Easy Ways to Improve Vocabulary

I’ve written before about one simple way to improve vocabulary.

Since that time we’ve gotten more word obsessed, and have added other simple ways to broaden our vocabulary.

Why are words so important to us? Why have we made this one of the main focuses in our homeschool?

I love this quote:

By words we learn thoughts, and by thoughts we learn life.
— Jean Baptiste Girard
Easy Ways to Improve Vocabulary #homeschool #education

I want to give my children the gift of WORDS, THOUGHTS - the gift of a deeper life through understanding literature.

An interest in words can become a family culture - just something you DO. After a while your kids will look for many opportunities to learn words.

Some of these suggestions are easy to implement - you can start TODAY.

Others are larger strategies you might want to consider as you are teaching your children.

Basic Strategies

Make a Note of Unknown Words

Recently, my son was reading The Scarlet Letter. This book contains A LOT of words that were unfamiliar to him.

(Fun fact: In the 87,000-plus words that make up The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne used “ignominy” 16 times, “ignominious” seven times, and “ignominiously” once.) . source

I challenged him to highlight each word that he did not know. As we would discuss the book I would pull out some of the highlighted words and we would define them - put them back into the context of the story - and then discuss.

I tried my very best to use a few of these words in conversation after that. This requires some work on my part (usually I record the words in the Notes on my phone).

It usually became a game to see who could use words from the book in the course of conversation. Nothing formalized - just wanting to make words FUN.

Use Read Aloud Time to Focus on Vocabulary

I am a firm believer in reading aloud to improve vocabulary.

As we read aloud each morning we ask Alexa to tell us words we don’t know.

No matter your feelings about Alexa, I love that I can ask her to look up words we don’t know.

Sometime I will also just stop on a word I think might be unfamiliar, ask my son to spell it and define it as well. He loves spelling, so this challenge is a lot of fun.

We have recently encountered a couple of authors that use a beautiful, wide selection of words. Neal Bascomb and Steve Sheinkin write historical fiction and nonfiction books that have broadened our vocabulary.

Flash Cards and Curriculum

SAT/ACT Practice Words

Because we will be taking the PSAT, SAT and ACT in the next couple of years I’m trying to offer my son ways to broaden his vocabulary.

The Barron’s SAT Flash Cards have been very helpful. My son takes these words and adds them to a Quizlet set, which allows him to practice the words with games and other fun tools.

Wordly Wise

Do you know about Wordly Wise? This is a spectacular vocabulary curriculum that we’ve used in the past.

While I recommend it as a full curriculum, I have also purchased it the past few years just for the word lists. Last summer I had my son enter a list each week into Quizlet. His vocabulary grew by leaps and bounds over the summer!


This has been perhaps the BIGGEST investment that has improved my children’s vocabularies.

Studying Latin has gotten them investigating words, looking at word roots, and generally interested in words.

We currently use Henle Latin, but you can do smaller programs that will also have an impact. We know many people that use Visual Latin as well.

A gentle way to start with Latin was a book we used in Morning Time — Getting Started with Latin. This is a perfect precursor to your more formal Latin studies.

Additionally, my children used Word Up! when they were younger and learned SO much!

Word Up!


Sometimes we forget to PLAY during our school time, don’t we?

Playing games has been one of the most effective way of learning words in our family.

Words with Friends

I am indeed advocating you spend time on your phone or iPad during school!

Playing Words with Friends is such a great way to expand your vocabulary. Just by trying new combinations of words and looking up words others play against you grows your vocabulary.

There is a tool on Words with Friends that allows you to look up the definition of a word within the app.

Other word games we enjoy:




The most important thing is this: model for your children a fascination with words. Make learning vocabulary fun. Encourage each other and play games.

Then, improving vocabulary isn’t a task - it is a joy!

Do you have a favorite way to improve vocabulary?

Share it with us in the comments below?

Preparing for Latin in Challenge A

Challenge A is such a WONDERFUL year in the life of a Classical Conversations student. 

We have walked the Challenge A road once before with my oldest child. It was a GOOD year, but it was also year of great growth, struggle, change, and revelation. 

