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Language Arts in My Household

language arts in my household featured graphic

At its most basic level, language arts is about communication: taking in information and sharing information with others. Sounds simple, right?

So why is language arts such a difficult subject to plan and teach?

One big reason that language arts can be difficult is that the single subject area of “language arts” actually encompasses more than ten related topics: phonics, reading, handwriting, listening skills, spelling, grammar, writing, poetry, literature, vocabulary, and speech! It doesn’t seem quite so simple anymore, does it?

Many homeschool parents long for an all-in-one language arts curriculum, but an inclusive approach to teaching language arts can be difficult. Most kids learn to read faster than they learn to write or spell, so although an all-in-one program might be just right for reading, it may be too advanced for writing. For another child, a program may be perfect for spelling but too slow for reading.

Putting It All Together

Would you like to hear how a seasoned homeschooler makes language arts work in her household? Merry Marinello homeschooled two children of her own, so her language arts expertise comes from years of experience in the trenches, figuring out exactly how to teach this multifaceted subject to her kids. As part of our customer service team, Merry has also responded to thousands of questions from parents about using All About Reading and All About Spelling with their children.

Here’s Merry…

When I realized that an all-in-one curriculum just wasn’t a viable option for my children and that I would have to go another direction, I knew I had to begin by identifying what my goals were. I started by asking myself a few important questions:

  • Why do I teach language arts?
  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • In what order should I teach the skills that make up “language arts”?
  • And finally, what priority should I give them?

After considering my answers to these questions, I worked out a progression for teaching language arts that looked like this:

Language arts suggested order of introduction inforgraphic

I knew that just figuring out a logical sequence for teaching language arts wasn’t enough. I still had to figure out how to fit all those content areas into our school day and apply some time limits for daily instruction. I like to do 30 to 60 minutes of daily language arts instruction for kindergarten and first grade, and 60 to 90 minutes each day for second grade and up.

Language Arts: Start with the Basics

Sticking to these time limits requires some prioritizing. Here’s how I ended up fitting it all inbut keep in mind that these recommendations are what worked for my children. You may need to increase or decrease your instruction time depending on your child’s attention span, abilities, and progress.

A basic beginning plan for kindergarten or first grade might start like this:

  1. Phonics and reading instruction:
    20 to 30 minutes per day
  2. Handwriting instruction:
    10 minutes per day

A Note about Handwriting

When just starting out, handwriting doesn’t have to involve putting pen to paper. Instead, you and your child can do things like writing with an index finger in sand or in pudding or on carpet squares or any other tactile surface. Writing is fairly complex and involves both gross and fine motor muscle tone as well as neurological involvement and working memory. I remember thinking that pre-writing types of activities weren’t all that important when, in fact, they are very important. I was too anxious to get to “the real thing” (pencil to paper). If I had it to do over again, I’d spend more time doing fun pre-writing activities.

Add in the Rest

When a child becomes fluent in reading simple words, it’s time to add in:

  1. Spelling instruction:
    20 minutes per day

    And…when a child can read chapter books fluently, your phonics and reading instruction time can transition to:

    Silent reading:
    30 minutes per day

A Note about Read-alouds

There are lots of great reasons to read aloud to your children. I recommend reading aloud to even your older children for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes each day. Read-alouds teach many valuable language arts skills, such as vocabulary. I often stop to see if my kids know a word, or they will stop me and ask for a definition. Syntax and grammar and the flow of our language are also taught informally. Poetry can teach rhyming, alliteration, and the musicality of language. You can work on listening skills and comprehension by asking simple questions like “What do you think will happen next?” or “Why do you think the character did that? Would you have done that?” Most of all, reading aloud can help your child develop a lifelong love of learning. I still read to my high school and junior high students, and I will continue as long as I can get away with it!

When your child is ready for more, you can begin to add in writing and grammar.

  1. Writing and/or grammar instruction:
    30 minutes per day

I started off by working on these topics informally. I found it easier to add a formal writing program after my children could spell around a thousand words. Writing and grammar do not have to be taught simultaneously. There are many ways to customize instruction in these areas. You can choose to focus on one per year, or do them on alternating days. Try breaking instruction up into 6-, 9-, 12-, or 18-week segments, or use a program that incorporates both content areas.

With older children, speech can be woven into the writing/grammar time slot as well.

