Full curriculum online – free during this crisis

More free resources: http://www.openculture.com/free_k-12_educational_resources

PBS Learning Media – free resources and videos

Academy Adventure

Phonics:

  • Starfall Learn to Read app
  • Abcmouse.com  – an app for reading, math, science, art & colors
  • Phonics free resources: Sound City
  • All About Learning has both a reading and spelling program that are excellent (there is a cost for these) and there are free resources as well.
  • Sight word lists and learning resources at Sight Words.com

Math:

  • Numbers and Math for Kids app by EDUBUZZKIDS (preK-K)
  • Prodigy Math Game app for 1-8 graders
  • Khan Academy

Preschool/Kindergarten unit study curriculum

Five in a Row – a unit study that uses a short children’s picture book as the basis for studying science, history, art, etc.

Science

Social Studies

Art

Music

Physical Education

Could you use help staying organized during this time?

Check out The Homeschool Life All-in-One Planner!

This planner has everything you need to manage your home and school well! It guides you through setting up a chore system, meal planning system, goal setting, and has great record keeping documents for homeschooling. Download the digital version for only $18.00!

Please comment below and share any free resources you’ve found! Or feel free to ask questions…

Free Zoom Meeting to learn more about teaching your children at home on March 25th – SIGN UP TODAY!

Join me for a free 45 minute webinar: Making the Most of this Time with Your Children – where I’ll share more helpful insights on how to use this time of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic to help your children learn and grow, and stay sane doing it! Wednesday, March 25th 7:00 p.m. Contact me to sign up!

Another Idea for Homeschool Planning: Loop Scheduling!

Some homeschool days flow just like clockwork and other days unexpected things happen: someone gets hurt, the baby is fussy, a friend calls needing prayer and encouragement. And we end up feeling frustrated and discouraged at the end of the day because we didn’t get all we had planned done. We wonder how other homeschool moms fit everything in. How do they handle the unexpected interruptions? Some homeschool moms are turning to loop scheduling to help them feel less frustrated by the inevitable interruptions in their homeschool day.

 What is Loop Scheduling?

Loop Scheduling has become more popular among homeschoolers over the last few years. It’s a variation of scheduling and planning that helps the homeschool parent feel less ‘behind’ or frustrated when life interrupts school and they miss doing a subject that they had planned to teach on a given day. 

A loop schedule is basically a schedule that doesn’t list specific days in which each subject will be taught. Instead, the subjects are listed in the order they will be done and the subjects listed in the loop schedule are taught over the whole week, following the order as listed each day until it’s time to end the school day. Each subject in the loop will likely take 15-60 minutes of the day, depending on the ages of your children and how long you want to work on them. You don’t have to feel pressured to finish the list in one day. (In fact, you shouldn’t finish the list in one day!) The next day, you begin with the subject on the list that follows the one you finished the day before. When the last subject on the list is completed, you start back at the top again and repeat the cycle.

You decide how often you want to teach each subject. (Every day, three times a week, etc.) Subjects that you want to cover daily are not included in the loop schedule, only subjects that you don’t need to do every day go into a loop schedule.

For example, you may wish to teach Bible, Language arts and Math every day. These subjects would be first in your day each school day. Then you would have all other subjects listed in your loop schedule and you would begin the loop subjects once the daily subjects were completed, working through the list until you need to be done for the day. If you wish to have one subject taught a bit more frequently, you’ll list it in the loop more often so that it comes up more often. 

You’ll want to make lesson plans for each subject so as you come to them in the loop you’ll be prepared for what you’re going to teach that day. There’s a sample loop schedule lesson plan and a free loop scheduling lesson planning document to download below.

Different Types of Loop Schedules

You can also make loop schedules for specific subjects. For example, language art has many facets to it, and some of those aspects of language arts don’t need to be taught every day. So you might have your child read every day, but for spelling, writing, literature study, etc. you might create a loop schedule so that you are doing all these other aspects of language arts, but you aren’t specifying which day you’ll be doing them.  You plan for 45 minutes of language arts in a day, and your child does their reading, then they start the loop schedule and get through whatever they can that day. The next day they pick up where they left off on the loop schedule list of studies.

You can do a loop schedule for any subject you wish. For example, for Science, you could loop reading the text, doing an experiment, notebooking, a nature walk, watching a DVD, etc. For History, loop the following: read the text, read a historical fiction book, watch a DVD, work on a timeline, etc.

You can even create a loop for your housecleaning or meal planning! You can really loop almost anything!!

Here are some documents showing how you organize a loop schedule for school:           

Subjects included in the loop schedule Frequency
Science 2 times
History 3 times
Art 1 time
Geography 3 times
Phy-ed 3 times
Loop (List subjects in order you want to do them)
History
Science
Phy-ed
Geography
Art
History
Phy-ed
Science
Geography (go back to top of loop)

Example of lesson plans for loop schedule:

SUBJECT LESSON PLAN
 History Read chapter 1, add events to timeline
 Science Read about pyramids, learn how they were built,
design
 Phy- Ed Biking
 Geography  Map of Middle East
 Art  Mosaic
 History Read chapter 2, timeline, make pyramid
 Phy-Ed Calisthenics
 Science Read about aqueducts and build one with clay
 Geography Middle east cultural geography
 History  Read chapter 3, timeline, watch DVD on Pharaohs
 Science Learn about rivers, lakes how they are formed
Phy-Ed Trampoline time
 Geography Middle east physical geography

There are pros and cons to this type of scheduling.

