I used to review curriculum, now I create it

Homeschool Spelling (Sans Tears)

Let me paint a homeschool scenario you might be familiar with: you are sitting around the table going over your spelling list with your child. You watched them make several mistakes so you are having them rewrite those words multiple times. They are overwhelmed, emotional, and crying as they scribble on their paper giving you the very least they have to offer. You feel frustration rise as you see their messy scrawl, feeling a sense of hopelessness that they are so disengaged and their spelling doesn’t seem to be improving. If you weren’t aware, the traditional homeschooling approach to Spelling is essentially the rule of three R’s: repetition, repetition, repetition. Around and around we go, hoping that the simple act of writing the same words over and over will finally stick so that our kids can be proficient writers, all the while questioning if we are doing something wrong. If you get nothing else today, I want you to walk away with 1 simple phrase that can be a total game changer:

There is a better way to approach homeschool spelling that is natural, easy, and engaging (plus it actually sticks)!

Homeschool spelling: keep calm and homeschool on

Have you ever noticed that we sometimes need permission to let go of some of the pressure we are holding onto? Permission to break into new territory in our homeschool? In a culture of following the herd it is exceptionally hard to take a different path. It feels abnormal, we feel alone, it feels unfamiliar and I think we need to take a minute to address that truth. Unchartered territory is scary. Tweaking your homeschool to make it unique to you means that there is no proven path to follow. You might make mistakes, or worse, you might be judged for your non-conformity. If this describes you today, take a breath and a few minutes to acknowledge what is holding you back. Then think about your child and what you think is best for them. Decide here and now if veering off the path of safety is worth it and then join me in the vast ocean of the “flexible homeschool experiment”. Now that we are all on the same page, let me share with you a different way to teach spelling that is, in my opinion, superior and in my kids’ opinions, much more enjoyable.

Understanding your child’s spelling stage

We often talk about math skills and reading skills and the natural process and brain development of a child, varying from home to home and individual to individual. However, these same principles apply to spelling as well. We cannot expect our children to write the written word until they have a foundation of understanding. It is a process that develops over time at the pace of your child, not the pace of a curriculum. The easiest way to understand these developmental stages is to watch this video by Dr. Holinga:

In short, Dr. Holinga talks about five spelling stages that your children will move through, regardless of what curriculum you are using.

1. Preliterate
This is the stage before they are reading and writing on their own, think preschool age. They are scribbling and drawing and learning pen control. They are beginning to build the foundation of reading by being read to and understanding that English is written left to right, beginning to learn their alphabet and understand that letters say a different name, etc.

2. Phonetic
This stage is around K-grade 1 for most children, though it can vary greatly. Children begin to put together the connections of letter sounds and how those fit into words. We aren’t too worried about spelling at this point, even praising the fact that they spelled eat like eet, showing that they are beginning to understanding the different phonograms.

3. Skill Development
This is often the longest and most frustrating stage for parents and students alike. As children progress in their reading, they begin to discover all the “rule breakers” of the English language. Things that don’t make sense phonetically. Their phonetic awareness essentially clashes with their understanding of spelling. This is when we start to step back from phonics and start to just let the natural process of reading (reading reading and more reading) reinforce the different spelling combinations. This stage often lasts through late elementary and as homeschoolers, is where we start to feel like we are hitting ur heads against the wall. Persevere friend!

4. Word Extension
In this stage we start to work on bigger words and syllable connections. This is the stage where we are dropping letters and adding letters in.

5. Derivational Constancy
This is the advanced spelling stage where we zone in on vocabulary-spelling connections. They begin to see patterns with various root words and rely on their mastery of the other stages. This is where Latin or Greek can come in helpful, or start working on medical vocabulary (which is largely based off Latin) so they can begin to see the connection between spelling and meaning.

A homeschool spelling approach without the battle

There is no question that repetition is key, especially in the skill development stage of learning. However, what if we could do repetition in a way that was engaging to our kids and building connections with things that mean something to them? Rather than just teaching them a list of words, we teach it though interesting passages that tie in the very concepts that they are learning. I’ve talked about teaching spelling through copywork a lot on my blog, but the reason for that is that it works! The more we can engage our children in the lessons, the more we can attach those tricky concepts to something that is easy to remember and retain–the stronger the foundation. Not only that, but it is more enjoyable for our kids and less of a battle.