Remember, you don’t have to do every language arts topic every year. The most important thing is to think through your goals, consider the individual needs of each child, and build your language arts plan step by step.

Do you have a system for teaching language arts that works for your family? How is it different from this system? Let us know in the comments!

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Diana

says:

Thanks for breaking it down so well. I have a 3rd grader that will be using AAR Level 2 and AAS Level One. And a Kindergartener that hasn’t mastered his sounds. I purchased Handwriting without tears for my 3rd grader and kinder because I thought they needed writing to complete there Language Arts. But now I’m second guessing the writing curriculum after reading this article???

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Diana,
Handwriting Without Tears is a handwriting program. It is good to use one with your students, especially if they are not yet completely comfortable with forming letters.

A writing program will be a program that teaches a student to create their own paragraphs and longer essays, stories, and such. It is often best to hold off on doing a writing program until a student is proficient in spelling and writing sentences, something covered gradually in All About Spelling.

Does this clear things up? Let me know if you have further question.

Christina

says:

Thank you. This has helped me with planning my LA curriculum for my 2 little ones this year!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful for you, Christina!

Erin

says:

This is really helpful

Ada

says:

These are some great guidelines to know how to teach LA! Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad you found this helpful!

Tonya Sinner

says:

We will be upping our language arts this year, as my son scored low on his test in these areas!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry to hear your son scored low in these areas, Tonya. Do you have specific concerns or questions?

Kristin

says:

Such a wonderful curriculum. My son and daughter love it!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Kristin!

Stephanie

says:

These tips are great. I have purchased level 2, 4, and Pre Reading. I think I should have purchased Level 1 for my kindergarten student. She is starting to spell words from letter sounds C A T – cat, stop, go, hat, can, mat, sat, etc. I would love a chance to win it!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Stephanie,
If you purchased directly from us, remember that we have our one-year “Go Ahead and Use It” guarantee. You could return the Pre-reading level even if parts of it are used. Let me know if you need more information.

Hanna

says:

I have loved all your reading and spelling courses for my kids! I am looking for a grammar program for my 7 year old (Level 4 reading; level 3 Spelling). I am having so much trouble finding a really good grammar program. I feel like I was spoiled by All About Reading & Spelling and no other curriculum seems like a good fit from what I can find for sentence structure, grammar, etc. Please let me know of one you would recommend.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Hanna,
There are a number of grammar programs available that have either multisensory components or an incremental approach. Some of the programs focus exclusively on grammar, while some include writing as well.

Here are some grammar suggestions:

– Winston Grammar is a workbook program with color-coded cards and is generally aimed at students in 4th to 7th grades.

– Easy Grammar features an incremental approach and includes topics such as usage and punctuation, for 2nd grade and up.

– Essentials in Writing is described by author Matthew Stephens as a Math-U-See approach to writing. In the elementary levels, this program incorporates grammar with writing. The lessons are presented in short video segments of 3 to 5 minutes and then the student works on the concept that was taught. This is a multisensory and incremental program that is very easy to use. There are levels for 1st-12th grades.

– The Sentence Family is a simple and fun program aimed at 3rd through 6th graders (although I think it could be used with slightly younger students too). The program uses drawing along with a storyline to teach parts of speech and how they relate to each other.

– Fix It Grammar is incremental and uses very short lessons. Each level teaches grammar using sentences from a single story, so there is the additional fun of seeing the story slowly unfold. The teacher’s manual is very comprehensive and even includes advanced concepts so the teacher can answer questions a curious student may have. The youngest the program is recommended for is 3rd grade, although it is appropriate for older students as well.

– Analytical Grammar teaches a mastery of grammar by working on it for short grammar-focused units once a year for 2 to 3 years. Junior Analytical Grammar is for 4th or 5th graders, with Analytical Grammar for 6th to 9th graders.

– Beowulf Grammar is a multisensory, hands-on program that can make grammar concepts stick. It is designed for grades 2-6 but could be used for an older student who doesn’t mind younger graphics.

And here are some composition/writing suggestions (for teaching sentence structure and such):

– Essentials in Writing (described above)

– IEW-Institute for Excellence in Writing. This has options for video instruction for the student or for the parent. Their PAL writing program is for beginning writers and also incorporates All About Spelling.

– WriteShop uses an incremental approach and includes multisensory activities. The methods are effective for both regular and special needs learners.