Pros Cons
Reduces stress when life is busy Could still lead to not getting subjects done if you’re not diligent to work through the loop
Gives some flexibility to your week The uncertainty of what will be covered each day may cause some anxiety
If your family is really enjoying studying something, you don’t have to rush to the next subject to be sure you finish all Lesson planning could be more challenging when you aren’t sure what day you’ll be doing each plan
The spontaneous child would enjoy this method much more than a rigid schedule Children who like to know the plan for the day would be frust-rated by this

If you’re having trouble with getting everything done each day and are always feeling behind, this approach might be the one for you!

Free Templates to try Loop Scheduling!

Give it a try by downloading these free templates to create your own loop schedule. As always, I encourage you to seek the Lord for wisdom as you plan, He knows what will work best and wants to guide you!

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

For more ideas on loop scheduling, check out this You Tube video, “Quick Start to Loop Scheduling” by Sarah MacKenzie and Pam Barnhill.

Do you need a homeschool planner?

Check out The Homeschool Life: All-in-One Planner for more ideas on planning and scheduling and record-keeping. It’s the only planner you’ll ever need because you get the templates for all consumable documents!

Please comment below if you’ve used this approach and have some advice or ideas for others!

Finding Joy in Your Homeschool Journey

The holidays are done, and the new year stretches before us. It’s time to begin a new semester of school…and I’m guessing that some of you may not be feeling very excited about getting back into a school schedule again.

Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed with the idea of a whole new semester ahead of you. Or there was a difficult subject that you’re not looking forward to teaching again.  Maybe it’s just that the daily school routine has become boring and you need some changes to happen.

Sometimes homeschooling can feel like a lot of work, right? I remember only too well. Other families are sending their kids off on the bus and you’re teaching your kids again AT HOME. And YOU are responsible for what they learn. It can feel like a heavy burden at times, even though it’s what we’ve chosen, right?

So how do you find joy and motivation when you really just want to go back to bed, or go read a good book, or go hang out with a friend instead of doing the “school thing”?

If this is you, let me give you some ideas for how to find JOY IN YOUR HOMESCHOOL JOURNEY AGAIN!

  1. PRAY AND SEEK THE LORD each day! Rest in Him…

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this homeschool thing! God is with you and wants to help you and give you wisdom for every day and every situation as you teach your children. As you begin each day, spend time with God, seeking His strength and asking Him to give you a thankful and joyful attitude.  Many times, when I’m feeling discouraged or unmotivated, I really just need the Lord to help me change my attitude so it’s in line with His will in my life. He can help you get motivated and find joy in each day. He can help you look for things to be thankful for as you go through each day. I remember one year when I was feeling down and discouraged, not really looking forward to each homeschool day. I sought the Lord’s help and He reminded me of the many blessings I had and helped me to look for things to be thankful for each day. He also helped me see that I needed to take better care of myself…more on that shortly.

Remember that your attitude will rub off on your children! If you’re excited about a new day, looking forward to all God is going to teach you, your children will be too! A joyful attitude is infectious!

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

 

 

  1. REMEMBER IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS!

 

We often get so focused on academics and making sure we’re getting everything accomplished that we forget that one of the most important things about homeschooling is that we’re building relationships:

  • Our children’s relationship with God
  • Our relationship with our children
  • Our children’s relationships with each other
  • Outside relationships with others

Ask the Lord to help you make relationships a priority this semester.

  • Focus on helping your children grow in their faith and in godly character. Check out my blog post on ideas for building your child’s faith: Resources and Ideas for Building Your Child’s Faith. I also have several posts on godly character – just put that phrase in the search box and you’ll find them!
  • Focus on spending quality time enjoying being with your children, playing a game, reading to them, or just snuggling.
  • Focus on helping your children love one another, helping them to develop a deep friendship with their siblings.

You’ll be surprised at what this change of focus will do for your family and your homeschool days!

 

  1. TAKE A LITTLE TIME TO RE-EVALUATE

 

  • Are you possibly struggling with burnout? Do you give so much of yourself that you’re not taking time for yourself and your needs? Homeschool burnout is very real! You need to take care of yourself, get proper rest and exercise and eat well plus allow yourself to enjoy the things you like to do sometimes in order to avoid burning out. That same year when I was so down and discouraged, I realized that I needed to get more regular exercise and so we joined a gym as a family and I found that getting regular exercise was good for me and also for our children! Check out this blog post: “Encouragement for the Burned-out Homeschool Mom” 

 

  • Do you need to consider a change of curriculum? Are you finding you dread a certain subject? Or have you noticed your children seem to complain about doing some subjects? Maybe it’s time for a change of curriculum. Check out cathyduffyreviews.com for new ideas on curriculum and read this post on Choosing Curriculum.
  • Focus on developing a love for learning using delight-directed studies and adding some fun ideas and games into your school day. One year I was just so tired of the “same old, same old” everyday, and so I purchased the book “Ignite the Fire” by Terri Camp. It was so helpful to get me out of the rut we were in! One idea she had was to have the kids each make their own mailbox (decorated shoe box!) and then write letters to each other (creative writing).  The kids loved it!  She has many wonderful ideas to help your children love to learn!

