In the homeschool community there’s no conversation more enticing, or controversial, than how we teach language arts and reading. Thousands upon thousands of blog posts, curriculum, and methods have been created to teach our students how to read and write. But, the real challenge often isn’t teaching our homeschoolers how to read or write well, it’s making it interesting and fun for them so that they love the written word long term.
As a trained English teacher, I struggled with this in the traditional classroom and with my homeschoolers. But, you don’t have too! Take my advice and learn from my failures. If you’re struggling to engage your students in homeschool English or homeschool writing, these five tips (and don’ts) will help you make homeschool English and reading fun!
7 Do’s and Don’ts to Make Homeschool English Fun
- Don’t start with the book or reading, start with an engaging activity. Immersing students in the culture, context, and core learning elements before you start a book or unit will peak their interest. For example, before tackling Jane Eyre, study gothic art together and create your gothic masterpiece. Paint, listen to music, act out a scene, watch a film, cook, or visit a museum. After these activities, present your lesson or book and dive in together.
- Do read, but don’t write. I know, I know, writing is important. But, if we want our homeschoolers to love reading, we often need to disconnect reading and writing altogether. There’s nothing more predictable than writing an essay, letter, or paragraph after reading a book. We all remember our 5th-grade book reports, don’t we? Instead, allow for discussion or projects as assessments instead of essays and paragraphs. There will be plenty of time and opportunity to write in social studies and science. Why not allow reading to be its subject and focus on critical thinking skills like analysis and evaluation through reading group discussions, hands-on projects, and even games as your form of assessing learning. Talk about the different words used in the book and come up with synonyms as your grammar lesson. Summarize and act out passages together. Focus on togetherness and the story, and you’ll create lifelong reading addicts!
- Do write, but make it creative. It’s important that our homeschoolers learn to write well. But, writing doesn’t have to be boring and formulaic! Allow your students to write about what they are interested in, practice more creative writing like poetry and short stories, and write for specific purposes (think letters, recipes, grocery lists, thank you cards, etc.) Make sure to publish their books and put them on the shelves right alongside your favorites to show them how important their written words are to you! Use this list of 25 ways to get kids started writing and you’ll see their love of writing bloom.
- Do play games, lots of them. Jeopardy, Name the Author/Book/Poem, Character or Literary Term Bingo, etc. Everything is more fun when it’s a game! Grammar is often hated by all students, not just homeschoolers. So, use these fun grammar games to engage and challenge your homeschoolers, and make homeschool grammar fun!
- Don’t force classics. I love the Charlotte Mason and Good Books method of English teaching. From Black Beauty to Jane Eyre to Shakespeare, we’ve read more classics before our kids are in high school than most non-homeschoolers will in their lifetime! But, forcing students to read period literature can backfire and create students who hate reading. We save classics to read aloud together at night or during lazy days. Until high school, my homeschoolers get to choose their literature based upon their interests. Studies show that students who read what they are interested in have higher fluency and comprehension. So, save the classics for family time and high school British Literature. Instead, choose to allow your homeschoolers to choose from an approved list of books based on what you’re studying AND what interests them.
- Do use technology.There are amazing writing, books, games, lessons, and more all at your fingertips using a tablet or phone! Blending technology with curriculum and traditional lessons mean you fit homeschool English into their world. They will thank you for it!
- Do focus on success and put down the reading pen!When children struggle to read or write, they are fully aware of the challenge and often feel like failures. That’s why it’s so important to focus on what your child is doing well and to resist the urge to correct every sentence. Focus on the successes and celebrate every single improvement. There will be plenty of grades in your child’s portfolio; you don’t have to make writing or reading one of them! Remember, the goal is to create functional writers and book lovers, not kings and queens of grammar. So, set goals with your homeschoolers about what they want to accomplish and then praise and reward their efforts and accomplishments. This will boost confidence and give your child the support he/she needs to overcome the challenge!
Teaching Homeschool English can be fun, challenging, engaging, and exciting. By focusing more on successes and pumping our lessons full of fun, interesting, and engaging activities, your homeschoolers will love language arts, and you’ll find their noses in books long after the school year has ended.
What’s your favorite homeschool English curriculum? Tell us in a comment below!