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  1. #1

    Default Simple Language Arts for Elementary

    I need help creating a simple Language Arts plan for this year to go along with Build Your Library Level 2. In the past, we really struggled with the copy work in BYL. I want to focus hard on reading, handwriting, and composition this year to make sure my kids get a strong foundation.

    DS is 9 (4th grade), a great reader and storyteller, but struggles with handwriting and getting his thoughts down on the page. He's a very visual-spatial learner. Currently, he's doing Language Smarts D, but progress is so slow because he doesn't like it.

    DD is almost 7 (1st/2nd grade). She's a Kinesthetic-verbal learner. Over the past two years, we have tried Bob Books, workbooks, Nora Gaydos readers, Progressive Phonics, and Reading Eggs online. She got tired of all of these quickly and refused to continue. She's got the basics of CVC words and blends and just wants to read Dog Man, Bad Kitty, and Owl Diaries. She wants nothing to do with a formal reading curriculum or "readers." Which is fine, and I do see some progress. But I think she needs solid phonics instruction now. She can sound out "suggestible," but can't easily sound out "rain," "road," or "circle." She also needs to work on handwriting and composition.

    So far I am considering Handwriting Without Tears, which we've used before; All About Spelling; Explode the Code. I also noticed Handwriting Without Tears has "Building Writers" books now.

    I love the whole idea of the Bravewriter Lifestyle and would like to incorporate that more. I am also interested in the Bravewriter products, but I don't know where to start or what I need. Could I still do Jot it Down with both my kids? Or would I need two separate programs? Would I also need Arrows and Darts?

    Edit: I guess my question is what and how much do I need to do?
    Last edited by Sea-and-Sky; 08-01-2020 at 10:35 PM. Reason: clarity and grammar

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  3. #2


    It sounds like youve got cool stuff going on.
    Jot iit Down is really an overview of the BW philosophy, and it happens to have project suggestions for that first stage. (“Jot it Down”, btw, is that you the parent jot it down, saving their important ideas and thoughts, without trying to navigate the fine motor skills and labor of manually writing it down.)
    How is your 4th grader for typing? My littlest one (who has therapy for OT) also uses Language Smarts, and I either scribe for him, or for the more involved writing parts, I jot down what he brainstorms, then he types his draft, and revises. When the actual writing action is the problem, taking that out of the equation can help him get on to the creative and actual writing stuff. If your 4th grader doesnt like Language Smarts, are there certain aspects of it that he does like, that you could purchase separately? (Theyre really the best workbooks Ive found.) You could also try mad libs for learning parts of speech, story blocks for some narrative crafting, or.... find what aspect of language arts you want to focus on, and find something he likes from that.
    I would suggest only having handwriting be focused on when he is deliberately working on it. Copywork - yes. Drafting a story or writing an essay - no. Do handwriting separately, and give typing a try.

    Explode the Code worked great for my older son: it was too much writing and my youngest had speech issues with it. I would recommend trying that before going to something like AAS. Its a lot less expensive, less fiddley, and takes less time to get through each lesson. AAS has an AAReading, which we tried and it was too fiddley for my patience level at the time. AAS takes us about 45 minutes to an hour to get through - way longer than Id like to spend (with a second grader!). I do really like the program, though.
    (We were doing phonics, handwriting, and grammar as three discrete subjects.)

    Bravewriter fits right in, as long as youre not trying to do Bravewritery stuff every day, all the time. Buy Jot it Down (I also have read The Writers Jungle, found it pretty much the same as JiD.), pick Arrow literature selections that sound interesting to your 4th grader, and read them aloud to your little one. Once you have some practice with the Arrows, you could probably wing it on your own, or google for unit studies or literature packets on whatever book you are choosing to read. (I continued to buy them for a number of years, because its just easier that way!)
    BW is a lifestyle, its great, peaceful, and nurturing! Drink the kool-aid, its the mental antidote to worksheets galore.

  4. #3


    Hi, alexsmom. Thank you for explaining Bravewriter in a way that seems doable! This morning both children woke up and started telling me about their dreams, so I jumped on the computer and took dictation. DD "wrote" more than DS and chose to illustrate hers. It was a great success! I think Jot It Down, plus a few Arrows will be a great place to start for both of them. I did think that if I did Bravewriter, I'd have to be doing it all the time on top of everything else, and that was overwhelming me. So you saying it doesn't have to be that way is reassuring.

    My DS does type a little and the difference in his creativity and sentences with typing vs. handwriting is amazing! I need to get him started with a typing program so he can express himself more. I think that will help him a lot.

    I also need a cursive curriculum for him. I got a Handwriting Without Tears cursive workbook, but I'm not sure I like the style.

    I messed up by focusing too much on handwriting and grammar outside of handwriting practice before. At this point, he gets upset even when I give positive attention to his handwriting or punctuation, rather than focusing solely on content. I have been stamping out his sparks of creativity! So I will definitely only mention these things when we are doing handwriting activities.

