One of the most time-consuming tasks for homeschooling parents is researching curriculum. I’m not only going to tell you what I think are the best choices, but I’m also going to give you access to a free document with all the information in table format. I think you’re going to love it!
Why choosing the best language arts curriculum matters
Right away I want to issue a disclaimer. I am only sharing the language arts curricula that teaches more than one subject. I will not be discussing curricula that strictly teaches literature, writing, spelling, or grammar. In the future I may do reviews of these curricula as well. For today, if a curriculum teaches more than one subject and I believe it is one of the best currently available, I am including it in my list. You may have a curriculum you love that does teach more than one subject that hasn’t made my list. I would love to hear about it in the comments.
The list I’ve created will be a huge help in making a decision this year, especially if you are looking for a complete language arts curriculum and not a standalone subject. Click the list image below to claim your copy for subscribers.
I believe that language arts is the most important subject we teach in our homeschools after the faith. Yes, I think it’s more important than math because we have to read to learn math and certainly have to read word problems to calculate them. My belief is backed up by research which demonstrates that reading and most particularly vocabulary (which is developed by reading) is the best predictor of a student’s academic success and life happiness. Writing skills are important in getting a good job as employers evaluate what is written on a job application. Writing is also a big factor in grades for most other subjects studied in college.
Because language arts is so important, we want to find a curriculum that will encourage our kids to read and write well. One of the most important criteria should be a student’s enjoyment. The more your child enjoys reading and writing, the more your child’s skills will improve. We can certainly encourage our kids to read and write outside of a traditional curriculum. But teaching higher-level language arts skills at any grade level can be easier with a curriculum to serve as your spine. It also makes sense to teach the language arts together, rather than dividing them into subtopics. Having said that, I have taught stand-alone subjects many times over the course of my homeschooling.
The best language arts curricula for elementary students
I will begin with what I consider to be the best language arts complete curriculum for elementary students. Am I being completely objective in recommending Grammar Galaxy as one of the best options? No. I have had too much positive feedback from Grammar Galaxy families to remain objective. I hear over and over that reluctant readers and writers are now doing both and loving it! I have heard too many times that children beg to do Grammar Galaxy where other grammar and English curriculum left them groaning.
I am excited about the launch of the third volume of Grammar Galaxy which teaches literature concepts, vocabulary and spelling strategies, grammar, and composition and speaking to fourth graders and up or those who have completed the Protostar level or its equivalent. The stories and including students in the story as guardians of Grammar Galaxy who have missions and not workbooks to complete seems to be the awesome sauce. As this podcast is being released, Yellow Star and any bundles it is a part of is 20% off with no coupon code required. Go to GrammarGalaxyBooks.com/shop to save before midnight April 8, 2018. This is the best price through the fall of 2018. Grammar Galaxy currently has levels available for beginning readers or first-graders through fourth-graders but complete levels are planned for fifth and sixth graders with individual subject books planned for junior high. I already have students in junior high using and loving Volumes 1 and 2, however.
For elementary students, I have also enjoyed Shurley English. While the jingles weren’t my kids’ favorites, I had not found another curriculum before I created Grammar Galaxy that did as well at teaching parts of speech. It honestly amazed me how quickly my kids learned parts of speech with Shurley English. It is otherwise a standard textbook approach that teaches grammar and composition.
Character Quality Language Arts
I have used and enjoyed Character Quality Language Arts. This program is daunting at first because of the size of the stack of hole-punched pages, but it teaches many clever ways of remembering grammar rules and spelling words. It is a Christian program that emphasizes character. It draws from the keyword approach to writing that is characteristic of Institute for Excellence in Writing. I am not including IEW in my list as I consider it a stand-alone writing program. CQLA also uses dictation, which I think is important. Some of the work, like defining vocabulary words, becomes repetitive, however.
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind
I have also used and enjoyed First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained mind. This curriculum is short and scripted and was fun to use with my youngest. I liked that it is a gentle approach to language arts for young studients. I found that the recitation became a bit tedious for my guy over time, however.
All About Spelling
I have also used All About Spelling and I think it’s an excellent approach for students with dyslexia in particular. I found it wasn’t necessary for my students, but I highly recommend it for kids who struggle with reading and spelling.
Other recommended language arts curricula for elementary students
Other elementary curriculum I have not used but am including in my recommended elementary list include Logic of English, English for the Thoughtful Child, Sonlight, My Father’s World, Language Smarts from Timberdoodle, Language Lessons by Sandi Queen, Alpha Omega Lifepacs and Switched On Schoolhouse, Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Time for Learning, Easy Peasy, Abeka, Monarch, Writers in Residence, and Total Language Plus. In the download for this episode, you will find the grade levels for each curricula, pros, cons, difficulty, teacher involvement required, material requirements, costs, as well as top reviews. I can tell you that this list took a considerable amount of time to create, which will save you time.
