Language Arts That Works for Our Family

Written by Katherine Tanyu

When we started homeschooling, it was not math that I was scared of teaching. I figured teaching arithmetic to a child (at least in the early years) would be as easy as 1-2-3. We will figure out trigonometry and calculus in the future. I was actually worried about teaching writing, which was weird because I honestly can't remember how I learned to write. But I do remember joining the essay writing contest at our school when I was in fourth grade. It was not a long and fancy essay; it was just a two-paragraph piece on what grace means to me. 

Ever since I was a young girl, I have always loved to write. Silly stories and poems — I just like creating stuff and putting them in writing. Mama gifted me a composition notebook which I begged her to buy for me then. I cannot find it now, but it is a precious memory that I still remember as clear as day.

Based on what I did as a young girl, this is what I try to do in our homeschool. I encourage my son to just write whatever he wishes to write. I gave him lots of notebooks and papers so he can draw, write, and scribble anything he wants. Now, he has “published” books which I keep in my ever growing stack. By the way, in our terminology, “published” means finished and filled-up notebooks. His stories cater to a specific taste (They may not make sense to other people.), but looking at them is very encouraging to me as I can see his progress. 

We do copywork daily which greatly helped in him absorbing the capitalization and punctuation rules. When I see him writing sentences properly and not capitalizing all letters, I assure myself, yup, there is progress because there are days when I would just doubt myself and our whole system. Will my child be able to write book reports, expository essays? And then I would go language-arts-curriculum-crazy. It is a vicious cycle. It helps to keep my homeschool blinders on. Another thing, I have discovered that the gentle and slow approach works for us. Short, consistent, and daily copywork is one of our tools.


 Another thing, I have discovered that
the gentle and slow approach
works for us.
Short, consistent, and daily copywork
is one of our tools.

I met this very helpful and creative homeschooling mama and asked her what has helped them when it comes to this subject. She gave lots of brilliant ideas such as poem painting, making use of graphic organizers (We also do this!!), sign language, switching punctuations to practice fluency, and doodles about their favourite books. (She mentioned the Tom Gates series.)

Writing prompts also help. These are a few of what they have used before.

  • Write two make-believe stories about mass moves in history.
  • Compare modes of transportation and evaluate the best mode for cross country travel in the Philippines.
  • Write an itinerary for a 10-day trip to the location of choice.
  • Diary of thoughts as to what it was like each day on the Mayflower.
  • A paragraph proving that friction is necessary in our world.  

What I like about the prompts she shared is that they are not limited to the usual “boring” creative writing topics. They encompass history, science, and everyday life. I almost forgot that our goal in teaching language arts is to be able to communicate well and not because we want to answer all grammar worksheets correctly. Again, I keep my homeschool blinders on. 

Unless we are English language majors, I think that memorizing rules is not helpful to us at this point (an example is the “i before e except after c, or when sounded like -eigh as in neighbour and weigh” rule). It is a fun spelling rule, but it makes language learning very technical for us and not at all natural. I notice that, at least for my child, he grasps spelling and absorbs facts more because he genuinely enjoys reading. Hence for us, just reading and writing a lot is enough. The most technical thing we are doing is copywork for us to be able to absorb the syntax.  

What about your family? What works for you?

Aside from God, her family, homeschooling (and books!), Katherine's love lies in stationeries. She and her husband manages growing stationery brands Forestmill, Prevailed, and FengShui Power in the Philippines. She is also the community moderator of a Facebook group for Office and School Supplies Wholesalers.

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).