3 Helpful Resources for Teaching English Languages Arts

Most Waldorf homeschoolers avoid teaching grammar.

Because after all, the Waldorf curriculum is full of good stories. That’s how lessons and new material are presented. Writing and reading are built into the curriculum, so those aspects of language arts seem to be taken care of.

Plus, we have no idea how to teach grammar in an artistic and alive way. So we avoid it.

Many homeschooling parents ask me: is teaching grammar really necessary?

My answer: well, yes and no!

Most children develop language skills just fine without formal grammar or spelling instruction. However, Rudolf Steiner saw the real purpose of grammar as an awakening, as a way to bring what is hidden into the light. And therefore, this study of language can parallel a child’s growing consciousness and awareness of self. The study of grammar can be a way to build a child’s confidence.

Let’s start with the concept that speech, the use of words and language to communicate, is one of the factors that sets human beings apart from other animals. Developmentally, this study is best suited for children starting around age nine and beyond, all the way through high school.

And the truth is that grammar and spelling practice can be enjoyable, rather than feeling too formal or like a chore. The main key is to keep it playful. Because when children play, their resistance to learning decreases, they have more fun, and they are then more likely to retain what they’re learning.

Today, I want to share three helpful resources for teaching English Language Arts including grammar and spelling. And they won’t break the bank!

Some Waldorf teachers start with “doing, naming, and describing words” in grade two. We introduce children to these descriptions of how verbs, nouns, and adjectives behave rather than starting with their definitions. In our house, I introduced these concepts informally usually around grade three or even four. (I think it was different for each of my three children!)

Remember, the Waldorf curriculum is rich in language development. The finger plays, verses, songs, rhythmic speech, and storytelling begin in kindergarten and continue all the way through the grades. Our children are naturally guided to learn about speech and language structure through the stories, retellings, and written summaries that they do as part of their main lesson work.

If you want to read more about grammar from a Waldorf perspective, I suggest this short article from the Waldorf Online Library, When Shall Grammar Be Taught? by Virginia Birdsall,  written in 1940. It includes a wonderful poem for each of these different parts of speech: the verb, noun, and pronoun.

Now on to our three resources, two decidedly Waldorf and one not.

3 Helpful Resources for Teaching English Language Arts

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3 Helpful Resources for Teaching English Language Arts

What I love about all three of these resources is that they honor this basic tenet of Waldorf education: that the well-being of the child is more important than any one particular skill.

Spelling by Hand by Jeremy HerrmannThis is beautifully stated by Jeremy Hermann, the author of Spelling by Hand: Teaching Spelling in a Waldorf School, a Guide for Class Teachers. I would add “and homeschoolers” to that title!

Spelling by Hand emphasizes the importance of short daily practice when it comes to spelling. But this can be done in five to fifteen minutes each day.

This concise book offers a summary of a spelling curriculum for grades 1-6. Hermann illustrates a technique for hand spelling and finger spelling that adds a physical component to the sounds. He starts with regular words in grades one and two, and moves to irregular words by grades five and six. You could definitely start using this book in any of these grades.

The book includes 36 simple spelling games plus spelling word lists. The activities in this book would make a great addition to language arts lessons at home. They could also lend themselves to mixed-ages activities depending on your children’s skill levels.

Why study spelling? It can help foster a child’s healthy relationship to authority, as well as listening and observation skills. This book could provide Waldorf homeschoolers with the foundation for an economical and thoughtful spelling curriculum.

English Workbook for Fifth Grade by Ted WarrenMy second resource recommendation is a series of English Workbooks for Fourth Grade, Fifth Grade, and Grades Six to Eight written by Waldorf teacher, Ted Warren.

What I like most about this series is that they are workbooks written directly to the child. For homeschoolers that means that most children will be able to work on these workbooks independently. Or with a bit of assistance at first. Some of the exercises can even be done aloud.

The lessons are not necessarily intended to be worked through in order. You can pick and choose different topics in grammar such as verb tense, parts of speech, and spelling or grammar rules. The English Workbook for Fourth Grade has 62 Exercises. While the English Workbook for Fifth Grade has 74 Exercises. And the English Workbook for Grades Six to Eight has 122 Exercises. 

