The primary focus of the language arts in the early years is building an appreciation of the richness of language, and strong foundational skills for later work in reading and writing. The year begins with letter recognition and awareness of vowel and consonant sounds. This work is introduced through stories and images in a very creative, imaginative way. The parent is encouraged to integrate this story/letter work with daily life so the child is able to take in this new knowledge in an organic, relaxed way. In the course of learning to write, the child naturally begins to learn to read by reading what he or she has written. In kindergarten and first grade, children create a Main Lesson Book which is a large blank book that eventually becomes filled with letters, drawings, sentences, stories, poems, etc.
Later in the first grade year, students who are ready begin working with a reader, expanding on the work they have done with word families (-it, -at, -ag, etc.). “Readers” are books that a child reads independently, although young students may need the support of the parent (or “Home Teacher”) when reading. The Little Bear and Frog and Toad books are included with the first grade curriculum package for those children who leap forward in reading and are eager for more challenges. These books are often used as read-aloud books by the parents of children who are not yet reading independently, or used as read-together books to solidify skills and instill confidence in emerging readers.
Oak Meadow’s curriculum and philosophy encourages parents to follow their child’s individual pace when introducing reading and writing. The development of literacy is a complex task that involves two primary skills: decoding (forming a sound according to the printed symbol, i.e. reading) and encoding (creating the symbol that corresponds to the sound, i.e. writing). The acquisition of these complex skills takes time and should not be rushed. When children are allowed to come into reading and writing in a relaxed way, they often seem to acquire the skills magically, as though there is an innate ability that is waiting for the right moment to emerge. The beauty of homeschooling is that you have the flexibility to move forward at a pace that honors your child’s unique needs.