E is for English

I’ve struggled for years to find a language arts program to love. Reading, handwriting, grammar, spelling… it’s all been a major source of home schooling frustration for me.

books by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere

Here are some options we’ve tried:

  1. Recommendations straight from a “How-to-Home-School” book. This is a classic new home schooler mistake, and we made it. After many tears and not very much learning, we moved on to…
  2. Nothing. That’s right, folks. We dropped language arts altogether and decided to visit museums for a while. It’s a drastic option, and not one I’d quickly recommend, but it gave me a chance to relax and re-evaluate.
  3. Literature-based curriculum. I may revisit this, because I don’t remember why we switched to something different.
  4. Shurley English. This is… thorough. It’s also pedantic. As in, “I’d rather be running my fingers across a chalkboard than using this book”, pedantic. (I wish I had seen Flat Tire(d) Homeschool’s review of it before I bought it. She raves about it, but her comparison with Saxon Math would have sent me running the other way. We don’t do well with the spiral approach here.) However, it is what we’re using for my fourth grader* this year, and we added sentence diagramming to keep me happy. Any grammar curriculum that doesn’t use sentence diagramming doesn’t stand a chance with me. And for our ninth grader, we’ve settled on…
  5. The eclectic approach. This year, for the first time, we gave up on the one-size-fits-all dream. Instead, she has a collection of books that together cover the spectrum: The New Oxford Guide to Writing, How to Read a Book, English Grammar for Students of Latin, and Spelling Power. I won’t add my review to the countless reviews available online, but I will say it’s working better than any other approach we’ve tried.

What really works best? I don’t know. But in spite of all my failures in this area, I still have children who read voraciously, write well enough to get published, and can have intelligent conversations on many topics. Apparently, environment is a big part of the puzzle.

Firework Finale 2011 by marieduval, on Pix-O-Sphere

  1. Speak to your children.
  2. Listen when they speak.
  3. Read.
  4. Listen to what they’re reading.
  5. Write.
  6. Applaud their writing.

And, of course, check out the other ‘E’ posts for this week’s ABCs of Homeschooling:

Link up to the ABC's


*Note to self: I do not have a fourth grader anymore. She’s in fifth grade this year. I can never remember what grades my kids are in without asking them, “Honey, what’s the number on the front of your math book?”


About Heidi

I'm a pastor's wife, striving to live generously. I'm also a homeschooling, gardening, knitting, cooking, reading mom.
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10 Responses to E is for English

  1. amyleebell says:

    My son is only in second grade, but we take an eclectic approach with him as well. For language, we use books that I’ve picked up at Barnes and Noble. I always flip through to find the ones I like, and for the past two years, we’ve been working through two different language books a year – same grade level, different companies. For reading, he reads a chapter book for 20 minutes a day (I always let him choose which book will be next), he reads a science-based or history-based chapter book for 30 minutes a day (like a simple book about Henry Ford or animals – I pick these books), and he is supposed to read to me for 10 minutes a day from his A Beka readers (although admitedly, we don’t always get to this step). We do Spelling City online for spelling. For now I’m using the lists from A Reason for Handwriting, but when we finish the book, I’m just going to use lists that I find online. For writing, he prints a lot during language. After he finishes he second language book for the year (we’re starting it today), he is going to do a couple of writing books. The first one focuses more on how, and the second one is more for creative writing. He is also beginning to learn cursive. I’m glad you got me thinking about this today. I haven’t put up a post of my own yet this morning, and I think I’ll write about this! Thanks for the inspiration…I wasn’t looking forward to constructing something from scratch this morning.

  2. amyleebell says:

    Oops. Forgot to sign up for notifications of follow-up comments. Commenting again is the only way I know to fix that. So here goes…

    • Heidi says:

      🙂 I just read your post, too. Glad to know I inspired such intense thought. 🙂

      I also forgot to mention that my fifth grader uses Spelling City. I love it, and she does, too. I take lists from Sequential Spelling, which seems to fit her way of learning pretty well.

  3. Pingback: I hope I’m not missing anything! « Full Circle Homeschooling

  4. This is a tough one. I actually really like our language arts curriculum, but I don’t think my boys love it. It’s a workbook. It’s too much writing for my 8yo. But it does have sentence diagramming, so that good, right? I think about trying something else, but then I’m afraid of finding something that I don’t think is as good but feeling stuck with it for a year until I can afford new curriculum. Anyway, I’m glad I’m not the only one second guessing. Thanks!

  5. Naomi says:

    We have a language arts program that works for us now, but we have done the language arts curriculum roulette previously. However, you have it on the head that a lot of it is by environment and example.

  6. Pingback: Home School Posts Index | Give Away Seven a Day

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