– Writing Skills by Diana Hanbury King: Book A is for grades 2-4, Book 1 for grades 5-6, Book 2 for grades 7-8, and book 3 for grades 9-12.

– Night Zookeeper, for 6-12 year-olds. It has games that go through vocabulary and spelling, but the main part is creative writing. First you create your own zoo animal (they are all made-up creatures and they give you prompts to make it if needed) and the first piece you write is on that animal. They often give you goals like “try to use a descriptive word in your story” etc. They have the kids write reports. The child reads something about a topic (like manatees) then writes a report on it. A person will comment on each story the kids write and give them suggestions and ask them to correct mistakes.

– Brave Writer has something for all ages. There are various curricula, but their project-based writing programs are especially great for motivating children to be excited about writing.

I hope this helps!

Laura

says:

Thanks so much for this information!

Lindsey McPherson

says:

I would also love to hear your thoughts on this question!

cyndi

says:

Great post! I am an English teacher and agree. It does no good to teach subject/verb agreement and adjectives when a student cannot read or spell. Once those skills are achieved, we can move forward. Thank you for confirming what I had thought.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Cyndi. It really does help students to think of English as a progression of skills and not something that needs to be worked on all at once.

Julie

says:

Great article – thank you! Reading through some comments, lots of great additional tidbits. I am curious of your experience with the MIchael Clay Thompson curriculum – particularly the Poodle 2 book series for the earliest learners. Mine are 8 (currently 2nd grade), 5 (K) and 3.5 (P) and hoping to start homeschooling after this year. The MCT Poodle books and curriculum as a whole seems quite different than others and many describe it as “whimsical” in nature. I’m intrigued by it and would love to hear your perspective! Appreciate it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Julie,
I have emailed you.

Leanne

says:

Exactly what I was searching for regarding when to add grammar!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad this was helpful, Leanne!

Sally

says:

Thanks for the advice. My child is 3.5 years old. I starts this language art. The progress is amazing. I will keep it up.

Anna Gonzales

says:

Thanks for

Rose Vosburgh

says:

I am using AAR Level 1 with my grandson who is 6. We just finished up Kindergarten, stopping at lesson 32. Should I start him in AAS this Fall when he starts first grade or wait until he has completed AAR, Level 1?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rose,
We typically recommend waiting to begin All About Spelling level 1 after finishing All About Reading level 1. However, your grandchild is far enough into AAR 1 that it would be fine to go ahead and start AAS 1 as well. I think either way is fine, so you can go ahead with whichever seems best for your grandson. Many like to start new things at the beginning of a school year. Others, however, find it better to start the school year with a little less and then build up to more subjects after things get going well.

I hope this helps some. Let me know if you have more questions.

Rose Vosburgh

says:

Thank you so much for your response. My personal preference is to let him complete AAR I first because I don’t want to overwhelm him. He is doing well with the program, but because he is a kinestetic learner and can’t sit still for that long, I chose to progress slowly through AAR rather than push him to complete it by the end of the school year. I guess I have been feeling a little stressed about spellling because my state requires it to be taught in Grade One… confusing to know what to do. But I think that, though I will list AAS on the instructional plan, I will wait and start it at my discretion. Thanks for helping me to think this through. I am on the right track now! Love AAR…it has been a real blessing watching him learn to read.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sounds great, Rose!

If you ever need anything else, just ask.

Paula

says:

Hi there! My family loves both the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs. Are there any plans for an All About Grammar program to go along with the existing phonics and spelling programs?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Good question, Paula, but no, we have no plans for a grammar program. However, I can give you some suggestions for programs to look into.

There are a number of grammar programs available that have either multisensory components or an incremental approach. Some of the programs focus exclusively on grammar, while some include writing as well.

Most of our customers wait until their students have a good start in reading and spelling before adding a grammar program. However, some that are interested in adding grammar earlier have enjoyed First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise. (I waited with my kids, not starting grammar until they were older.) Here are some suggestions (in no particular order):

– Winston Grammar is a hands-on program with color-coded cards and is generally aimed at students in 4th to 7th grades.

– Easy Grammar features an incremental approach and includes topics such as usage and punctuation, for 2nd grade and up.