There is also The Teacher’s Manual for Three Workbooks, just one teacher’s manual for all four years (plus even a few suggestions for Ninth Grade). I would recommend that you purchase the teacher’s manual because it includes: teaching grammar with a Waldorf approach, the background for when to teach what, suggested games and activities, rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, as well as key concepts by chapter from the student workbooks. There are also writing exercises that help to increase a child’s self-confidence by applying all that they are learning while writing their own original sentences, paragraphs, and stories.

Games for Reading by Peggy KayeLastly, I want to mention a fun book for all kinds of language play: Games for Reading: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Read by Peggy Kaye. Just to be clear, this book is not written by a Waldorf teacher. But it is used by many homeschooling families and fits right in with the playful approach to language found in Waldorf.

Games for Reading has over 75 different games, from finding and rhyming games to concentration and sound games. As Kaye says in the introduction, “If these games aren’t fun, they aren’t working.” My two favorites are the Rainbow Game and Talk a Drawing.

And there you have it, 3 resources for homeschooling language arts. The only one of these resources that was available when my children were in elementary school is the Games for Reading book. I’m so pleased to see some new books on the scene, helpful resources for teaching English language arts at home.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to homeschooling English language arts?

 

About Jean

Hi, I'm Jean. And I'm here to help you overcome the overwhelm!

61 thoughts on “3 Helpful Resources for Teaching English Languages Arts

  1. Thanks Jean, just what I’ve been thinking about recently! Do you think it’s ok to start later with the workbooks, i.e. starting with the grade 4 book with my fifth grader, or better just to go on ahead to the grade 5 book?

    1. Great question, Jessica. I think you’ll be fine starting with the fifth grade workbook. There is a lot of review in each book. For example, all three workbooks have sections on Parts of Speech, Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, and Adverbs. What the fourth grade workbook has that the fifth does not is the basics of punctuation and capitalization. And the later books move at a faster pace. But I think you’ll be fine jumping in with fifth grade. If you really want to be sure, you could buy the Teacher’s Manual first and read about the content of the three workbooks and decide from there. I do recommend getting the Teacher’s Manual to go with whichever workbook you decide on. Hope that helps!

  2. Thank you, Jean! It’s always lovely to read your posts and I appreciate the resources you’ve shared. I like the workbook suggestion because for us, having some independent work for my older child is helpful while I’m working with my younger child.

    1. Yes, Kathryn, the English Workbooks are perfect for independent work. The exercises are bite-sized and lively. We need that so much when we have more than one child!

    1. The Spelling by Hand book lays out a curriculum for grades 1-6. I personally might not start using it until around third grade just because I am not big on much academics in the early years. Remember, my first two boys were very active and not at all interested in academics. And this book wasn’t around back then. The exercises for the various grades could really be done anytime. The most important thing is to keep the activities short and playful.

      1. I’ve been looking at this book for some time now. I’m glad to know that you suggest holding off on it. It’ll give me more time to procoon making the purchase and then reading through it! 😉

  3. I think my biggest challenge is implementing what I have planned. I spend so much time planning, and it feels like a big hurdle to implementing it all. Grade 4 please!

    1. Thanks for the awesome resources you continually provide.
      We’re new homeschoolers and just about to go on a long sailing adventure so are re-defining our home-schooling.
      My biggest challenge has been aligning and staying abreast of the way my 7 year old wants to learn. It seems I plan out wonderful things but her interests change so often. I often feel so stretched and that time spent watching, listening and connecting is more fruitful than all of the time I spend solo planning.

  4. In my experience it is easier to have a group of children practicing spelling and reading together, on the same level. There is less frustration if the child does not just compare themselves to the older sibling and their abilities…for a lot of games I find you also need a group of children with similar skills, so I am always looking for new ideas to work one on one. Thank you!

  5. Spelling is a big issue for 11yo, while my 13yo struggles with grammar and writing. However, my biggest challenge is meeting the individual needs of each of my 5 children. Teaching kindy, 2nd, 5th, 7th, and 11th grade at the same time is exhausting! I appreciate these resource reviews. Thank you so much!

