Thursday, March 2, 2017

Should I Do All Seven Levels of All About Spelling?

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Sometimes people do three or four levels of All About Spelling and then move on to something more independent for their children. That’s understandable—there’s only so much of mom to go around and there is always more to do than hours in the day for a homeschool parent! Other times, people find it’s important for their children to complete the program, and they do all seven levels, which takes the child up to high school level spelling (the last level includes 9th-12th grade level words). 

So, how can you decide what you should do?

First, consider your children’s abilities. Do they tend to pick up spelling concepts easily? If so, they might be fine moving to something that’s more independent. On the other hand, if their current successes are due to being directly taught (All About Spelling is working), or if they tend to need lots of review and a mastery-based program in order to succeed, then continuing on is a good idea. I always say, “don’t fix what’s not broken!”

Second, consider your goals and your children’s interests. Are they enjoying the program? Do you find that learning the rules behind why we spell words they way we do is helping them to be successful? If so, these can be good reasons to continue rather than try an independent program. I loved several aspects about the upper levels:
  • Everything starts to come together in level 5. Students learn the rest of the phonograms and can start spelling longer and harder words. 
  • There is more focus on word analysis. In the lower levels, students are told which spelling method to use, but in the upper levels, they learn how to decide this for themselves so that they can learn how to study any word actively. (My kids used to want to skimp on the word analysis, but this is some of the most important work in the program—this is where kids’ really learn to appropriate the concepts for themselves. If you have a student who isn’t actively applying what they know, work more on word analysis skills.)
  • There are a number of helpful rules in the upper levels (one rule in level 6 helped me overcome one of my spelling bugaboos). Students also learn how morphology (or word parts) can help them spell tricky parts of words. A word like local where the A is muffled is easy to spell if you know the word locality, because you can clearly hear the short A sound.  Many “shun” endings (-tion, -sion, -cian) become clearer to students when they understand how morphology can help.
  • We loved learning Greek and Latin roots in level 7 and how that knowledge impacts spelling. 
  • I was able to get “double duty” out of Levels 6 and 7 by teaching a lot of vocabulary at the same time that we did spelling. 
  • The seventh level includes creative writing prompts—my daughter had a lot of fun with those!

Third, think through your priorities and time needs. Maybe spelling isn’t your child’s or your family’s biggest need right now, and your time is needed elsewhere. An independent program is worth considering in that case. In our case, I knew that my children really needed that support in spelling. People use spelling and writing skills on a daily basis, so they are critical skill areas like reading and math. 

However, my time already felt pressed on all sides with students who also needed ongoing support in reading and math, vision therapy for one, and a husband who is disabled. So, sometimes I had to get creative in making everything work! 

For example: one year for science I used an audio-book for my 7th grader (so he could read along or just listen if the volume was too much), and I let my fifth grader basically “unschool” for science. She helped pick the books, and I told her to work on science for 30 minutes each day. She could: read, copy a diagram into her science notebook, do an experiment, go in the back yard to do nature studies, or draw or write about science in her notebook. We do a one-on-one time daily, so I was able to check in on her progress and hear about what she was up to.

In my mind, I thought “whatever she happens to catch is great and we’ll do more science later when we’re past this difficult time.” Ironically it turned out to be a great year. A budding little scientist emerged who took part in science fairs for the next 6 years and now plans to go into nursing!

Some families find that they can restructure priorities in other ways. Maybe Dad can take over a subject such as science experiments, reading history, checking math, or another subject that can lighten the load. Other families use audio- or video-based materials for history, or choose to outsource a class.  If spelling needs to be a priority in your family, think outside the box about how you might restructure your time to meet this need.

I’m glad we worked through all seven levels. All About Spelling has given my kids a great foundation for life-long spelling. What has worked for your family?

All About Spelling

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