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No spelling curriculum?


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TL;DR Am I crazy for not doing a spelling curriculum at all for 2nd grade/a 6/7 year old?


My goal for DD6 during school right now is to meet her where she is intellectually/academically and help her make progress, while leaving plenty of time for her to play and just be a kid. In my limited experience she seems academically advanced, though not necessarily gifted. With spelling in particular, I haven't noticed anything especially concerning, but do want to meet her where she is and help her make progress. I'm planning for next year, when we'll mostly be doing 2nd grade level work and DD will be 6/7.


Background on where we are:


  • She reads and comprehends very well (Magic Tree House and research guides, Little House series, lots of non-fiction), and she often tells me things she's learned from various books/magazines. We did 100EL a couple years ago, and everything else she has picked up on her own after that. I haven't done any formal evaluations lately, but I suspect she would be several grade levels ahead of her age.


  • We've been doing SWO A since the fall. She doesn't have any problem doing the workbook pages and the amount of time it takes is reasonable for us, but there is often very little difference between her pretest and final test performance, seeming to indicate that the workbook pages and extra practice we do (spelling words out loud, repeated writing of words missed on the pretest) aren't very effective. Through the first half of SWO, she would miss just 1 or 2 words on the pretest (including the bonus words), and there were even a few lessons where she got every word correct on the pretest; that has changed in the second half (especially noticeable with various spellings of the same vowel sound). There have been a few times when she's missed a word on the final test that she got right on the pretest. All that to say, SWO just doesn't seem to be a great fit for her.


  • She does not enjoy creative writing, and when she does want to write something on her own, she usually asks for help with each word, meaning there's very little invented spelling to analyze. When she asks for help spelling words, I try to guide her through thinking about them on her own, and she's able to get much of it right; for the parts she doesn't get right, I provide the correct spelling. She seems to have intuited many phonics/spelling rules and is naturally averse to spelling mistakes - I try to praise her effort, talk about the content, and not even mention mistakes on the non-school things she writes. Her spelling mistakes seem to mostly relate to vowel sounds, which are admittedly tricky.


I plan to finish out the SWO book we're in, because at the very least it doesn't seem to be causing issues, and she enjoys doing it. I'm going to incorporate a couple adjustments into the rest of our year to see if they help:


  • Instead of using the writing prompt at the end of the lesson, creating a short story using all of the list words, to provide context. I may let her help with the story if she can come up with something concise enough (she's long-winded and her speaking stamina is lightyears beyond both her and my writing stamina), but I plan on helping quite a bit with this part.


  • "Toss It" with tricky words (ones she got wrong on the pretest and additional ones that I suspect may be an issue on the final test), where I hold a bean bag, say the word, spell the word, and then toss the bean bag to her, and she does the same thing.


Looking to next year, I'd like to have a better option. Here is what I've considered and my thoughts on them:


  • SYS - Looking at the levels and samples, I think Level C (Wild Animals) would be closest to where she is. I like the context provided for the words in the story/rhyme, the ability to visualize "chunks" that relate to phonics rules, and the use of dictation as a final test. I'm not sure about my hesitancy on this? Maybe the difference between spelling an entire paragraph correctly and a handful of words? Maybe jumping into the third(?) level of a new-to-us system? I am concerned with expecting her to write that much and how long it will take us. Last year she was very reluctant and slow to write, and we've been taking it a bit easy this year. We currently do a penmanship exercise once a week and the copywork included with FLL1, plus her spelling workbook. Even using the longer copywork sentence from FLL1, it seems like a big jump to the entire rhyme/paragraph for SYS. But she does need more writing and I plan to use WWE next year, so she will definitely be doing more.


  • CLE - this seems overly involved and time consuming for a 6/7 year old, plus if we did this, I would have to jettison a couple other pieces of my plan. We've really enjoyed FLL1 and I've seen progress from her, so I was looking forward to doing FLL2. Also, though she doesn't do a ton of writing, her penmanship is really very good, and she's interested in learning cursive, so I was planning on doing Zaner-Bloser 2C; CLE level 200 would obviously cover this. So maybe it's worth it to drop FLL2 and Z-B 2C? I might purchase LightUnit 201 to try it? Not being familiar with CLE, the Teacher's Guide seems pretty integral - would a single LightUnit without it be worthwhile?


