One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is that your curriculum can be as regimented or eclectic as you want. Additionally, you are able to tailor your approach to your child’s needs and interests. For us, that meant zero worksheets, copy work, and “boring” assignments.
Em is a lot like me – and I never responded well to worksheets or rote work of any kind. I will admit that my first internal directive was to require worksheets as “proof” that she was learning, but I quickly realized that homeschooling language arts had to be different if I was going to hold her interest.
In other words, the following is my approach. Which may or may not work for you and yours. My goal is to raise a capable writer. What she does with that knowledge, whether she pursues a career in writing or simply has the capacity to write effectively, is up to her.
Weekly Spelling List
At the beginning of each school year, I download the grade-appropriate spelling list from k12Reader. It consists of 36 weeks of spelling lists, and the lists grow from just eight spelling words per week in first grade, all the way to 21 spelling words per week in 5th grade.
At this point, we have just 11 weeks to go on the 4th-grade spelling list. Since we homeschool four days a week, year-round, with plenty of breaks here and there, I will just go straight into the 5th-grade list on the week of June 5th.
On the first day of the spelling test, she reviews the words, writing them while spelling them out loud. I administer the test, and whatever words she misses I write in cursive next to the word.
Use of Dictionary and Thesaurus
We recently began going through the list and defining the words as well. I usually tell her it is time to test me. If she doesn’t know a word, I try and explain what I think it is, and then we look it up in the dictionary. Growing up, when I didn’t know a word, my dad would always say, “Look it up.” I hated that, but I also value the information a dictionary gives me so I’ve arrived at the compromise of giving it my best guess (which is usually accurate) and then participating in looking it up. Em has quickly learned how to find the words and it has promoted good dictionary use. Occasionally we grab for the thesaurus as well, in case the definition gives us trouble.
“Spelling Words Gone Wrong”
The last part of the weekly spelling list on Day One is to make a story out of the spelling words Em missed. She can incorporate any of the other spelling list words she wants, but she has to include all of the missed spelling words in her story. We refer to this creative adventure simply as “spelling words gone wrong.” I typically ask Em to “fill a page” with her story.
This fall when I teach a spelling bee/writing oriented class at our homeschool co-op, I will incorporate Spelling Words Gone Wrong into the activities. It promotes creativity and has been a great deal of fun!
Mix of Printing and Cursive
Em finished her cursive handwriting practice book at the end of 2016, and while I like to have her continue to practice those skills, when she takes the spelling test she tends to make small mistakes if she writes the words in cursive. For now, I’ve just asked her to print them. I write in cursive the correct spellings next to the mistakes and ask her to do the same when she practices writing the words correctly.
Introduction to Editing
Next week I plan to add an additional element to Em’s language arts curriculum. That dreaded aspect of the writing process…editing.
I want it to be as fun as possible, and as low-stress as possible, so I’m still working out the details. I may edit her work the first few instances, probably by first reproducing it on the computer, and then showing her some aspects of Microsoft Word (including how spell-check and grammar check work) and then the basics of writing dialogue (new paragraph with every speaker) and other tips.
Em knows how to type by touch, something I insisted on, so now is the time to establish her writing portfolio on the computer as well as practice those typing skills while she learns how to edit.
Promoting Without PUSHING
Ah, reading. By the age of ten, I would have happily spent my entire day reading. But Em is a different bird. I have to respect those differences, but also encourage her to read more, because it will make a difference in her life. So I promote reading without pushing it.
I have yet to find the magic combination that will unlock a thirst for reading. For now, I keep showing her new books, in a variety of genres, and buying plenty of graphic novels for her to read. She responds best to those.
Feed your child’s interests!
Journaling – I also try to have Em journal at least twice a week. Recently Aldi’s had art/coloring journals for sale and I wish I had bought all three! Em loves to color in them and also write on the lined pages.
Letter and postcard writing – I ask her to write to family and friends. Sometimes this works out to once a week, other times it is once a month. Recently, on a trip to *Barnes and Noble, we picked up some coloring postcards. She loves these. She colors the postcard on one side and then writes a short note to a friend or family member and then mails it.
Q&A a Day – A few years ago I bought Q&A a Day for Kids and also Q&A a Day for me. These are just short questions and answers that we do on an intermittent basis. They certainly are fun to look back on from year to year!
*Barnes and Noble has the Educator Discount Card which gives you 20% off all purchases.
As I mentioned above, we homeschool year round. In order to somewhat match the schools, this means that I start a new school year each August 1st and run it through the end of July. We still have plenty to do before the “end” of the fourth grade. The writing and reading is so important. I believe it sets the foundation for everything that follows – critical thought, creativity, and communication. If I can create a strong base of writing, then we will be able to focus with greater intensity on the other core subjects at a later time. Meanwhile, I’m tackling math, science, social studies and other non-core subjects on a daily to weekly basis, but with less intensity. Language arts come first.