Thursday, June 30, 2011

English & Spelling

I've been asked a bit about our new curriculum choices, and I thought I'd share a few pieces at a time. I've put off sharing about some of it because we haven't used all of it yet. Do you have any idea how long it can take to get most stuff shipped here? In fact, I'm still waiting on one lone spelling book, but I'm not too stressed, it should arrive this week.

I decided to add some major spelling work into our routine for my poor speller. He spells everything phonetically, but that doesn't always work thanks to the funny spelling of the English language. We've worked in many different ways in an effort to help him, and while we've made progress he's also aware of his poor spelling and wants to fix it.

Can I say there are a lot of spelling programmes out there! Many of them random words on huge lists that kids are meant to memorize. We can easily do that ourselves, and I wanted something different! We've been taking a Charlotte Mason approach to our spelling, and by that I mean grouping words together that follow similar rules {silent e} or have same sound combos in them {house, mouse}.

After much searching I stumbled upon something called Spellwell. It not only fits the CM method we were all ready using, but the lists of words are not huge. The child is not expected to write his spelling words each day a million times over either. Instead, they do a variety of things with the words each day!

Each week starts with a pretest, which allows you to see if the words are too easy for your student. If they are, there's a handful of bonus words they can try out too. Then each day, Monday - Thursday, there's a "homework" page. Each of those days they do something different with the spelling words from adding suffices of prefixes to defining the words. I know that my poor speller will enjoy the word work and the constant use of the words will do wonders for his spelling, not to mention give his reading a boost as well.  To help him build confidence in this field I've grabbed a book below his grade level. I still think that there will be words in there that will challenge him.

Spelling Wisdom is put out by Simply Charlotte Mason and is a studied dictation programme. {You can learn more about studied dictation over on the SCM website if you're interested.} The book is set up with enough different passages that one book could easily last you a few years.

The idea behind the book is that with dictation a child can learn many LA rules as well as spelling. I agree, and we've actually been using this for a while with our poor speller and he really enjoys it.

Within a short time of using it I noticed a difference in his spelling, not a 100% turn around, but he took his time with words and remembered spelling/phonics rules. I'll admit to being near tears when he wrote a note to one of Mr S's clients offering him a bit of chocolate for free. The child asked me if the words were spelled correctly and I was so excited to be able to tell him they were all spelled right, even eat which had been a trouble word for him!

Both of my boys have a great grasp of basic English rules. Punctuation, nouns, verbs, alliteration, & on & on our list could go. None of it was ever taught very formally, instead it was all taught through copywork, dictation, Five In A Row, & Madlibs. Honestly, I think my kids learned a lot of things in the LA department they wouldn't have thanks to the nifty FIAR curriculum. As for the MadLibs, don't knock it! My kids know words as parts of speech thanks to those nifty little games!

That said, I'm always worried about gaps. I'm pretty sure if you're a parent, homeschooling or not, you probably have experienced that fear at some point and time in your child's educational career. So this year, I wanted to be sure all the little gaps were full and I was debating a few LA type programmes. I was being super picky too.

I knew what I wanted them to learn or review over the year. I didn't want to pay a fortune. I didn't want there to be excess busy work. I didn't want them to hate it. I simply wanted something to fill any gaps we might have.

I debated three different programmes for this. At first I was really considering Winter Promise LA, I liked the way they approached it and they seemed to cover a considerable amount of stuff that I was after. However, after much debating I decided against it because I felt there was far too much busy work and I knew that would end up being dreaded by the boys.

I then found myself considering Primary Language Lessons, but I didn't like that there was copywork & memorization in it. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against either of those subjects, but we all ready have them covered and I didn't really want to give up what we were doing in order to make room for something else. The book is priced very economically considering it could easily last you a couple of years, but I didn't want to spend money on it knowing I wouldn't use a considerable portion of it. Despite all that it was still high on the list.

Then I stumbled upon Queens Language Lessons, which I really really loved. It was very similarly set up to PLL, except for the memorization and dictation. That excited me, and it was very reasonably priced too! In fact, I was set on it and went to place my order only to find out to my horror the company wanted to charge me $50 for shipping!  I was so annoyed. I checked two other sources. One of which also wanted to charge me $50 for shipping, which is a shame because I was going to buy two items from them for less then $30. The final place I checked kept telling me shipping was going to be $0 to get it to me. I knew that wasn't right, but they never replied to my emails. Such a complete shame, because I'd really love to use this English Programme! {Yes, I know there's an Australian company who sells these books, but they charge double the US price which means I might as well just fork out the $50 shipping, which I'm not willing to do...}

It sent me back to the drawing board where I stumbled upon an Australian Primary Language Lessons. The difference is that this book has Australian art, poems, and spelling in it. It's a great book and will certainly cover everything I wanted to be sure the boys knew.  I'm delighted by that, and I love the Australian poem and art selections. In fact, the only downside to it is that the art pictures aren't full sized. I was a little disappointed by that until I tried to find full size pieces to use in their places. I quickly understood why!

Now, I'm sure you're thinking, "Wow, that's a lot to do!" but really it won't be. Spellwell will be done each day, but the other two won't be. On top of that, the other two really only take 10-15 minutes at most to do. We tend to do SpellingWisdom three times a week, and Primary Language Lessons two times a week.

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