– Essentials in Writing is described by author Matthew Stephens as a Math-U-See approach to writing. In the elementary levels, this program incorporates grammar with writing. The lessons are presented in short video segments of 3 to 5 minutes and then the student works on the concept that was taught. This is a multisensory and incremental program that is very easy to use. There are levels for 1st-12th grades.

– The Sentence Family is a simple and fun program aimed at 3rd through 6th graders. The program uses drawing pictures along with a storyline to teach parts of speech and how they relate to each other. It is a very fun introduction to grammar but is not complete in itself. (I used this and it was a great jumpstart in grammar learning for us.)

– Fix It! Grammar is incremental and uses very short lessons. Each level teaches grammar using sentences from a single story, so there is the added fun of seeing the story slowly unfold. The teacher’s manual is very comprehensive and even includes advanced concepts so the teacher can answer questions a curious student may have. The youngest the program is recommended for is 3rd grade, although it is appropriate for older students as well. (This is what I have used after The Sentence Family and we are very pleased with it.)

– Analytical Grammar teaches mastery of grammar by working on it for short grammar-focused units once a year for 2 to 3 years. Junior Analytical Grammar is for 4th or 5th graders, with Analytical Grammar for 6th to 9th graders.

I hope this helps. If you find something else that seems a good fit after AAR and AAS, please let us know so we can add it to our list.

Jenny Relaford

says:

What are your thoughts on Shurley English for the grammar specifically, not the writing? I have 3 older children (20, 18, 15) that I used ‘Ordinary Parents Guide’ for reading then added Shurley after a year for grammar. Fast forward to my 4th child who is a kinesthetic and visual learner and slightly struggling reader. I was recommended AAR and i started her on that and it has been amazing!! She is thriving with AAR and AAS. I would like to add grammar in and I loved the jingles and daily classifying for really helping to sink in grammar rules and practice, and the jingles helped them to really know. But I never see it recommended anymore. She is thriving with the visual and hands on approach of AAR so I’m trying to find a good grammar to add it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jenny,
I’m not personally familiar with Shurley English, nor is my co-worker Merry. I’ve heard good things about and don’t recall ever hearing anything bad about it.

However, since I haven’t seen it in person it’s a bit hard for me to evaluate. The samples online are of just one lesson per level, or rather two lessons but one introduces a concept and the next works on that concept. That isn’t enough for me to judge how quickly new concepts are introduced or how thoroughly concepts are reviewed throughout. I cannot tell if the program is incremental or if teaches a lot at once.

There are some things I liked about it though. I enjoyed that the parts of speech are taught with a little song, a jingle. What a great way for many children to remember the parts of speech and what they do! I especially loved that identifying all the parts of speech of sentences was done with a teacher using a whiteboard or lined paper and not worksheets for the child to work alone.

Since you have experience with Shurley Grammar and liked it, I think you will be a better judge than I to whether it will work well with your student.

Sorry I’m not much help.

Joan Armstrong

says:

We used a little of the 1st language lessons in 2nd-3rd. Then cozy grammar and iew. While IEW is our main grammar, we still use Cozy Grammar as an extra because we like her videos!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for mentioning Cozy Grammar, Joan. I’m going to look into it!

Wendy Zamorano

says:

My third grader is going to do AAR 2 and AAS 2. This will be my first time using the program since my son was in public school. My son was able to read on both placement tests for level 2 easily but only had trouble with some of the phonograms needed for level 2. Two questions?
1) As I looked at the scope and sequence I noticed that for level 2 for AAR and AAS the phonograms are the same. Do they align? And can they work together
2) can we do level 2 in a semester if he can skim through them easily. I feel my son should be on level 3 but only needs to do some lessons from level 2s.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wendy,
Have your son read the last story, “Rawhide” from this All About Reading 2 sample. It is from near the end of AAR 2 and if he can read it fluently with good comprehension, then you can be confident that he would be better in AAR 3. The phonograms he struggled with will be reviewed in the beginning of AAR 3. However, if he struggles to read the story smoothly and with expression and understanding, then you know that AAR 2 is the right level. We are looking for confident, fluent reading before going on to the next level.

As for All About Spelling, the article Which Spelling Level Should We Start With? has more information on the concepts taught in All About Spelling 1 and will help you decide if your student can skip level 1 and go into level 2. Placement for spelling is based on the student’s knowledge of spelling rules and concepts rather than grade level, reading level, or the words a student has memorized. Because of this, most students need to start with level 1.