Also check out these blog posts on delight-directed learning, teaching tips and using games to help make learning more fun:

 

 

  • Download my free “Homeschool Evaluation and Goal Setting PDF” available on the sidebar to help you assess any changes you may wish to make for this second semester.

 

 

  1. BRAINSTORM with your spouse or other homeschool friends on ideas to make this semester better for you and your children…

    so school is something you DO look forward to! I also do homeschool consulting and would love to meet with you to help you think through how you can bring more joy into your homeschool days if this is a struggle for you. For the month of January 2019, I’m offering a 15% discount for consultations as well!

 

  1. RELAX AND ENJOY LEARNING WITH YOUR CHILDREN!

So much learning can happen without textbooks. Allow yourself to relax a bit, to allow some learning to happen naturally as your children ask questions about life and things that happen in their world. That’s called Discovery Learning – and because it’s something they’re interested in, they will be much more attentive as you research together about the topic of interest. Discovery learning provides some of the best learning and often the information you learn through these types of teaching times will be retained better than when you use some fancy lesson plan!

 

  1. EXTEND GRACE…

    to yourself and your children as you get back into the routine of school after a holiday break. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes you a week or more to get back into a regular routine with school and life.  REST in the LORD on a daily, moment by moment basis as you teach and have a blessed school year!

Please comment below if you have other ideas that have helped you find joy in your homeschool journey… I’d love to hear your ideas!

*Photo credit  Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

Tips for Choosing Curriculum to Fit Your Family

For many families, school is done for this year and the summer is in full-force.

It feels so good to wrap up a school year, doesn’t it?

And I love the summer months, such a great time to enjoy the outdoors and family time.

It’s also the perfect time to do some unhurried research and planning for the next school year.

As you contemplate the next school year, it’s helpful to evaluate your last year of school to determine what might need to change for the next year.

Ask yourself what you liked and didn’t like about the previous school year. What seemed to work and what didn’t?  Read my blog post called “It’s Mid-Year Evaluation Time!” for ideas on what to think through as you evaluate your year. (this same information works for the end of the year evaluation.) Download the free “Homeschool Evaluation and Goal Setting PDF”  to give you direction as you think through last year.

With four children, I found that there were some curriculum changes needed every year.

Choosing curriculum can be such an overwhelming job! There are SO many choices! How do you find the right fit for your children and your family?

There are 6 important things to consider as you choose curriculum:

  1. Your state’s homeschool laws regarding subjects to be taught

  2. The type of program you prefer

  3. The teaching methods you adhere to most

  4. The worldview of the program

  5. Your child’s preferred learning styles

  6. The cost

#1 Your state laws regarding subjects to teach

Go to your state’s homeschool group website to read the laws. In MN, our state organization is MACHE (Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators).  Also, HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) has the laws for every state in the United States listed on their website as well.

#2 Type of program: All-in-One or Individualized

First, determine whether you want an “all-in-one” curriculum that covers all the subjects for each child or if you prefer an individualized program that you put together by buying from a variety of curriculum providers.

The “all-in-one” option provides the full curriculum for each grade level, so you just buy the “package” and you’re set to go. This is an easy way to go because the all-in-one curriculum is typically well-laid out for you and you can be confident you’re not missing anything. It’s also usually the more expensive option.  Some companies that provide the all-in-one programs are Abeka, Bob Jones, Sonlight, Christian Liberty Press, Christian Light, Heart of Dakota, My Father’s World, Tapestry of Grace, etc. (not an exhaustive list).

To make an individualized program, you research the many curriculum options for each subject and choose the one that fits you and your child the best for each subject.  For example, you might choose Right Start Math, Logic of English, Apologia Science, Beautiful Feet for History, the Picture Smart Bible study, How Great Thou Art (Art curriculum) and the YMCA for physical education. Each subject is purchased from a different curriculum provider (or external class) but all subjects are covered.  This is a great way to go as well. As homeschoolers become more experienced and aware of their children’s needs and their own preferred teaching style they often tend to go with this “build your own” type of program. This is also more cost-effective because you typically can find used curriculum when you buy individual subjects like this. There are some great used curriculum websites and Facebook groups where you can find used curriculum.

No matter which type of program you choose, it’s a great idea to find curricula that will allow you to teach all your children together for as many subjects as possible.  Family learning is much more enjoyable and maximizes your time as the teacher as well.  Children of different ages can learn Bible, science, history, music, art and physical education together.

Because language arts and math follow a specific scope and sequence they typically need to be taught individually to each child. Children of different ages don’t tend to be at the same skill level at the same time for these two subjects. Therefore, you’ll need to buy individual curriculum for each child for math and language arts, but you can buy something that works for the whole family to learn together for all the other subjects. For family learning, I recommend buying curriculum at the level of the oldest child and teaching from that but giving individual assignments to each child based on their skill or age level. Many curricula providers have plans for how to teach multi-age children together for these subjects.

