Homeschooling: Teaching English Simply

(Updated and revised)

“Do not underestimate the importance of all the conversations (slow and clear conversations) that a mother has throughout the day with her child.  If Mother speaks clearly and decisively, she is giving the child valuable language lessons.  All the reading aloud she enjoys doing every day–as her children listen attentively–is doing verbal wonders, naturally, to teach English.  I trusted Charlotte and did not teach grammar directly until each young student reached the age of ten.  Each always did well on the language section of the year-end test…most children just need practice in hearing and speaking the English language (not television language) to get accustomed to the basic “right and wrong” of grammar.”

From Charlotte Mason Companion

I can testify to this truth as a former high school English teacher.  When children have a good grasp of the way language “sounds”, simply from partaking in good, consistent conversation, the nuts and bolts of grammar come more easily and can be postponed until children have a better understanding of abstract concepts.

By the way, when I entered my first year teaching high school students, I was prepared to only review grammar and focus on literature.  To my surprise, most of the class–about 85%, didn’t even have a basic grasp of grammatical structure and could not pick out the basic parts of speech.  Which may have been OK if they could construct a good sentence, but alas, they could not.  So don’t worry so much about “being behind the average school child” 😉

Giving attention to our conversations lets us find ways to introduce new words and ideas in a very natural, but “sticky” way (meaning, it is more likely “to stick”). Look for conversation starters. Often, it comes from a child’s question, usually in abundance throughout the day.

A book can easily spark further conversation and I especially encourage you to ask a child to “narrate”, as Charlotte Mason called it, or “tell back”, in their own words, what they remember from the story.

(Don’t forget to utilize your time in the car or waiting for an appointment for rich conversation.)

In our increasingly electronic age where people spend less and less time interacting face to face, let us not neglect this very basic and needful exercise in teaching our children to be effective communicators!

“Too often home educators try to set up a government school at home. How foolish I was with all my records, charts, tests, and clip boards at the start! Students should read well, write well, be numerate, and cultured.”

John Mark Reynolds

Think Outside the Classroom

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Are you a homeschooling mother who worries that you aren’t “doing enough”? Are you thinking of homeschooling but feel afraid that you aren’t qualified? If so, read more…

 

 

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25 Responses to “Homeschooling: Teaching English Simply”

  1. Rachel Falaschi says:

    Kelly,

    I love this post! I love reading and writing. I majored in English in college. I have lost some of the finer points of grammer, due to lack of use. I just don’t write as much as I used to, or read for that matter. My husband, on the other, hated reading and writing in school. He reads now, occasionally, but his writing skills are something to be desired, that’s for sure. As for spelling, oh dear, he needs help! I know spelling isn’t the same as grammer, but the two are definately linked. I’m always telling him to sound things out. That only works if words are pronounced properly. I remember the first time I asked him to do that, he sounded out “nexderneighbor” (next-door-neighbor). I was so suprised he didn’t realized it was three seperate words!
    Thankfully he doesn’t use double negatives, but many of his friends do all the time. I almost hurts my ears to hear that!
    My husband is reading more now and I can see some improvement in his writing and spelling as well. Reading is definately the foundation for learning. My desire is to see my children love to read. We’re not there yet, my oldest is only 5 and he’s working on it!
    Thanks for these homeschooling posts, they are so encouraging!

  2. Diane says:

    I couldn’t agree more Kelly. My junior year of public highschool English class literally had a six week or so course of verbs, nouns, pro-nouns, all those things. It was ridiculous. I finally convinced my mom to let me do independent study my senior year so I could get done with high school and move on to college. And that is exactly what I ended up doing. Graduated early and started college. It is amazing what kids DON’T learn in public school and how much time is wasted!

  3. Margaret says:

    I love this post. I haven’t formulated any particular thoughts on it, but I agree with you completely.

    My husband is from Ethiopia and English is his 5th language, and when he took a freshman English course (as in super basic stuff) a few years ago, he was dubmstruck that he got A’s in the class and many of his American classmates got C’s or below. Shameful, really.

