Effective communication skills are some of the most important things students will learn, and will help them be successful in life after high school. Reading well is essential to learning and taking in information; and writing well makes it easier to communicate with others. It’s obvious that our children will have to learn to read and to write, but once we’re beyond those basics, there’s so much to cover that it may seem overwhelming.
Is it really necessary to study reading, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, composition, and literature as separate subjects? In our experience, the answer has usually been “no” and being able to combine the different aspects of Language Arts has kept the entire subject more manageable.
When my students were first learning to read, we focused on just that – reading. Phonics to master reading, and copywork to practice handwriting. Their vocabulary was already much larger than the number of words they were able to read, and they learned new vocabulary as we read together and studied science and history. They learned spelling as they practiced writing the words they were learning to read.
For later elementary grades, we used a Language Arts curriculum that included reading comprehension, spelling, grammar and basic writing all in one. I found that spelling came easily to a couple of my kids, and was much more difficult for the others, so we tailored the focus on spelling skills based on what each child needed.
By the time each one was in middle school, we’d learned their strengths and weaknesses in Language Arts, their learning styles and preferences, and even how their possible career goals related to what they needed. One son couldn’t see any point in diagramming sentences or learning parts of speech until he headed towards a career related to journalism. Then it made more sense to be able to identify parts of speech in order to make his writing more concise and correct. Another student had no interest in pursuing college, so we chose a less rigorous approach to grammar and composition. He needed to be able to read and communicate effectively, and he learned to do so, but he wouldn’t necessarily need to write a brilliant literary analysis essay. Reading good literature helped familiarize them with elegant and effective sentence structures and writing styles. Memorizing portions of Scripture, poetry, and passages of prose and speeches helped them learn the power and beauty of words used well.
The student that appreciated a no-nonsense, “just the facts” approach to learning did well with an uncluttered systematic curriculum for sentence diagramming. Learn the material, get the credit, move on. The student that thrives on creativity and story-telling enjoys the imaginative approach we’re finding in Fix-It! Grammar from Institute for Excellence in Writing. This is a course that’s suitable for any age and teaches parts of speech, punctuation, sentence structure, and so much more by having the student rewrite a story a few sentences at a time.
All my students spent at least a little time learning how to write essays using Student Writing Intensive courses from IEW; and each has practiced those essay writing skills in writing assignments given in science, history, and Bible courses.
Yes, there is certainly a lot to cover in the realm of Language Arts. But because homeschooling is so flexible, it’s possible to cover everything that’s needed with creative combinations that prepare our students to communicate well.