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Homeschool English Lessons

What To Teach

When you first begin planning your English curriculum it is normal to feel a little at sea. Most of us have the school methods of teaching locked into our brains and that is what we think we need. We look for spelling tests, comprehension lessons, grammar worksheets and creative writing assignments. However when you homeschool you can use a far more natural method for teaching this subject.

Charlotte Mason believed the teaching methods and literary content of a child's curriculum were extremely important in achieving a good education.

The new Australian National Curriculum (and NSW Syllabus) does not stipulate the content of the materials to be used, or the teaching methods, except for the requirement to incorporate Australian literature, including some Torres Strait and Aboriginal literature, into its syllabus.

For more specific recommendations see our Homeschool Curriculum Guides.

Ten Ideas For Teaching Homeschool English (Charlotte Mason Style)

1. Use living books for lessons (not textbooks) and no twaddle (busy work or silly books).

Choose poetry, classics, scripture and quality literature.

Outcome: This exposes children to a wide variety of literature and gives them an appetite for excellent literature.

Living Books Booklists

2. Reading aloud is fundamental to her method.

Outcome: This encourages listening skills and allows books to be used beyond the level of a child's reading ability.

3. Reading lessons are a combination of basic phonics and sight words.

Children are encouraged to read their own books when able.

Outcome: This develops reading skills quickly and helps children to begin to read on their own without being bogged down by spelling rules.

4. Handwriting is mainly taught using copywork from quality literature.

Outcome: Children produce texts in the desired handwriting font from good models. Basic spelling and punctuation rules are used when reproducing different texts. Vocabulary is increased with exposure to different texts.

Teaching Handwriting, Spelling and Grammar with Help from Charlotte Mason

Is a short ebook to help you find out how to start formal handwriting lessons using good handwriting models. It also discusses types of fonts, what to give children to write, when to start teaching cursive and how to include spelling and grammar into these lessons.

Teaching handwriting the Charlotte Mason Way

Copywork Resource Ideas:

Blinky Bill Alphabet Copywork - Free Download

Classic Copywork Series

Downunder Copywork Series

5. Dictation is the main way spelling is taught.

Dictation is the natural progression after copywork. It begins around 9 or 10 years old. Although dictation is a simple tool, it is still hard work for children because they need to concentrate on the mechanics of writing. Using dictation allows children to practice their writing and spelling frequently without the additional stress of trying to think what to write. Commonly used words are reinforced an new words are learnt through word study.

Outcome: Encourages use of commonly used words and develops spelling skills. Increases vocabulary as words are used in context. Identifies different text structures and punctuation. It also reinforce other literature that is being studied in other subjects.

Downunder Dictation and Teacher's Guide

Charlotte Mason had a special way of teaching dictation. She wanted children learn their dictation passages and study new words before they were required to write them. This guide will help you follow the Charlotte Mason Method of dictation and it also has a collection of Australian and New Zealand literature passages for you to use for dictation lessons.

Downunder Dictation and Teacher's Guide

6. Composition is taught as a separate skill to writing.

The skill of writing grows with constant practice and as they mature. Charlotte Mason wanted children to have something to write about and so the first compositions were written narrations in their notebooks in all their subjects.

Outcome: Children's writing lessons are often their copywork and dictation lessons and they are not required to write creatively until they have the necessary writing skills needed to compose their own work. Narrations give children the content that they needed in order to write a good composition. This eliminates the frustration of children being required to think of something to write before they have the necessary knowledge.

Emma Serl’s  Language Lesson Series is an all-in-one English program written for Year 2 to Year 6 students. It gives children lots of composition practice using a range of different writing exercises to stimulate their writing. It combines spelling, dictation, narrations, picture study, observation, poetry, writing, and grammar into one easy to follow resource. You can just pick up the book and use it. No preparation necessary.

Primary Language Lessons - Year 2 and 3 Intermediate Language Lessons - Year 4

Primary language Lessons

Intermediate Language Lessons
Intermediate Language Lessons - Year 5 Intermediate Language Lessons - Year 6
Intermediate Language Lessons Intermediate language Lessons

7. Grammar Lessons & Punctuation

Charlotte Mason and Emma Serl believed that grammar and punctuation could be taught in the context of quality literature and in studying the common usage of words.

"Grammar, being a study of words and not of things, is by no means attractive to the child, nor should he be hurried into it. English grammar, again, depending as it does on the position and logical connection of words, is peculiarly hard for him to grasp." Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason believed you should start teaching children about writing through copywork and dictation before you start focusing on how to pick apart words in a sentence.

Many intensive grammar courses exist for those wanting a concentrated course of study in the high school years.

What If I Don't Understand Grammar?

An essential in teaching this area is a simple grammar reference. You can learn the basics along with your children. This guide will help you and your student find out definitions and correct grammar usage.

The Briefest English Grammar & Punctuation Guide Ever!

Grammar and Punctuation Study Book

8. Literature Study & Viewing

“Children and books go together in a special way. I can’t imagine any pleasure greater than bringing to the uncluttered, supple mind of a child the delight of knowing the many rich things God has given us to enjoy. Parents have this wonderful privilege, and books are their keenest tools. Children don’t stumble onto good books by themselves; they must be introduced to the wonder of words put together in such a way that they spin out pure joy and magic.” Gladys Hunt— Honey for a Child’s Heart © 1969

These literature unit studies use quality picture books to help teach your children about various aspects of Australia.

Wombat Stew Literature Study Australian Book Traveller
Wombat Stew Australian Book Traveller

Around Year 6 you may wish to do a more in depth study of a chapter novel and look at aspects like: plot, characters, setting etc.

Any Novel Novel Guide

This study guide can be used with any novel. It's flexible and can be used with a range of ages. It will teach your children to analyse a novel's characters, themes and plot.

Any Novel Study Guide

Note on Viewing: Today we can also view many of the great literary works as plays, movies and mini series. This requirement is easy to achieve. As a family we love to watch many of the BBC classic English novels.

9. Essay and Creative Writing

Charlotte Mason's method of writing allowed children to write creatively within the context of the topic that they were reading about. It gave them the content and got them interested in a subject so they would have something to say. Children were not required to just make up a story from their heads with no direction. Some children will want to make up stories and others will not. If this is your child by all means write down their stories if you desire but if your child doesn't want to then I suggest you save yourself the agony and leave this skill to develop naturally at a later date.

Ruth Beechick discusses this topic in her book A Strong Start in Language. She says, “Our society is so obsessed with creativity that people want children to be creative before they have any knowledge or skill to be creative with.”

The National Curriculum doesn't require our children to produce creative (imaginative) writing texts until Year Four.

Jimmie Langley has written two ebooks that I recommend for teaching older students.

Essay Tune Ups and Designing Your Own Language Arts Curriculum

Language Arts Curriculum

10. Public Speaking

Storytelling, narration, poetry recitation, and drama are all part of improving a child's oral presentations. Shakespeare plays are also read in the later primary and highschool years.

Outcome: This encourages organisation of material to be presented orally. It also increases the confidence of children to communicate on a variety of topics.It also demonstrates to children that literary texts can be presented in different ways. Exposes children to classic literature.

Visit my blog for more ideas on English and for teaching English in specific grades see our Curriculum Guides.