* spread a thin layer of shaving cream on your kitchen table - shoot for a long rectangular shape. Give your kiddo a spelling word and let him or her write it out in the shaving cream. Max thought we were going to do the boring old white board again; the look on his face was worth the mess we made. Don't worry - it cleans up easily and doesn't leave a residue - just a pleasant shaving cream smell!
* ask your child to close his/her eyes, open the dictionary and point to a word. If it's a reasonable word, use it as a mystery spelling or vocabulary word for the week and add it to the list of words you might already be working on. We hit "inhibit" the other day. Or, see if your child can stump Mom or Dad with a word he/she finds in the dictionary. Mom or Dad has to spell it and define it. Put your child in charge! Of course there's always a small chance that you'll run into an inappropriate word.....hmm. No time like the present to go through the dictionary with some whiteout!
* dictation is not, I repeat not, the most exciting endeavor. When we've used it I've tried hard to make it more enticing, so have used quotes from Max's current all-time favorite mischief-maker, Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. Or I'll take his spelling words and come up with goofy sentences that incorporate several of the words. He wrote out a sentence about fascinating thumb wrestling once. This only lasts for a short while in our house because Max doesn't like to write. Have I mentioned that???
I've already highlighted Daily Grams as a grammar resource a few times. It's not particularly silly or outlandish, but what I do like about it is that you can dish it out in very small doses. One page a day will get you through the school year. You can purchase the teacher's resource, but I just use the Internet to look up things as needed. It's subtly repetitive so over time the concepts really sink in. It's been a nice refresher course for my older brain, too.
Daily Grams will definitely be on the docket for next year's curriculum, too.
I believe the best option available to you for good sound development of the language arts is to read aloud to your child. Even if he or she is fifteen! Read all kinds of things. Blogs, novels, short stories, poetry, recipes that sound nummy, articles from Time magazine, directions to games.......whatever! Just read. Read until you are blue in the face. Watch your child/ren gradually gravitate closer to you in body and in spirit. The cadence, pronunciations, rhythms and intonations you impart will have a marked impact on their vocabulary and comprehension of how our words are woven together into vessels of communication. Push the envelope - read above them, below them. Set your sights high and start heading to the library. You'll be amazed with how much paper surface area you can cover together and you'll experience a wonderful sense of accomplishment together as you check books off of your list. The mind's eye is a magical place to visit - go there frequently with your child.