I was a real English teacher for over ten years.
I have taught 8th grade gifted and ESOL, advanced 9th and 10th graders, and university introduction to writing courses.
I don’t teach English in my homeschool. I don’t use a grammar, literature, or writing curriculum.
I realize I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to English.
I don’t really need a curriculum. I prefer to work alongside my kids instead of throwing a book or app or computer program at them to let them learn on their own.
I don’t have 150 students to track progress like I did when I was a classroom teacher. When I taught in public school, I had to have an opener on the board for the students to correct when they arrived to class. I spent 45+ minutes during each class period actively teaching, lecturing, and interacting with the students. Then, I had to provide a closer to summarize the lesson. This, times five class periods. I had to grade all the assignments, essays, quizzes, and tests – lots of which was busy work to track progress because I couldn’t possibly know how much each student understood every day. We had textbooks for grammar, vocabulary building, and literature…and sometimes novels – all with teacher guides I had to use.
With only 4 students in our homeschool, I have the ability of knowing exactly what each child needs to work on and when. I don’t have to issue busy work.
I have been disappointed with every curriculum I’ve seen for homeschool grammar, literature, and writing. They all fall short.
Writing Strands is sarcastic and flippant with little useful content. IEW is senseless busy work and geared for parents who are weak in verbal skills – why else do they have such extensive DVD teaching programs for teachers? There are so many workbooks (like Easy Grammar) with endless drills that just make students miserable and waste my precious time in grading and corrections. Progeny Press literature guides are a joke, relating everything in literature to the Bible with few literary theory or critical thinking questions. Some analogies are a real s-t-r-e-t-c-h. Sometimes, the curtains are just blue.
I’m not going to pay for some online or app program that claims to teach kids writing. I try to avoid more screentime. We use real books and paper for schoolwork.
We did use First Language Lessons in the very beginning – our first year. It has an actual script but I felt like an idiot reading from that. It’s ok for a transitioning or first time homeschooler or someone who really needs a script.
For early reading, my son loved All About Reading. He whizzed through pre-level to level 4 by the time he was 6! My middle daughters enjoyed The Logic of English. We loathed The Code books. We didn’t like the BOB books either.
After that, we don’t really use too much curriculum for spelling, writing, grammar, or reading. My girls like Spelling Workout even after they’re really fluent readers and writers, so I buy the little workbooks to keep them happy and occupied.
Sometimes, I print Education.com worksheets for when we travel.
What do we do instead?
We learn Latin.
We diagram sentences in Latin and English and that really helps with learning parts of speech and subject-verb agreement.
We learn foreign languages.
Learning foreign languages helps to learn grammar: parts of speech, syntax, conjugations, and tense.
We read a lot. Like, a whole whole lot.
We don’t have any twaddle. We read living books and great literature.
The kids and I all read voraciously. It’s a good problem to have to beg the kids to read to do chores or school work.
I love the book lists on Ambleside Online.
We go to the library weekly and stock up on science, history, and literature corresponding to our studies.
We read missionary stories and biographies about artists and composers.
I strew books all over the house to expose my kids to great ideas. We have many books on our three Kindle app accounts.
We have family read aloud time every morning and evening with lots of different kinds of books – biographies, literature, poetry.
Summertime is full of free reading on whatever the kids like.
Mini-lessons are everywhere.
We often find spelling and grammar errors on restaurant menus and punctuation errors on signs and websites.
My teen daughter circled a random comma in her math text the other day and we all shared a laugh!
Even my middle girls are noticing when there are grammar errors in public or in eBooks or online.
I’m so proud.
If the kids have questions about writing or grammar, I have resources to show them to help them understand word origins, basic and advanced grammar, and the fundamentals of good writing. We also have The Elements of Style on my Kindle app for iPad. I’ll break out the Warriner’s sometimes too.
My teen daughter and I just read through King Alfred’s English. I wish it were better, but it’s an ok overview for kids.
It’s just natural for me to guide my kids in discussion about what we’re reading. I don’t need a teacher guide. Most of them are busy work and silly to us anyway.
I encourage them to narrate back to me so I know they comprehend what we read.
They often surprise me with their insight into a story, the connections they make to other things we’ve read or done or seen.
I love discussing things with my children. I love hearing what they think, like, dislike, feel…about what we read, learn, do.
Homeschooling is about connection.
I encourage notebooking from preschool on up. I keep notebooks and journals and model that for my kids.
When they’re old enough, they take information from our discussions and write it down.
The kids write a lot in journals when we travel.
The girls complete notebooking pages for science, history, and literature. I’m often very impressed when they go above and beyond. I give them freedom to write anything they find interesting. And I only require a few notebooking pages on important topics for each unit since I don’t want to overwhelm them. Since we cycle through 4 years of history, we build on prior knowledge each go-round and get more complex.
They love to complete biography pages about missionaries, artists, and composers.
My teen daughter has advanced comprehension and thinking questions with our main curriculum, Tapestry of Grace, about her literature, history, and worldview reading assignements to complete each week that help guide our discussions.
I don’t encourage formal writing until after age 10 or so.
I encourage my kids to write whenever they like – about anything. They often create fun little stories and books and even illustrate them!
I begin to teach proper sentence and paragraph structure after age 10 since little kids need to focus on other more important tasks – like playing. How to write a paragraph?
Whenever they show interest, or in high school, I teach research methods and citation as they begin completing research papers and literary analysis essays. How to write essays?
My middle girls and young son recently completed geography projects on India and China and Hawaii by their choice.
My teen daughter often writes and gives oral presentations for Civil Air Patrol. She won 1st place for her science fair project last year (and it was a doozy!). It entailed much research and recording data and writing up the information. And her work will be published in a real scientific journal!
Some fun creative writing tools are Story Cubes Game, Writing Prompt Cubes by Learning Resources, and Story Builders cards from Write Shop.
I realize most homeschool parents need curriculum for most subjects. It is possible to teach with an eclectic blend of materials!
I am so happy that I am trained as an English teacher and my husband is good with advanced maths and science!
How do you teach English?
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