Many of you kindly shared with me your challenges recently, and educational resources for kids rose to the top. If you missed this, I’d love to hear from you too. I’m asking what topics are most relevant to you and what challenges are most bothering you, so as to better focus my writing to meet the needs of my readers. You can let me know here.

I will post a few times this week in order to share some of the resources we’ve found helpful in these areas: English, Math & Science, Observation & Social Sciences, Travel as an education.

Let’s start with a story, since we’re talking about English today:

Once upon a time, there was no You-Tube. No Disney Channel. No lights after 6pm in winter. What did those poor people do with themselves?!

They read to each other. Out loud. The entire family, young and old, listened. Sometimes, they discussed the piece. Other times, they reflected quietly. And their children grew up to write beautifully.

Andrew Pudewa points out that there was a culture of reading aloud in generations past. He points to letters of the US Civil War as evidence how beautifully people wrote. He argues that reading aloud is the best positive influence on children’s language development. Even if they are late readers (as his own son was). Or poor spellers.

Listening to great writing equips kids to communicate well.

High quality language input leads to high quality language output. Phonics and spelling alone cannot achieve this. Children need to also listen to great writing.

Unfortunately, the two biggest language inputs in our children’s lives are TV (25 hours/wk in the US!) and their own peers. Pudewa asks, “Are these sources of reliably correct and sophisticated vocabulary and syntax?” – Will these inputs elevate kids’ language? Um, YouTube? Disney? Unless they’re watching TED talks all day, not so much.

Interactions with adults have potential to model more thoughtful conversation, but  we’re often hurried, barking orders and fielding requests.

Computer screens, TV, and their own peers are not sources of high quality language for kids.  They need to be listening to great writing in order to become great communicators. Spelling and phonics alone won’t cut it.

Hearing good language equips kids to communicate well. For some, reading and writing will lag behind speaking and hearing.

Strong independent readers will also benefit from hearing books read aloud as they may be skipping, skimming, or mispronouncing as they read alone.

Before you feel pressure add ANOTHER thing to your to-do list, let me assure you, I share this to take some pressure off.

As you and your kids are learning a new language, you may feel you are neglecting your English. It’s OK. You can relax on the grammar worksheets and structured English lessons for a few months. This will not do irreversible harm, especially if your kids are hearing high quality English during this time. This is your window to learn this new language and explore this new place. It’s OK to focus there for a period.

While you set aside structured worksheets, listen.

  1. Storynory has both original stories and classics, with wonderful narrators.
  2. You can access e-books and audiobooks online using your Canadian or US library card. (Ours uses OverDrive). The whole family can share a story on a long road trip.
  3. Also, Librivox! Volunteers read these books, which are in the public domain so all downloads are free! Recommendations for the best recordings are here.
I loved seeing my eldest curl up, book in hand, to read along with her audio version of The Wrinkle in Time series. These books were advanced enough that independent reading would have been drudgery. With ear buds, it was fun.

A few other resources:

  1. Librivox’s foreign language recordings can be used in the same way. Borrow 2000 Leagues Under the Sea from your local library, in your local language, and follow along while others read to you.
  2. To check that kids are processing what they read – whether listening or reading independently – try these comprehension bookmarks.
  3. When you do want worksheets: sheets are a nice change from the same old exercise books. They give a few freebies each month, or sign up for a subscription.
  4. A+ Spelling is a fun app. You or your child type in your own spelling list and record the words for future testing. Spelling Bee is fun for the littler ones.
  5. Boukili is a brilliant app, but it seems to struggle with slow connections. Your child can read along slowly in French or English while words are highlighted (like a LeapFrog tag book), and then go back and record herself reading it.

What are your favorite resources for keeping up with your kids English?

P.S. I’d love your input if you haven’t given it yet. You can do that here. It takes 3-5 minutes.













3 thoughts on “Keeping Up with Your English

      1. I especially love digital options when we’re making transitions as expats. Last year we moved from Taichung to Idaho then to New Taipei all in one year!


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