Friday, April 17, 2009

spelling - where we've been

Oh wow.... I hadn't really thought about all of the money we had spent on spelling programs until I started to put this post together.... it's a bit ridiculous! Anyway.... homeschooling is a journey and sometimes you read the map wrong and take a wrong turn or two (or three or four)... sigh.

Okay... I mentioned here the other day that we were now using All About Spelling and Jocelyne asked what I thought of it so far. Well... when thinking about that post, I got to thinking about all of the curriculum we have tried so far. I did this mainly to temper my opinion of AAS. I remember being excited about each of the programs below when we started them. I was sure I found the right thing for us each time. I wanted to really think about what didn't work (for us) with the previous programs and see if there was a pattern. Well.... there is a bit of one. One that I wish I could have stepped back and seen before making yet another purchase. Oh well... live and learn, right?

This was our first real spelling program....
A Reason for Spelling

This was a bit of an impulse buy at Mardel one day. Since this was our first spelling program, I didn't think much about the purchase. I thought a spelling program was just a spelling program... not much to think about. So, I bought it and we started using it. This program seemed to teach spelling by giving a list of words and you were to learn to spell them by just writing them over and over filling in worksheets during the week. You had a spelling test on Friday. Alex actually did okay with this... specifically the weekly stuff. But when it came to the review sections, he had retained very little of the older words, just the most recent stuff. This program didn't seem to teach spelling rules either.... just learning to spell through repetition. Spelling does not come naturally to Alex, we needed something more. Spelling became painful and brought on a flood of tears each time so we gave this one up after almost completing the first book.

Next up.....

Spell to Write and Read

So, the next time around I went a complete 180 and bought Spell to Write and Read and all of it's various parts. It was going to be the answer to my prayers... a program that actually taught you to spell using spelling rules and learning the parts before the whole.

However, I'm apparently not bright enough to figure this one out. I tried, seriously I did. Perhaps I'm just too easily overwhelmed and this one seriously overwhelmed me. We tried to use it. We worked on the phonogram cards and attempted the special journals. Eventually I got frustrated and gave up. I have heard from other people who absolutely love this program... I wanted to love it... I just couldn't get a handle on how to use it.

So for third grade, I decided to try this...
Sequential Spelling

Again, I was sure I had found the answer. Sequential Spelling takes one root word and then builds on it to form other words. You do a new list every day. Unless I read things wrong, you don't review words, just give them the list of words, making spelling corrections immediately after they spell the word. This started out good... but quickly went downhill. It was supposed to be for grades K-6 (I think) so I started both kids with it. Not a good idea.... Alex naturally was able to spell better given that he is two grade above Clara... this frustrated Clara. I discontinued the program for her. Alex and I plugged on. He eventually got overwhelmed. He never felt like he mastered anything... it just kept moving forward. We made modificiations.... two days per list, one practice day... one "real" day. But it still didn't work out. Again this one had lists of words with no real explanation of the spelling rules. I love the idea of it.... and after a couple of books of AAS we may come back to it in some form... but it wasn't working to "teach" spelling for us. It might be great to "build" on our spelling vocabulary for us later.

For Clara we've tried...

McGuffey's Eclectic Spelling Book

This is one that I did not end up spending money on, it was a free download from the Project Gutenberg site. Clara was bound and determined to have her own spelling program, so since I didn't have time to research something for her, I downloaded this and got started. Again, we started out pretty good and then stalled out. We hit a stumbling block with her spelling and this book and it included no guidance on how to move past it.

The last attempt was this...

Spectrum Spelling

Poor Clara... I tend to put so much more thought into Alex's curriculum than hers at times. Perhaps because he's older and I always feel like I still have time with her. Anyway.... one day I was impulse shopping my way through a homeschool e-book site and decided to purchase this for Clara. I was so worked up about Alex's spelling (and our trail of failed programs) that I just wanted to give Clara a workbook to do on her own while I focused on him. This one was over before it even began. There was some glitch in the formatting of the download that made the pages a mess.... nothing lined up and about a third of the page was cut off. The e-book company was fabulous and tried to work with the publisher to get it corrected. When they could not, my money was refunded. We tried to work with the messed up pages, but it was frustrating. I could have bought the real book but I could already see that this was not the right program for us either. A hands off workbook approach was not the right route for us.

So, what did I learn from all of this?

1) Workbooks are not the answer for us.

2) We need something interactive and hands on.

3) We need spelling rules and I need clear explanations for the "whys" of spelling.

4) I need something structured but not so structured that it is laid out with a plan that ends with a spelling test each Friday. We need to be able to go at our own pace without pressure. The ones with the 5 day plans gave me anxiety and the feeling of always being behind.

I'm sure there may be more that I think of and if I do, I'll add to this post.

Next post will be (hopefully) be my review of All About Spelling so far.

DISCLAIMER: This post is just about what works/doesn't work for me and my family. I'm sure these are all good solid programs and work fabulously for other people. My reason for posting this because when I was researching programs I wish I would have looked more closely at that details of the reviews rather than just weighing good versus bad reviews. Sometimes the main reason someone gave a program a bad review is the key element that makes things work for your family and would be a positive for you.

1 comment:

Alycia in Va. said...

I've noticed too that my 2nd born is already getting the shorter end of the stick at times. We're trying Spelling Workout book A w/Alex right now. So far it just doesn't seem to make any sense on how they choose the words, etc.

Thanks for sharing your post. I think it'll come in handy as we progress down the spelling road as well.