AAS and AAR both use a similar, but not the same, sequence and the same phonograms. Both are complete phonics programs, so they are interrelated in that way. AAS teaches words from the spelling angle, and AAR teaches words from the reading angle. They are designed to complement each other, but each also stands alone. Because spelling is more difficult than reading, most students do not use the same level of AAR and AAS.

Both AAS and AAR are designed to be used at each child’s unique pace. That means, yes, it is feasible for a student to move through a level in half a year or even less, especially if most of it is review. However, the goal should always be mastery of the material and not finishing a level. Go as slowly as your student needs to have a high level of success.

Also, AAR 3 and AAS 3 are not “3rd grade” as our levels are not grade level. All About Reading and All About Spelling group words in a logical manner based on similar rules or patterns regardless of their supposed grade level, which allows students to progress quickly and confidently. Keep in mind that All About Spelling takes only 7 levels to cover through 12th-grade level spelling and after All About Reading 4 students have the phonics and word attack skills necessary to sound out high school level words, though they may not know the meaning of all higher level words yet. (Word attack skills include things like dividing words into syllables, making analogies to other words, sounding out the word with the accent on different word parts, recognizing affixes, etc…)

I hope this helps, but please let me know how he does on reading the sample story and the spelling placement article. Let me know if you have any more questions as well.

I did have him read “Rawhide” from level 2. He was able to answer the questions that were in the teachers manual. He struggled on two words but that is it. I went ahead and had him read the “Train Cat” from Level 3 and he struggled with some words such as crate and besides. What do you think? He can read the last story of level 2 but i saw him struggling with first story in level 3

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wendy,
It sounds like he is ready for All About Reading level 3! When you say he struggled with “some words”, I am thinking it is no more than a few per page, and the “Train Cat” story has a good amount of words per page. That would be his instructional level. Go slowly through the early lessons of AAR 3, spending at least a few days or a week per each reviewing the skills he needs to successfully attack the words he struggled with.

I just had a thought. Did you have him read “Train Cat” soon after reading “Rawhide”? He might have been more tired and tired children tend to make more mistakes. However, even if he was fresh when he read “Train Cat”, I still think AAR 3 is the best place for him to start.

Nicole Lynn Schofield

says:

We love IEW for younger kids, through middle school. I have an English degree and high school teaching certification; I currently teach a homeschool co-op college prep literature and writing course for 11th and 12th graders, and I taught AP English at a charter school in the past, so I will say that I find IEW limited for older kids. But it is great at getting reluctant writers to write, and it teaches solid research skills, especially outlining from a source. IEW is also great at teaching the basics of paragraphing and putting paragraphs together into an essay, and is strong on the topic sentence and clincher of a paragraph. By the time my son reached 6th grade and had done IEW for three years, I found I wanted more solid instruction in sentence to sentence organization within a paragraph. So we are using the Well Trained Mind Writing with Skill Level 1 this year. But when inner-paragraph organization skills are stronger from this program, we’ll go back to IEW more in depth until he is ready to take my class in 11th grade. I also find the IEW Fix It Grammar program to be wonderful! Andrew Pudewa’s talk “But What about Grammar?” is very helpful; I highly recommend it (available on IEW website). He notes that formal grammar should be studied with a foreign language and English grammar in the context of writing and editing, and I couldn’t agree more. So we teach formal grammar in our Latin program (Memoria Press First Form, Second Form, etc.) and cover English grammar with Fix It and some memorization from Well Trained Mind Press’s First and Second Language Lessons. As an English teacher, I find this combo really teaches the concepts to my children. My son going into 6th grade can identify main clauses and dependent clauses, phrases, etc. of long and complicated sentences better than most of my high school students; he has no problems with parts of speech either.

Ruthie

says:

Hi Nicole, I am starting out as a 9th grade English teacher. I have a grammar text, a literature text and a vocabulary text. Do you have any suggestions for how to set my schedule up for my classroom. Is it possible to alternate days for the subjects, or focus on 9 week segments?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great thoughts and details to consider. Thank you again, Nicole.

