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The Three R’s – Writing and Spelling (Part 3)

The Three R's - Writing and Spelling (Part 3)

It had never occurred to me how closely spelling was connected to reading and then to writing until my middle child brought it home to me. Michael was my Energizer Bunny—runner/wiggler/climber— who was always looking for a new physical adventure and a chance to spread his wings. Now, don’t get me wrong, he loved books, as well. That is, he loved for us to read him books: when he collapsed into bed at night; when he could chortle with joy because we read funny books out loud; when anything interesting in the pictures or the read-aloud stories piqued his curiosity, especially anything about animals or foreign places.

However, reading was difficult. When I say difficult, I mean e-x-c-r-u-c-i-a-t-i-n-g-l-y s-l-o-w. Everything else about this boy was fast, but when it came to language, w-o-r-d-s went into s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n.

Until he was ten.

Then, suddenly, it all began to speed up. Within three or four months of reading his first solo book reading, he was inhaling a three-hundred page book about a man who captured animals in Africa for zoos. He now had a voracious appetite for books, and I sighed in relief.

Until his writing began.

Michael seemed to have a mental block when it came to spelling. It caused him to cringe in horror whenever we asked him to write something, whether sentence or story.

I had absolutely NO idea what to do about this new, seemingly insurmountable problem.That is, until I met up with a good friend, Wanda Sanseri, at a homeschool convention. As we chatted about Michael’s struggle, she introduced me to the work she had done on this subject. She described tutoring a sixteen year old boy in spelling successfully—by that I mean, not only did he learn how to spell, but he didn’t feel humiliated, because it wasn’t childish—using phonogram cards and interesting exercises. Knowing Michael the way I did, knowing how much he would enjoy this, I became quite excited to try it out.

We first gave Michael a test to determine his current stage of spelling. Sigh. My twelve year old son was at a first grade level in this frustrating subject. He was as dejected about that as I had been.

Until I gave him the good news.

When I told him that we were going to play with cards that would give him a chance to decipher the structure of the English language, he became interested. As we played with the phonetic building-blocks of words, pulling them apart, learning their origins, and putting them back together, he was more and more enthused. The joy, the absence of frustration, was as important to the process as was the curriculum. And, within six months of about five-ten minutes per day of playing with words, he was up to a sixth grade level.

Neither of my other two struggled with this subject. They had other things that challenged them. But, for Michael, using this approach—in small daily doses, with a spoonful of fun—was just what he needed.

Remember, no matter what the challenge, stay relational!

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