    1. Have you tried the new “Spelling You See”? I am using it with my youngest right now and she is doing very well with it. “Analytical Grammar” might be good for older children. We have been using the old “Voyages in English” series with all our children with good results. It is gentle in the lower grades, but does teach a lot in the higher grades.

  6. I have two of those three books you mention (Spelling by Hand and Peggy Kaye’s book, plus others by Peggy Kaye). Excellent resources. My biggest challenge is that both my children have likely dyslexia, but with differences between the two of them. I feel as though I am having to learn so much as I go and it feels so hard to try and address all the differing needs for language arts as well as other subjects in a consistent, meaningful way.

  7. I would have to say that my biggest challenge is that I am very good with grammar but do not recall how I came to know what I know. I know when something is wrong but have a hard time remembering why. It’s very hard to teach the very confusing and complicated rules of the English language when you can’t remember what they exactly are. I definitely need to brush up.

  8. Thank you, Jean! I am at the beginning of my HS journey. Among the many things I am contemplating is how to bring certain topics, as grammar, artistic and alive. I am really going to look into those books. English is not my mother tongue, so I feel a little bit stressed about it.

  9. My biggest challenge is feeling confident with my own knowledge of grammar and spelling in order to teach it. Do the workbooks have explanations and answers?

    1. These books will definitely give you confidence, Sabrina. The Workbooks will give your child confidence and the Teacher’s Manual will give you confidence! The explanations are very clear with lot of examples. However, there are not answers to each exercise. But honestly, after going over the spelling and grammar rules, you don’t need them.

  10. My biggest struggle with language arts is presenting it in a way that will stay with my children, instead of just learning dry facts that they soon forget. I want them to understand language and why grammar is the way it is, and be able to apply it. I also would love help in making it fun, and interesting to them, not a drudge. I love language, and want them to find it interesting!

  11. Spelling is a big challenge for us. We’ve found it hard to study spelling formally and prefer to discuss spelling patterns as they come up in our reading or writing.

  12. My biggest challenge is teaching my children to write good academic papers in high school, i.e., writing formal essays and research papers that will prepare them for college. I think most of it is a matter of lacking motivation on the student’s part.

  13. My biggest struggle with language arts is know what is relevant and what really isn’t. A lot of times grammar can seem boring and my middle school age kids will ask me why they need to know for example what a predicate is or when in my adult life I have had dissect a sentence into all its parts. I want to know how best to serve them in this area.

    1. Jessica, that’s exactly where these workbooks would come in. I think they really convey the fun of language and how learning to communicate clearly brings confidence.

  14. My biggest challenge with language arts is making it lively. I’ve introduced more active spelling practice using bean bags. The kids enjoy the activities, but I can’t yet tell whether it’s helping with their retention. We have not done much with grammar yet, so I’d definitely appreciate a resource for that. We’d dive into the 5th grade grammar workbook. Thanks for sharing these resources, and for the giveaway!

  15. My biggest challenge living in a country where two and three languages are used, is ensuring each language gets it’s “exposure and practice” time. Mandarin with one parent, Tamil with another and national language plus English as a common language can be a handful. Exciting yes, but still a handful.

    It would be interesting to learn the skills and tips shared in the book, and apply it across to other languages. Thus, similarities and differences in all languages can be identified.

    Looking forward to the teacher’s manual and spelling by hand.

    Thank you.

  16. My biggest challenge with language arts is that two of my children are severely dyslexic and dysgraphic so are not at grade level with writing and spelling so adjusting and working with their delays

  17. My biggest struggle as an early elementary homeschooler, is the writing portion…..striving to find motivation to want to write and once they do, getting her to really express herself and her thoughts through her writing. She has the love of reading.

  18. I struggle with a format to go into grammar that is natural and connected and lively! You’re right about struggling to bring these ideas about in an artistic way!
    I am intrigued about the workbook for fourth grade! I would love to see how it speaks to the child!

  19. Hi Jean! My biggest challenge is with organization AND keeping myself disciplined to actually get some school done – we play lots of musical insruments and love the visual arts AND have lots of farm animals, so distractions abound here! I also have 2 other books by Peggy Kaye that I used extensively early on.

