2011-2012 in Review: Language Arts

What we used for second grade LA:
Finished Abeka Phonics 1 and readers (finished first semester) 
All About Spelling 1, 2, and part of 3
Writing With Ease 1
Handwriting without Tears 1 (finished first semester)
First Language Lessons 1
Sonlight grade 2 readers and about half of Grade 3 readers
Explode the Code books 3-5

Wow, that's a mouthful! We are definitely language centered in our homeschool. I believe language arts and math are providing the foundation for which the rest of schooling will be built. While we pursue content areas (history and science), I believe they are secondary in the early years. They happen, but on a much smaller scale. Of our 3/3.5 hours of school work a day in first grade, language arts took about 1 hour and 15 minutes, math 45 minutes. Since the school day includes 30 minutes of piano and 30 minutes of Bible, you can see the heavy priority.

Review time!

Abeka Phonics: We started first grade when we finished K at the end of K. Honestly, I was very ready to be over with this. It was thorough, but very tedious. Since we only used the phonics portion, I found that I had to filter through a lot of other material to get what I needed. Also, there was quite a bit of information included for classroom use, and I found this tedious to go through as well. However, there were parts that we loved. The Basic Phonics flashcards, charts, and handbook for reading were very helpful.  They are colorful, engaging, and although we are switching gears  for our next phonics go round (C), we will be using these "extras" from Abeka. I do think my time with Abeka was benefitial. It was the way I learned to read and I was comfortable with teaching it. I knew it was a solid program and it gave me a lot of ideas for the presentation of material. It is amazing how many silly games you can play with phonograms on a white board!

All About Spelling: I almost sold this before I took it out of the box. It overwhelmed me at first. I finally decided to sit with the teacher's manual and grappled with it. I am so glad I did! Since we only completed Abeka Phonics 1 (and not through grade 3 as the phonics program continues), I was worried about any gaps that might be present. AAS thoroughly fills those gaps. It is based on the Orton-Gillingham method, teaching spelling through phonics rules. It is very hands on, using magnetic tiles on a white board. We do not always use the tiles, but it is great to introduce new concepts. AAS is not written in daily lessons, but is designed in "Steps." Sometimes a step can be done in a day, but sometimes it can take longer. I have found that I like having lessons set up like this. It takes the pressure off of having to complete a certain amount in a day. I simply set the time for 15-20 minutes, and when it goes off we are done.  We also use different modes for writing the spelling words, phrases, and sentences. The white board, paper, and E's favorite, a white board app on my iPad that she can "paint" the words with her finger. I love the constant review that is built in. The only negative to AAS is how teacher intensive it is. I dream of handing a workbook to her and having it completed independently, but I know the truth is I would not be happy with the results of that. So we press on.

Writing with Ease 1: I love the Peace Hill Press LA products. They are short and to the point lessons. They are scripted which takes the guess work out of it. It took about 10-15 minutes 4 X's a week. WWE was a small struggle this year for E. She struggles with comprehension and this was a challenge. But one I believe is worth it. We will continue with the next book in the fall.

First Language Lessons 1: This is such a light introduction to grammar. We loved this. We will continue with FLL 2 for second grade.

Handwriting without Tears 1: Unlike in kindergarten when we used all of the manipulatives and got the most out of the program, we only used HWOT 1 as a workbook. She completed it the first semester and we allowed the copywork in WWE to be enough of handwriting for the rest of the year. This served its purpose this year in solidifying manuscript, but was not a stand out.

Sonlight Readers: Love these! I cannot say enough about Sonlight books. Whether readers or read alouds, they are always family favorites!

Explode the Code: We like these, but honestly I go back and forth with whether or not they are busywork. I despise busywork and am not really a fan of workbooks. E likes them, but I am unsure of the extent of retention. However, it is something E can do independently, and calms my fears about gaps in phonics. ;) We plan to continue the series, but will continually evaluate. If we were to drop something, this would be it.

We had a great year with language arts and are continuing with most everything for second grade. I am thrilled with E's reading progress. My next goal in LA is to find books that interest and fully engage her, so that not only is she able to read, but wants to! I deeply desire her to LOVE reading. She loves read alouds, so I know we will get there soon!

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