Get Back to the Basics This School Year

 As home educators we can often create extra stress for ourselves as we begin to plan our school year. We do this out of love for our children by wanting to provide the highest quality education for them and part of this is finding the best resources and teaching tools.

This sounds simple but have you ever attended a large homeschool convention? It is quite overwhelming. The homeschool market is a billion dollar industry and we are in that market. A curriculum will sound perfect for our child as we browse a vendor's booth and listen to the sales pitch until we walk to the next booth or talk to a parent who has used something else. We easily become confused and frustrated.

(warning: stepping on soapbox)

Sometimes we need to regroup and gain a clear focus again by getting back to the basics.

Dr. Ruth Beechick has been a teacher, professor, and curriculum developer. She has written numerous books on education and curriculum. She discusses getting back to the basics in the following article.

It's Just Common Sense

By Ruth Beechick (and a little of my thoughts sprinkled here and there)

The easiest way to simplify curriculum choices is to throw out most of those language arts books. Over time, schools have divided language into too many separate courses: grammar, writing, spelling, vocabulary, speech, reading, literature. They use the education jargon "language arts" to cover this broken up field of language.

Spelling & Vocabulary

Children learn thousands of new words per year in regular life, and vocabulary lessons with their words isolated from the child's subjects are no help. Spelling books with their 20 words per week chosen by someone else are just as useless. Better if the child learns words he misspells in his own writing. Or he could learn some new words from his science or geography unit.

In college, my professor presented numerous studies of how spelling programs do not work long term. I begin teaching my children spelling with word families then progress to sight words, which are also the same words that are most commonly used in writing. As my children learn to read fluently, I use vocabulary words from social studies and science units and they can learn to spell these words correctly as they learn the meanings. No fancy spelling or vocabulary curriculum needed.

Take a minute to read what the research from the past 100 years has consistently reported- It is eye-opening!


Drop grammar until the teen years after children write rather well. By age 5 they have learned plenty of grammar without any lessons, and through reading and writing and talking they continue to learn it. One grammar book to refer to when you have questions is all your house needs. Forget the grade-by-grade stuff.

Ruth explains in her book, You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully, that individual grade level books are a result of marketing to schools. Each grade level in schools wants to have everything included even though the teachers will not teach every concept in the book during the school year.

She recommends purchasing one high school level grammar book and use that as your teaching tool for seventh through twelfth grade instead of buying a repetitious book for each year. Teach a few concepts from the book each year, such as adverbs, prepositions, and usage of commas for one grade. The next grade, teach different concepts and review the ones previously taught.

From my elementary school teaching experiences, I never completed any textbook in any subject area in one school year. Publishers provide more than what is needed and teachers need to pick and choose which topics they want to cover that school year.

Writing and Reading

Writing is not learned sequentially or by formulas or any way that curriculums lay it out.

In fact, Ruth states in her books that the research is clear and overwhelming- Knowledge of the definitions and rules of grammar does not, in itself, improve student writing.

Drop grade-by-grade reading textbooks after a child reads a little. They only slow down progress.

All you really need to successfully homeschool is a Bible and a library card. Of course, I have added other things to our curriculum, but the foundation of our reading curriculum is the Bible and library books.

There is also an enormous amount of research that clearly shows that reading aloud is the best thing parents can do to help their children become avid and strong readers. Reading aloud also helps children improve their vocabulary, spelling, grammar, attention span, comprehension, and listening skills.

Ruth's advice: Learn to read by reading. And learn to write by writing.

We sometimes make simple things complicated without even realizing it. Enjoy the new school year with your children and have FUN learning together!