Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum
Language Arts is the Foundation
Choosing a language arts curriculum is very important since language arts truly is the foundation of all other learning (possibly excepting math). If a child can read and comprehend, a whole world of learning is open to him. If, on the other hand, a child struggles with reading comprehension, learning in all areas will be an arduous challenge. The same holds true for writing. A student who can express himself clearly in written English will find success both in college and in the work world.
Most homeschoolers agree that there is no "perfect" language arts curriculum. It would be great if there were a package set that included all the elements of a full language arts program in one convenient purchase. Unfortunately, language arts is just too broad for such a treatment. So you will need to compile your own language arts program, taking books, approaches, and workbooks from many different sources.
Consider these elements as you piece together your own custom made language arts curriculum.
What Should a Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum Include?
Don't be overwhelmed when you see the list, but language arts encompasses a lot of territory!
- grammar and mechanics
- media literacy
- research skills
To make it even more daunting, within each of these broad categories are more sub-categories. However, remember that language arts is like a web of interwoven skills and concepts. In real life, we rarely find these language arts elements in isolation. Instead, every reading, writing, or speaking opportunity is multi-faceted with all of the language arts areas.
Take, for example, reading a newspaper article. That's reading quite obviously, but within the reading there is vocabulary, spelling, grammar and mechanics, and probably literature since the author uses different literary devices to make his article interesting. Imagine that you read an excerpt out loud to someone next to you. There is a bit of speaking.
Language arts is a web, and it should be taught in the same way. There is no need to distinguish clearly between a vocabulary assignment, a grammar assignment, and a writing assignment. Instead, you can design activities to cover multiple areas at the same time.
Teaching the Language Arts Web
Here are some examples of activities that touch on many areas of the interwoven web of language arts. In brackets, I have indicated which language arts areas are highlighted for each step.
Study a Poem
- Choose a poetic form, maybe a sonnet or a ballad, and study its structure. [literature; research]
- Write a brief summary of this poetic form and its history.[writing]
- Then research online for examples of this poetic form. [research; literature]
- Read them silently, then orally. [reading; literature; speaking; grammar; vocabulary]
- If there are new vocabulary words, look them up in a dictionary and make some notes about them. [vocabulary]
- Identify poetic devices such as alliteration, personification, and metaphor. [literature]
- Copy one of those poems into your poetry notebook and store it beside the notes you took on the form and the vocabulary words.
Do you see how this activity encompasses almost every language arts area in an organically overlapping way? With lessons like this, there is no need for a vocabulary workbook or a reading textbook. You will, however, need some reference tools for this kind of learning. A dictionary is essential. In addition you need some grammar guides, a book of literary devices, and probably high speed Internet access if not a thick poetry anthology.
Read a Picture Book
- Go to the library, and have your child select a meaty picture book, not a "preschool" type of picture book but one with a detailed story. [research skills]
- Read the picture book silently. [reading; literature]
- Summarize the book in a single paragraph. [reading; writing]
- Identify any new vocabulary words. Look them up in the dictionary and create your own sentences with them, using a new sentence pattern such as compound sentences or complex sentences. [writing; vocabulary; grammar and mechanics]
- Analyze how the illustrations contribute to the story. Talk about that and then write down your thoughts in a paragraph or two. [speaking; reading; literature; writing]
- Read the book aloud to someone else, using your best storytelling voice. [speaking; reading]
- Research the author and/or illustrator and write a brief report. [writing; research; reading]
This activity works for any age child, not just elementary aged children. Actually, a middle school or high school student will learn a lot more from this picture book activity than a younger child would because his powers of literary analysis are much more honed. Picture books are for all ages.
These are just two examples of how a language arts lesson can be crafted to touch on many areas at once in a holistic activity. Start with something worthwhile -- a poem, a novel, a short story, an article, a speech, even an advertisement -- and study it from all angles, ferreting out all the language arts you can or until interest wanes. If tangents arise, don't be afraid to pursue them. Those are what make learning more engaging! And you can be sure that more language arts skills are being touched on during the tangent.