The best language arts curriculum for junior high students
Writers in Residence
For junior high, I did not use a complete language arts curriculum. I began using literature and composition-specific courses instead. The only complete junior high curriculum I’ve gotten to review closely is Writers in Residence from Apologia. Students are coached along the way to create meaningful writing. The curriculum also teaches literature and grammar. It’s an excellent choice.
Other language arts curriculum for junior high
Other options for you to consider for junior high include Alpha Omega Lifepacs & Switched On Schoolhouse, Time 4 Learning, Monarch, Life of Fred Language, Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Total Language Plus, Logic of English, and Language Lessons by Sandi Queen. If I were to choose a complete language arts curricula for my rising junior high student, I would consider Logic of English or Total Language Plus in addition to Writers in Residence. They have both been recommended by homeschoolers I know.
The best complete language arts curriculum for high school
For high school, the only complete language arts curriculum I have used and recommend is Abeka. While I think it includes too many exercises, the instruction is thorough and straight to the point. It’s an excellent option.
Other language arts curriculum for high school
I am also including in the list for high school the following: Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Time 4 Learning, Monarch, Oak Meadow, Logic of English, BJU Press, Excellence in Literature, Language Lessons by Sandi Queen, Life of Fred Language, and Total Language Plus.
How to make a language arts curriculum decision
My list will get you started in deciding on language arts curriculum for next school year. But if possible, I highly recommend that you look at your choices in person. I will be exhibiting at Great Homeschool Conventions in Cincinnati and St. Louis this year. I would love to have you take a look at Grammar Galaxy and the other curricula I’ve mentioned. It can help a lot to get your hands on it.
But there’s one more important thing to remember. Making the right curriculum choice is not do or die. I hate to tell you how many times I’ve purchased curriculum that didn’t work or that I just didn’t have time for. Usually it was the latter. Be sure to read how to decide which curriculum to use as well. That’s for my fellow curriculum hoarders. Look at the options, talk with your spouse and friends, ask in the HomeschoolScopes group on Facebook, pray about it, and choose. If it doesn’t work, in many cases you can return the curriculum within a certain timeframe or sell it used online. I have a thorough post on selling used curriculum for you in the show notes.
Blessings on your research and decision making on language arts curricula! Which options are you leaning toward for next school year?
Music appreciation is a wonderful addition to your homeschool’s morning time. Music can soothe a cranky baby, get a restless student keeping the beat, and create a peaceful environment. Who doesn’t need that? Music in your morning time creates memories and can even change hearts. Substitute Christian music for Bible memory occasionally and your kids may remember even more Scripture. Music appreciation in your morning time also provides regular inspiration for your children’s music lessons and practice. You’re all reminded of the beauty that can be created when we stay focused on our music instruction. Morning time music is also a great adjunct to your history studies. We can picture the time period more readily with the appropriate music playing.
Including music appreciation in your morning time can be hard.
If you want to include historical music in your morning time, you will need to research which are the most important pieces to play. You will want to share some information about the piece and its artist, but you don’t have time to share a lot. So you’ll need to select the most important points and talk about them in a child-friendly way. Once you know which pieces you want to include, you’ll need to look for them at the library. You won’t know for sure how many you’ll get through, so chances are good you will have to keep renewing the pieces. Or you’ll look for the music online, having to spend time watching YouTube ads only to discover that the video wasn’t quite what you were looking for. If you want to take the learning deeper, you’ll need to look for or create some notebooking pages to go along with your studies. Are you tired yet? I am.
I am a fan of anything that makes my job as a homeschooling mom easier. Music appreciation courses do that. The material has already been prescreened by a Christian mother and the notebooking pages are done for me. The music appreciation courses from Music in Our Homeschool have been so enjoyable and enriching to our history studies. But if I’m being honest, something was missing from them. I didn’t notice it until the solution was right in front of me.
Morning time always includes holidays.
One of the things we do with our morning time is talk about current events and holidays. I read seasonal books, do seasonal devotions, and complete holiday unit studies. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought about including holiday music appreciation in our morning time before. When I heard that Music in Our Homeschool was launching this course, I asked myself this question:
“What would holidays be like without music?”
Music makes holidays special. I can’t imagine Easter or Christmas or the 4th of July without the signature songs that inspire faith, joy, or patriotism. Yet I wasn’t including holiday music appreciation in our morning time. May I get real here? I teach music appreciation for me. I love it. I am passionate about music and hearing the stories behind the songs we all love. Music appreciation makes me happy. When I teach it in the morning, I am in a good mood all day. And when mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.
