Figuring out how to teach Language Arts can make any sane person’s head spin. And deciding on the best resources for homeschooling can feel especially daunting.
There is just SO MUCH to cover!
Reading, writing, penmanship, spelling, grammar, typing…
The list can feel neverending.
How in the world do you get started!?!
Note: If you’re pressed for time and need a super quick guide, head straight over to Language Arts – Quick Resources List.
The first thing I want you to do is to get out your library card.
Now humor me for a moment as I express my deep and abiding love for my local public library. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I get to visit the library whenever I want to, borrow all of the books that I want to, and then take them home! For FREE!
Seriously, it blows my mind.
Now if you don’t already have a library card, no problem! Simply go visit your local library and request a card. You will likely need to fill out an application and show one or two forms of ID/proof of residency.
This trusty little card is going to provide you with countless educational opportunities. And while it can certainly be used across all subjects, I’m highlighting it in Language Arts because let’s face it, there are lots and lots of WORDS residing in our libraries!
When you find yourself overwhelmed with teaching Language Arts, or with homeschooling in general, grab your library card and head to the library.
Let your kiddos wander, check out bags full of books, and for goodness sake, DO NOT forget to grab a couple of books for yourself too! And don’t forget to inquire about all of the online resources available!
OK, now on to navigating the various twists and turns of Language Arts.
When I first contemplated teaching Language Arts, I figured I would begin by teaching my daughter to read.
This seemed like a logical first step.
I decided to follow in the footsteps of a couple of friends who had recently taught their children to read using a popular, tried, and trusted book. We had been making weekly trips to the library ever since my daughter was a baby, our house was packed with all sorts of books, and I am an avid reader. So honestly, how hard was teaching her to read going to be!?!
Apparently, super hard.
Turns out, my precious girl HATED the popular, tried, and trusted book that had brought my friends so much success. There were plenty of tears, (hers AND mine!) and I felt completely helpless and incapable.
I started to think there was NO WAY I was going to be able to teach her ANYTHING.
Maybe I wasn’t cut out for homeschooling after all.
I opted to do something that might seem counter-intuitive, given the original goal of teaching my daughter to read.
So what exactly did I decide to do?
We stopped doing reading lessons together.
I wish I could tell you that I made this decision during a moment of clarity and wisdom, alas, this was not the case. We stopped because I felt defeated, my daughter was OVER IT, and it seemed counterproductive to go on.
In a nutshell, I’d hit the wall.
I saw my vision of homeschooling disintegrating in my mind. I mean I couldn’t even teach my daughter to read. How was I going to be able to teach her anything else?
But upon closer inspection, I realized that my daughter had naturally been surrounding herself with books ever since she could crawl over and grab them.
As a baby, she chewed on them.
As a preschooler, she lived for story time at the library.
She loved being read to throughout the day.
None of this was forced on her, she just truly enjoyed books. She clearly wasn’t lacking in her love of books, she just had no interest in learning how to read the exact words on the pages in front of her.
Once I noticed this, I mean, truly noticed, I surrendered my own agenda and made space for her to learn naturally.
Basically, I just kept surrounding her with books!
Different colors, sizes, textures, and genres.
I would read aloud to her and she would also “read” aloud to me by making up her own stories. The focus became purely on enjoyment.
Now, don’t think for one second that I was all easy-breezy, “it will happen when it happens so let’s not worry” about all of this.
I was doing my best to appear that way, of course, but internally I was still second-guessing my every decision.
But we kept moving forward.
What We Used for Reading:
I had heard of Hooked on Phonics but honestly, it hadn’t really been on my radar, and using it hadn’t crossed my mind. However, my friend used it with her boys with great success. She sold me on it and I decided it was worth a shot.
I went with the Hooked on Phonics – Learn to Read – Level 3: Emergent Readers because it was geared towards Kindergarten (ages 4-6). At the time, the program used DVDs with very short clips and combined this with clear, user-friendly workbooks, (DVDs!?! Totally dating myself here, I know!) Currently, there are complete kits or digital-only options. The content goes from pre-K on up.
This Hooked on Phonics program ended up being a HUGE success for us! It was simple, clear, and user-friendly, and my daughter really enjoyed it.
It’s what we ended up using for reading instruction and I used it again a couple of years later to teach my son how to read.
And IT WORKED! My daughter learned to read!
