Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Well Trained Wednesday: Grammar Stage- Language Arts Pt.1

Language Arts is a fairly modern term used to describe the study and usage of English grammar and writing. The foundation of a great Classical Education is the mastery of the language arts. A child who can't read can't spell. A child who can't spell can't express themselves in writing. Writing skills are the keys to being able to convey ones argument in a logical manner. One thing that should never be secondary in your homeschool schedule is the language arts.

In "The Well Trained Mind"(WTM) Susan Wise Bauer points out that "Before you can put a word on paper, you have to know what letters to use." This is why a solid foundation in phonics us necessary before proceeding with formal spelling or grammar programs. I personally have found great success with my hand me down Hooked on Phonic program. I do want to state that I use the program without the audio Cd's and the CD ROM. I just use the workbooks, flash cards, and readers. I went through the entire program with my oldest and I am halfway through it with my son(4yrs). There are other less expensive even free phonic programs on the market and online. The WTM recommends "Phonic Pathways" in which I own a copy of that as well. I got it for like $10 at a used curriculum sale. Sometimes you luck out like that. Now if you do go with "Phonic Pathways" you have to purchase a set of phonic readers to go with it cause they don't come with a set. I highly recommend the "Bob Books" set.

A word of caution when selecting a phonic program in general beware of the ones that come with too many bells and whistles. These can be major distractions from your child developing fluency. Words do not jump around on paper. It's just something children have to get use to. The entertainment will come later on when they are delving into a great book full of mystery, suspense, or drama.

Phonic is one of the those non- consumable curriculum's so you can use it for as many children as you need to. Its a rewarding investment but like I said before in previous post homeschooling doesn't have to break the bank. Here are some links to a few free online phonic programs you can use:

McGuffey Eclectic Primer

ABC Fast Phonic

Progressive Phonics

Word of caution: Stay away from phonic programs that include writing at the same time as reading. Writing is a separate skill that uses a different part of the brain. Focusing on both can just delay progress in mastering reading and becoming fluent. Your child may be like my son where he is totally flying through reading but has not yet developed the fine motor skill coordination necessary to write the words that he can read. I wouldn't dare want to hold him back till his hand catches up with the rest of him.

Now the WTM recommend starting spelling once you are halfway through your phonic primer. I have found this to be great advice. Usually by then the child should have moved on from single short vowel words to blends. Starting formal spelling before then wouldn't be that beneficial and might even cause frustration. If the child struggles when you first start spelling hold off until they get further along in their phonic. They just may need more time to hit that particular milestone. So basically spelling should begin around 1st grade year but starting in 2nd is fine as well.

For spelling I have found that the most logical approach is to use a pattern based program. That can help strengthen the phonics skills. The program we love is Sequential Spelling. It was designed by using patterns in the English language. I have found it to be the most well suited for my family. The WTM recommends Spelling Workout in earlier editions. I have read mixed reviews on it though. But you have to pick what fits you and your child's learning style not anyone else.

The other skills that make up the language arts are Grammar, Reading, and Writing. I will continue exploring these subjects and how they are framed in the grammar stage of classical education next week.


  1. As a former English teacher, I can say that you gave a good analysis of what to do to teach language arts to young children. You are so right about reading being a completely different skill than writing (which requires motor skills). All four of my children were fluent readers way before they started writing.

  2. Thanks for commenting Susan.


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