How a Holiday Music Appreciation Course Saves Your Sanity
This course is hosted on Teachable, which is a beautiful, user-friendly platform. You’ll see at a glance which lessons you’ve done, so you don’t repeat even when the kids are yelling, “We’ve already done that one!” Maybe that only happens to me. You have unlimited access to the course, so you can pick up where you left off and just teach the holidays you want to teach. But you’re going to want to add the lessons to your Organized Homeschool Life planner, so you remember to do them all. I can’t wait for the Star Wars day lesson!
I love that the videos are embedded within the course. It’s a safe platform for your kids to work on your own. Assign one child to be in charge of making sure you do your holiday music appreciation in the mornings.
Printable copywork (so helpful in building good writing skills) and activity sheets are included with the lessons. Have your kids answer the short quiz at the end too. My kids love working together on these.
I did a short screen share video so you can see what the course looks like inside.
Have you thought about teaching sign language in your homeschool? I asked Rochelle Barlow some questions about why and how to get started. You can listen to our conversation on the podcast or read a summary of the interview below. Either way, you’ll be blessed!
Rochelle is an ASL teacher with more than 14 years of experience. She’s been an ASL interpreter for 18 years and runs a popular YouTube channel and website, ASL Rochelle, filled with fun and challenging ASL resources and lessons.
What got you interested in teaching sign language, Rochelle?
Reading the book Koko’s Kitten inspired me as a child. I’ve always loved sign language.
How can sign language help younger kids communicate?
Most people have heard of baby sign language using a smaller vocabulary. I’ve used it with all of my kids, but I signed the most with my oldest ecause of chronic ear infections.
Why should we teach sign language in our homeschools?
It’s a true foreign language with its own community and culture. It’s powerful, beautiful, and visual, using facial expressions. You can tell a story with one sign using your face and intensity. I recommend teaching ASL (American Sign Language).
Sign language can be a secret family language that bonds you. I’ve used it with my kids in church, for example.
Finger spelling words teaching spelling and learning words clarifies vocabulary and concepts.
You can teach sign language with other subjects. Signing is a way of making science processes more tangible, for example.
What’s the easiest way to get started learning sign language?
Use an ASL dictionary. I recommend the Gallaudet children’s dictionary. Dive in and make a list of words you want to learn.
You can also choose a topic and find the signs for that topic.
Next, look for YouTube videos and free classes in sign language.
Once we’ve learned the signs, how can we maintain the learning?
Review signs during morning time. Create your own flash cards as creating them will be review as well. Use a daily activity to cue you to review your signs.
What resources do you make available to help homeschoolers learn sign language?
The Learn ASL in 31 Days course is available on the front page of ASLRochelle.com. I also offer vocabulary videos with categories like ocean, holidays, and grammar. I have other free courses like one on finger spelling.
For students who want to learn more, I offer a fluency and vocabulary course, a practice, retention, and memory course, and a grammar course. My courses can take a student to a level-three college equivalent in sign language.
I offer a four-week summer camp in ASL and Facebook groups, where I give monthly challenges and offer feedback to students.
Thank you, Rochelle!
After I interviewed Rochelle, I was inspired to continue our sign language studies. I know you will be too.
I was sure my kids would be speaking a foreign language at early ages, but it didn’t happen. I learned German in school but wanted my kids to learn Spanish. I was thrilled when I met Anne Guarnera of Language Learning at Home, who not only has a Ph.D. in Spanish, but homeschools and helps homeschoolers teach their kids foreign language.
Anne graciously agreed to an interview for The Homeschool Sanity show and answered these questions.
Why teach your kids a foreign language?
It allows us to serve others. A huge 75% of people in the world do not speak or understand English. We can serve people internationally or the large number of non-English speakers in our own communities.
Maximizes verbal skills. Learning a second language doesn’t impede the development of your child’s first language. The more languages you speak, the faster your brain functions. Kids who study foreign language improves processing speed for all subjects.
Teaches the importance of habits. Regular practice is the foundation of language learning, just as practice of a musical instrument is to music learning. Habit formation serves our students well in the study of all subjects.
What age do you recommend starting the study of foreign language?
As soon as possible. This isn’t to discourage students who haven’t started until middle or high school. I learned foreign languages when I was older. Older students have the advantage of understanding grammar and can learn more quickly.
Starting early is a real advantage for homeschoolers. You can make the decision to incorporate foreign language into preschooling. Formal study isn’t required, however. Picture books, CDs, and apps are a great place to start.