#3 Most Popular Teaching Methods

Textbook Approach

This is a text-based program in which the student typically reads through a textbook, one chapter a week followed by questions and a test. The curriculum provides a teacher’s guide and lesson plans. Curricula using the textbook approach tends to be easy to grade because there are built in tests each week. Many computer-based programs also use the textbook approach because they’re laid out like a textbook with reading material, questions and a test for each section.  If you attended a public school, this approach is typically what is used there.  Some children enjoy this approach, but the hands-on, kinesthetic learner will struggle with this approach.

Some textbooks are written to give a general overview, so they don’t cover the material in as much depth. But others are written by people who are more passionate about a topic and have more depth, such as the Apologia science program.  Math curricula also tend to use the textbook approach.

The textbook approach works well if you want your child to work independently, however it can be used for family learning if you read it aloud to your family and then give assignments based on skill or age level.

We used the textbook approach for science and math for many of our homeschool years and these were some of my favorites: Apologia science and Saxon math.

Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day (Young Explorer (Apologia Educational Ministries))

There are a lot of curriculum providers that offer the textbook approach: Abeka, Bob Jones, Christian Light, Masterbooks, Christian Liberty Press, Notgrass History, and more.

Unit Study Approach

This approach has one main theme which is used to study all subjects. For example, if a historical time-period is chosen as the main theme (i.e. The Roman Empire), then all others subjects, such as science, art, Bible, and literature are all based on this theme or topic. You can also use a science theme, a literature theme or a topic-based theme such as Christmas or horses. Most unit studies typically offer hands-on learning, focusing on discovery and multi-sensory learning, and they use living books for reading material.  “Living books” are books written by a person passionate about a topic who has written in an engaging or story-type of manner. Unit study curricula are also well laid out and give clear guidance and ideas for teaching many different ages.

 

This method works great for family learning (rather than individual study) and most children enjoy the hands-on learning and living books that it provides. It works well for teaching multi-age children and is a great approach if you want to do family learning together. The unit study approach also helps students retain what they’re learning because of the interconnection between subjects.

There are a lot of great unit studies available:

One of my favorites for pre-K through 1st grade is “Five in a Row”.

 

Konos was one of the first unit study programs available and is still popular today.  One of my favorite unit studies based on history is “History Revealed” by Diana Waring. You can even create your own unit study with Valerie Bendt’s book “Unit Studies Made Easy”. 

Unit Studies Made Easy by [Bendt, Valerie]

Classical Approach

The “classical” teaching method began in the Middle Ages and was the approach used by some of the greatest minds in history. The goal of the classical approach is to teach people how to learn for themselves. Children learn based on the Trivium, which is Latin for “three roads”. The idea is that the three paths of the Trivium are like three natural stages of development.  These three stages are as follows:

  • Grammar stage: ages birth through 11 when children are like sponges, able to learn and memorize easily. Classical educators believe kids are hard-wired to memorize at this age and recommend a consistent amount of time each day to memorize the core body of knowledge (15-20 min. a day). This is when they learn basic reading, writing, and arithmetic.  They believe the key to memorization is repetition and they use songs and games to memorize, so it’s not boring.   We naturally teach kids to memorize the ABC’s before reading – likewise, classical educators teach them the ABC’s or building blocks for the other subjects as well.
  • Dialectic or Logic stage: ages 11-14, or middle school age when children question everything. They take the facts they learned and question them as they begin to use what they’ve learned. This is typically a time of deep analysis. Classical educators believe that kids are hard-wired at during these ages to try to understand “why”. This leads them to analyze, argue and try to persuade others to their viewpoint.
  • Rhetoric stage: ages 14-16 years is the time when students take what they’ve learned and use and apply it, also giving an explanation for what they’ve learned. They may lead discussions, do research papers, give speeches or do debates for the purpose of sharing with others what they’ve come to learn.

This approach is considered academically rigorous and Latin is often learned, but not required. It has a strong reading program and classical literature is recommended.  This approach works well with multi-age children as well, and family learning is incorporated.  This is a logic-based program and critical thinking is a key component. To learn more about this approach I recommend reading “The Well-Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer & Jessica Wise.

There are homeschool co-ops that have formed throughout the US and in other countries using this approach called “Classical Conversations”. If you choose this approach, you may wish to find a group in your area.

 

Charlotte Mason Approach

This approach was developed by Charlotte Mason, an educator in England in the 1800’s. She believed that it’s important for kids to learn about nature and journal about it. She also said that children learn best from real life situations and that they need time to play and create.  She emphasized art, music, poetry, and nature study. Reading aloud from “living books” is an essential component of this approach.  For language arts, she recommended using copy work and dictation for writing, spelling, and grammar. The Bible is the primary source of knowledge and truth and memory work is important. Narration, or the retelling of facts and information, is used to determine what the child has learned. Finally, habit training (or character training) is also a key component to this program.  This approach works well for family-based learning and multi-age teaching. Most learning styles enjoy this approach. To learn more about this approach, I recommend reading “A Charlotte Mason Education” by Catherine Levison.

There are websites online that help you navigate the Charlotte Mason approach (amblesideonline.org and simplycharlottemason.com). There are also Facebook groups for parents who practice this method.

 

These are some of the most popular approaches today. Most homeschoolers end up using a mix of these approaches, or the eclectic approach. I encourage you to learn more about these approaches and give the one that appeals to you the most a try.