    I do some of the writing in Language Smarts for him, but I've been having him do most of it because it's the only handwriting he really does right now. I think that is part of why he doesn't like it. He also struggles with transitions and he would just rather be doing something of his own choosing that's not "schoolwork." He does like the Editor-in-Chief exercises, so I could add one of those books. I think if I do more of the writing for Language Smarts and Jot It Down, then make a Language Arts basket with the Mad Libs, games and Story Cubes (we already have all these things) and give him a choice of what to do each day, it might help. I also have a couple of children's books about writing and parts of speech on my list for this year, since he loves to read and the books seemed like a non-threatening way to introduce these topics to both kids.

    Explode the Code: Less expensive and less fiddly sounds exactly like what I am looking for! So I will try EtC for DD first. I already have the AAS Level 1 teacher guide, so I'll keep that as a backup.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I have a much better idea of what we need now.
    Last edited by Sea-and-Sky; 08-02-2020 at 12:02 PM. Reason: typos

  5. #4


    Sounds like a plan!

    BBC’s Dance Mat Typing, and are both free learn to type computer programs. Typing club requires registration, but it also saves your place between sessions. DanceMat was totally adored by my youngest, who also put earnest effort into it. When my oldest first did DanceMat, he had a lazier attitude, didnt get as much out of it.

    I know *we* were all taught cursive, but there are a lot of reputable sources that say its not necessary. (And not faster, either.) If you have a kid that loathes handwriting, I wouldnt do anything more than expose them to it as a choice, and let them decide to pursue it or not. In our family, Grama gets all the christmas cards handwritten from all her old lady friends.... DS would get practice reading cursive and seeing the different styles (like the ways people make ‘r’). I consider that sufficient fluency. My expectations werent very high, and the HWT workbook was fine for us. (I trust them because their printing workbooks are so much better than grocery store variety.)

    And yah, BW is more a philosophy or lifestyle than a curriculum.

    AAS has a lot of cards and tiles. If you go that route, I recommend that you put the alphabet only tiles in a baggie, and have another baggie for the other tiles as you need them (including duplicates of the letters you use often). Dont have the huge elaborate board living in your house full time!
    (We are almost finished with level 3; and started sometime this spring.)
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  6. #5


    Have you tried Montessori style language arts?

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  8. #7


    alexsmom -- Thank you so much for the recommendations for typing programs. I will check those out tonight! And I will most certainly be using those tips for handling the AAS tiles. DD saw me looking at the Explode the Code samples and expressed her dissatisfaction with the black-and-white workbook, so I might be trying AAS sooner than later. And I was stressing about how I would keep up with all those little tiles, especially since we also use our whiteboard for other things.

    DS did express some interest in cursive, so I want to give him the opportunity. But I will keep in mind that it's not strictly necessary. And, I agree the HWT books are better than the cheaper workbooks. I've already tried a cheap one and we didn't get very far. I just think the writing in the HWT looks more upright than I expected, but he might actually do better with it because of that.

  9. #8


    Hi, JaneSmith72 -- Thank you for the recommendation. No, I am not familiar with Montessori style language arts, but I did look at the kit you linked and it's interesting. I think my kids might enjoy using the manipulatives, so I might give it a go.

    Looking at Etsy, it seems like I'd have to buy a separate kit for each element of a Language Arts program and that would get expensive. But maybe I am just not understanding how it would work. Do you know of a resource that succinctly explains the philosophy or how to do it?
    Last edited by Sea-and-Sky; 08-06-2020 at 04:47 PM. Reason: typos

  10. #9


    Simple Language Arts for Elementary
    I thought Id share how we use our AAS.
    DS puts the tiles in abc order at the start of each lesson. Hes definitely gotten quick at it! I found a magnetic sheet that I stick all the other tiles we are generally using, as well as frequently needed spare letters (the ones he alphabetizes dont have magnets). I also keep whatever cards he has to review in a pile.
    I go over that days lesson, and pull off the tiles that we will be using. (I usually fail to get all of them, so leave the board out.)
    For the cards, the red and blue ones we havent gone over yet, they are all sorted in their little card deck. The green ones I tear off for the current lesson. Inside my card holder, I have the cards to review all together (at the front), and the cards that are mastered (at the back, not sorted). I found there was no advantage to having to sort the “to review” cards by color.
    So much less fiddley!
    When we are done, abc, tiles all go into a ziplock baggie, and they go with my magnetic sheet into a bigger baggie. Somehow, we have managed to NOT lose any of the 5000 tiles yet!

    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  11. #10


    We love cursive. We haven’t used a curriculum, but we do have a laminated card from Rhythm of Handwriting (Logic of English’s handwriting program), which shows the letters and describes how to form them.

    Last year, we would just work on a few letters at a time, and then form words with the letters we learned. And, then we would do our copywork from books we were reading in cursive. Only took a couple of months to work through the letters (lowercase first), and then they could transcribe from print to cursive and sometimes I would provide cursive passages for them to practice reading from.

    This is a bit late on the response, but we used Logic of English (the older, original version, textbook) for phonics. Completed (mostly) verbally, and some work using a small whiteboard, when needed. It also includes grammar, which we didn’t do formally last year, but may incorporate some this year.

    I also found their phonograms page helpful, shows the spelling and can listen to the sounds:

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Simple Language Arts for Elementary