  20. My biggest challenge is meeting each child where they are regardless of their age/readiness. My oldest is a boy but his sisters tend to advance past him in spelling and grammar (although his reading level is very high) so encouraging each child without comparing them, slowing the girls down without holding them back, helping the oldest with his weaknesses without adding “shoulds” or “guilt” or unnecessary pressure… all with a baby on my hip and a toddler making messes in circles. 😉

  21. These look like great resources. I’m always looking for inviting resources for spelling and the grammar workbooks would be so practical!

  22. My biggest struggle when it comes to honeschooling language arts is to use the most creative and effective ways to teach students so that they will have passion in learning grammar.

  23. I think my biggest challenge is making the connections between the different parts of grammar so that it all makes sense as a bigger picture. 5th grade would be a wonderful addition!

  24. We’re coming late to Waldorf and homeschooling in general. Right now, ALL of it is a struggle. Recently, I took an assesment test for some college courses I was taking. I placed in the 97% for english/grammar. Now, the real question is HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? I can’t stress that enough HOW DID IT HAPPEN? Because, honestly, I have NO idea. Based ONLY on those results I would like to be able to say I know a bit about the subject BUT . . . how do I get the information out of my head when I don’t know how it REALLY got in there? How can I share this knowledge with my son? How can/do I present everything to him in an appropriate and intelligent way?

  25. My biggest challenge is I’m not 100% sure where to start or whats involved. There’s something missing somewhere but I don’t know what. My child reads and comprehends at an advanced level but spells so poorly. Most spelling and LA programs lead to him getting bored easily. I need help!

  26. For me, I go back and forth between being gentle artistic story like teaching and the rigid well trained mind diagram sentences and repeat after me type. Maybe my temperament or maybe how I learned – which was the rigid, structured with raps on my knuckles if I didn’t speak phonetically or used improper grammar. I’d love to find a nice balance. One of my boys likes the structure the other wants not part of it. But the artistic way of teaching doesn’t come naturally to me and I default to the rigid. If I could find a balance and sense of how to bring this to my children in a way that nourishes them but also gives them real skills, which I see gravely lacking in adults today, that would just be wonderful. I really appreciate this article and look forward to checking out the resources you’ve shared. Thanks so much!

  27. My biggest struggle is how to encourage my 4th grader who is a very reluctant writer. She has been reading way above grade level for years, and loves to write in cursive, but when it comes to composition or original thoughts put down on paper, we hit an impasse.

  28. My biggest challenge in teaching language arts to my fifth grader is focussing on the specifics of grammar and language structure. Great stories are easy to bring to our lessons, and can often be shared with my younger children, but finding opportunities to practice the mechanics of grammar is something I’ve struggled with, much as I love this aspect myself. Thanks for bringing this resource to my attention 🙂

  29. One of our biggest challenges in homeschooling has always been spelling, with grammar and writing a close second. None of my boys seemed to be natural spellers, and we have tried many programs over the years with little improvement. Since we haven’t begun formal spelling with my youngest yet, we still have to see about him!

  30. My biggest struggle with teaching grammar is that I spend SO much time researching various methods, primarily due to a lack of understanding what/how to teach it, that I never actually implement one consistent method. Thank you for some wonderful resources!

  31. I’m struggling to make it unboring and fun! We started this year and still tasting waters. But so far language arts is the most boring subject in our family. Very disappointing since one of my goals was making learning fun and kids excited about it.

  32. My biggest challenge with teaching language arts is trusting that I’m doing it “right”/enough/so forth…. I cycle through that anxiety and then I relax and know we are right where we need to be…. but then it happens again at some point. 😂

  33. Language Arts in very challenging to me as its my second language. Therefore I really need a good resource to show me how to teach English as I had no idea how to approach the subject and how to approach grammar. We are in Grade 1 so teaching the letters through stories and pictures hadn’t been to difficult but the higher grades will be different. So hopefully one of the above resources will be a good guide for this.

  34. I think our biggest challenge right now is getting inspired to write. My LW really struggles with given topics, he likes to create his own. Which is great sometimes, but other times I need him to stay on topic.