What are some tools parents can use to support their language learners even if they don’t speak the language their children are studying?
There are three types of resources I recommend. There are language learning apps. For younger students, the Little Pim app. For older students, I recommend Duolingo and Mango Languages that is often available through your public library.
A second type of resource I recommend is audiobooks in foreign language. The audiobooks teach accents. They can be paused and words looked up or used along with a print book.
A third type of resource is other people. I encourage parents to be creative about finding real-life opportunities to connect with foreign language speakers. That might be something like volunteering places where there are foreign languages spoken. Your child might join a Skype group to speak with native speakers with your supervision.
How can parents help motivate their kids who might not see the point of language learning?
Know your child. Help your child make the connection between what they’re doing and a larger goal. Because it requires so much deliberate practice, it can be hard to see the end goal. Introduce real-life scenarios in which they can use the language. Again, interacting in a community activity where the language is useful can be motivating. Or connect language learning to a future career plan or mission trip.
Even parents who are raising their children bilingually struggle with motivation. My own son recently told me he wanted to be a normal kid who just “talked English.”
I was compensated for my time in sharing these resources. All opinions are my own.
I have shopped Homeschool Buyers Co-op for a long time and I love knowing that I’m getting the best possible price on curriculum. The co-op helps homeschoolers harness group buying power to keep prices low. Getting an excellent price is especially important if you plan to invest in an all-in-one curriculum. An all-in-one or multi-subject curriculum can save your sanity by reducing decision fatigue and planning time. These are just some of the options available through the co-op for you to consider.
Monarch Online Curriculum from Alpha Omega
I have used some Monarch courses with my students and find that they’re an excellent option for parents looking for cumputer-based curriculum. Co-op buyers save 10%, which is the best deal you will find!
Monarch is an interactive, Internet-based Christian homeschool curriculum for grades 3-12 that’s compatible with most web browsers on a Windows® or Macintosh® operating system.
With Monarch, you get:
Dynamic, Media-rich Lessons: Bring learning to life with over 50,000 multimedia elements! Immerse your child in an enriching, multi-dimensional educational experience that includes video clips, audio files, challenging games, interactive exercises, and more.
Core Subjects & More: Monarch offers Bible-based online lessons in the five core subjects of Bible, History and Geography, Language Arts, Math, and Science, as well as a wide variety of enriching electives.
Automatic Grading: Enjoy freedom from paperwork! Automatic grading and recordkeeping conveniently record lesson assignments, test scores, and upcoming assignments for more hands-on teaching time.
Anytime access, no installation: Perfect for your on-the-go schedule, Monarch’s Christian homeschool curriculum is accessible around the clock with a browser and Internet connection. With just a username and password, you’re curriculum-ready in seconds.
The best part is you can try it free for 30 days with no risk!
I have also enjoyed using Horizons curriculum with my students. At the co-op, you can be sure you’re getting the best price.
Horizons is a brightly illustrated, engaging workbook curriculum filled with consumable lessons and hands-on activities for grades PreK-12.
Christian Worldview: Horizons courses support a Christian worldview that complements parents in their biblical teaching.
Spiral Learning: Horizons Language Arts and Math use a spiral learning method that helps students master concepts through a natural process of introduction, review, and reinforcement.
Colorful Curriculum: Eye-catching graphics and illustrations make the student material visually appealing and help keep students excited to learn.
Hands-On Lessons: Students using Horizons curriculum often find the hands-on lessons to be interesting and exciting. Much of the student material is filled with colorful illustrations that complement the activities to help students understand concepts.
I had a homeschooling family member who relied on Lifepac for all her curriculum. It made homeschooling simple! Save big on it at the co-op.
LIFEPAC is a Christian homeschool curriculum for grades K-12.
Designed by a team of accomplished educators with years of classroom experience, LIFEPAC is based on the principle of mastery learning. Students master content in each unit worktext before progressing to the next.
Bible-based: With Bible verses from the King James Version and biblical content that promotes a Christian worldview, LIFEPAC encourages critical thinking skills that promote and strengthen a student’s faith in Christ.
Flexible: Affordably priced, LIFEPAC lets students receive a Christian homeschool curriculum at a fraction of the price of regular textbooks and workbooks.
Economical: Affordably priced, LIFEPAC lets students receive a Christian homeschool curriculum at a fraction of the price of regular textbooks and workbooks.
Portable: Unlike heavy textbooks, LIFEPAC’s compact design is popular with busy homeschooling families on the go.
I have used and loved so many resources available through New Leaf Publishing. The group buy offers up to a 40% discount on them!
