Monday, January 04, 2010


When Dave and I were in school, we remember using spelling workbooks, and later spelling/vocabulary workbooks. They were nice. I always liked workbooks, just that compact little fill in the blank style. Dave received the meritorious distinction of passing "Level Z" when he was a senior in high school. That was the absolute top!

For teaching our children spelling, we initially started out looking for something specific for homeschooling, not a classroom program. We kind of assumed spelling should be taught as its own subject, as that is how we learned it. We found one homeschool program that focused on root words and was customizable. It was neat, but, basically, it was the same method: isolating spelling as a subject.

However, as we sought to try to focus on God's priorities for teaching our children, we began pursuing a focus on writing for real people (letter writing). Before long, we began to discover that many components taught separately in the schools as "language arts" could be taught much easier as a unified way of completing a real task. We found that even teaching spelling could be done mostly through the letter writing process.

It just makes sense. When learning to cook, you don't isolate measuring things into cups x number of times, then proceeding to tablespoon practice, then to teaspoon practice, etc. You learn by doing a real thing. Same thing with many other tasks: sewing, building things. But in the schools, things must be regimented and isolated and easy for teachers to test.

As we pursued letter writing as a way to teach, a helpful tool by Gayle Graham, was a spelling notebook (I think its called "My Spelling Notebook"). Instead of having pre-made lists of words to work on each week, the children build their own list based on words in their writing that they don't spell correctly. The notebook she designed has pages for each spelling rule or letter sound or combo. We used this book in conjunction with proofreading the child's writing; one book is all they ever need. Find the misspelled words, write them on the page corresponding to the spelling rule or letter combo. Those are the words to work on.

In the schools, teachers must teach spelling, and many other companion skills, with the reality that most children are not doing any reading or writing outside the classroom, unless it is required by the teacher. This greatly limits the children's ability to absorb and use and therefore learn what is taught. We recall how normal it was to memorize things just to pass a test, then forgetting and going on. But our focus is not just reading and writing, but seeking to teach our children God's Word, and encouraging others through letter writing.

Since God's desire is for us to impress His Word on our children throughout the day, in various ways, we have a great reason and focus in teaching reading, writing and spelling and other related skills. But we have learned that instead of isolating things as "reading," "writing", and "spelling," we just focus on God's desire and command for us to teach them His Word. If that is our focus, "all these things" will be added (Matthew 6:33). We've really seen this in our family!

In schools, if a child has difficulty with reading or spelling, they are put in a special class and skills are further isolated and re-taught.

We have found that if a child has difficulty with reading or spelling, instead of focusing on the difficulty, we can just continue helping them to keep plodding along with their writing, for the benefit of others, and reading and learning and memorizing God's Word. With that as their focus, they just plod on at their own rate, not worrying about a test to pass, but on a task to accomplish. We've seen an older child, absorbed in writing a letter to a real person, quickly ask younger siblings how to spell a word so they could continue their writing. As time passes, this is needed less and less, because rather than focusing on the skill, they are focusing on using the skill to meet a goal. We've seen real improvement, but not by a special focus on skills. The focus remained using the skills.

Again, its like the difference between focusing on steering straight, versus steering towards the point on the horizon.

This has been one way God has really taught us that homeschooling is NOT a realm in which His Word is not the authority. As we have gone to the Lord, asking for wisdom, He is so very gracious to guide us. We are so thankful that He guides us as we lean not on our own understanding!

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