Language Arts Ideas for Homeschooling and Afterschooling

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Last week I shared with you some of the education resources that our family uses for Math, Science, and Foreign Language. These were some of the first subjects that we’ve worked on this year according to my slow immersion method.

Next we worked Language Arts, one of my personal favorites, into our daily routine.

As a writer and a French literature major, I love words and want my kids to have a passion for reading and writing as well. I haven’t found a foolproof way toward this end. But, I’m working on it. It helps that I have a husband who’s a bookworm also.

Read Read Read

I think that reading lots and lots of books aloud as a family has been key in getting them excited about the world of words. Books like Honey for a Child’s Heart have served us well in finding great read alouds to please everyone in the family.

Be Patient

Mechanics, like penmanship, spelling, and grammar have been a little hit and miss over the years. It often just boils down to the kid, his personality, and where he is in his stage of development. Some things have come easier to some kids than others.

On a side note, I’m very thankful for the learning style research that saw huge exposure during my college and graduate studies years. While it was first discussed in the 70s, my early 1990s teaching program talked about the different ways that people learn a lot.

Not all of us excel at book learning, others are auditory, still others learn by doing and using their hands. While I haven’t formally explored this with my kids, I’m aware that some learn differently than others.

Some of the language arts resources that I’ve enjoyed using include:

Phonics and Reading

I have used Phonics Pathways as a reading primer with my oldest three boys who all learned to read well. It helped that we used the phonograms described in Spell to Write and Read. Knowing all the sounds of all the letters was like providing them with all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. I did not follow the Spell to Write and Read program exactly as it is prescribed, but I know many families have had amazing success with it.

Currently, FishBoy6 and I practice with the phonograms, with the primer, and with early readers that are phonics based. Years ago I bought a few sets of used phonics readers from Modern Curriculum Press and was pleased to find them recently available on Amazon. The sets we had were on their last legs to begin with and four toddlers haven’t been very kind to them. So, with three more kids to teach to read, I thought it was fair to invest in some new ones. FishBoy is gonna be thrilled when they get here! He’s so proud of himself to get through a book on his own.


My friend Joy turned me on to the Wordly Wise series of vocabulary books. We used them last year with great success. This year we’re using third and fifth grades while my eighth grader tackles Vocabulary from Classical Roots. We’ve found the exposure to new words to be very helpful. And I love it that they always ask when they encounter a word they don’t know.

Maybe they will be lifelong learners, after all.


We used Easy Grammar for years. It was great as a daily drill, but after several years, I didn’t see things really sinking in. This year, I’m working through Winston Grammar with my two older boys. The friendly competition has been good for them, and they seem to be grasping the concepts of grammar very easily.

One of the things that I really like about Winston Grammar are the color-coded cards, they are great for tactile learners as well as those for whom color coding works well with.

I also bought some Mad Libs that I’m looking forward to breaking out some day soon.

The younger boys and I are going to work through First Language Lessons which addresses more than just grammar when the new edition is finally released. I’ll report back later.


For years and year, I ordered our handwriting books directly from Zaner-Bloser, a publisher that supplies public schools. This year I saved a lot of money by ordering the lower-priced series of a similar nature from Christian Liberty Press, including Writing with Grace. So far, so good.


After much trial and error over the years, last year we invested in The Institute for Excellence in Writing curriculum and have been so pleased with the program. Andrew Pudewa is hilarious, and the boys love watching the teaching dvd as he explains the ins and outs of writing.

Whether you are teaching your children at home or supervising and/or supplementing their education after hours, having some go-to resources can make the process so much easier.

What helps you and your kids play well with words?

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  1. What age do you suggest starting a letters/reading/phonics program with a child? I’ve got an almost 3-year-old and she sometimes shows an interest, but other times not. Ideas on starting with her?

  2. I’ve used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for phonics and reading. I’m currently using it with my 4th child and so far it hasn’t failed us.

    We also do LOTS of reading aloud- Sonlight Core 3+4 and also FIAR for my 4 yr old.

    I’ve neglected writing until this year and we’re trying Sonlight’s LAs and writing program. I love that it’s linked to their readers. IEW looks fantastic to me and I think we may go with that next year.

    For Grammar, we’re working through Grammar Ace this year according to the Sonlight schedule- basically one lesson per week. I do have some Winston Grammar that I inherited from a friend. I may need to check it out.

    For vocabulary we also use Wordly Wise. My 11 and 9 yr olds are working through WW books 6 and 4 this year. I figure at some point they will take the SAT and hopefully this will help prepare them for the verbal portion. My 7 yr old doesn’t seem quite ready for WW so she’s working through a Bob Jones spelling and vocabulary book for 2nd graders.

    I’ve also started daily dictation exercises for my kids. We’re using Spelling Wisdom and my two older kids are doing great. My 7 yr old is having to mainly copy it after failing miserably at attempting dictation. I’m hoping she’ll start to get the hang of it soon.

    I think that’s everything. I love hearing what you’re using!


  3. Great tips and recommendations! I used Phonics Pathways and its companion Reading Pathways as a supplement in my K5 classroom, the easier stuff for struggling readers, the more advanced for my advanced readers. It’s so adaptable to child, age and situation! And I think it’s particularly useful for children who struggle with reading, and/or have trouble tracking left to right (dyslexia). I’ve also used the readers from MCP and I love how they’re systematically organized and add sounds in a logical and progressive manner – not all “phonics”readers are like that!

  4. We LOVE the McGuffey readers. So far our 7 year old and 5 year old have used them to learn to read. As far as writing, my daughter and I have become “penpals”. She has started leaving notes for me under my pillow, and I do the same, using large print, in words she already knows, encouraging her in her days’ work. It’s been fun to read her letters, and a great way to show her my love as well. Who knew pillows could make such great mail-boxes? I’ll be doing a blog post on it soon.

  5. We are using Sonlight Curriculum this year and one of the optional books for Language Arts was Wordly Wise C. I went ahead and ordered it since it looked interesting. It is so good to see that you like it. I can’t wait to start it this week!

  6. Now that the 2010 school year is complete, what did you think of Winston Grammar? I tried Easy Grammar for a couple of years with one of my children and it just doesn’t seem to be sinking in. At the homeschool convention in April I picked up WG but haven’t even opened it yet. Would like to get your thoughts.

    1. @Judy, I definitely liked it better than Easy Grammar. Though, I’m not sure how much they “got.” I just printed out WG’s basic post test to give them later this week, so we’ll see. 🙂 I did it with my then-5th and 8th graders.

      I am using First Language Lessons with my younger kids.

  7. I haven’t done any grammar lessons with my 1st or 3rd grader, but am considering starting First Language Lessons. Would this work for both of them or should I just start with the 3rd grader? Also, since I haven’t done any grammar with either of them, should I go through FLL Vol 1 with both of them?

    1. @Danielle, There are grade-specific books nowadays. So, I got my 1st and 3rd graders last year their own books. It depends on the kid if they can do higher work. Or if you can find the old book that combined grade levels, you could do it that way.