Ruthie

says:

Hi Robin, I am starting out as a 9th grade English teacher. I have a grammar text, a literature text and a vocabulary text. Do you have any suggestions for how to set my schedule up for my classroom. Is it possible to alternate days for the subjects, or focus on 9 week segments?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Ruthie,
Interesting question. It is best to keep your students reading daily, so I recommend doing literature all throughout. Assigning just 20 minutes of reading daily for the entire year will help to improve your students’ reading skills and I highly recommend it.

For vocabulary, I do see a benefit in doing a bit each week, as vocabulary learning is often more effective when students have time to reflect on the words and use them in many different ways before adding new ones. Doing a focused 9-week unit just on vocabulary may not allow enough time for students to really know one set of words before new ones are added. We have a blog post on How to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary that will have some useful ideas for you. While it uses much younger vocabulary as examples, the concepts will transfer to high school students as well.

Does this help? Please let me know if you have further questions.

Nicole Lynn Schofield

says:

I would add to this that when the child has finished AAR and is reading fluently, reading silently, have the child narrate back to you what he/she reads silently. This is an important skill for writing. And yes, read aloud and use audiobooks. I still read aloud to my 12 and 10 year olds.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great advice, Nicole! And I still read aloud most days to my 15-year-old as well as his younger siblings.

Michelle

says:

Thank you for this article. Encompassing all of language arts has been a challenge for us in the younger years. This article helps reveal a good overall perspective.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful for you, Michelle. Let me know if you have any questions.

Lucia

says:

Do you have any recommendations on writing program? I like the reviews of Institute of Excellence in Writing curriculum and I am considering purchasing it. What do you think about it. Do you have favourites? Thank you.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lucia,
Institute for Excellence in Writing is one we recommend! I personally started using it about a year and a half ago and have been very pleased with the results.

Some to other writing programs to consider:

Writing Skills by Diana Hanbury King is incremental.

WriteShop has incremental lessons and multisensory components. The methods are effective for both regular and special needs learners.

Writing Strands provides an incremental approach.

Essentials in Writing is both multi-sensory and incremental (my co-worker, Merry, used this for years and was very happy with it). The author describes it as a Math-U-See approach to writing. The lessons are presented in short video segments of 3 to 5 minutes and then the student works on the concept that was taught. It also has grammar included for 1st-6th grade levels, and optional grammar dvd included in Jr. High levels.

For a different type of approach altogether, check out offerings from Brave Writer. There are various curriculum offerings, including Home Study Courses that focus on project-based writing before high school. Projects like making up your own island nation or a timeline of your own personal history (both projects in the Partnership Writing course) can take writing from being work to being play!

Rebecka Christenson

says:

Thank you! This step-by-step receive is EXACTLY what I needed!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Rebecka! I’m glad this was helpful for you, but if you have questions or need more help, just let me know.

Janelle

says:

So if I start AAR with my nearly 6 year old (year 1) then next year add AAS, but don’t add writing until he has learnt to spell about 1000 words, do we just not do any writing for 2 years? We have a history of dyslexia and my 5 year old is showing all the signs, so I imagine it will take us about 2 years to get to that point. That would mean no writing instruction until about year 3. Am I understanding this correctly or have I missed something. I just can’t imagine not doing any formal writing until he is 7 or 8. If I was to add writing, how do I tackle that if we are not yet doing formal spelling? Many thanks. Love your programs just trying to get my head around the timing of everything!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great question, Janelle.

We do recommend working on handwriting from the beginning and most handwriting curriculum will have students copying sentences which begins the process of them learning to write their own. Then All About Spelling includes dictation assignments where your child will be writing short phrases and then sentences that you read aloud. From this and from learning to read, your child will learn that sentences and proper names start with capital letters, that sentences end with periods, question marks, or exclamation points (and when to use each), and many other foundational skills of writing.

Traditionally, children were not asked to write more than a few simple sentences at a time until they were reading well and were doing well in spelling. This is what we are recommending here. When students have the foundational skills in place, they usually find jumping into writing whole paragraphs not difficult at all and even fun! With my own children, I have had to wait until 4th or even 5th grade (9 to 11 years old) to begin formal writing because they have struggled so greatly with reading and spelling. Yet, even with the late start they were writing well and on grade level within just a couple of years or less.

Many writing (not handwriting, but composition writing) curriculum don’t have programs for students below about 3rd-grade level (approximately 8 years old). Writing curriculum with lower levels typically focus on handwriting, oral work like narration, and copywork, that is copying sentences into their own handwriting. Other lower level writing curriculum give students writing assignments but ask the parent to serve as the scribe, writing what the student says. And, some early writing curriculum gives students writing assignments and encourages them to use invented (or inventive) spelling, spelling words however they want.

