Language Arts usually consists of a few subcategories, including handwriting, reading, and writing. Following a Charlotte Mason-style for teaching language arts is a gentle way to approach the subjects required. Even just reading great books and writing thoughts about them is a great start!
Handwriting for children consists of either print or cursive practice. I prefer to work with print letters for my preschooler to work on letter-recognition and then I begin introducing formal writing in cursive in kindergarten. I do this because there are many benefits to writing neatly in cursive, including the fact that cursive naturally encourages space between words, and overall it is more consistent (all lowercase letters begin at the base line).
For my preschooler, I might provide tracing pages with shapes, lines, or maps to practice writing. Maybe he or she would practice writing in the snow or another sensory substance. For a young child, even playing with Play-doh or small beads or circles helps build fine motor skills in the hands.
For a kindergartner, I would provide writing worksheets to practice writing and recognizing letters, building up to writing words. Older children move on to copying sentences. Choose sentences that mean something to your children, such as a line from a favorite book or poem or maybe a scripture if you are religious. For first and second graders, you should provide a sample of the letters you wish for them to imitate. Older children may be proficient enough to write the words from any type of printout without seeing a sample of the writing.
Charlotte Mason encourages students to practice writing perfectly, crossing out or correcting any mistakes in handwriting to encourage children to work slowly and correctly from the beginning. This is the way one improves handwriting from day to day, or as I would say “line upon line.”
Charlotte Mason is a big fan of reading to children. Both young ones who cannot read by themselves and those who can already read should be exposed to read-aloud time. Reading time is great bonding time, and even when children are too young to sit still to listen, they can learn to give attention to a read-aloud while they are playing with LEGOs, coloring, and otherwise keeping busy.
Teaching a child to read is another issue entirely, and this post is not necessarily about that. Check out my Ultimate Guide to Early Reading for ideas on that. However, I will say that I highly encourage parents to keep track of reading their child 1000 books before kindergarten. This is a great headstart towards literacy.
Older children should also read on their own. Charlotte Mason encouraged the reading of living books, which are books that teach by telling a story, such as historical fiction books or even entertaining nonfiction that teaches in a way that well engages the child’s imagination. I have a post about “living books” in the works, so keep your eyes out for it.
Writing instruction is another major aspect of Language Arts. Charlotte Mason encourages a few ways to approach writing, but the most important one is narration.
Narration means a parent asks questions and the student repeats back the most important and interesting aspects of a passage (or story or book) to record what has been learned and remembered. Thus, narration (and by extension, writing) becomes a part of every other subject if you want! Children can narrate what they learned in science, history, or scripture study time, or even the family read-aloud.
Younger children would repeat narrations back to a parent, who would then write it down. As they get older, they would then begin writing their own narrations of what they had learned, eventually leading to essays.
In our house, my 8-year-old daughter also has a notebook in which she writes her creative stories. She tends to find time to do this every day because she loves her stories, not because I ask her too! I’m certainly not stopping my daughter from this type of creativity!
When my children were younger, we used a LEGO story starter curriculum with co-op friends. In this class, My son, and then later my daughter, created their own LEGO brick creations based on the story starter, and then I helped them type up the story they had in mind as they had created the scene. At the end of the year, each child had a binder of stories illustrated by LEGO scenes. Again, this was a fun way to share creativity and encourage it, before my children could even write themselves.
Since I have a degree in English, I suppose you could say I simply love searching out various curriculum choices. I am a Language Arts curriculum junkie. What do I end up using with my children? Well, a mix of a few things.
Preschool: Nothing formal. Lots of picture books. Reading 1000+ books before kindergarten. Lots of letter activities.
Early Elementary: We use Logic of English Foundations A-C (which includes phonics, reading practice, spelling, vocabulary, parts of speech, some grammar, handwriting, and some writing). There is a level D, we just haven’t used it. We move into Essentials (see below) instead. We do creative writing and narration for the most part for composition and frequent copywork on top of that in Logic of English Foundations.
Upper Elementary: We use Logic of English Essentials (which includes phonics review, reading practice, spelling, vocabulary, parts of speech, some grammar, handwriting, and some writing at a faster pace than the Foundations program, and at three different levels). Logic of English Rythm of Handwriting for my kids since they need lots of handwriting practice. For writing, we use the Institute of Excellence in Writing. I start with the U.S. writing with geography lessons (out of print), then I start using subject matter programs, like Ancient, Medieval, and American history writing lessons to correlate with our social studies.
Middle School: We use the Institute of Excellence in Writing subject matter programs, like Ancient, Medieval, and American history writing lessons to correlate with our social studies. We don’t currently use a grammar program, and we’re putting together our reading program piece-meal so far. My son is only in 7th grade at this point, so we’ll see how it goes.
Other great secular Language Arts curricula to check out are reviewed at length at Cathy Duffy’s site. Links below go to the publisher’s sites for some of the curricula that I have seen or used at some point.
- All About Spelling (7 levels) phonics, spelling. See also All About Reading.
- Easy Grammar (1-12) grammar workbooks
- Essentials in Writing (1-12) video-based writing lessons
- Explode the Code (K-3) phonics, early reading and Beyond the Code (2-4) Online options
- Fix-it Grammar (3-8) grammar review from IEW
- Handwriting Without Tears (K-5) handwriting
- Getty-Dubay Italic (K-6) handwriting
- Logic of English Foundations (K-3) phonics, spelling, reading, handwriting, grammar
- Logic of English Essentials (2+) phonics, spelling, reading, handwriting, grammar, basic writing at 3 levels
- SpellingYouSee (K-4) spelling
- Structure and Style for Students (3-6, other levels in development) IEW video-based writing lessons.
- Worldy Wise (K-12) vocabulary workbooks
- WriteShop (6-12) writing and composition. See also WriteShop Primary (K-3) and WriteShop Junior (4-6).
More in This Series
Homeschooling can feel overwhelming, but take things one step at a time. I’m giving you a lot of information here. But YOU get to decide what you want to make a priority. Work on establishing the basics, and ease into the rest of what you want to cover when you feel more comfortable with it.
- Get Started Homeschooling: Keep it Legal
- Get Started Homeschooling: Plan Your Homeschool Year
- Get Started Homeschooling: Schedule Your Day
- Get Started Homeschooling: All-in-One Curriculum Options
- Get Started Homeschooling: Teach Language Arts
- Get Started Homeschooling: Teach Math
- Get Started Homeschooling: Science in Your Homeschool
- Get Started Homeschooling: Teach Social Studies in Your Homeschool
- Get Started Homeschooling: Add in Arts and Music
- Get Started Homeschooling: Teach Physical Development and Health
- Get Started Homeschooling: Including Foreign Languages and Life Skills in Your Homeschool
Have another “how to homeschool” question? Contact me and I’ll write about it too. Send me an email if you have specific questions, or ask me directly on my Facebook page.