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  1. #1

    Default Language Arts for 1st - 2nd Grade - I'm Confused!

    Hey everyone! So the more I research the more confused I become. My twin girls are 7. I pulled them out of PS first grade at the beginning of this school year. Currently, for LA, we are doing:

    ETC (presently middle of book 5)
    AAS 1
    First Language Lessons 1
    Draw Write Now (DD1) and HWT (DD2)
    Lots of readers in/outside of school

    We do not do a formal writing program right now, as we just stopped Write Shop because nobody cared for it. I already purchased much of the curriculum for next year because I'm organized to a fault. I have Writing With Ease 1, First Language Lessons 2, All About Spelling 2 and HWT 2nd grade set that includes Power Printing and transitioning to cursive. And the rest of the ETC books.

    So we are hitting a wall with ETC and I'm considering a change. I am looking at Phonics Pathways, All about Reading and Plaid Phonics. My girls do know how to read, and read fairly well at grade level. I do not like some of the weird pictures (it's hard for me, as an adult, to figure out what some of them are!) and vocabulary introduced in ETC so I'm getting just as frustrated, perhaps more so, because they can't work independently in the workbooks after I spend time teaching the lessons due to these reasons.

    So I was researching Phonics Pathways, etc and stumbled across many posts and articles and now I'm very confused and questioning our whole LA curriculum. I could use some advice! Here are my general concerns:

    1) I read, in numerous places, that spelling and phonics together aren't necessary and that I should hold off on spelling until after phonics is complete.

    2) I read that First Language Lessons isn't appropriate for their age level.

    3) ETC is not good as a stand alone phonics program.

    4) If they are reading at grade level, I'm assuming I should still stick with phonics for next year? Or drop phonics and only do spelling?

    I know there is no "right or wrong" with homeschooling but now I feel like I'm not doing things right. My girls like the spelling (we just started AAS recently and just completed level 9) and are responding very well to FLL. So I'm confused. Are they supposed to be too young to learn these things? Is there an age when grammar is supposed to start? And should I purchase a more complete reading curriculum like All About Reading?

    Am I doing too much? Not enough? Doing things in the right/wrong order?


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  3. #2
    Senior Member Arrived Elly's Avatar
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    Jul 2013


    Hi Tracy,
    Well, for one thing, if they are reading and enjoying it, do you need to do any more phonics? Maybe you could just let them read and then address anything that seems to be an issue as it comes up. Admittedly, my son seems to be a naturally good speller and is an avid reader, but he's nearly finished '3rd grade' and we haven't done any formal spelling yet. Again, I tackle issues where they come up. We are just doing a grammar curriculum this year (Fix It Grammar), which includes both grammar and some copywork.

    I like the Brave Writer approach, so we do less formal curricula for language arts, and lots of reading and creative language activities. I'm really on the 'less is more' side and encouraging more language enjoyment and use. I don't think what you're doing is wrong, especially if your kids are enjoying it. I think you might be over stressing yourself about how much you need to do, though?

    4th year of homeschooling DS, now 9!

  4. #3


    Thank you so much for your response Elly. You may be right. I have a tendency to read blogs and forums and talk myself into doing something just because others are doing it.

    My girls are good readers, but one of them is not a natural speller. When she tries, she does well. But when she is just playing around at her art table she tends to spell things as she pronounces them, often without vowels (unacrn, instead of unicorn, for example) and it takes us awhile to figure out what she wrote. So I think the spelling is important. The other daughter does seem to be the better speller, but she loathes writing so it isn't always as apparent.

    I've looked into Brave Writer but for some reason I get overwhelmed. I like the idea of reading and creative writing activities though. I would love to drop phonics altogether since they can read. I'm just paranoid that doing so will cause problems down the road?

  5. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by tdbates78 View Post
    I would love to drop phonics altogether since they can read. I'm just paranoid that doing so will cause problems down the road?
    It was a long time ago, but we were lucky in that our kids taught themselves to read (after being exposed to books and being read to for hours each day as toddlers). So they never had a phonics program. Admittedly, it resulted in some interestingly pronounced words later on when things became more difficult, but we simply made the the correction and moved on.

    DD, with no phonics instruction, is now a creative writing and journalism major. Doesn't seem to have hurt her. Just some perspective.

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years, now trying to pay it forward

    Daughter -- a University of Iowa graduate: BA in English with Creative Writing, BA in Journalism, and a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

    Son -- a Purdue University graduate: BS in Computer Science, minor in math, geology, anthropology, and history

  6. #5


    If they can read, then phonics lessons are just busywork.

    I was also dubious about dropping spelling, because my ds wasnt spelling very well... but I drank the BW koolaid, and after years of reading, my 5th grader has acceptable spelling. Without the busywork of worksheets and lists.

    We had also done ETC through the end.... either 6 or 8 I cant remember. I liked the silly pictures, and thought they were a plus to the program. To each their own, though!

    It does sound to me that you have a lot of language arts busywork.... Developing reading skill and enjoyment would be my priority, as well as being able to form letters (such as HWT). You really dont need spelling or grammar unless spoken english is incorrect. (Maybe some madlibs, if you want them to get an idea of parts of speech.)

    Drink the BW koolaid, it will take you to a happy place.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  7. #6


    1. "Phonics" can serve two purposes - reading or spelling. Programs are usually geared toward one skill or the other. ETC is geared toward reading, but includes some spell to read content and philosophy. AAS is geared toward spelling. You have doubled up. You really don't need to do both. AAS is an excellent program. If they can already read at grade level, then I would drop the ETC and not add Phonics Pathways.