Delight-directed studies

No matter which approaches you choose, I recommend incorporating delight-directed studies. Basically, look for areas of interest that your children have, things they “delight” in, and provide the resources for them to learn more about that topic. You can use delight-directed studies to help your children learn to research, write and generally build confidence in their ability to learn and be successful. To learn more, read my post, “Ignite the Joy of Learning in Your Children.”

 

#4 Worldview of curriculum

As you choose curricula, take note of the author’s worldview. Are they Christian? Do they adhere to the same beliefs as you do? This will be important to consider as you choose curricula as the author’s worldview will come out somewhere in the curriculum.

#5 Your child’s preferred learning styles

You don’t need to try to find curriculum for each child that fits their preferred learning styles, but it can be helpful to understand the way they learn best and try to find curricula that will complement that, especially in the subject areas that they find difficult.  Check out my post on learning styles “Understand How Your Child Learns” to learn more about them or get the book “The Way They Learn” by Cynthia Tobias to learn even more about this topic! I’ve also written an informal learning style evaluation you can do with your child that you can download: “Informal Learning Style Evaluation”

#6 Cost

For most people, cost is a factor to consider. Today many families are spending anywhere from $600-900 per child on homeschool curriculum! You don’t need to spend that much, in fact, some families are able to homeschool nearly for free by using free online curriculum or borrowing curriculum. Check out the public library for resources to teach from, especially in the elementary years.  Don’t forget to look on Facebook used curriculum groups or online used curriculum sites to find what you need.

If you have preschool children or early elementary age children, you can use the library for most of the books you teach from, there are so many good children’s books that teach science, art, music, and history, you don’t need to go out and buy expensive curriculum in the early years! One of my favorite ways to teach music in early elementary was to get CD’s from the library of music by different composers and then I’d check out a book about that composer and we’d learn about the composer while we listened to their music.

Choosing curriculum doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task! Remember also that if you choose curricula that you don’t end up liking, you can always resell it and get something different.  You aren’t married to that curriculum for life!

If you change curriculum for math or language arts, remember that those subjects follow a specific scope and sequence, so you’ll want to be sure that the new curriculum you choose covers whatever the next book would have covered in the curriculum you’re getting rid of. (check the table of contents)

I also recommend going to www.cathyduffyreviews. com to read reviews written by a Christian veteran homeschooler. I know you’ll find her website an amazing help in your curriculum search! 

Most importantly, seek the Lord for guidance as you choose curriculum.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)  He cares about you and your family and He knows what would work best, so ask Him for guidance and He will provide it!

Do you have any questions or insights about choosing curricula that you’d like to share? Please comment below!

Fun Educational Games for Learning Language Arts

I’ve always known playing games made learning so much more fun for our children.  However, as I wrote my last post on the benefits of using games for teaching,  I was excited to find studies and information that confirmed what I knew experientially:  playing games truly does offer many educational benefits!

Just a quick review of the benefits of using games for learning from my last post:

Games strengthen focus and memory skills, build motor skills for younger children, build socialization skills, problem-solving skills, analytical skills, and they also help with cognitive growth.

They improve executive functioning skills giving children the ability to accomplish tasks.

Games offer the opportunity to build character, helping children learn self-control and good sportsmanship as well as giving them the opportunity to learn to cooperate with others.

Games help build close relationships within the family, which is very important to most homeschoolers! They also give children a sense of accomplishment. Games are a wonderful way to teach and reinforce information that our children need to learn.

Today I want to share some great games to use specifically for building Language Arts skills. 

The games listed here are “tried and true” favorites from homeschool parents who shared their favorite educational games with me on Facebook.  Some are favorite games we used in our home as well.  All in all, the games listed here are well-liked by children and homeschool parents!

For language arts, the first thing we focus on in the pre-k to kindergarten years is developing reading readiness skills.

What are reading readiness skills?

According to allaboutlearningpress.com, the skills needed to learn to read are print awareness, letter awareness, phonemic awareness, reading comprehension, and developing a desire to read. Click here to read their post on reading readiness skills.

Some wonderful games for developing reading readiness skills are: (these may contain affiliate links)

Peaceable Kingdom Alphabet Go Fish Letter Matching Card Game - 52 Cards with Box

Once your children have their reading readiness skills down, it’s time to teach them to read and along with that, to spell.  There are some wonderful games to help you teach your child to read and spell and also give them practice in both these areas.

Here are some games for developing phonics, reading and spelling skills:

Bananagrams WildTiles Vocabulary Building and Spelling Improvement Lettered Tile Game for Ages 7 and Up

ThinkFun Zingo Sight Words Early Reading Game

  • Quiddler (ages 8-adult, includes solitaire version)

Once our children are fluent readers there are some fun games for the older child that continue to build language arts skills:

Taboo Board Game

Remember you can use games as a supplement to your language arts program, or for younger kids, as your language arts program! You can set up a language arts learning station with some of these games.

Games make learning fun and develop lifelong learners!

I’ll also be posting a resource list for games on my “Recommended” page as well and will update them as I learn of more games for this subject!

Please comment below if you know of other language arts games that kids would enjoy! And have fun playing!!

Next up, MATH games!

