Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Homeschool Language Arts Review: Handwriting Without Tears, All About Reading, All About Spelling, The Good and the Beautiful, Sonlight, and Create a Story board game

Does homeschool have to have a language arts curriculum?!  It's nice to have a plan and not feeling like some component is missing.   But sometimes I just wonder!  I do like that curriculums keep things rolling when I haven't planned anything or we're waiting to run to the library to stock up. But I also cherished the days early on when they were already reading well and I felt like we could just EXPLORE the best children's books and naturally teach them things and do crafts and fun activities along the journey. PLAY is powerful and seems to invite the very deepest learning and memories.  We plow through our favorite curriculums still that are special to us, but I just have to hold on to the dearest moments too... All four buddies crowded in a long cardboard "Boxcar" dotted with smushed blueberries as we read and act out "The Boxcar Children" or exploring the moon through a telescope or carving Oreos to look like moon phases as we pour over "Harold and the Purple Crayon."  Or talking about spelling and grammar rules naturally as they write about their favorite ocean animals before we venture off to the aquarium.  Or eating donuts while we read "Charlotte's Web" and discovering cool spider webs at the park.  THESE are my favorite most precious moments of Mommy School.  But then there's also the looming "Are they getting everything they need? What am I missing?" qualms.  So, I'm grateful for wonderful curriculums all prepared and planned out already like "The Good and the Beautiful"!  The first page of our "All About Spelling" manual has my very FAVORITE QUOTE:

The Author of AAS curriculum says, "To my mom, who gave me the love of words and knowledge.  My mom provided a childhood for me filled with reading, studying, writing, and dreaming.  I will never forget the wonder of a parcel of books delivered to our door one winter day, and my brother and sister and me draping ourselves over my mom while she read to us on the couch.  As my mom's voice carried us along, the afternoon was transformed from dull and overcast to enchanting and unforgettable.  It was soon after that I felt a determination to learn to put words on paper, and asked for a pencil..."

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Handwriting Without Tears.  I highly recommend it - all the different levels.  The Pre-K materials are AWESOME too... chalkboard to do "wet, dry, try" with letters, a mat with wooden shapes to BUILD a letter in the correct order, and really fun workbooks to reinforce everything.  And their simple double-lined paper that goes with it is genius!  Handwriting is probably all 3 of my kids favorite subject just because of this curriculum.

Here's some examples of Handwriting Without Tears paper.  And these stories were inspired from "Create a Story" board game (below)

And that reminds me... the BEST for illustrating stories ... Usborne Step by Step Drawing Books!!!!

So we tried All About Reading (Primer, Levels 1 & 3) and All About Spelling (Levels 1 & 2) for a semester and liked it but didn't love it. AAR was too much busy work for us.  I personally love being able to choose our OWN books and let them pick to read what they are really interested in rather than what they have to.  I think reading can be taught more naturally.  AAS was great with all the phonics and sounds cards and the "key cards" which have the spelling rules.  I learned so much as a parent about our english language and feel much more confident in teaching my kids now.  For me, AAS spelling was enough and I didn't really need AAR.  My kids weren't really into as much either.  I may get the AAS Levels 3&4 books just to teach ME the concepts so I can better teach them.  My preschooler loved the "Ziggy" puppet for the primer level, but I'd rather just do my own fun things for teaching letter sounds than using a curriculum.
(Thanks google images for this picture since I don't have time to snap one ha!)
What my kids really LOVED was F.I.A.R "Five in a Row" where you explore wonderful children's picture books for "5 days" or whatever and do lots of different activities with each one exploring things like science, language arts, character qualities, art, history.  I bought the manuals but they are pricey.  You can also reference lots of ideas on DELIGHTFUL LEARNING BLOG for a start.  And here are F.I.A.R. book list  if you scroll down to the bottom of their website.  They also have a "Before Five in a Row" which I would love to try with my youngers.  After doing this sporadically for 2 years, I feel like my kids have really internalized a love for great literature.  These books have become so special to us!  Here are just examples of some things we did for "Harold and the Purple Crayon"...
We learned about how the color purple is the color of royalty which inspired our next FIAR book "A Duchess Bakes a Cake".  I read the story while they drew it with a purple crayon.  We got on a moon kick for a while since the "moon went along with him" and there's a ton of fun ideas on pinterest.  Charting the moon phase each night for a month, checking out a telescope from the public library, cutting oreo filling to look like the phases, stuff like that.  

The LA curriculum that we've come back to that my kids really craved is Jenny Phillips "The Good and the Beautiful." Spelling, Reading, Phonics, Language Arts... is all combined into one program.   We've like the "Readers" for my 1st grader but not as much the Level 3.  It'll be better to choose our own books for him from the library.  Love this curriculum!  

Oh and you can order a free SONLIGHT curriculum catalog which is full of GREAT book lists for each age.  I bought the whole year worth of books and daily schedules and materials but won't again in the future.  But many people love this curriculum, and I love her great literature book recommendations!  Their "Timeline" book and foldable/laminated map is also really neat.

For writing, we've tried all sorts of things... writing in journals where parent/child ask each other questions back and forth, writing stories or non-fiction books about things they are interested in.  Our new favorite has been the "Create a Story" board game!  So fun and inspires them to use creativity!


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