    2. ETC can be a standalone. Depends on the kid. It's not usually great long term for spelling. And it's often, IME, not great for struggling readers/spellers, but that's not what you have. It's better for mopping up phonics and bolstering spelling long term without doing a full on spelling program since it's so easy to implement and use the workbooks. So you could keep ETC and drop AAS and that would be fine. But you don't like ETC, it's a weaker program overall, and AAS sounds like it's fine. So drop the ETC.

    3. FLL was written for first graders who are reading on level. It's fine for their age. Some of us feel that grammar instruction is not necessary every year or that formal grammar generally is not the foundation of good writing. Those are separate issues though. And if you like the FLL philosophy, by all means, it's perfect. Continue.

    4. I think I've answered your question. I personally think you should stick with AAS and FLL. If Draw Write Now is working too, stick with that. And then, when you're ready, if you're going the classical path for writing, then add in WWE or CAP or Quiver of Arrows or whatever program you want for writing.
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  8. #7


    Thank you all so much. It's great to be able to ask from those who have been there.

    Okay so I'm going to drop phonics. It is starting to feel like busywork at this point. I do like the silly pictures, when I can figure out what they are! Today, only by process of elimination, I figured out the picture was supposed to be of a person in quicksand

    I'm going to keep AAS for now, since I already purchased it. We are moving through it pretty quickly and they actually like it. Since both struggled with PS, they don't particularly like any kind of school so if I can find something they like (DD loves Draw Write Now) I'm willing to stick with it to avoid more whining

    Okay can someone explain BW in a way I can understand? LOL sorry. I see Language Arts (not sure if The Wand or Quiver of Arrows would be best), Jot It Down, Writers Jungle, poetry teatime and some kind of monthly newsletter subscription. I have no idea why it's so confusing to me, but every time I go to their website I try to figure it out and just give up.

  9. #8


    To be clear, you haven't dropped phonics. AAS *is* a phonics program. It's just phonics for spelling, not reading.

    As for Brave Writer... I cannot explain The Wand, which is a product I have read through parts of and still find completely bizarre - mostly because what I observed of it and the way Julie describes it simply do not match. I also think - and this is relying on Julie's description - that you're not "allowed" to jump in with the later levels. Thus, I almost never recommend it to anyone. The Quiver I can talk more about. If your girls are reading at an okay level - Frog and Toad, Henry and Mudge, Nate the Great, or even Magic Treehouse kind of level, and their handwriting is solid for their age, and they can sit through a read aloud chapter book, then they can do Quiver of Arrows. It's a single read aloud book per month, with copywork/dictation passages to go with it, and a special wrap up assignment. It guides you about how to talk about and teach the grammar and mechanics in the copywork passages. The other BW product for this stage is Jot It Down, which is a series of writing projects - on per month - where you play around with things like fairy tales and making lists and so forth, with you doing most of the scribing for your kids and their ideas. You can do Quiver or Jot It Down or both together depending on your schedule and timing and so forth. Since you're still in the thick of it with AAS and Draw Write Now, you might feel that's enough practice like that and want to add Jot It Down. Or you might want to do Quiver to bolster their budding writing skills. Or you might, of course, decide that BW is not for you. Follow Julie on FB or Twitter or whatever, watch some of her old scopes and podcasts, see if it resonates with you.
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  10. #9


    In fairness, I cant figure out her website either, and aive been a fan for years now.
    Jot it Down will give you her philosophy, kool-aid, and a bunch of activities for you and your girls to do. We used to pick the Arrows that we wanted to do based on our mood at the moment. And Oh, my boys love poetry teatime. We might do it just a couple times a month, but it is always requested.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  11. #10


    Tdbates78, to me, your approach to LA does look like a lot of busywork. You are trying to do everything you see and hear of just because it is a part of language arts, and because of it being on your daughters' grade level. Phonics Grade 1....I have to do it. Grammar Level 1....I have to do it. Oh, and then writing...spelling....handwriting...reading. I have to do it all just so I will not miss anything. Sounds very familiar to me, because I used to drive myself crazy like that too.

    What helped me the most was to practice a goal-oriented approach, individually, child-by-child.

    My daughter #1 is not yet a fluent reader, she can read at a grade level, but the mechanics of it are still so difficult that she gets exhausted after several paragraphs. So, with her, I work on reading-phonics-spelling that all come together for her because she can read all the words that she can spell and vice versa. I am not concerned about grammar, punctuation, creative writing, literature, vocabulary, or cursive. I want her reading well and that is what we are focusing on. We do lots of read-alouds and audio-books to compensate for her poor ability to read independently.

    My daughter #2 is a fluent avid reader. She has never had any formal phonics or spelling beyond letter sounds, and she can read and spell quite well. She wants to improve her writing, she wants to write stories that are more like the ones in the books that she is reading. To achieve this goal, we are going through MCT for grammar (to make better sentences) and some creative writing resources. Plus, we read books together silently and I just point out beautifully written sentences or clever plot twists to her.

    For daughter #3, my goal is to read-read-read to her and point out/ask her to read some familiar words.

    I think, that a similar goal-oriented approach might help you too. Addressing your daughters' particular current problems/difficulties/interests might work better that just stuffing them with everything that says 'language arts' and '1st grade'.
    mom to 3 girls: DD10, DD9, DD6

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Language Arts for 1st - 2nd Grade - I'm Confused!