Language Arts in the Middle School and High School Years

“I’m not sure what to do for language arts this year!” or “I don’t know what to cover for language arts in the middle school and high school years.”

These are common statements that I hear from homeschool parents!

I think that’s because language arts has so many different facets to it, it can feel a little overwhelming.  We want to be sure our child doesn’t miss anything important in this area.

In my last post, I shared what language arts skills your child should be working on at each grade level for the Pre-K through elementary years. Today I want to talk about the middle school and high school years.

 

7th-8th grade:

Grammar, writing, reading, literature analysis, research paper writing, and speech should be covered in these years.

If you want a complete language arts program that covers grammar, writing, reading and literature analysis in a fun and engaging manner, check out these options: “Learning Language Arts Through Literature” and “Total Language Plus”. Both these programs use literature as a basis for studying the various aspects of language arts.

Grammar is something your student will need to help them become a better writer, so this is a good time to introduce it if you haven’t already. The “Blue Book of Grammar” is a great resource to help you with this. “Easy Grammar” is a simple way to introduce grammar concepts. “Fix-it Grammar” by IEW is also a good option for teaching grammar skills.

Writing assignments should be getting progressively harder and you should see your student improve as you continue to work on grammar and writing skills. If you want a focused writing course,  “Institute for Excellence in Writing” is a popular program for writing among homeschoolers. I found “Write Shop” to be very thorough also.  “Brave Writer” is a fairly new program out there written by a homeschool mom that seems very good.

Essay writing is an important skill to begin to develop in the middle school years, so as you choose writing curriculum, look for something that offers training on writing essays.

The middle school years can also be a good time to introduce writing a short research paper if your student is ready.  Introduce how to do research, how to make an outline, and how to write a short research paper, including how to cite sources. Here’s a website that has a free introduction to writing research papers: http://www.thecurriculumcorner.com/thecurriculumcorner456/writing-research-papers/.

Having your student do oral presentations on what they’re learning is valuable as well. If your student enjoys public speaking, consider enrolling him or her in a Speech and Debate Club. The MN Homeschool Speech and Debate Club allows students to join at age 12.

Most students in these grades will be done with formal spelling programs, but if you have a struggling speller, consider using the “Apples Spelling” program level 1 and 2 to help review spelling rules.

These years are preparatory for high school level work, therefore their course work ought to be progressively more challenging. As always, encourage your child to read and continue to read aloud to them if they still enjoy family reading times.

What about High School?

In high school, your student will continue to learn more in-depth skills for literature analysis, essay writing, creative writing, research paper writing, vocabulary building, and speech. 

You can incorporate all these skills as part of each year, or you can use a program that focuses on one aspect at a time for a semester.

If your student is college bound:

As homeschoolers, we set our own graduation standards or requirements.  I usually recommend that you set your standards at or preferably above the public school standards.

Whether your student plans to go to college or isn’t sure yet, I recommend doing a college preparatory course of study. That way they’re prepared should they decide to go into a career that requires a college education.

For language arts, colleges like to see that incoming students have had at least 4 credits of language arts over the four years of high school.  I’d recommend including literature study, essay writing, creative writing, research paper writing, vocabulary building skills, and speech.  Encouraging your high school student to read as much as possible will help with building many of these skills.

Your goals for the high school years are to build on your student’s strengths, help them develop areas where they are weak and make sure they’ve had exposure to all the different facets of language arts. 

There are great curriculum options out there for high school level language arts. You can use grade level packages for language arts, or you can put together your own program or use a class outside your home.

Some of the same writing programs listed above in the middle school section also offer high school level writing courses. (IEW, Write Shop, and Brave Writer) Another resource is the 7 Sister’s High School writing program. They have a research writing course that looks very good.

 Building essay and research paper writing skills are both important for a college bound student. “Writing Research Papers: the Essential Tools” by IEW is another option for a semester or year-long course. (you’ll want to also get the teacher’s manual).  For more on writing research papers, check out this post by My Learning Table: http://www.mylearningtable.com/high-school-curriculum-writing-research-papers/.

A fun creative writing program that you might want to consider in the high school years is the “One Year Adventure Novel.”

In preparation for taking the ACT or SAT college entrance exams, it’s helpful to work on vocabulary building. There are a couple fun books called “Vocabulary Cartoons” that can be used for this. Or you can use the “Total Language Plus” book studies which build in vocabulary study plus literature study as well.

Speech is an important one-semester course to have your student take in high school. BJUP offers a one-semester speech course called “Sound Speech” that has positive reviews.  Speech and Debate club is also a great way to challenge students who enjoy giving speeches and debating.

Language arts skills are important skills to have for most of the others subjects studied in high school. Therefore, focusing on building these reading and writing skills is important.

Remember that starting as early as 7th grade, student’s can take CLEP tests for subjects and earn college credit. Passing the CLEP test is what earns college credit, not the preparatory course. CLEP tests in Analyzing and Interpreting Literature and College Composition are both available, so you could find a course that would prepare your student for these test.  Go to the College Board website to learn specifics on what your student should know for each test. There are some CLEP prep books available online.  They would receive high school credit for taking the course and college credit if they score well enough on the CLEP test.  Check out Cheri Frame’s website “Credits Before College” for more info on these.

