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We live in pioneer country; this list is a result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on language arts and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

Discovery level-

  • McGuffey’s Readers (Revised Edition, set of seven books)- the Primer begins with the alphabet and very basic beginning reading.  The books progress through to the Sixth Reader, which is a great text for teaching vocabulary, comprehension, elocution, and vocal reading on a high school level.  I have used the books as readers,  a dictation source,  presentation pieces, and a resource for excerpts to incorporate into our history study.
  • McGuffey’s Speller- The companion to the McGuffey Readers, this book covers spelling lists beginning with basic reading/spelling words through vocabulary for high school learners.  I don’t have my students study every word on every list.  Some are archaic, and unnecessary; others are already known by the students, and can be skipped.  The lists in the back of the book contains foreign words and words that are not used every day.  These lists are some of my favorites.  Look them up in a dictionary, and you can have a vocabulary list for Mom for that week!
  • Phonics rule flash cards- the English language is much more phonetic than most people think.  Over 90% of the words we use follow phonics rules, and if your children are taught  the sounds of each letter and the rules that govern that letter, reading and writing will be so much simpler.  Phonogram cards should have both the sounds for the individual letters and the rules for them, as well as the sounds and rules for the most common blends i.e. “ea”, “th”, “ough”, etc.
  • Reading phone- two elbows, and one straight 3 inch piece of PVC makes one of the handiest reading/elocution tools ever!  Put them together so they look like a phone receiver and talk into it.  If your young one is struggling to move from decoding to fluency, or your teen needs help cleaning up the “um”, “like”, and “you know” from there public speaking pieces, have them speak into it as they talk.  They will be able to hear themselves clearly; it will make smoothing things out much easier.  My daughter even discovered that having her son use it on the days when he can’t seem to “quiet down” works wonders.  He can hear how loud he actually is and is able to correct it.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.  Use these with older discovery learners.
  • Mad-Libs- I love these priceless, silly gems in tablet form.  You can find them at book stores, second-hand, or on the web.  Help your children learn the proper terms for the various parts of speech as you giggle your way through these fill-in stories.  I am still giving them as gifts to my adult children.  They are just fun.
  • Lots of paper (lined and unlined), pencils, erasers, crayons- having the tools for writing, creating, and experimenting with letters and words encourages growth;  not having them can prove to be frustrating to Moms and budding authors.  Doesn’t look good?  No problem.  Toss it, and start over.
  • Quality picture books- look for well-constructed phrases, clear pictures, and text that is fun to read.  Illustrations can be watercolor, photographs, pencil drawings, or any other media.  Be aware of harsh, creepy, or distasteful pictures, or texts that are mindless, dark, or introduce unsavory topics.

Analysis level-

  • 1828 Webster’s Dictionary- the ORIGINAL American Dictionary.  Definitions change with time and usage.  In order to understand what was meant in centuries’ old documents, you need a dictionary that defines words the way they were defined when used.  Make use of it when studying early European or American documents/speeches, or even your scriptures.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.
  • Solid literature- There is so much great literature out there.  From board books to the classic books for adult reading, there is no way to read it all.  Don’t even try.  Not everyone will fall in love with the same book, or author, or genre; that is as it should be.  Dabble a bit, and find the ones that you love, just make sure that it is good reading, not twaddle.   Does it connect with you on an emotional level?  Does it teach you something?  Does it have real words, complex sentences, and require thought?  Then enjoy!  Leave the dumbed-down, dark, and junky books alone.  Don’t waste your time.  Great reads are out there!
  • Lit. cube- I have two.  One for discovery learners.  One for older learners.  Using them can encourage discussion about the books you are reading, and can take the fear out of writing about them.  (See post dated 4/12/2013 on Lit. Cubes for full instruction.)

Application level-

  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White- This small book will help keep your writing clean, clear, and readable.  It covers the fundamentals of writing better than anything else I have found.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.
  • Classic literature- See solid literature above.
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