Homeschool Spelling with Spelling You See

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This has been such a game changer for our homeschool. Though I’ve been using copywork for a long time, I was struggling with finding passages for each child that targeted their unique spelling struggles and development. With Spelling You See however, there is no more guesswork. I choose their books based on their level (there’s a simple placement test you can do on their site) and it gives me passages that are uniquely tailored to the stage they are in. I just open and go! It is a better way to teach spelling for them, but it is an easier way to make sure that strong foundation is being formed for me (win-win).

Multipurpose homeschooling: it’s a thing

Here’s the best part, reading, spelling and writing development are linked, right? As our children progress in one area, they often find breakthrough in another. This has been beautifully played out with my two middle kids this past year. My son is 8 years old, technically in grade 3 but working more at a late grade 1/early grade2 level. In contrast, my 5 year old is in Kindergarten but working more at a grade 1 level. After taking the placement test I decided to put them both in the same level (A) and it has been magical. While it is a bit easy for my 8 year old, it has been instrumental in the breakthrough I’m seeing in his reading while building confidence at the same time (another win-win moment). I caught these cute little video snippets of the kids reading their spelling to each other (NOTE: level A is more about dictation to help build the phonetic stage (auditory phonemic awareness), all the other levels have copywork passages combined with dictation).

How to get your hands on this homeschool spelling curriculum

The curriculum is called Spelling You See and you can snag it on their website. You can also find them on Facebook.

Comment Below

What are your spelling challenges?


    • Possibly, did you take the placement test? They would either be in the first or second book depending on where they are at in their spelling. If they have good phonological awareness and can identify sounds in three letter words (ie. cat, can they sound it out and write out each sound, segmenting the word into letter sounds?) then they are likely ready for B: Jack and Jill. If they struggle with three letter words then the first book would be better.

  1. Always love your reads! We are only 3 months in to our homeschooling journey and haven’t purchased much curriculum yet. We were suggested Explode the Code and it has worked well so far. Some days she is bored with it and other days she is so excited that she is finishing lessons and learning! So far it has been a good tool. However I am Very open to expanding her phonetic awareness and reading skills! We like to read phonics books geared towards her level and at the end it goes over the highlighted words in each book. Example: The old lady books and Fancy Nancy phonics set. It has helped her want to be engaged in reading. You are right every household is different and it takes some adjusting along the way to keep the homeschool fires a burning! Thank you for all you give to us other struggling moms…it inspires me daily!!!!

  2. I remember watching the blog video on this and I know I’m going to use it for my son. I want to get him a little farther into All about Reading 1 first. But… my 8th grade daughter has started having difficulty and frustration with reading and spelling. I’m thinking I need to go back and review all the rules with her. I was gonna use AAS but would this work as well? Just have her breeze through the books? Does it cover the rules and patterns in the later stages she would need to spell for more middle school words? Thanks!! Love you’re videos !

  3. Hi Rebecca, I am mother of two and i have just started homeschooling my children.Sometimes i face difficulties.So i often keep on looking for the solutions.The video and information you have shared will definitely help mothers like me who have just started homeschooling their children. Keep sharing the articles which will help all the mother’s who are taking homeschooling for their children.

  4. Thank you for your videos! They are a big help 🙂
    Do you do Spelling You See in addition to TGATB? Do you do the spelling lists and spelling dictation in TGATB in addition to this?

  5. Hello!! I noticed that Level D and E are about American history. Do you feel that would work for homeschoolers in Canada? Thanks a ton ? I’m new to Canada and finding it pretty mind boggling how to incorporate Canadian aspects into a lot of curriculum that is heavy on the US teaching.

  6. Can you recommend a spelling curriculum for 8th grade? Some people think spelling is for little kids, but I had a high schooler who was a terrible speller, so I would night like to produce another graduate like that! lol

  7. Hey Rebecca!
    Loving all your resources. Thank you for all that you do truly. You’ve given me so much confidence to start my first homeschooling year. My question with Spelling-You-See is that like you I am in Canada and would like to just bypass the American stuff onto the Ancients Level. I mention you saying you probably would skip the American units? Wondering how you made out with that and how big of a leap it was to have done that. We are doing the Story of the World so I’m excited for all that to line up.
    Thank you!

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I used to review curriculum, now I create it!