Note: Hooked on Phonics offers a variety of products for different levels and abilities. There are specific products available for pre-K, first grade, and second grade.
Once we completed the program, we incorporated BOB Books into our daily reading rotation and we LOVED them!
We started with Set 1-Beginning Readers and then progressed on through Set 2-Advanced Beginners, Set 3-Word Families, Set 4-Compound Words, and Set 5-Long Vowels. They were simple, silly, and entertaining which is just what we were looking for!
My daughter, (and eventually my son, once he learned to read) would read out loud from the BOB books at opportune times throughout the day. We kept this very low-pressure and added in lots of reading aloud together, audiobooks, and picture books.
What We Used for Penmanship:
Once reading appeared to be going well, I looked around at penmanship options.
Based on favorable reviews, I decided on Handwriting Without Tears. We found that the workbooks were user-friendly and clear, and both my daughter AND (eventually) my younger son enjoyed using them for basic writing instruction.
During the early elementary years of both of my children, there were times when they had absolutely no desire to use workbooks. And during those young years, I preferred to focus on play, hands-on activities, and nurturing a true love of books. So I didn’t stress about using workbooks AT ALL. However, there were other times when my children did express a desire to incorporate workbooks, and during these times, we used Explode the Code. They were an easy, affordable option that did the trick!
What We Used for Spelling:
Spelling was another subject that filled me with anxiety. I pictured the dry spelling tests of my youth which DID NOT feel appealing to me at all!
So I rolled up my sleeves, began to research options, and stumbled upon All About Spelling which is one of the programs offered by All About Learning Press.
And I’m so glad I did!
The founder and curriculum developer of All About Learning Press is Marie Rippel. When Marie’s son was young, he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia which inspired her to use her background in language arts education and create two programs, All About Spelling and All About Reading.
Both of these programs are appropriate for learners of all levels and abilities. They are multisensory and comprehensive so I was able to rest assured that my children were receiving a solid foundation.
So for spelling, we used All About Spelling Level 1. The program was straightforward, user-friendly, and enjoyable.
What more could I possibly want from a spelling program!?!
Note: I didn’t know of All About Reading when I first taught my children to read using Hooked on Phonics, otherwise, I would have tried it. Based on our success with All About Spelling, I suggested All About Reading to fellow homeschoolers, as well as a friend who teaches in a traditional classroom as a reading specialist. They all used the program with great success which is why I feel confident recommending All About Reading. I have no doubt that it is a high-quality, user-friendly reading program!
What We Used for Grammar
Beginning in third grade, we used Daily Grams to cover basic grammar. Nothing fancy, but solid, simple to implement, and thorough. Additionally, we focused on weekly copywork and dictation, using passages from our favorite books.
Around the same time, my daughter expressed interest in typing. We started with the FREE online program Dance Mat Typing. The point was simply to expose her to typing in a gentle and fun way; there was no agenda or concrete goal. She completed the program and really enjoyed it.
The following year, we used Typing Instructor Platinum with solid success. My son followed in my daughter’s footsteps with both of these programs.
How We Put All of These Skills Together:
Alright, so what about putting all of these skills TOGETHER!?!
Let’s be honest, this is what often makes Language Arts feel really overwhelming. Combining all of the different components and necessary skills into a complete writing program.
When my daughter was in third grade, I decided to use Brave Writer, which is the writing program created by Julie Bogart, a veteran homeschooling mom, and author. I read the corresponding book, The Writer’s Jungle, which details the philosophy of Brave Writer and educates homeschooling parents on how to teach writing to their children. I also used The Arrow which is their writing program geared towards 3rd-6th grade.
We enjoyed the whimsical, creative approach to writing and this is when we first started to incorporate copy work and poetry tea time into our days. But ultimately, we opted to try a different writing program for fourth grade, as I felt there were some structural holes in my daughter’s writing.
Note: I have friends who have used Brave Writer, including their online classes, and have experienced great success. It is a reputable, dynamic writing program that is ideal for many families. It just wasn’t the right fit for us long term.
In fourth grade, I purchased the Institute for Excellence in Writing, (IEW) program. We started with Level A for grades 3-5 which is a year-long, video-based course. Online IEW courses are also available. Many communities have in-person classes taught by instructors who have been trained in the IEW instructional method. So if this appeals to you, ask around in your area and see if any local classes are being offered.
