How To: Teach Language Arts

A few weeks ago I shared ideas for teaching your child to read.  In this post I want to highlight other aspects of teaching the language arts (or “English,” which is what I call the combination of these subjects on my children’s high school transcripts.)  For the sake of this post, and to make it easier for you to find the appropriate resources, I am dividing these resources into the following categories:

  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary
  • Spelling
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Handwriting
  • Composition

Grammar:  I will be perfectly honest and tell you that in over 20 years of home-schooling I have not found a grammar program I like with the possible exception of “Editor-In-Chief.”  Editor-in-Chief uses actual newspaper-type articles, with errors in them, to teach children to locate and correct grammar errors.  Frankly, I think this is a logical way to teach grammar and has the added benefit of teaching your children how to proof their own drafts of essays, etc.

I realize that there are programs out there that many home-schoolers like and I have used at least one of the more popular programs – and found it incredibly boring.  As I’ve said before, I’m not generally very enthused about subjecting my children to a program I find boring.  And I will reiterate, by “boring” I don’t mean “difficult.”  Difficult is often a good thing.  Boring rarely is.

The one program I do like for teaching grammar is not a grammar program at all.  It is the composition program “Write With the Best.”  WWTB incorporates the study of grammar in a very natural way and that is one of the many reasons that I love this program.

Vocabulary:  In my opinion the study of vocabulary is a crucial part of your child’s education.  The mark of an educated, intelligent person is certainly, in part at least, the command of language.  Therefore, I believe the study of vocabulary should be an integral part of your curriculum.  Fortunately there are some very good resources out there that I can wholeheartedly recommend; they are published by Educator’s Publishing Service (also called School Specialty Intervention).

The two vocabulary programs I recommend from Educator’s Publishing Service are “Wordly Wise” and “Vocabulary from Classical Roots.”  Wordly Wise is advertised as a K-12 program, but I would probably use this in the later years of grammar school.  I like to use Vocabulary from Classical Roots in the middle school years.  Check out the programs and decide for yourself, but do check them out!

Spelling: I have mentioned before (in my “Six Workbooks That Work” post) that I do not believe you should bother teaching spelling until at least the fourth grade, if at all.  My reasoning for this is that if your child is a naturally good speller, then a spelling curriuculum is pointless and redundant.  You can usually determine by about the fourth grade if your child is a naturally good speller and if he is, then don’t bother with teaching spelling…he doesn’t need it!  On the other hand if you can see that your child is NOT a natural speller, then I recommend you use the “Apples Spelling Drills” program.  I have found that two out of my four children were naturally good spellers and I never bothered with a spelling curriculum.  On the other hand, my middle son is not a naturally good speller so in middle school I had him use the “Apples Spelling Drills” with great success.  The jury is still out on my youngest son but if I find that he needs a spelling program you can bet I will be using Apples.  I want to also add that “Apples Spelling Drills” can be used as an excellent phonics review for older children.

Reading Comprehension: In the early years of your child’s education you will want to focus on the mechanics of learning to read, i.e. phonics.  Once they are reading fairly fluently you will want to begin concentrating on comprehension.  I use the Bob Jones Reading program for the elementary grades, in part because their reading workbooks are such a good resource for teaching reading comprehension.  They work on a variety of skills to enhance your child’s reading comprehension.  Educator’s Publishing Service also has resources for this, but since I have not used any of them myself I recommend that you check them out for yourself to see if they are something that would work for you and your child.

Handwriting:  Over the years I have read many home-schoolers “debate” which style of handwriting is best: “ball-and-stick,” D’Nealian, Italic, etc.  Frankly, I don’t think it really matters what style you choose to teach your child handwriting because ultimately everyone works out their own style by the time they reach adulthood.  I choose to use the old-fashioned “ball-and-stick” method where children learn manuscript handwriting in K-2nd grades and then transition to cursive in 3rd grade.  The program I use is “A Reason for Handwriting.”  I will point out that this is a Christian curriculum that incorporates the use of Scripture verses to review the letters and words that have been previously taught.  Obviously as a Christian I see this as a plus.  Moreover, I can’t see how exposure to the most important book in Western culture can be considered a flaw.  But I will let you be the judge!

