Saturday 3 January 2015

Loving books and words: Virtual Curriculum Fair 2015

Over January, I hope to be sharing some of the resources we use and linking up to Virtual Curriculum Fair 2015. 

Co-Hosted by:
Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue
Lisa @ Golden Grasses

This first week's post is about the resources we use for English aka, on the other side of the Pond, as Language Arts. Part of the aim of this post is to provide ideas and links. What works for our family may not work for yours but hopefully some of the ideas may add zest to your home education.

I have three home educated children. The eldest of these is preparing for UK exams in English Language and English Literature. He has a tutor for English Literature and uses Catherine Mooney tutoring for English Language.

Most of this post is about the resources that I use with the younger two children, aged eight and five. For these two, English is made up of learning to read, learning to enjoy and understand books, learning to write, handwriting, spelling and grammar. My eight year old has found reading difficult so becoming a competent reader is, for us, a major focus as it has been for the last four years. 

Our two main objectives are

  • to ensure that the children enjoy books and words even if reading is difficult.
  • to help the children become competent readers.

Learning to Read
We have used several reading programmes which I have summarised here. At present, we are using Rod and Staff readers and I am just about to start Toe by Toe with my struggling reader. Toe to Toe seems to have many positive reviews and produce results but isn't the most exciting looking programme! It also starts again right from the beginning. I'm wondering about ignoring the strict instructions and starting part way through.

Her younger brother is using Hooked on Phonics.

Learning to Enjoy and Understand books
Having a child who has spent four years learning to read, it is really important to us that she likes books and that her access to books is as wide as possible. This means plenty of reading aloud. I have found the podcasts at Read-Aloud Revival particularly encouraging.

It is helpful to have someone else read aloud from time to time. We have recently found the BBC Schools Radio stories which have been well received.

In terms of loving books, the Five in a Row books have been invaluable. We aren't using these formally, at present, although they are often requested as bedtime stories and we are using them at a group we attend. I have written about activities we used alongside these books.

The books we read are an eclectic collection including books I enjoyed as a child, those recommended by friends and the books which go with the Veritas self-paced history. Hopefully, more about the history in a later post!
Last year, we had a poem each half term which we read several times a week and in some cases, the children learned. Last term, this fell by the wayside although each week we read some poetry. I have a poem planned for this half term. Our favourite poetry resources are

  • illustrated books e.g. Paul Revere's Ride and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy evening.
  • 100 Best Poems for Children edited by Roger McGough
  • Now we are Six by AA Milne
  • The Macmillan Treasury of Poetry for Children.
I have recently discovered the Poetryline site which I'm hoping to use with the children soon.

Learning to Write
We use a combination of WriteShop, letters and a daily sentence or paragraph depending on the child.

Handwriting is a difficult subject for me. I have typical doctor's handwriting. Younger Daughter used Getty-Dubay for a time but we found that once she reached the cursive script it was rather unlike UK cursive so we changed to the Schofield and Sims books. To maintain neat handwriting, daily practice seems necessary but this has rather fallen by the wayside as reading and spelling have taken up more time. Handwriting practice has been pushed into a once a week activity.

This autumn, the children started using All about Spelling.
This is thorough, multi-sensory and has plenty of repetition. We found that weekly tests did not produce improved spelling even with daily practice. All about Spelling has daily drill but not the stress of weekly tests.

This is tackled in our daily Circle Time. I try to make this interactive. We occasionally use sheets from Jolly Grammar to re-enforce these. We don't use the spelling sheets in Jolly Grammar now as we found them to be insufficiently systematic.

Formal comprehension exercises have been pushed down the list. We talk about the books that we read. The children sometimes narrate a passage. As they get older, we plan to introduce this using the Galore Park English books.

I'm looking forward to reading about the resources that others use. Please do comment with any resources that you particularly recommend. Do visit the blogs of the other contributors to the Virtual Curriculum Fair. 

Building a Foundation of Words by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Language Arts for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Bible-Based Language Arts Resources by Tauna M @ Proverbial Homemaker
Relaxed Homeschooling: Language Arts in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
5 Language Arts Resources We Love by Becky @ Milo & Oats
Teaching Reading at Home: A Tale of 5 Readers by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset
A More Simplistic Approach to 7th Grade Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Language Arts Reading for Delight-Directed Learning by Susan @ The Every Day of Education
How To: Spelling Dictation by Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity
The World of Words in our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Unschooling and Words, Words, Words by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun
Learning With Literature and Language Arts Resources by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road
Words and More Words! by Michele @ FamilyFaithandFridays
Language Arts in Our Homeschool (2014 – 2015) by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World
Our curriculum choices ~ Language Arts by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun
The 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Language Arts in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Loaded Pistols: Virtual Curriculum Fair Playing with Words by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
A Renewed Focus on Reading Aloud by Debra @Footprints in the Butter
Language Arts in our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm
Logic of English Foundations: The Grand Prize Winner of Phonics by Chelli @ The Planted Trees
A Sentence a Day Teaches Grammar the Fun Way by Amy A @ One Blessed Mamma
Tackling Language Arts by Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Middle School Monday - Lightning Literature and Composition by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
The Great Grammar Discovery by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

If you would like to link up a post about your English curriculum, please follow this link.

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  1. I have WriteShop and used it a bit this year with J but we ended up going to something else as it just wasn't working for us. I love that freedom.

    1. Yes, that is the beauty of home education, we can use what works for our family.

  2. I am sorry for posting so late about this, but, I could not seem to write a post earlier when I tried. I wanted to extend condolences on the passing of your mother to her new glorious home. Isn't it wonderful! She's at home with Jesus. Pain for us, glory for her.
    Myra, from Winnipeg, Canada

    1. Myra, thank you. Yes, that is just it : Pain for us, glory for her.

  3. Sending you my thoughts and prayers at the passing of your mother. Also to wish you many blessings for the new year, I am always so encouraged by your posts, both the extensive nature of your research and the the spiritual encouragement and honesty. So thank you.

    I'm looking forward to exploring the poetry site you've linked to, a new one to us. We have also enjoyed using Michael Rosen's website with clips of him performing lots of his poems - the children particularly like Don't.

    1. Thank you, Ellie, for your thoughts, prayers and kind words.

      I will take a look at Michael Rosen's website. I hadn't seen this before.

  4. Yes, building a love of literature through quality read alouds has been an important part of our homeschool as well. It helps children to see that the hard work of learning to read can open whole new worlds for them. Reading opens doors that nothing else can. I had not heard of "Toe by Toe," I'll have to take a look (curriculum junkie that I am).

    Thank you for joining the VCF!


  5. We've used AAS through Level 3 so far, but are taking a break this year. It was the first spelling program my middle kiddo actually found progress with. I'm very inspired by your poetry studies...going to check out the links now!