There is a reason IEW courses consistently receive stellar reviews. In my opinion, It is a thorough program that provides the necessary framework for building solid writing skills. Instructions are broken down into tangible steps that can be easily implemented by students.
Personally, I feel like fourth grade was the perfect time for my daughter to begin this course. My son started the program in third grade but looking back, I wish we’d waited until he was a little older. I think it would have provided a smoother transition.
We spent the next couple of years following the IEW program at home.
When my children were in 4th and 6th grades, they wanted to try an online writing program. We were very pleased with the solid foundation IEW had provided but decided to try something new. After looking around, we signed up for Time 4 Writing, an online program offering 8-week classes. Overall, we were happy with the courses. Because there are a variety of teachers, the quality will vary from teacher to teacher but we were fortunate and received solid instruction.
In addition to Time 4 Writing, we also gathered with another family once a week to focus on creative writing. My daughter was eager to dive into this genre as she was always writing creative stories on her own. Based on glowing reviews, we used the book The Creative Writer: Level One: Five Finger Exercises.
We all LOVED this book!
As the homeschooling teacher, I found it to be really user-friendly and all of the kids found it to be engaging and fun. The following year, (grades 5th and 7th) we used level 2 and there is also a level 3 which we will definitely use when we want to revisit creative writing.
For 6th and 8th grades, we decided collectively that we would revisit using IEW as our main writing program.
While we were pleased with Time 4 Writing, we felt that IEW provided a more thorough and comprehensive writing program.
But to be honest, I was burnt out on teaching writing!
After doing some research, I found a local vendor who offered live online courses using the IEW resources and framework. We decided to give it a try. And we’re so glad we did! The teacher was engaging, challenging, knowledgeable, and funny.
In fact, her class was such a success that my son will be continuing on this coming year, (7th grade) while my daughter, (who will be in 9th grade) will be taking English through Silicon Valley High School. This will be our first experience with this fully accredited, online high school, so stay tuned!
Update: 5/27/2020 – We have just completed our school year; my son really enjoyed his online IEW course this year, (he had the same teacher as last year) and his writing skills and confidence truly blossomed this year. He plans to take another IEW course next school year with the same instructor. My daughter completed her first English course through Silicon Valley High School.
Note: Because my daughter is college-bound, and we homeschool through a California public charter school, her approved course options for high school are much more limited than they were during her elementary and middle school years. Silicon Valley High School (all online) is an accredited, approved option which is why we went this route for her English class. Overall, it was user-friendly and thorough, but definitely on the dry and uninspiring side. So we supplemented it with several books that interested her in order to keep her love of reading alive! If you don’t have the same restrictions, I’d suggest online Brave Writer or online IEW classes, depending on which is a better fit for your child.
Now, these are just a collection of Language arts homeschooling resources that have worked well for us.
Remember that there are many factors involved in how to select the best Language Arts resources for your family. These include the individual personalities of each family member, areas of strength and weakness, personal interests, and frankly, a whole lot of trial and error!
What works for you and your family will depend on your different learning styles and educational needs.
But because I know firsthand, how overwhelming it can be to figure out how best to teach Language Arts, I wanted to be sure to offer a compilation of resources for you to consider.
Remember, you can hop over to my Language Arts – Quick Resources List for a super simple way to access all of these links quickly and easily.
I hope this provides you with a solid jumping-off point and gives you some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Let me know if you have any Language Arts resources that you love or anything interesting that you’ve stumbled upon!
And be sure to check out my other recommended resources for homeschooling:
- Math Resources for Homeschooling
- Science Resources for Homeschooling
- History & Geography Resources for Homeschooling
- 10 Enchanting Poetry Books for Young Kids
- 10 Captivating Poetry Books for Middle Schoolers
- 10 Exceptional Poetry Books for High Schoolers
- 10 Cozy Picture Books to Welcome Fall
- 10 Magical Picture Books to Welcome Winter
- 10 Lovely Picture Books to Welcome Spring
- 10 Picture Books to Welcome Summer
- 10 Inspiring Picture Books About Nature
- Best Adventure Books for 9-12-Year-Olds
- 10 Picture Books to Comfort Kids with Anxiety
- 25 Empowering Books for Girls
- 5 Books Every Homeschooling Parent Should Read