Your homeschool children have been learning the English language by listening ever since the day they were born. When they were young, you probably carried them on your hip and talked to them as you completed your daily tasks. You read picture books to your babies. You taught them the lyrics to silly songs (I still remember a favorite: “If you wake up in the morning at a quarter to two, and you don’t know just what to do…go brush your teeth!“) You taught them nursery rhymes. You corrected their pronunciation when their first attempts were adorable misses. Hearing the language is the first step to proper pronunciation, pitch, rhythm, accentuation, and inflection.
But learning the language through listening doesn’t end with toddlers. I’m still learning the language at 47 years old! How do I learn the language through hearing? I listen to intelligent, challenging teaching CDs, watch quality movies or news programs, and engage in regular conversations with people who use good language like my husband and friends. It is through listening that I learn how to pronounce new vocabulary words and how to pace my conversations for maximum effect. So what steps can you take to help your homeschool children learn the language through listening?
Read to them daily
If they are still young, make reading out loud a daily tradition. Pick a time of day for all the kids to gather on the couch for a snuggle and a good picture or chapter book. If they are older and want to read the book on their own then read interesting newspaper articles to them around the table, or read a passage from the book that you are currently reading and share with them what you are learning!
If you have children of all ages, have the big brother or sister read daily to the little ones. One friend of mine has two girls: a teenager and an eight year old; they both really enjoyed their special “sister time” when the older daughter read the American Girls series to her little sister, and it gave Mom time to spend teaching their son.
Listen to quality audio regularly
We like to listen to books when we are traveling long distances in the car. G. A. Henty, a popular author of historical fiction, is particularly appealing to homeschool boys (probably because he always includes battles), and the vocabulary and sentence structure is always challenging. Lamplighter Books carries several audio versions of Henty by Jim Hodges.
Focus on the Family Radio Theatre classics like Les Miserables, The Secret Garden, and The Chronicles of Narnia are good choices that will engage your children’s attention. My teens have also listened to sermons on CD (Doug Phillips of Vision Forum) and online (John Piper of Desiring God Ministries.)
For older teens, The Teaching Company offers countless opportunities to learn the specialized language of various disciplines like Biology, Advanced Mathematics, or Psychology.
Include them in conversations
My kids learn more sophisticated language by eavesdropping! When David and I talk, we usually try to throw in a new vocabulary word or two just to keep the kids asking questions. They hear the way we structure our sentences and the way we pronounce those new words, and they naturally imitate what they hear. Socialize with other like-minded families who care about using proper language. The positive peer pressure will cause all the kids to speak with style.
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One leading literacy expert states that 10 year olds have a vocabulary ranging from 3,000 to 40,000 words! Do you know which kids have the largest vocabulary? Of course you do! The kids with the greatest vocabulary are the ones who are regularly exposed to the spoken word through great literature and adult conversations. So if you want to raise homeschool scholars who have mastered the language, read to them and include them in conversations every day so that they are learning the English language through listening.