Composition: In the middle and senior high school years composition is one of the most critical components of your curriculum.  In light of that I searched for years for a writing curriculum that I liked and finally about five years ago I finally found one!  “Write With the Best” is such a fantastic resource that I dedicated an entire post to it.

I do want to point out here that I don’t see any point to requiring your kids to use a creative writing curriculum before about fifth grade.  Up until this point your child is so focused on the mechanics of learning to read and write that I think requiring composition in the early grades is excessive.  I’m not saying that if your child wants to create that you discourage it.  Some kids will naturally create stories at a young age and that is awesome.  But requiring your child to undertake the rather abstract process of creating a story or essay will often result in unnecessary frustration for both you and your child.  In light of that I recommend using “Write With the Best” between 5th grade and high school.  I also believe it is critical that your child learn to write a research paper and my post, “The Homeschooler’s Guide to Writing a Research Paper,” is designed to help you and your child throughout that process.

What curriculum and/or resources have you used to teach your child language arts?  Let me know in the comments!

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  • Stopping by from SITS! I was homeschooled from 7th-12th grade. I’m glad you’re teaching the right way!!

    • Anonymous

      So glad you stopped by from SITS! I always love hearing from a home-school grad!

  • Thinking4ward

    Nice, you put a lot of work into these posts !

    • Anonymous

      Thanks! I hope that home-schooling parents are finding them to be helpful!

  • Kim

    I was just reading an article about how cursive handwriting has been removed from the national standards of curriculum. Many elementary schools no longer will be teaching students to write in cursive! Aagh! My 2 older girls do practice their cursive with Scripture verses, and it seems to work for them!

    • Anonymous

      That seems odd too me given that there are still many cases where you have to sign your name to documents (mortgages, credit card charges, opening almost any kind of bank account and the list goes on). One of the tragic/pathetic/immoral things about schools today is they seem to have time to teach children to engage in prurient behavior but not how to read, write and do math. That may sound extreme but I’m pretty sure I’m more aware of what’s going on in the public schools than most parents who send their kids to public schools…which is one reason my kids don’t attend them.

  • Momsmustards

    Thanks for these great resources. I am trying to decide what I am going to use next year…especially in regards to Language Arts, Grammar, etc. I am following you now and thankful I found you on the HIp Homeschool Hop!

    OH…and I am teaching my children cursive writing. I do like the program from Queen Homeschool….it is beautiful, easy to follow and has good character copy work!

    • Anonymous

      I am thrilled that you found me on the Hop and that you are now following my site! I am glad that you found this post helpful and also, that you shared what you are using for cursive writing. There is no better resource for home-schoolers than other home-schoolers.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  • When I homeschooled, I loved Daily Grams for grammar! It used a method I had already developed to teach college students how to recognize a complete sentence! I tutored homeschool students in college-bound writing, so I never bought a curriculum. I must admit that my boys have loved writing stories, poems and songs up to 6th grade. My very first post was a series of poems my son had written for Mothers Day in the 4th grade. I have a post on my site about how to build a research paper. It’s what I used with my college students. You might be interested. I’m getting ready to do a few on citation for my writing section!

    Stopped by froms SITS. I enjoyed the visit!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for stopping by! I love the support the SITStahs give each other. I will have to check out your site!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for stopping by! I love the support the SITStahs give each other. I will have to check out your site!

  • Anonymous

    all my home school friends: I recently discovered a great way for
    spelling practice using our own curriculum’s list each week at All you have to do to input your own list is to
    register with them (free) for a login. Then, you login and edit the
    lists, viola, the kids can play games and take a spelling test using the
    lists from your own curriculum! Much more fun than writing it ten
    times each (not that we were doing that, but that’s what I had to do
    when I was little).

    • Anonymous


      I really appreciate you taking the time to share this resource with my readers!  Thanks!