Resources for Elementary Homeschoolers: Language Arts and Social Studies

I grouped language arts and social studies because you can often work on them together. Reading and understanding non-fiction is a big part of modern language arts study, and historical and biographical texts are a great source.

Reading Skills

The Common Core Standards define three areas for reading: foundational skills (phonics and sight words), reading literature, and reading informational texts. Students reading literature are expected to recall key ideas and details in a story (characters, settings, events), identify elements of craft and structure (Who is the narrator? What sensory details add to the story? What is the genre of the story?) and integrate ideas through comparison and adaptation.

For foundational skills, I have a whole list of resources in my post about beginning readers.

To develop skills to understand and analyze all types of texts, though, you need a whole new type of resource. ReadWorks is this resource. ReadWorks is a completely free website. It’s aimed primarily at public school teachers, but homeschoolers can get great use out of it. It’s a collection of short texts of all levels, from kindergarten through high school, that are paired with comprehension questions. Texts include fiction, non-fiction and even poetry. This makes it a great source, not only for language arts, but also for social studies, as there are lots of great texts about world cultures and historical figures. There are texts about seasons and holidays and texts that are grouped together into a unit. Seriously, just a ton of great texts.

Writing Skills

There are two things to consider when teaching writing: the mechanics of spelling and grammar, and the craft of creating articles and stories.

For spelling, the Dolch sight words are a good place to start. As a homeschooler, you have the flexibility to start anywhere in the list and progress as your kid is ready — or to ignore them entirely if you have a “natural speller’!

Teachers Pay Teachers has a lot of spelling and grammar lessons you can download. Some of them are free, but paid lessons can definitely be worth the few dollars you pay for them. One category of lesson that you can find on TpT (or create yourself) is editing homework: provide a series of sentences with errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation and have the student write out the correct version. This really helps them focus on details without worrying about content.

Photo by Indi Samarajiva

When you do want your kids to think about content, I found the Common Core standards very helpful, especially the section “Text Types and Purposes”:

Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.

Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.

Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.

Topics for this type of essay can be as general or specific as you want. “Would you rather do this thing or that?” is a good format for opinion pieces, e.g. “Would you rather have a dog or a cat?” “Would you rather fly or turn invisible?”

Informative essays can tie into other subjects or relate to your kid’s interests. Sequential narratives can recount field trips and vacations or even be used to describe science experiments.

Templates can be a good way to help younger students organize their thoughts. I made few (very basic!) templates using Google Docs:

Social Studies

Social Studies may not get the same attention as English and Math, but there’s still a lot to learn! Social Studies can be integrated with other subjects, like reading or science. ReadWorks articles on world cultures and history are great for this!

If you just want to get started with some video lessons, Homeschool Pop’s social studies videos are hard to beat. They’re short and can be a great starting point to include readings and projects.

Social Studies lessons can also be a great opportunity for field trips that explore local history. It’s your classroom, have fun with it!