Bravewriter inspired me to make more of a language arts routine, and we’ve been slowly implementing different elements of that. It’s mostly things we were doing already, but having more of a routine for some elements has really helped me feel like we’re moving forward and “doing something” for writing, in particular. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt either that both Mushroom and BalletBoy have reached a sort of tipping point with writing fluency and, in BalletBoy’s case, spelling so they can easily write a full page in their composition books.
Language arts is such a gooey, mushy concept with so many different pieces that it’s enough to drive someone crazy. There’s handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, poetry, literature, reading mechanics, reading comprehension, creative writing, and the list could go on. There aren’t a lot of programs that cover all the elements together, making it feel like you have to have a dozen different things for it. I like that Bravewriter has helped me calm that instinct down a great deal. As of now, we have Spelling Plus, which I have mostly on hold, though we’ll pick it back up again before too long. Both kids are finishing up formal phonics learning with Explode the Code (though BalletBoy should finish the last book before the autumn). I might do MCT’s Grammar Island for a short term grammar study in the fall. But other than that, we’re just following a routine.
Here’s what language arts looks like around here lately:
Monday: copywork or dictation
Tuesday: writing projects
Wednesday: poetry lemonade social
Thursday: written narration, usually for history or science
Everyday: evening read aloud chapter books, independent free reading
As it occurs: Mad Libs, movies, new vocabulary from books, audiobooks in the car, casual discussions about literary elements and plots
As we’ve eased into this schedule, I’m feeling good about it. We’ve been alternating copywork and dictation mostly and I’ve been taking the passages mostly from our current read alouds. It’s the thing that is most likely to meet with resistance, though both kids are improving at it. We’ve been uneven with projects. Bravewriter suggests one per month and we haven’t quite done that, but both kids are engaged in writing fan fiction (for The Mighty B strangely enough in Mushroom’s case) and have started small blogs about their passions. Because of our schedule, Wednesday works better for poetry for us, and we’re not really tea drinkers so we have lemonade in wine glasses, which is about as fancy as I can muster.
One thing I’m trying to work on for myself is bringing conversations about literature and story into a more casual, book club style. We’ve run through a slew of novels with strong first person voice lately (The Great Brain, Our Only May Amelia, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg…) so I’ve been pointing out a lot about voice lately, trying to get the kids to discuss. And I’ve been trying to let myself pause more and allow Mushroom to share his joy when he recognizes foreshadowing (he’s quite good at realizing that ominous things are about to happen in a novel) and then to name it as such. I feel like this is the way the kids will really learn how to appreciate literature, by talking about it and learning how to do that in a casual way.
When I wrote a few months ago about Bravewriter, I said I was definitely still in the honeymoon phase with it. I can’t say if I still am or not, but if so, at least it’s a long honeymoon. I’m at last feeling like language arts is something that is fun and easy in our homeschool and not something I need to worry about so much.