Here’s an article to provide guidance in getting started teaching English in your homeschool. The content referred to as English may also be referred to by names such as English/Language Arts, ELA, Reading, Literature, and Writing.
First Steps for Planning Your Homeschool English Curriculum
As you begin considering curriculum for your homeschool, be sure to take into account any requirements posted by your state. Any guidelines or requirements will most likely be posted on your home state’s department of education website, all of which are listed here: nces.ed.gov See the article “Getting Started with Homeschool Curriculum” for more information.
In addition to detailed homeschool information, you should be able to find the state’s content standards and curriculum frameworks, including information about the curriculum for English used in the public schools in your state. You can also find links to your state’s English standards from here: edstandards.org
Besides finding your own state’s standards, you can use this site to locate other material from both your own and other states. Useful material may include free lists of resources, bibliographies, and curricula, which you may feel free to adapt or use within the parameters of your state’s guidelines.
Also, check to see if your state has an English specialist to serve instructors. This person, along with a home education specialist, can be a useful resource, providing assistance or suggestions to help you in putting together your homeschool English plans.
Using the National Standards for Planning Homeschool English Curriculum
Another resource that can be of assistance to you in planning your homeschool English instruction is the National Standards for English provided by the National Council of Teachers of English - ncte.org. Because the national standards are common, whereas state standards differ, I will discuss the national standards in some detail, and you can then take what I say and apply it within your state guidelines.
First, notice that there are twelve standards that are applied across the board: that is, there is no separation into subcategories of English nor into grade levels, as is the case with some other areas of the standards. This signal that the study of English is being presented as a unified field is supported by the last sentence of the introductory paragraph, which points out that the NCTE wants “to emphasize that [the standards] are not distinct and separable; they are, in fact, interrelated and should be considered as a whole.”
Second, notice the use of the term “print and non-print texts” that appears in several of the standards. Print texts are likely familiar to you from your own schooling: books, magazines and journals, brochures and pamphlets. You may also have met non-print texts in the form of microfilm or microfiche and possibly filmstrips and television and radio broadcasts. But today, public, private, and homeschool English instruction should include using websites and an array of multimedia material including videos, podcasts, etc.
Third, notice the focus of each standard, summarized here:
- reading widely in a variety of texts
- reading across periods and genres
- applying diverse strategies as appropriate to the broad array of texts they read
- adapting their use of language to fit their contexts
- applying diverse strategies as appropriate to the broad array of texts they write
- employing understanding of conventions and customs for communication as they engage with and about texts
- conducting and sharing research
- using diverse technological and information resources
- understanding and respecting diversity in language use
- using their first language to acquire competence in English, if their first language is not English
- participating competently in various literacy communities
- using language to accomplish their own purposes
This summary can help you gain an overview of homeschool English language instructions goals, which you can then expand, using the National Standards and your state materials.
Having an understanding of the standards will make up only one part of your preparation for homeschool English instruction. You will need appropriate works of literature as well as instructional materials to help them learn to read and to learn the conventions of writing, etc.
Here is some vocabulary to help you seek materials:
- in learning to read, students may benefit from both a phonics approach, which helps them understand the sound/symbol relationship between spoken and written English, as well as from a whole language approach, which (properly understood) does not replace phonics, but simply accompanies it, teaching areas not covered by phonics, such as the convention of reading from left to right and paying attention to opportunities for reading that occur naturally in the child’s environment, such as signs, labels, posters, etc., as well as books.
- in spelling, orthography, which refers to proper spelling, and the categories vowels, consonants, syllables, diphthongs, digraphs, silent letters, prefixes, roots, and suffixes.
- in beginning writing, techniques such as invented spelling - which can simply mean that the child uses as much phonetic information as s/he has until s/he learns an accepted spelling for the word (that is, it does not - as some critics claim - need to be a purposely idiosyncratic spelling), shared writing and scribing
- in more advanced writing, the names of genres, types of figurative language, the story elements (such as theme, mood, tone, character, plot, etc.), and elements of grammar and syntax.
Particularly if any of the italicized words are unfamiliar to you, look for references that will help you become better acquainted with the subject so that you will feel secure in your homeschool English instruction.
US Department of Education - nces.ed.gov
EdStandards.org English Language Arts - edstandards.org
National Council of Teachers of English - ncte.org