    English has never been difficult for me, thanks to my parents. Theirs was a very literary, language-oriented household from the beginning. And they talked alot. About everything. We are following in their footsteps and it’s obvious that even our young children are benefitting from that, especially in terms of the spoken language, and how to use it properly. I do think that each new child that arrives in our family has a greater advantage than the next, since there are more and more people yammering away in the household with each addition. :p

  4. Margaret says:

    Did my post go through?

  5. Margaret says:

    Apparently not! Phooey!

    Well, I wrote to say how much I agree with this! My husband is not a native English speaker and was astounded when he took a freshman level college English course and passed with A’s while many of his American counterparts barely scraped by. Shameful.

    My parents raised me in a house that was full of both literature and good speech. I think my dad would have been an excellent homeschool teacher, though they didn’t go that direction. He basically gave us a whole parallel education during our school years anyway.

    We are raising our children the same way, with lots of discussion, deliberately involving them in conversation, reading aloud, reading alone, etc. They are very clearly benefitting from all of that, even at ages 6 and under. Each new baby in the family benefits more and more, since there are more and more people ahead of him yammering away and teaching him how to carry on a conversation. 🙂

  6. Kelly L says:

    This is so true. I am always pleased when I hear words come out of our daughter’s mouth that most adults don’t use. It took a while to find the books she loves to read, and I was bummed for a while that she had disdain for reading. She taught herself to read many words at 4, so I thought it would be smooth sailing. WRONG. Finally, she has developed a strong like 😉 for reading. She is 9 and reading the real Black Beauty. She has to ask what some words mean (and sometimes I have to look them up—archaic English/horse language)but she is enjoying reading now…much to my delight. My advice to those whose kids don’t enjoy reading: keep looking for new books until you find the type they like..then branch out.

  7. Word Warrior says:

    Margaret,

    I’m sorry about your comments…for a while now, I’ve had a problem with the spam filter catching real comments and holding them until I go in and approve. Sometimes it takes me a little while…sorry you had to post twice!

  8. Before I make this statement let me say, I LOVE LIVING IN THE SOUTH and would not want to live anywhere else!!!

    My husband and I were born and raised in upstate New York. After we were married and moved to the south, my husband’s grammar went down hill fast! He would, and still does (20 years later), slaughter the English language. I think it is because he has picked the habits of those around him. He is not a big reader so he has just adapted to the local cultural verbiage. I love him dearly and he is my life, but I wish he’d remember his roots on proper English! :o)I think if he enjoyed reading, his grammar would not be as much of an issue. I adore him anyway!

  9. Margaret says:

    lol. Sorry for all my posts. Well, you just got to see my views two different ways. Double the fun. :p

  10. Kim M says:

    I love what you said about just having conversations.

  11. Jen P. says:

    I saw the quote from John Mark Reynolds and wanted to mention this. There is a North Jersey Democrat, Loretta Weinberg, who every few years introduces legislation to put a stranglehold on the state’s homeschooling families. She was just elected State Senate Majority leader last week, and plans to introduce S3105 soon. The draft of the bill is available, and the language basically gives the State unfettered access to NJ homeschooling families (much more than even public school students are required to provide to the state).

    Despite NJ’s reputation as The Regulation State, the state has one of the best homeschool environments in the US. This bill would quickly take it from being one of the freest homeschooling states to one of the most burdensome and intrusive.

    We’re also blessed to have statewide homeschooling groups of all stripes working together to coordinate efforts to quash this bill. They have coordinated a call-in effort to Ms. Weinberg’s offices in Trenton and her home office (don’t know where that is) to ask her to not introduce this bill.

    So, please, keep your homeschooling friends and the statewide groups in prayer. Please pray that Ms. Weinberg would be converted, or at least go away and deal with the real issues, which is the constant failings of the Department of Youth and Family Services. Abused and neglected children are *truant,* not homeschooled.

    Thanks!