  35. Hi Jean, thank you so much for this article, it came just on time!
    My biggest chalange is that English is not my first language and it is super chalenging to explain (and sometimes to undarstand it myself) some grammar rules.
    I chose to teach in English because our kids are Australians and English is their first language. I love English and kinda learn it together with my kids😄
    Thanks for the article and the sugations to get the needed guidance!!!

  36. Our biggest challenge lately has been simply sticking to my plan! My daughter hasn’t been as inspired or excited, probably because I have been less excited, so we keep veering off into topics that we find more interesting. That would be okay, but I’m missing some of the basics that she NEEDS to learn!

  37. Hi. I’d say that teaching spelling in an empowering way to help children become independent readers is a challenge I find daunting. My kids are around grade 2 age, and find spelling very confusing. Help!!!

  38. My greatest challenge is educating my different aged children: 9, 6, 3 and 1. Due to learning disabilities and other issues, my oldest who should be able to do more individual work actually takes up more time and energy than the rest of my children combined. Trying to find a way to educate them all is a big task. Thank you for this opportunity.

  39. Hi Jean,
    I had to leave the States for some time and move overseas with my two sons, 9 and 11. Trying to teach them English without jeopardizing their learning other subjects in a language other than English has been a very challenging experience because even though they know how to read in English, they won’t take up reading on their own. And even when I read for them, they prefer novels with shorter sentences. I feel they lack the motivation to put in the extra effort. So, the most challenging aspect for me in teaching the language is helping them find motivation, to understand why they should learn.
    Thank you

  40. Hi Jean,
    Thank you for these LA resources and your insights, I especially love that you mention the well being of a child is a priority with the fiurst resource. I was not taught grammar in school as part of pilot program where they believed grammar hinders creativity. I would have loved to have learned the ways and reasons why our language takes form as it does and then decide how to use it creatively. The challenge for me is to learn and teach LA’s in a way that is empowering rather than stifling and losing ourselves in the grammar laws. I appreciate your perspective here very much.
    Warmly,
    Anne Marie

  41. My biggest challenge is. I, my oldest son, second oldest son and fourth child, also a son are all dyslexic. Growing up, that was never a word you heard. I did teach myself to read at age four. I couldn’t understand what it all meant. Then! When I got into the nursing program, it all hit me! I already knew it! Of course developmentally a four year old has no concept of that material. Now, as a single mom of five. My four oldest, I for the life of me have no idea how to teach them to read, or get it? As officials want you to do. I just did, and it’s foreign to me to see them not get it? However, my youngest who is just 7 picks up words like I did at a bit younger age. However, as they would say he is a natural. Even with numbers? He is my only non dyslexic child! He was a big surprise since I was a surrogate for him. He was to be ours, appraremtly! My fourth son, has multiple special needs and seems to have stop progressing and is at a learn it over and over again phase, at 11. So, his little brother will show him what this or that could be, or try this or that. It’s fantastic to see! Talk about head, hearts and hands! Considering my 11did only sign language until almost 3 and my youngest sons biological family (the males) are deaf, which he is not? Shocker really! Any, of those amazing titles would do wonders here! Anything to help the right brained kiddos feel great about what they can do. And to help my heady, yet righty son to learn so,etching new, is a book we would love!

  42. So far the biggest struggle is my own anxiety that things are progressing at an adequate speed (which I know is not at all the goal). I think I need to step out of the daily grind to see the big picture of how language progresses. Other than that, we are still struggling with my first grader having the stamina with with writing projects : ).

  43. My biggest challenge is knowing how to meet my child where she is developmentally because of global delays but more specifically because of speech delays. This is not something that I struggle with all of the time or with every concept but when we hit these speed bumps finding an even path becomes tricky. It’s difficult to know if she has understood a lesson sometimes. In these cases I feel like she is bored and therefore I second guess my approach and I then I begin to wonder if it’s too advanced or not advanced enough… Going by her age isn’t as solid for us because developmentally she may not be where typically developing children are so sometimes it’s a guessing game. And when you go at a slower pace, often times you have to get very creative because one specific lesson can become quite boring in itself if done repetitively.

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