If you feel it is best for your child to start a formal writing curriculum earlier, you certainly can. Many do. However, there isn’t any harm in waiting until your student has foundational skills in place to begin formal writing. Waiting can be beneficial for students that are easily frustrated or those that are find reading and spelling such a struggle that they are too tired to try anything else yet.

I hope this helps you get a better understanding of timing with writing. However, if you have more questions or concerns, just let me know.

Janelle

says:

That makes perfect sense, thank you!

Kerri

says:

I love AAReading and AASpelling. Thank you! I hope AAGrammar is in the works?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kerri,
Unfortunately, we have no plans at this time for an All About Grammar program.

However, there are a number of grammar programs available that have either multi-sensory components or an incremental approach. Some of the programs focus exclusively on grammar, while some include writing as well. Most of our customers wait until their students have a good start in reading and spelling before adding a grammar program. However, some that are interested in adding grammar earlier have enjoyed First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise. Here are other suggestions:

– Winston Grammar is a hands-on program with color-coded cards and is generally aimed at students in 4th to 7th grades.

– Easy Grammar features an incremental approach and includes topics such as usage and punctuation, for 2nd grade and up.

– Essentials in Writing is described by author Matthew Stephens as a Math-U-See approach to writing. In the elementary levels, this program incorporates grammar with writing. The lessons are presented in short video segments of 3 to 5 minutes and then the student works on the concept that was taught. This is a multisensory and incremental program that is very easy to use. There are levels for 1st-12th grades.

– The Sentence Family is a simple and fun program aimed at 3rd through 6th graders. The program uses drawing pictures along with a storyline to teach parts of speech and how they relate to each other. It is a very fun introduction to grammar but is not complete in itself.

– Fix It Grammar is incremental and uses very short lessons. Each level teaches grammar using sentences from a single story, so there is the added fun of seeing the story slowly unfold. The teacher’s manual is very comprehensive and even includes advanced concepts so the teacher can answer questions a curious student may have. The youngest the program is recommended for is 3rd grade, although it is appropriate for older students as well.

– Hands-On English with Linking Blocks is an intriguing program that uses wooden blocks and flashcards for a truly hands-on approach.

– Analytical Grammar teaches a mastery of grammar by working on it for short grammar focused units once a year for 2 to 3 years. Junior Analytical Grammar is for 4th or 5th graders, with Analytical Grammar for 6th to 9th graders.

I hope this helps. Please let us know if you have further questions.

Minette Levee Juric

says:

Thank you so much for this post; it really clarified a lot of what I had been observing about my son. He’s reading well now, enjoys spelling with AAS, but is having difficulty with the writing portion of his homeschool program. Now I’m going to focus more of his Language Arts time on getting stronger with the basics, before overwhelming him with expectations regarding grammar and writing.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Minette,
I’m glad you found this post helpful. Yes, many times students do better when they become proficient at one aspect of Language before adding in the next thing.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We love to help!

Courtney

says:

I have 2 sons… 1 is working on level 1 AAR and AAS (he is 10) the other is on level 2 AAR and AAS (he’s 8) if we are using both curriculums for each child, is that considered covering Language Arts? Or should I be incorporating more than those 2?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Courtney,
Your students need to be doing well in reading and spelling before they are ready to add in formal writing and grammar. Some children are ready to begin some formal writing around level 2 of AAR and AAS, but some do better when they have finished level 3. If your 8-year-old is moving through level 2 of AAR and AAS with some ease, then he may be ready for writing. However, it is appropriate to wait until he finished with level 3.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have further quesitons.

Obaid

says:

Hi,
You’ve explained very good about language arts curriculum. I really liked it. So, keep up the good work.

Amanda

says:

Thank you for talking about the importance of pre- writing activities and read alouds. It’s easy to rush through these things to get to “real” writing is and reading. Thanks for the reminder to slow down.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amanda,
You are welcome. The pre-writing activities and being read aloud to are important for learning how to read and write well later on!

Melissa Holka

says:

Waiting to add spelling until my son was finished with AAR1 really helped build his confidence. Thank you for the advice!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
You are welcome. We love confident learners!