Master Books is the world’s largest publisher of creation-based material for all ages; including apologetics, homeschool resources, reference titles, and quality children’s literature. You may already be familiar with some of their wares like:
Over 550 Titles to Choose!Literature, Science, History, Apologetics, Parenting, Creation & MORE — Members choose from OVER 550 TITLES! If you like Creation-Based Science materials, have a desire to build your home’s Apologetics library, or you just love Christian literature; then this is the GroupBuy for you!
I enjoyed using this streaming service I accessed through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op several years ago and it’s improved immensely since then. Co-op buyers save 60%!
Bring Your Homeschool Lessons to Life! It’s easy to see why homeschoolers rave about Discovery Education Streaming Plus. It’s probably the most extensive and feature-rich educational video streaming service in the world.
It’s much like having the entire DVD selection of your local public library available to you from the convenience of your home, 24/7/365.
But it’s not just a collection of videos that you can watch from beginning to end. This library has been organized into useable video clips, organized and categorized, close-captioned, and supplemented with lesson plans, teaching guides, interactive simulations, images, audio resources, and other resources and materials that you can incorporate into virtually every aspect of your homeschool curriculum.
Discovery Education Streaming Plus features:
Thousands of full-length videos from scores of producers, segmented into tens of thousands of content-specific clips tied directly to state and national standards.
Supplemental resources such as Assignment Builder, Quiz Center, Writing Prompt Generator, lesson plans, and more
Fast and accurate search functionality and dynamic navigation menus
The ability to customize and personalize lessons to different subjects, grades, and learning styles
Comprehensive K-12 curriculum coverage in six core subject areas.
Thousands of images
Membership in the Discovery Educator Network (DEN)
Interactive self-paced training
Exclusive Discovery programming such as Frozen Planet, Human Planet, LIFE, Into the Universe, Mythbusters, and Curiosity
Video series from trusted content providers such as BBC Worldwide, CBS News, Channel 4, Discovery Studios, Scholastic, TV Ontario, and Westin Woods
Hundreds of games, skill builders, and body atlas interactives
Thousands of self-paced math tutorials spanning concepts from basic addition to calculus
Thousands of audio files including podcasts, classic literature audiobooks, children’s literature audiobooks from Scholastic, and numerous supplemental study aids for auditory learners
I received free access to an art course and was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own.
Whether you want art to be a part of your teen’s homeschooling or you want art to be a part of your child’s free time, you may need to motivate your child to pursue artistic studies. Or if you’re like me, you have to motivate yourself to include art in your teen’s studies. There are three ways that have worked for me to motivate my teens to learn art.
#1 Enroll your teen in a short-term class
My kids have enjoyed creating a project as part of one class or even a week-long camp. They have all been reluctant to participate in a full semester or one-year course — even those who enjoy art. Perhaps this is because art becomes a must-do, instead of a want-to-do activity. They also have a lot of other coursework and commitments. I can’t say that I’m any different when it comes to learning something new. I much prefer a smaller commitment.
I have taught art class to my teens after learning from a book. My kids have been much more motivated to learn from an artist. Although I can teach art, I’m not the best teacher for that subject. My students have been motivated to please the art teacher by following instruction. As a result they’ve learned more.
#2 Make art social
I purchased a book-based art curriculum for my son, who is talented in art. I thought he would love it. Instead, I couldn’t pay him to do it. When I had all of my kids do art together, he loved it. Part of the fun of art lessons is seeing what other people create. It’s inspiring. I’ve learned this in scrapbooking and Bible journaling classes.
If you aren’t homeschooling other kids, your child would likely enjoy having you do the lessons with him. You may surprise yourself and enjoy it too.
#3 Give your child choices
I hated piano lessons as a kid because I had to play the boring songs that were preselected. Art is very similar. If the lessons ask your child to create art that doesn’t appeal to her, your teen won’t be motivated. Provide many options from drawing to painting to mixed media. As our kids get older, choices become ever more important for motivation.
How Sparketh Online Art Courses Can Motivate Your Teen to Learn Art
Sparketh is an online art course platform that provides beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses. The courses motivate my teen to learn art because they are short courses. The first course she chose is just 15 minutes of videos.
I love that the courses are taught by younger instructors. They serve as great role models for my daughter, where I can’t as much. However, the online platform allows me to participate too. We can choose a course, assemble the supplies according to the recommended setup, and have a fun finished project in no time.
The number of choices is amazing. My daughter loves doing her hair, so this hair-bun course was perfect for her. I am amazed by her nearly-finished drawing. It looks just like the example!
You can join Sparketh free for a month. That’s a great way to see if these online courses will motivate your teen to learn art like they did for my daughter.