Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When it Clicks

There are many of blessings of homeschooling.  There are tough parts, too, as with any job.  But, this post is about one of the best parts.  Yesterday, I gave my middle daughter a spelling test.  It was a watershed moment for me and for her, I think.

Two years ago about this time, I began to realize that Sami was really struggling with spelling and writing.  She read 2 grade levels above where she was at and comprehended at grade level or about one grade level above where she was.  But, I could see she was in trouble with her encoding (breaking apart words) skills.  I felt bad for having missed it that year and felt guilty, but I trusted that the Lord was showing me what I needed to see when I needed to see it.

I set about that summer completely revamping her spelling program.  I tested her on all of the initial consonant blends to see which ones she did and didn't hear correctly when they were said.  There were about 10 that she needed to work on.  I printed off the worksheets on Cherry Carl's website  and she proceeded to work through them the next school year.  Additionally, I abandoned the Spelling Power Spelling Lists and implemented my own plan and spelling sheet (see this post).  I began with the Dolch Sight Word Lists and the Dolch Noun Lists using this weekly plan.  (I got the idea to use these words from the owner of the local homeschool bookshop who used this approach to help her son learn to read.  I used these lists for spelling, but she used them to help speed up her son's reading.)

I tested her until she had 5 words to work on each week.  I know public schools give the kids 10 words each week, but 5 has seemed much more manageable to Sami and she was getting spelling practice in her Explode the Code Books as well as the phonics worksheets, so I felt it was enough.  After she tested out of the Dolch lists, we moved on to the list from Eagles' Wings Guide to spelling.  The list that I found closest to the words on these are here on the Reading Rockets Website:   There's also a list of Fry's 1000 words here:, but I would add the months of the year, days of the week, and colors.  A lot of the lists I noticed don't include those.  I went by Spelling Power's approach.  When I gave a test, I tested until she got 5 wrong and those 5 words became her list for the week.  Spelling Power gives the direction to have children only practice the words they don't know how to spell.  This makes sense to me.  There's also an interesting chapter on sight words here ( which recommends giving kids 5 spelling words.

It took us a year and a half to get through the 600 words.  Then, I wondered what I was going to do next with her.  I thought about continuing on with my spelling sheet and just using new lists.  But, what lists?  Then, I noticed something in her reading and writing.  She struggled with words that had multiple syllables.  So, I pulled out Dolores Hiskes Reading Pyramids book that I purchased several years ago.  I use Phonics Pathways after my kids use How to teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons.  Anyways, the pyramids give kids practice reading and paying attention to the smaller words in sentences and work on not skipping words (something advanced readers are prone to do).  And I began to look around.  I found on EPS Books website a word study program called MegaWords that focuses on Multi-Syllabic words.  I love EPS books because their curriculums do well for both learners who excel quickly and slowly.  She started using the first book (completing one page a day) and she enjoys it... which leads us to yesterday.

It was dictation day for Sami and she had to hear the word and break it into syllables and then put the words back together.  As she spelled the first few words, I realized that she could do it and that the words were spelled correctly!  She spelled all of the 2 and 3 syllable words correctly except one which I pointed out.  She knew what the error was immediately without me telling her and she fixed it!  I sat there and cried.  I praised God for pointing me in the path of the right curriculum for her and for connecting the dots in her head.

She's come so far.  And I got to see it.  What a joy!

One of the greatest lessons I've learned from homeschooling came via conversations with a homeschooling mom who wrote the book Heads Up Helping and from the book itself.  The lesson was that in order to homeschool well, you must become a student of your student.  Learn how they learn.  This experience reinforces that lesson for me.

My oldest daughter spells completely differently.  She tests through a list in Spelling Power every day and is working on the end of 8th grade lists (in 6th grade).  This works for her without frustrating her.  I test her so that I can make sure she doesn't have any gaps in her spelling skills.

My son... well, I don't know yet what kind of speller he will be.  I don't start formal spelling instruction until 3rd grade, but he has asked to do it in 2nd.  I think I will start with the Dolch Sight words as I did with Sami and then go from there, switching to Spelling Power in 3rd grade if it works for him.  We'll see!

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