After a couple of years in the Challenge program it became very clear that when my youngest was approaching Challenge A I would definitely prepare more for Latin in the year preceding Challenge A.

Yes, the memory work in Foundations is helpful.  Yes, having a firm grasp of English Grammar (through the Essentials Program) is extremely beneficial. And yes, our students will repeat the Latin they learn in Challenge A again in Challenge B.

I firmly believe, however, we can set our rising Challenge A students up for success so the Latin doesn't flatten and discourage them. 

Preparing for Latin in Challenge A - how to get a jump start on the Latin BEFORE you begin Challenge!

About the Latin in Challenge A

The Latin text used in Challenge A is Henle Latin

In my opinion, Henle isn't exciting. There are no bells and whistles - nothing that overly excites the student. It is simply HARD WORK and DILIGENCE.  

This is a GOOD thing. 

Students start at the beginning of Henle First Year Latin. Class usually begins with a review of an English grammar concept, and then students discover how that concept is treated in Latin. Together, students and the tutor practice translating sentences that contain the day’s concept. There is an emphasis on memorization of vocabulary and word endings. Students gain skills for learning any language through this systematic approach.
— Classical Conversations

Many people feel Henle is superior because it has less vocabulary  (a little more than 500 words) than the competing Latin texts, which allows students to learn the concepts of Latin without being bogged down with excessive memorization of vocabulary.

As students get older and begin to translate, this makes things easier for them. 

(For a nice review of Henle, read this review at Homeschool Christian.)

Preparing for Latin in Challenge A

In this last year before Challenge A, we are doing a few things to prepare for the difficult Latin that is to come next year. 

Know Your Memory Work

Having a firm grasp on the Latin memory work in Foundations is extremely helpful. 

We plan to review all three cycles of memory work this summer in preparation for Challenge A.

Specifically, knowing the NOUN DECLENSIONS before beginning Challenge A is a good idea. 

I love the Latin Noun Declension worksheets from Family Style Schooling. The lightbulb REALLY went off when my son started working on these sheets!  (good stuff)

Everything to do with Latin at Family Style Schooling is extremely helpful - take some time to explore the resources there.  One of my favorite articles is all about Latin nouns and what exactly a declension is. 

Getting Started With Latin

During our Morning Time, we are using a FABULOUS book, Getting Started With Latin

This book, which is a beginning Latin book for students of all ages, incorporates much of the Latin memory work from Foundations. It also begins to teach students the basics of learning Latin, and will prepare them for Henle Latin in Challenge A.

Having gone through Henle Latin with my oldest, I can see directly how using Getting Started With Latin benefits my son moving into Challenge A. 

I love it when we sit around the table during morning time and Anna says, "Ooooh Grant, this is going to help you SO MUCH in Latin next year!"

Flash Cards

We are beginning to learn the Latin vocabulary in Henle Latin using flashcards from Antiquated Notions. 

While I am 100% in favor of students making their own Latin flashcards for Challenge A, having them available to print and review easily has been extremely helpful.

Once in Challenge A I imagine we will be using Quizlet to make and review Latin flashcards. This proved to be very helpful for my oldest. 

I hear so many people question the validity of learning Latin, the fast pace of the Latin in Challenge A, and the dryness of the Henle Latin text. 

Yes, those are all valid concerns - and concerns I have had at one time.  Now, however, they are no longer concerns.  

Being in Challenge for nearly four years has taught our whole family that sometimes the best things are worth WORKING and WAITING FOR.  It has taught us that patience, perseverance, and doing hard things is WORTH IT.


Here is what I DO KNOW about the study of Latin in Challenge:

  • It leads to a tremendous understanding of English Grammar.
  • Students gain a greater understanding of word origins.
  • Studying Latin promotes great discipline and perseverance.
  • Parsing a Latin sentence and taking the time to STRUGGLE through translations builds confidence - a confidence that transfers to many other academic areas.
  • Sticking with something for many years (like the study of Latin) teaches our students that anything worth doing is worth doing well and over an extended period of time.  

I wish you all the best in your study of Latin!

Are you preparing for Latin in Challenge A?  Tell me about it in the comments below! 

Preparing for Latin in Challenge A - how to get a jump start BEFORE you get to Challenge!