The basics of an elementary homeschool should be the 3 R's, which are Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. In our homeschool, these are the main things that we focus on getting done each day. Of course we can add other subjects like history or social studies, science, geography once or twice a week. In addition to that, we can also include field trips and dig deeper into topics that our kids are interested in. Science projects can also kick-start a burnt out homeschool, as I've mentioned before. But the main things that we use in the real world are reading, writing and arithmetic. So these are essential.
Language Arts for kindergarten and First grade means learning letter sounds and building words, the basics to learning to read. Sight words are also included, along with building the student's vocabulary. Capitalization and spelling can be added. For second and third grades we would consider reading fluency and reading comprehension. At this point we can also introduce basic punctuation and simple sentence construction. Fourth grade we cover antonyms, homophones, synonyms, suffixes, idioms and critical listening and speech skills. In fifth grade we would introduce the greek and latin roots, which helps to expand their vocabulary. We make this more fun with some root word games. We also introduce classics in our reading materials and learn to paraphrase text. At this point we also begin to work on their expressive writing skills.
As you can see, Language Arts can cover several different skills. I've found that some curriculum will focus on certain aspects of Language Arts, while it may be lacking in other areas. At times we've had to supplement. We build upon skills learned each year.
I'd be interested to hear what you do for language arts. What books are you reading this year?