  12. 6 arrows says:

    The first sentence in the quote from Charlotte Mason Companion is so important to ponder. Rich mother/child conversations throughout the day are such a blessing! When my youngest child was born, I really slowed down the pace of our life, wanting to invest in her and develop a close bond with the little one who I thought might possibly be the last baby we would have. I had let some of my older kids sort of “get lost in the shuffle” as our family grew over the years, and I knew I didn’t want that to happen again.

    The constant togetherness my youngest and I had as I drew her alongside me during the normal conversations and tasks of home life had a very powerful effect on her language development. She spoke her first sentence (3 words long, but grammatically complete) the week of her first birthday! And she hasn’t let up! She is 4 years old now, and our whole family is amazed at the depth of conversation she can carry on with us.

    This was such a great post, Kelly. I think family bonds are strongly enriched through rich conversation. There just is no substitute for frequent interaction with people simply living real life.

  13. VERY encouraging! This is only my second year of homeschooling and I suddenly had a near panic attack last week realizing my 2nd grader had not had a grammar lesson in 2 months. Reading this helps me relax again.

  14. Jasmine says:

    Excellent post. Instinctively I knew to do this. Praise God. I often find opportunities to have good conversations with my children.

    Thanks for the confirmation. We can stress so much about schooling when – simply stated – it really is a way of life.

    Blessings,

    Jasmine

  15. Keri says:

    Here is a little tidbit that a friend who evaluated my kids shared.Read books out loud that are above their reading level to kids.I have done this for years..off and on..and they love it.They do read on their own but nothing like watching the excitement on their faces as to what’s going to happen next.Sometimes I even catch them trying to read the next chapter on their own..lol.It does wonders for the vocabulary and for years my husband has thought I was some kind of super woman because of the words my youngest knew..It all just came from reading out loud to him from interesting books.Now just to let you know that although sometimes a much “older” student may balk at being read to out loud..stick with it..and they will come to love it also.I used to allow an older kid to empty the dishwasher quietly while I read to the others but I noticed..they were listening!!Just thought I’d share that.Have a great weekend everyone!!

  16. I agree with you in all that.
    H. and L. Bluedorn explain why it is good to delay formal academmics.

    http://www.triviumpursuit.com/articles/early_academics_and_unschooling.php

  17. I forgot to say that a good conversation is not only a good way for our children to improve their language skills, but also their thinking skills!

  18. Lois says:

    Do you teach your children Latin? If so, at what age do they start? Some of my friends are teaching their kiddos Latin, but I’m not sure it’s worth my time since I struggle to get the “basics” in. Thanks everyone for your input.

  19. Emily says:

    How true! I think that having intelligent conversations with your children beginning at a young age is one of the keys to making good readers. That, and reading aloud from good books with rich language, such as “Heidi” and “Little House.”

  20. Emily says:

    Also, I found Karen Andreola’s book to be of especial help on this topic. Thanks for your thoughtful and informative post!

  21. Darcy says:

    I’m behind reading the posts, but I just have to comment on this one!

    I taught high school English before having children and at the beginning of every year I would give a pre-test on grammar to see where my students were in regards to understanding parts of speech and complete sentences. I told them if the class average was 75% or higher, we would move on, but if less, then we would have to spend at least 2 weeks “reviewing”. Not even my advanced classes averaged above 75%! When my oldest started 5th grade and my second oldest was in 4th grade, I gave them the same pre-test just to see what they knew. My oldest scored 90% and my second oldest scored 86%. I think just the fact that we read often and I incorporate discussion of grammar into every day life really helps.

  22. Jennifer says:

    I had to laugh as you talked about teaching high school. Hope I was included in the 15%! 🙂 Though I really don’t know how my grasp of parts of speech was then, I remember you teaching prepositional phrases and that saved me on the ACT. I really think reading is a huge factor in being able to speak, write, and spell. I hope to instill a love of reading in my girls. I love everything you write! Now, I’m rechecking everything I type for grammatical errors!

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