English and Language Arts – Homeschool Planning

English and Language Arts are probably my favorite subjects to teach. The reason is that I love books. Books are my favorite hobby, and that is evidenced by the fact that we use a literature-based approach to homeschooling.

But, English and Language Arts is such a large category of subjects, how do you make sure that you are teaching everything that needs to be taught? Honestly, it took me a while to feel comfortable with this. How much should you push writing? Should you always edit your child’s work? What about grammar and spelling? What the heck is a past participle anyway?

A Different Approach to English and Language Arts

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I do not remember any grammar from my school days. Honestly, none. In fact, I only remember grammar in the context of a foreign language. Now, I’m sure that I took grammar in school. I tested out of the writing and rhetoric class that was required at my college, so I must have learned something at some point. But, I can’t remember learning any of it.

What I do remember? Reading, a lot. And when I realized that there was a different way to learn English and Language Arts, outside of all of those worksheets and boring writing prompts, I jumped on board.

What is this different approach? Simply put, it is reading good literature and evaluating that literature for writing elements, grammar, spelling, creativity – everything.

Obviously, this will not work for everyone, but I definitely am going to recommend you at least take a chance on it. Change your thinking.

A Great Resource

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A great resource to help you understand this different way of teaching is the book The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart. In that book, she goes through all the different ways that you can learn from reading good quality literature, as well as her approach to homeschooling. This is one of my favorite homeschool resources and I refer to it regularly.

Brave Writer Arrows

Because we use a literature-based approach to homeschooling, I already know that we have a lot of quality books in our normal curriculum. But, I do like to add some different resources. One of those resources is the Brave Writer Arrows. Every year Julie Bogart lists out the ten new books that they will be going through for the year.

An Arrow is a one-month English and Language Arts guide for one book. Within the guide, there is spelling, grammar, writing elements to study, as well as comprehension questions, and everything else you would need to make a complete unit for ELA.

The great thing about the Arrows is that every year new books are added. That means that you do not need to purchase the books only for the year, you are able to pick and choose. That is what we normally do based on the books that I have already chosen to read.

New This Year

This year Julie surprised me with the restructuring of the Brave Writer Program. No longer are the Arrows for 8-12 years old. Now, they have a new program called the Dart for ages 8-10. Arrows are for 11-12 years old, and Boomerang for ages 13-15.

It threw me for a loop! However, after watching the reveal, Jack decided that he would like to do the Dart for the year, and Emma wanted to use the Boomerang books that were revealed.

Because the Boomerang books are for a little bit older age set, I have decided to choose some of the favorites that were revealed from the Boomerang, and then also combine them with some Arrow choices.

This way, she is able to get some of the more mature content, as well as some easier reads.

Our Choices for 2020-2021

Below you will find book choices for the 2020-2021 Homeschool Year.

Jack’s Books (10 yrs old) – 2020-2021 Brave Writer Dart

  1. Charlotte’s Web
  2. The Prairie Thief
  3. Finn Family Moomintroll
  4. The House at Pooh Corner
  5. The Mouse and the Motorcycle
  6. Mr. Popper’s Penguins
  7. Sarah, Plain and Tall
  8. The Trumpet of the Swan
  9. The Year of the Dog
  10. Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective

Emma’s Books (12 yrs old)

  1. Emma – Boomerang
  2. Elijah of Buxton – Arrow
  3. The Hound of the Baskervilles – Boomerang
  4. Children of the Longhouse – Arrow
  5. The Wizard of Oz – Boomerang
  6. Bud, Not Buddy – Arrow
  7. The People Could Fly – Arrow
  8. They Called Us Enemy – Boomerang
  9. A Wrinkle in Time – Boomerang
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird – Boomerang

And two alternates because she is reading the first book this year, and has read the second book multiple times already.

  1. The View from Saturday – Boomerang
  2. Wings of Fire – Arrow

English and Language Arts: But What about Writing?

We love to write. My kids love to write, and I let them write any way they want to. Whether that is typing a story, making a google slides presentation, drawing comics. Whatever they choose to do for writing, I allow it. And I don’t correct everything that they write. I know that is controversial.

That is probably the key to why my kids love writing – I do not correct everything that my kids write. Why is this? Well, when they were younger I didn’t want to discourage them from writing. Because they were so excited about telling their stories, I wanted them to continue without me hindering them.

Obviously, this is not the normal way of teaching English and Language Arts. We all remember the red pen of doom. I didn’t want that for my kids, so I chose a different path.

One of the best things that I have found in helping my kids with their writing is for them to read it to me after they have written it. Often, we forget that writing is a learned skill, much the same as oral communication. When our kids read their creation, they will start to self-edit while presenting. This is because they can hear the difference in their writing, even if they don’t notice it while actually writing.

English and Language Arts: Writing Projects

With the Brave Writer Program there are several different options when it comes to writing. We have focused mainly on Partnership Writing Projects and Faltering Ownership Writing Projects.

Partnership writing projects are just as they sound. You partner with your child to do the writing. That means that sometimes you are writing, sometimes your student is writing, sometimes your student is dictating and you are transcribing for them.

In Faltering Ownership, you are giving the child a bit more control over their writing. Letting them flourish and helping them when they flounder.

Partnership Writing is geared towards ages 9-10 and then Faltering Ownership is geared towards ages 11-12. However, every person goes through every stage of learning to write, and you may pick and choose.

For our English and Language Arts this year, we will be using both programs. Emma has done most of the Partnership Writing projects, and Jack has done a couple of them, so we will be incorporating those into our months. We do not always do one project each month, depending on how our month is going, or if the kids want to work on their own projects.

These are a little more parent intensive than telling your kids to do a paper, and we like that, but it is a project.

The Bottom Line

Finding the Brave Writer Lifestyle several years ago has given me confidence to keep going in the direction we are going with ELA. I love the approach, and I love that my kids enjoy it as well.

Giving ourselves grace to make adjustments in the schedule, to inject enchantment into education, and to focus on building relationships has been a game changer for our homeschool.

Have you used or are you using Brave Writer this year? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below!
English and Language Arts Homeschool Planning using a combination of Brave Writer resources as well as Sonlight literature resources. How we choose!

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