As you think about teaching Language Arts, you might feel intimidated. There are so many things to share, and your own education might have left you a little uncertain of your ability to teach Language Arts adequately.
But here’s all that Language Arts is: the ability to think well and write those thoughts clearly, so that others can understand your thoughts.
This umbrella of language arts encompasses all of these topics:
- Thinking and Speaking
Better Late Than Early for Language Arts
In the United States, many courses of instruction begin in kindergarten (or before), so that a child who has not already made significant progress in reading by the start of first grade is considered “behind.” The United States is not ranked very high in education—in many cases, not even in the top 25 worldwide. Many countries with higher ranking take child development more into account. Recognizing that eye development isn’t finished until around age 7, high-ranked countries delay reading instruction, emphasizing more creative play in the earlier years.
This concept is also known as “better late than early.” With this method, your children are allowed to learn when their bodies and minds are ready. One analogy is like digging a hole in the Arctic Tundra. You could go out in January and start chipping away at the rock solid icy soil. A quarter inch a day, with much toil, and by summer you might have a fence post hole. Or you could wait until the summer thaw,and dig the hole in a day.
With either method, you get the same end result; with better late than early, you can take advantage of your children’s natural readiness. For many, waiting to “dig a hole” at the perfect time sounds great. If you’re fairly confident you’ll be homeschooling until middle school at least, you might consider this method. Middle school is a good rule of thumb for when the intentionally delayed students catch up to their early starting peers.
When Not to Delay Language Arts
Reasons you might not want to start later? If you are expecting to integrate your children back into public school probably seek to keep your children on grade level as much as possible, even if there might be a few more tears and some extra frustration. Or if you wonder if you’re dealing with some sort of learning disability. In that case, better to get started on therapy as soon as possible. Or if you have an eager child who begged to write at age three, and was sounding out words at age four. No need to hold that child back!
Or if you find it exhausting to go against society’s norms. There’s no shame in this.
- You might have relatives who quiz your children or otherwise second guess your abilities.
- You might be required by your state to test your children annually, and you know it will distress you if your children have a poor showing (even though you know rationally that you’re not trying to go by Common Core expectations).
- You might not be confident in your own abilities, and want to give yourself as much time as possible.
Starting to Put These Skills Together
So, when is the best time to start teaching language arts in your homeschool? At some point between the ages of 4 and 8, depending on your family’s needs.
Once a child can read, write, spell, and has a bit of grammar knowledge, you can introduce copywork. Give your elementary child a sentence to copy (something from the book of Proverbs, for example), and let the child have some practice combining all the separate skills of handwriting, reading, spelling, and grammar into one task: writing.
Again, the timeline for your children can vary according to how they are progressing with all the other tasks. This isn’t simple! So many new skills are needed. After several years of practice, you can introduce dictation. This means that after your children have reviewed a sentence, you read it aloud to them and have them write it, using all their knowledge of handwriting, spelling, and grammar.
This is a challenging task! Expect your children to make some mistakes! That means they are learning.
A note about learning: A good rule of thumb for life is that learning happens when you’re succeeding more than half the time, but not getting 100%. So if your children make mistakes on even three out of ten words or punctuations, that means they’re getting seven right, and their brains are working at peak efficiency for learning. If your children are making no errors, clearly their work is too easy, and if they are succeeding only rarely, the work is too difficult.
This article is excerpted from our free guide A Beginner’s Blueprint to Language Arts: The No-stress Guide to Teaching Language Arts with Purpose. Download it here at no cost.