Thursday, July 12, 2012

Language Arts, How We Do It

Many people prefer all-in-one Language Arts programs. I prefer not to use them, though. Sure, my life might be easier if we used just one program for Language Arts, one that combined all the concepts together. Easy isn't my way, though.

We use a different program for each part of Language Arts, and no program at all for some parts. We do this partly due to the kids' asynchronous development. Though, I don't know that I'd use an all-in-one even if they were at the same level in all areas. I've never seen an all-in-one Language Arts program that I wanted to use. I've never found one that I like the look of or that really seems like it would work for us. So, I do what I do, I piece it together myself.

Grammar - I've found that I like Easy Grammar. I tried some Language Arts and Grammar workbooks when Dea was younger, but we didn't like them. Then, we did our own thing for Grammar for a few years. She started Easy Grammar with Easy Grammar Ultimate for 8th Grade. We liked the format and the approach. It was short, to the point, introduced new topics and covered review, and there were no long, drawn-out lessons. So, we started Jay on Easy Grammar in 2nd grade. It was the same format as the levels Dea has used. However, that format changes in the 3rd grade book. From what I can tell, the 5th, 6th, and Plus books all have the same format as the 3rd & 4th grade books. I'm not overly fond of this format. We're still early in the book, though. So, I'm not completely certain how he'll do with it. Tweaking will be fairly easy, though, if necessary. Dea is still using Easy Grammar, too, and will continue until she has finished the grade 12 book.

Writing - This area has always been a problem for us. Writing is Dea's weakest area, and nothing seemed to work when she was younger. I tried letting it be unstructured. That didn't work. We tried a few workbooks. They didn't work. We tried Writing Strands. That helped a little. We tried Put That in Writing. She hated it. She was using Universal Class for online Writing courses. It worked much better. Now, we will be trying Put That in Writing again. I was lucky to find the Stack the Deck program for Jay. He really seems to enjoy it, and it seems to be a thorough & incremental course. I love the fact that it goes through high school, so I won't have to switch programs later.

Spelling - We learned early on that the typical Spelling programs would not work for us. We used Natural Speller for some years, creating our own lists & activities. Then, we just stopped focusing on Spelling. Dea really isn't that bad with Spelling, considering how little actual instruction she's had in it. Jay has Dyslexia, though, which means that he really needs more focus on Spelling. We use All About Spelling because its multi-sensory approach is great for his Dyslexia. He really enjoys doing it, too, for the most part. He isn't fond of having to write the words & dictation sentences, but enjoys everything else.

Vocabulary - We have never used a program for this (though we own Roots & Fruits, but it's just used as a resource for them to choose words from). My kids have always had very large vocabularies, so we just continue to encourage them. They learn at an early age how to use the dictionary, and are often told to 'look it up' when they ask what a word means. They have always been encouraged to look up unknown words while reading or doing schoolwork. They currently choose at least one word per day to learn. They then use that word as much as they can.

Reading - I didn't use anything to teach Dea to read. She was reading fluently before she went to public school for Kindergarten. Jay taught himself to read, though we did some review with Explode the Code, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and Starfall. After they know how to read, and are reading fluently, I just let them read. I don't use a program for reading comprehension. We discuss the books they read. They sometimes do projects for the books or study guides (that I create). I don't do required reading until high school English. Before then, I just encourage them to read as much as they can. They are expected to read for at least one hour a day.

Penmanship - I prefer not to actually have to focus on this. I don't think I used anything for Dea for manuscript. I'm pretty sure I picked up a dry erase notebook and a cheap workbook (both from Walmart) for learning cursive. I bought her one workbook for learning to write in Italics, and I bought materials for learning to write Calligraphy (though, Calligraphy was for Art). For Jay, I had to buy some copywork sets. We went with Happy Scribe since there are a variety of topics, each book comes with 3 styles of writing, and they were on sale for really cheap, so I spent less than $5. This is one area I will always go cheap on. I see no reason to spend $30+ on penmanship.

When planning high school level English courses, I choose a different focus for the Lit portion each year. For Dea's courses, the plan is: Year 1 - play & poetry, Year 2 - Mythology & Legend, Year 3 & Year 4 - World Lit. I'm not sure if I'll use the same plan for Jay when he gets there or not. I've still got a few years to figure that out. Language Arts/English is really quite easy for us to plan.