Starting in 9th grade, students can take AP exams for college credit also. Again, the test is what gives the student college credit, not the preparatory course.  Check out the College Board website for AP tests available. https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/home.  Debra Bell has some AP prep courses through her AIM Academy: https://debrabell.com/online-class-schedule/.

Also, in 11th and 12th grade, many states allow high school students to take college courses at a college for both high school and college credit. In Minnesota, this is called the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options or PSEO.  Several other states have this as well, so check with your state homeschool group to see if your state has this program. This is a great option for getting a head start on earning college credit while in high school. There are many PSEO courses that work well for language arts: College Composition, Speech, Creative writing, and Literature courses (I recommend only taking this last one if you’re student is doing PSEO at a Christian college).

I love to meet with parents of high schoolers to help them plan out their student’s four years of high school! If you want someone to come alongside you to help you plan your child’s high school years, please contact me and we can talk about how I can help!

Please comment if you have suggestions for language arts curriculum in the high school years… or if you have any questions! I love to hear from you!

What to Teach for Language Arts in the Pre-K & Elementary Years

Language arts seems like this overwhelming subject that has so many different facets, parents become concerned that they’re not doing it well enough!

One of the more frequent questions I hear from homeschoolers is “What do I need to cover for language arts in the _____ grade?”

If you choose to buy an all-in-one curriculum that has a complete language arts program included, then you don’t have to worry, everything your child needs to know will be covered.

But maybe you prefer to use a more eclectic approach like I did, where you choose different curriculum providers for each subject.  Then it’s common to feel a bit uncertain as to whether you’re covering all the areas of language arts because there are so many different facets to it!

There’s handwriting, phonics, reading, literature analysis, grammar, spelling, creative writing, essay writing, research paper writing, poetry, and vocabulary. No wonder we feel overwhelmed and unsure! That’s a lot to cover!

The good news is, you don’t need to teach all of these aspects of language arts every year!

Language arts, much like math, has a specific order that you should teach your child the information they need to know.  The information learned in language arts builds upon itself.  A child needs to learn his letters and the sounds of the letters before he can sound them out and learn to read them.  He can’t really start writing creatively until he learns to read well.

What should you teach for language arts and when?

Photo credit – Ben White from Unsplash

God has created every child unique, therefore they may be ready to learn the different skills at a slightly different time than another child might be.

I have greatly appreciated the book “Better Late Than Early” by Raymond & Dorothy Moore. 

The premise of this book is that most children aren’t ready for formal education till between the ages of 8 to 10! They suggest that waiting till then allows children to become more mature and ready to think more logically.  Boys, in particular, may not be ready to read till after age 7, or even later!

One of our boys didn’t really learn to read till he was 9 years old. I think I tried every phonics program available at the time, and nothing worked…until he was ready.  Once he started reading, he quickly caught up to other kids his age and was an excellent student who went on to be an honor student in college.  That reading delay didn’t affect him in the long run!

Because of this, I hesitate to give you an age when a child should be completing certain skills in language arts, because it will vary from child to child.  Please keep this in mind as I give you general guidelines for what you might cover at each grade level.

I also know that many of us feel pressure to begin teaching our children before 8-10 years of age as Raymond Moore recommends. Our society is pushing for children to be taught to read earlier and earlier.  I think it’s okay to test the waters and introduce phonics, watching to see whether our child is ready for formal learning or not.

There’s a great book that gives very specific guidelines on what your child should know in each grade called “What Your Child Needs To Know When According to the Bible/According to the State” by Robin Sampson. 

Much of what I’m sharing here is taken from this book and other research, as well as my own experience.  I share all this with the premise that you should back off on formal teaching if you see your child isn’t ready. They will catch up when they’re ready!

Here’s a rundown of the typical course of study for language arts skills for the early years of pre-kindergarten through elementary school age:

Pre-K:

Phonics: for Pre-K children focus on building fine motor skills and gross motor skills, learning colors and shapes, and just having fun learning from real life, whatever God brings your way!

If your child is ready, teach them the letters and the sounds that the letters make.  You DON’T need an expensive curriculum for Pre-K! For language arts, you can use a simple book that has activities related to the letters and their sounds such as: “Alphabet Activities” by Jill M Coudron.     (This is an older book, so you may only find it “used”, but it’s really good and inexpensive!).  Or you could use the “Explode the Code Primary A, B, C” series of books to teach the letter sounds and letter formation.

Keep things simple! You don’t need more than 10 minutes a day to work on phonics type skills. Use phonics games and  READ ALOUD to them a lot at this age! They love it and reading aloud will help develop literacy skills.

Kindergarten:

Phonics, Reading & Handwriting: After learning the sounds of the letters, children are ready to begin blending the sounds together to form words.  Teach them the phonics rules and help them learn how to apply them as they blend the sounds together to make words.  Some people use “Bob books” and teach the concepts and rules as they go through the different sets of books.  The “Explode the Code” series is great for teaching phonics rules also. Some prefer a well laid out phonics curriculum that incorporates more of a multisensory approach.  Because of our son’s struggle, I went with a program that used a multisensory approach.   There are so many phonics programs out there to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming. Some of my favorite multisensory phonics curricula are “Sing, Spell, Read and Write”, “All About Reading”, and “Foundations: Logic of English”.