  • All About Spelling seems to have too many fiddly bits for my personality and the time we have for school (she's a slow mover sometimes).



  • I think I'm leaning toward skipping a spelling curriculum this year and trust that she's going to continue to pick up on spelling the way she has reading? Continue to use "Toss It" a few minutes a day with words from commonly misspelled words list, sight words list, tricky words that have come up in other school things, etc. To address vowel challenges, maybe get this vowel chart package from TPT (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-a-e-i-o-u-Posters-Sounds-that-Vowels-Make-Helpers-1601977) and referencing it as we work on words. This spelling non-curriculum would be in addition to FLL2, Z-B 2C, and WWE. Maybe include beginning-of-year and end-of-year spelling assessments, to make sure she's made some kind of progress and isn't terribly behind grade-level? Am I crazy?
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We took a year off for my third grader. I forget what curriculum now, but we did a placement test and he placed past the middle school level, so I felt okay getting rid of R&S 3 for the moment. :P We haven't added it back in because we have just been busy adjusting to HSing with four kids (our first year). 

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Not all children figure out spelling through reading.


I don't usually recommend formal spelling until the children are 9ish.


Children who are only 6 or 7 aren't ready for "creative" writing. :-)


My recommendation would be Spalding, which teaches children to read by teaching them to spell; it's still useful for children who are already reading. For less than $40 or so (the cost of the manual, Writing Road to Reading, and a set of phonogram cards) you'll have a method that teaches reading, spelling, penmanship, capitalization and punctuation, and simple writing. It would be your whole English course.

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I haven't found spelling very useful until grade three or four.


I did start copywork when my kids were old enough to do so, which is good for spelling, and around grade 4 some studies dictation.


As far as spelling programs, we used Sequential Spelling (not online) with good results.  I only did about a year with my older daughter, I might do a little more with the younger.

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I've not used any spelling 'curriculum' for years.


Honestly, we don't really pay attention to it as a separate subject at all.  My kids have done no differently on their spelling in other work than they did when we did do a spelling curriculum (which was maybe the first year or two that we homeschooled, at least 4 years ago).  



I've found them to be completely unnecessary. 

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SWO was a total waste of time for my natural spellers and would have been completely inadequate for my struggling speller. With her, I'm using AAS without all the 'fiddly bits' (great description of them!) with much success. I sort of wish now that I had zoomed my natural spellers through AAS when they were younger just because I love knowing the rules. I was like them; I could spell well but only because I was a voracious reader and had a great visual memory.

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Historically spelling wasn't started until about the 4th reader, and the 4th reader was at a higher level than modern 4th grade.


There has never been a single study where prepared spelling curriculum improved student daily spelling.


According to TWTM and many other classical educators, grammar level students can not yet APPLY rules.


I personally don't believe in starting spelling until a student is displaying logic level thinking.


I personally like the instruction in Ruth Beechick's The Three R's for spelling even beyond the book's target of K-3.


For phonics, I'm a broken record about the REVISED Alpha-Phonics or the smaller reprint Phonics for Success.


Recently I was gifted the ABCs and All Their Tricks. I owned this in the past a few times. It is the best I know about to finish what is started in the above two books.

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I cannot afford the room to store them right now, but Beechick's instructions for the original McGuffey Readers


includes instructions for the Phonics Made Plain flash cards and poster.



If I were thrown into a long-term tutoring situation and I could afford them, I might repurchase these.

Edited by Hunter
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Thanks for all the feedback and ideas y'all. I'm feeling much better about not doing a spelling curriculum next year, continuing to pay attention to what she needs, and looking into the suggestions above. It's easy to fall in to the idea that doing something is always better than not doing something. 

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