How I Teach Language Arts to Multiple Ages Using the Charlotte Mason Method

Jan 13, 2014

Teaching language arts can be simple with the Charlotte Mason method. Here's how one mom does it.
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This is my Day #1 in my 5-day series on How I Teach Multiple Ages Using the Charlotte Mason Method. The topic today is "How I Teach Language Arts."

If you were to ask a school administrator or teacher what language arts is, you would most certainly receive a lengthy list of topics from the alphabet to phonics, parts of speech to essays.

The simple definition is this:

Language arts is the art of communicating. It includes listening, reading, speaking and writing. 
It's that simple. Teaching it is pretty simple, too.

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Language arts is one of the subjects we include in our individual studies

Three Basic Tools for Teaching Language Arts

There are three basic tools for teaching children language arts using the Charlotte Mason method. 

  • Narration is used to train the child in focused attention. It is also a great assessment tool. 
  • Copywork is used for teaching proper handwriting skills and the beginnings of grammar and spelling.
  • Dictation is the tool we use to teach proper spelling, grammar and composition. At about the age of 10 (and depending upon the child's ability) it replaces copywork.
These are the tools I use for language arts including reading comprehension, composition and spelling. You can find out the nuts and bolts of these three tools here. Discover the benefits of narration here.

Textbooks for Younger Children

In addition to these tools of learning and assessment, I have used several books for teaching language arts. For the younger children, these books prove to be excellent textbooks. That's right. Charlotte Mason used textbooks, but not boring, dry textbooks.

There is little difference in these books. They are all based on the same principles and methods taught by Charlotte Mason. They contain poetry to be memorized, copywork to be copied, passages for narration and dictation and any combination of these activities. You'll also find picture studies and such activities requiring narration.

Language Arts and the Older Child

In grades 4-6, grammar lessons begin. This is the time I teach parts of speech, prefixes, suffixes, synonyms, antonyms and homonyms and all the other grammar lessons.

There is no reason to begin grammar lessons before the age of 9. Grammar is an abstract concept. Young children do not think in abstract terms, so it's a waste of time to teach these concepts. Repeating the same lessons, year after year, is a sure way to defeat the child's habit of full attention. It's boring for mom, too.

Waiting until the child is old enough to comprehend abstract ideas makes more sense. The child makes progress faster in this way. I've found that Simply Grammar: An Illustrated Primer contains what I need to teach my children grammar through middle school.

One thing about spelling. 
Many people think Charlotte Mason suggested we never use texts and never teach spelling. This is untrue. She did both. She suggested that we not teach spelling as a separate subject at very young ages. What worked for us was All About Spelling. I highly recommend it. (Read my review here.)

Language Arts and the High School Student

By the end of middle school, the basics and not-so-basics of language arts have been addressed. I have a 10th grade student. Her language arts, in general includes rich, living literature, oral and written narrations, dictation, poetry and Shakespeare. 

There is a lot of writing and essays are a big part of that writing.

There are many times in life we're required to write an essay. College admissions is one of those times. In fact, my daughter plans to dual enroll in college this fall and will be using the writing skills she's learned this year using Essay Rock Star.

This is how I teach language arts. Was there anything here that interested you? Do you have questions I may not have answered?

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  1. Anonymous1/13/2014

    Very informative, Michelle! I love reading about how others get through their lessons. I love everything about Charlotte Mason.

    1. So do I, Adrienne! I would love to shout that it's the BEST way to homeschool, but I know better. We each do what works for our family. This method has proven to be perfect for my family.

  2. THANK YOU!!! I am in my first year of formally homeschooling my 6 year old & I was so conflicted about what to do in this department starting in the fall. I have been so drawn to the CM methodology but, still trying to figure it all out. This clarifies it for me and answers many questions. Some curricula seem to push the grammar much younger but, this makes me realize that I don't have to. I will be looking over your blog to see what else I can learn about CM. :) Quick question.... what do you think of this Creative Writing curriculum... I like that they stress NOT to correct spelling, punctuation etc. so as to not put a damper on the creative thought process because the spelling, grammar etc, will come later through other lessons. But do you think 6 is too young to introduce this?

    1. I have never seen that curriculum, Amanda. I don't worry too much about formal lessons at age 6. However, I used English for the Thoughtful Child when mine were younger.


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