You can go to www.cathyduffyreviews.com to read reviews about the different phonics programs available to determine what will meet your needs best.  Seek the Lord and do some research to find the best approach for your child.

Have your child work on recognizing and writing their name, as well as recognizing the capital and lower case letters and writing them.  Some kids will be reading simple words and sentences in Kindergarten, but if your child isn’t ready to begin blending the letter sounds together yet, don’t fret! It’s not uncommon for kids this age to not be ready to read!   If your child doesn’t seem ready, read the book “Better Late Than Early” by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Continue to READ ALOUD to your kids every day!

Remember for young children, keep teaching times short! Kindergarteners have a short attention span, so 10 minutes on phonics is enough! Use phonics games to reinforce what you’re teaching.

1st-2nd grade:

Phonics, Reading, Handwriting, & Spelling:  continue working on the phonics rules, developing their reading skills as well as their handwriting skills.  Spelling rules should be added here, as well as learning to read and write sight words using the Dolch Sight words list. A great multisensory spelling program is “All About Spelling.”  “Spellwell” is also popular and better for independent study.

You’ll begin teaching basic grammar skills such as punctuation and capitalization.  Having your child do “copy work” to build writing, spelling and grammar skills is very helpful.  (This is where they copy phrases from scripture or literature and you work specifically on teaching grammar & writing skills based on what is in the passages being written.)  Some children are ready for “dictation” at this age as well. This is when you read a passage to them and they write it without seeing it. You can begin teaching synonyms, homonyms, and antonyms at this point also. Use games and activities to help them retain what they’re learning.

Writing simple sentences and thank you notes are good skills to develop. Keep working on improving their handwriting. Studies are showing that teaching cursive is very helpful, especially for kids with dyslexia, so teach cursive to your children as you teach handwriting. A great handwriting program that uses scripture is “A Reason for Writing”.

Don’t forget to teach dictionary skills too!

Reading comprehension is important at this point as well. Are they understanding what they’re reading? Can they participate in a discussion related to what you’re learning?

Remember to KEEP READING ALOUD to them! Teach them to look for the main idea in a story, and to recognize who the main characters are, and what the plot is.

3-4th grade:   

Spelling, Grammar, Writing, and Reading: continue to work on any skills not mastered in previous years. If you haven’t already done so, teach prefixes, suffixes and word roots to help build spelling skills.  If your child is a strong reader, you can begin adding more writing assignments and even use a formal writing program to teach writing skills (only if their reading skills are strong). “Institute for Excellence in Writing” is one of the most popular writing programs out there, but there are many others that are good.  “Brave Writer”, and “Here to Help Learning”(great for kids who like drama and visuals), are all good programs as well.

Opinions vary on when to introduce grammar.  Some believe 4th grade is a good time to begin working on learning more in depth grammar skills to improve their writing.  Others say to wait until 5th or 6th grade or to just learn grammar as you read and write.

If you want a formal grammar program, “Winston Grammar” is very thorough and helpful for students who like hands-on learning, because it uses cards to denote the different parts of a sentence. “Easy Grammar” is a simple grammar program that has a page a day to complete and is truly one of the easier programs out there. Investing in the “Blue Book of Grammar” for you as a teacher will help to build your confidence, it’s a great reference when you’re not sure what the grammar rule is!  Some writing programs also include grammar training, so check when you buy your writing program to see if

Investing in the “Blue Book of Grammar” for you as a teacher will help to build your confidence, it’s a great reference when you’re not sure what the grammar rule is!  Some writing programs also include grammar training, so check when you buy your writing program to see if grammar is included.  (For example, IEW and Brave Writer all offer grammar workbooks too)

Have them read independently for a ½ hour to 1 hour per day, as this will develop their vocabulary skills, spelling skills and reading comprehensions skills.  Keep reading aloud to them also!

5th-6th grade:

Grammar, Writing, Reading, Literature, and Spelling:  you’ll continue to work on these skills, developing them further. Writing should include paragraph writing, book reports, and short essays as well as creative writing.  Encourage discussion based on what they’re reading or based on what you’re reading together to test reading comprehension.

Learning the different types of literature (fiction, nonfiction, fairy tales, biographies, autobiographies, poetry, etc.) is helpful in these years, and also the different aspects of a story. (plot, characters, point of view, etc.)  Continue to work on spelling until you feel your student has it well mastered.

Yes, keep reading aloud to students in these grades as well!

In summary:

There are many good choices for curriculum available to teach language arts. You can use programs that are specific to each of the different facets of the program (i.e. spelling workbooks, grammar workbooks, etc.), or you can buy a language arts program that has all aspects included, based on what grade your student is at.  I tried it both ways and found that it was helpful to use something like “Learning Language Arts Through Literature”

or “Total Language Plus,” both of which cover most aspects of language arts fairly well. Then I added specifically focused curriculum for areas my kids were weak in, such as spelling or writing basics.

Seek the Lord for what you need to teach your child each year in language arts, and check out the resource What Your Child Needs to Know When” by Robin Sampson for more details on what to cover each year.

My next post will be on language arts for the Middle School and High School years!

Photo credit – Ben White from Unsplash