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Homeschool Language Arts: Teaching Reading and Writing

Reading and writing are two of the most important skills that every child should master in an educational program. Without the skills of reading and writing, they will have difficulty mastering and learning other skills in the other subject areas such as mathematics and science. Once the basics of reading and writing are acquired, children can work on building vocabulary knowledge, spelling, and grammar.

While there are many approaches to teaching reading and writing, most curriculum programs feature some type of phonics instruction, grammar, vocabulary, spelling and also literature based teaching. When you home school your child (or children) you should find the reading and writing curriculum that will best meet their needs and also teach them the skills which will match the required standards. Within that context, there are many reading and writing curriculum choices available both online and in text and worksheet form.  Some programs are included as part of a Unit Studies program, while others are taught as an isolated subject.

Preschool Reading and Writing Instruction:
For the Pre-K age child, reading and writing instruction has hopefully begun soon after birth. As you take the time to read books to them, they will begin to have a love of reading and literature. They will learn other skills as a byproduct such as book-knowledge (knowing where the front and back of the book are, that you read from left to right, how to hold and book and turn the pages, etc.) as well as inflection, letter recognition, etc. They will also have a larger vocabulary. But, most importantly, they will have gained a love of reading. They may also show and interest in beginning phonics as they learn the alphabet and the sounds that the letters make. Build on this phonics skill by encouraging them to name the beginning letters in family members' names, favorite foods, activities, and toys.

At this age the main thing to do is to keep reading to children. Once they show an interest in reading and writing on their own, you can begin to teach those pre-reading skills and teach them about writing.

Beginning Formal Instruction in Reading and Writing: Kindergarten and First Grade
Once you begin more formal instruction in reading and writing, you will start with teaching letter sounds and phonics. This can be accomplished through one of the many phonics-based reading programs available. Look for a program that uses real literature, not just basal readers (books that are written solely for teaching reading that do not necessarily engage the reader.) Luckily there are many children's authors who write literature that has easy to read text, rhyming words, word families, etc. that can easily be adapted for reading instruction. There are also many worksheets available to teach writing skills.  But, children can also build writing skills through creating their own journals and stories. Writing skills include instruction on how to hold a pencil correctly as well as letter and number shapes.

You can begin teaching grammar, spelling, and vocabulary at this level, but the focus will be on reading and writing-because if they are not adequately reading and writing, the other areas will not have as much meaning

Building on Skills in Reading and Writing: Third to Fifth Grade
When the child moves into the second and third grade the focus shifts from basic reading and writing to comprehension, building vocabulary, grammar, and spelling. Comprehension can be built and measured through discussion, assessment, and writing assignments such as journals. Vocabulary can be discussed as part of your literature based program when you learn new words in a story along with their meanings. Grammar instruction and learning the parts of speech begins with learning basics such as nouns, verbs, and pronouns and then working up to descriptive words (adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions.) As children continue to learn reading and writing, punctuation will come as a natural part of grammar instruction. Up to this point many children are using "invented spelling" and making up their own words based on phonics.

Teaching Reading and Writing in the Middle and Upper Grades: Focus on Literature
From sixth to eighth grade, students are increasing their abstract thinking and reasoning skills and this is an ideal time to really analyze literature and begin critical discussions about things that they are reading and writing. Many home school curriculum literature programs use these techniques as well as "living" books to get students to challenge and develop ideas about what they are reading and writing. It will still be necessary to teach spelling, vocabulary, and grammar, but if this is done in the context of real-life writing and reading it will be more effective.

The key to a successful reading and writing program in the upper grades is to focus on real literature. Find a subject or genre of literature that interests the student and urge them to not only read this type of literature, but also to discuss it and even write it.

Where to Find a Reading and Writing Program:
Resources for home schoolers have never been more abundant. You can find curriculum programs that are taught almost exclusively online which focus on things such as phonics, early literacy, grammar, spelling and even typing skills. There are also single subject curriculum packages that include a text book as well as teacher materials and tests for each grade level. If you want something that is more inclusive or integrated, you can always choose an all-in-one curriculum that has materials for each subject area, or a Unit Studies program with integrates literature, reading and writing into all subject area instruction based on a theme.
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