Fun and Games with
"Language Arts"

Kids Discovering Differences

This reminded me of a bit from a recent article in our local home ed mag (I'm in Melbourne, Australia). A mother is writing about "learning not to question children about their motives."

She writes:

She read the "Babysitter books" (and everyone will tell you how BAD that is!) in both the Australian and the American editions; the same book twice, that is. Quite a long time later she chuckled to me, "They are *hilarious* those books, they translate all the language into metric, so when one of the characters says,'I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole', they rewrite it as 'I wouldn't touch that with a three metre pole.'" — leading to amused speculation about the interchange, "Jamie, you've grown another foot since I saw you" and the riposte, "No, I've still only got two" and its metric equivalent. This little game with language and mathematics absorbed her attention for a long period of time. A stern librarian would never have known about the jokes, and would have thoroughly irritated her by pushing her to read "better" books.


Internet Toys:

Wiktionary, a collaborative free multilingual extravaganza, with a Random Page generator. There is a "Things to Do" link at the bottom of the main page if you want to contribute information, translations, and such.

Omniglot has hundreds of languages with their writing systems, pronunciations, and information on who uses each language where. Very fun.

etymonline.com, Online Etymology Dictionary—origins of words

Urban Dictionary—Current slang with etymologies (sometimes movie references, which is cool!); can be rough, so don't go if you're easily offended. Here's a sample:

dumbass: Someone who looks up the word "dumbass" in a dictionary.
Some entries have illustrations, and THAT's fun—they're shown at the bottom. It becomes a humor site very quickly.

What's meant by "Language Arts"?

As a school subject, "English" doesn't cover everything that's taught and those in the classes usually already knew English, so the idea of "language arts" was adopted by schools for use when describing a curriculum involving language skills. Unschoolers don't need it, except maybe in the way of considering how very many things in the whole wide world qualify as "language arts." I'll start a list here of those things language arts classes have covered.

rhyme, alliteration, forms, lyrics, metaphor
show'n'tell, public speaking, storytelling, debate
short story, novel
technique and technicalities, exposition, fiction (and all of the above)
history, levels of formality, "rules"

The list above is not a recommendation to teach those things. It's about school. Unschoolers will eventually come across most of it, especially if you can find little fun bits of trivia. Discussing movies, writing reviews at amazon or netflix, sending post cards—all kinds of real-life things would "fulfill requirements."


Do You Speak American?

The Story of English
There is a book to go with it (the link above), and links to video below.

"The Story of English is an Emmy Award-winning nine-part television series, produced in 1986, detailing the development of the English language." You can read more at Wikipedia, and I have lifted their episode descriptions for the links below.

The Story of English episode 1 An English Speaking World
Discusses how English has become the most dominant language throughout the world.

The Story Of English Program 2 The Mother Tongue
Discusses the early stages of the English language, including Old English and Middle English.

The Story of English episode 3 - A Muse of Fire
Discusses the influence of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible on the English language as well as how Early Modern English took root in the American colonies and its influence on contemporary American English.

This is a playlist of sections from when youtube's upload limit was small; the other channel is missing Episode 3.
The Story Of English Program 4 The Guid Scots Tongue
Discusses the Scottish influence on the English language.

The Story Of English Program 5 Black On White
Discusses the influence of Black people on the English language. (Includes interviews with Philadelphia hip hop legends The Scanner Boys, Parry P and Grand Tone.)

The Story Of English Program 6 Pioneers O Pioneers!
Discusses Canadian English and the various forms of American English.

The Story Of English Program 7 The Muvver Tongue
Discusses Cockney dialect and Australian English.

The Story Of English Program 8 The Loaded Weapon
Discusses the Irish influence on the English Language.

The Story Of English Program 9 Next Year's Words
Discusses the future and new emerging forms of the English language.