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While we never really subscribed to any one philosophy of homeschooling, the closest we got would have to be the Charlotte Mason method. I was always drawn to her belief in educating the whole child through discipline and exposure to art, music, nature and great writing.
My boys had a heavy phonics background in their time at the local charter school they attended. My eldest finished fifth grade and my younger third when we decided to homeschool. They were both strong spellers.
So when we began homeschooling, I was looking for a spelling program that built on the foundation they had.
What we landed on was Spelling Wisdom by Simply Charlotte Mason. We used the downloadable version, and only printed what we needed.
As described on their website:
Learn today’s 6,000 most frequently used words presented in the writings of great men and women of history.
Instead of lists, students work with short passages from various writings – classic literature, history books, the Bible, poetry, etc.
For example, in Book 2, which is for grades 5-7 this quote by Winston Churchill is used:
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.
And this from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes:
Our visitor glanced with some apparent surprise at the languid, lounging figure of the man who had been, no doubt, depicted to him as the most incisive reasoner and most energetic agent in Europe. Holmes slowly reopened his eyes and looked impatiently at his gigantic client.
Students are interacting with the text, and learning not only spelling, but vocabulary as well.
The publisher’s website gives lots of tips on how to use the books. Very helpful.
After focusing on individual words – spelling, meaning, context – dictation helps cement the learning in the student’s mind.
Drawing on their model of dictation, I remembered an activity that I had used when I taught English as a Second Language for adult learners.
It’s called Running Dictation.
It’s usually an activity done with partners, in which one student is the runner and one is the writer. The writer is seated with pencil and paper, and is on the opposite side of the room from the given passage. The runner goes to the passage, reads a portion of it … whatever they think they can remember, and relate it to the writer. It may be a single word, or maybe a phrase or sentence. The runner holds this information in his head and walks back to the writer, and tells it to them, spelling the words as necessary. Capitalization and punctuation matter! He then walks back to the passage and continues through it. When doing this as a partner activity, the runner and writer switch halfway through the passage.
It’s an outstanding way to teach language. At some point during the activity, a student is reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
I might have had my boys do this together on occasion, but more often, I modified the activity to be done individually.
I would put a blank piece of paper and pencil on the table, and the passage across the room. (My kids actually thought it was fun to put the passage in a different room down the hall sometimes). They would essentially complete the activity as above, but as both runner and writer.
If you are looking for a spelling curriculum that is creative and effective, check out Spelling Wisdom. There are books for grades 3-12. And if you are interested in learning more about the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling, I found this to be a fantastic resource.