Once upon a time, not very long ago, in an alternate universe, was a stressed out homeschooling mother who was trying to sort through the piles of excellent language arts curriculum. Knowing that she needed to fulfill the needs of her children as well as her teaching style was only half the battle. Some curriculum covered literature and writing. Some only grammar. Wait... Do I need a separate curriculum for spelling, handwriting, grammar, writing and literature?!
Writing pros and cons lists left this overwhelmed homeschooling mom rocking herself in fetal position, chewing her hair.
Okay... so maybe it wasn't quite that bad. That person above was so me about 4 months ago. Trying to coordinate language arts curriculum for three different level children and cover ALL OF THE THINGS felt overwhelming... and expensive. I lost many hours of sleep pouring over curriculum reviews on blogs and forums and online shops.
It can't be this difficult to teach language arts in an all inclusive way, right?! I just wanted to find something that included wonderful living books and taught spelling, grammar and writing in an organic way. Like Charlotte Mason did. Luckily there are curriculums that do that brilliantly : Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Reading Lessons Through Literature and English Lessons Through Literature all looked awesome.
The only issue I was having is that while the books looked great, I was trying to match them up to our history/geography we are going to be studying for the next couple years.
Dude, it's just the way my brain works, okay? I can't help it.
Then I realized I could simulate the same type of curriculum by just picking whatever books we want and applying the same principles. It would be awesome if I could just find it boxed up in a pretty one-click purchase package, but I'll survive.
Before I jumped in with both feet, like I typically do [impulse control issue or overexcitement?] I decided to test this out on my actual children instead of dreaming up how awesome this curriculum/method will be for my children that existed in homeschool dreamland. You know, the way you imagine your kids reacting to a new method with fervent excitement and overwhelming joy, with near perfect retention?! No? Just me?
I bought a few new books & composition books, but we pretty much had everything ready to go. I think my husband and our budget appreciated that.
Mini Rant : Has anyone else noticed that the old-school, nostalgia-filled, black & white composition book covers have been changed? They used to be durable cardboard/chipboard. Now they are as thin as spiral notebook covers and super flimsy. If anyone from Mead is reading this : NO. Change it back. Stop being cheap. Other people are just as irritated and we moved on to a quality brand. /Rant
Readers : Buy these awesome Decomposition Books instead if you're looking for something that won't totally fall apart. They are made from recycled paper materials and they're pretty cool. Also, even though they cost more, you're saving HUNDREDS from not buying tons of curriculum you won't like, use or be overwhelmed by. You can also get these from Target which is where I got mine.
This has been working beautifully for all of our children. And they each have different learning styles. That's a simplification win right there.
We incorporate language arts into every subject, really. Below I kind of talk about it as though it's a separate course. We integrate our studies in an effort to help with the simplification.
How We Do This :
- Everyone works to their level. My son will have a featured "Letter of the Week" type of thing. My daughter, Brie, who has difficulty with spelling and reading, works to her level to build confidence [smaller sections to copy, not ready for dictation]. My eldest copies larger texts and does middle school/high school level work.
- While reading from our literature or poems, I'll take note of words I think they should know or words I think that they don't know how to spell or the meaning. I choose 10-12 vocabulary/spelling words.
- They use the composition notebooks to copy passages from the literature [containing some of the vocabulary words] or copy an entire poem down. They pay attention to grammar, capitalization and spelling. When they're done, we go over it to make sure they didn't miss anything.
- I'll write down in their composition books [or on the board] a selection of text from literature and misspell words, and add in grammatical errors. They then fix those and they can self check [with a red pen] straight from the literature we are reading. Helps with them doing independent work.
- We wash watercolor paint on cardstock paper [It's around $5 for 150 sheets from walmart] and let it dry. Then the kids write over it with permanent ink pens. My eldest writes in pencil and then writes over it in ink. My youngest daughter just takes her time to ensure not messing up the soon to be laminated piece. They finish by adding drawings or more paint to illustrate.
- We might use spelling city [free online or app] to play games with the spelling/vocabulary words, but I'm trying to minimize screen time, so we'll do it this way. They also write the words five times each because it just works. It's old school, but it works.
- We also do dictation for my eldest. After she has copied a selection a couple times that week, I will read aloud the same passage while she writes it. After she's done, I hand her the passage and a red pen and she checks her work.
Books We Are Using :
- The Bible. [click link to WIN one] Below you can see the girls working on a memory verse.
- Wildwood. We are loving this book so much! It's a series.
- Hatchet. Riveting page turner of a book that is keeping my kids on the edge of their seats.
- Poetry for Young People : Robert Frost. It has poems arranged by season which is pretty rad.
- Poetry for Young People : Emily Dickinson. An excellent collection of poems.
- Various picture books for Everett who just draws and scribbles...but he does it very seriously which is highly amusing to me.