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It never fails to amaze me how effective simple things can be when it comes to homeschooling. Copywork–probably the most basic of concepts you could possible conceive of–can cover everything from spelling to handwriting to grammar to punctuation and composition. Dictation and French dictation–also very simple as in concept–reinforce all of these. Put them together, throw in some beautiful children’s literature instead of random and disconnected workbook passages, add in opportunities for narrations and big juicy conversations, sprinkle in investigations of different literary elements, and maybe a movie night or themed party to cap it off, and you’ve got a recipe for language arts success in your homeschool.
The best part is that it’s so easy. You don’t have to wade through five different workbooks, trying to coordinate handwriting lessons with spelling lists with different grammar programs. You don’t have to coax and urge your children through endless drills or worksheets. You don’t have to diagram sentences (unless you want to…) It’s all there in a simple collection of passages from books you read together.
Brave Writer’s Quiver of Arrows (recommended for grades 1 and 2), Arrows (grades 3 to 6), Pouch of Boomerangs (grades 6 and 7), and Boomerangs (grades 7 through 10) are all designed to make these already-simple concepts even easier and more delightful to implement in your homeschool. Each issue features weekly copywork selections; dictation or French dictation for the selected passage; notes on grammar, spelling, and punctuation to teach using the passage; and one investigation into a literary element and corresponding writing project–all from one book. Some issues also provide discussion questions and inspiration for partyschooling at the end of the issue.
I’ve had the Quiver of Arrows issue for Sarah, Plain and Tall waiting on my computer for over a year. I knew I would want to teach language arts through these Brave Writer resources instead of a slush-pile of workbooks when the time was right.
At the end of 2017, Blake began to really take interest in writing. She would tuck herself into a corner with paper and crayons and write entire books for hours and hours. One night, I was reading one of her newest editions and she said she wanted to learn how to write. I told her she was writing and that the books she was making were beautiful and made me imagine all kinds of wonderful things. She smiled and said, “But I want to learn how to write like a real author. I want it so other people can read it, not just you, Mama.”
And so Sarah, Plain and Tall and the Quiver of Arrows finally made an appearance in our homeschool. We took our sweet time about it, since we started in the midst of the holidays, and didn’t finish until the end of January. My plan with future issues is to spend about a month on each one–four weeks to do all of the copywork and dictation, and one week to do the writing project and then to watch the movie version or have a party to celebrate the book.
Here’s what our first experience with the Quiver of Arrows looked like:
1) We read from Sarah, Plain and Tall during our morning basket time.
I tried to just stay ahead of the upcoming copywork passages. It’s not a long book, so we actually finished reading it before we got to the third week’s work.
2) I wrote the copywork passage on our mini-whiteboard and pointed out grammar, punctuation, spelling, and literary elements from the guide before Blake started copying.
Since Blake was just starting out, we focused especially on capitalization, ending punctuation, and putting space between each word. I used different colored dry-erase markers to bring things to her attention. The passages aren’t terribly long in the Quiver of Arrows issues, but I usually broke them up so that they took two to three days for Blake to finish them.
3) Blake would copy the passage into her copywork notebook.
I found a great notebook at a teacher supply store that had wide-ruled, lined half-pages. This notebook is perfect for her current abilities and gives room for her to draw a picture from the book above the passage.
4) Blake would complete the French dictation selection at the end of the week.
In the next issue, we will be using the word bank as a spelling list for the month. But for the first issue, we just read them together and I left the list beside her to choose from during the exercise. I wanted her to develop confidence in the activity, and to keep it simple for this first attempt.
5) We did the lesson on the selected literary element and the corresponding writing activity.
In this issue, the literary element lesson was “color words.” We read the lesson, played with the concept, and then did the writing project. It was fun, and Blake started pointing out color words in movies we were watching and other books we were reading. (There are a lot of them in our book for the next issue, The Wheel on the School, which we started working on at the beginning of February!)
6) We integrated other subjects during the month whenever it made sense to, organically.
We colored in the prairie states and Maine on our dry-erase map (geography), played in the covered wagon at the zoo (dramatic play), looked up how long a train ride would take from Maine to Oklahoma (math), and looked at paintings of prairie scenes and coastal scenes and compared their colors and moods (art.)
7) Finally, we wrapped up by watching the movie on YouTube.
To end our first Quiver of Arrows issue, we pulled up the movie version with Glenn Close on YouTube and watched it while we enjoyed cocoa and marshmallows. Blake noticed many differences between the movie version and the book, and we talked about why they may have changed those things for the movie. We talked about how some movies have to cut a lot out (like the movies in the Harry Potter series) to make it fit into two-to-three hour window, and some movies need to add scenes or details in (like this one) to fill the story in a bit.
We loved our first experience with Quiver of Arrows, and enjoyed Sarah, Plain and Tall. I feel like we were able to cover so much ground, but it felt almost effortless. The work was done for me–all I had to do was open the guide and use the provided teaching notes and passages. We are already diving into the Quiver of Arrows for The Wheel on the School and are really hitting our stride. If you’re looking for a low-stress, thorough, joyful approach to language arts, Brave Writer is a wonderful option.
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