When I started homeschooling, it hadn’t dawned on me I would actually have to teach spelling. If you read well, shouldn’t you be able to spell well? That’s the way it worked for me.

Having to teach spelling, I chose a natural approach. (Try NaturalSpeller from Design-A-Study, a parent resource.) If the girls misspelled a word in their writing, I included that word, and others following the same rule, on their list for the week.

This method does have its down side. One day while I was working with Lia, her sister walked by and whispered, “That’s what you get for using big words.” She obviously wasn’t taking any spelling risks.

Dancing around the living room, another one of my girls correctly spelled each of her words as I called them out to her. If I required her to write those same words, she failed her test. Just imagine her writing a literature exam in college, springing out of her seat to pirouette before spelling the word denouement.

Most of us used spelling books with daily lessons in school. We may have been or have a child who aces weekly tests but misses those same words in a writing assignment. Does that make them a good speller? I don’t think so.

So how important is spelling? I once believed proper spelling was some sort of intelligence indicator. Yet Abigail Adams and Francis Schaeffer, both intelligent and prolific writers, spelled horribly. We parents will have to decide what degree of proper spelling we will require of our children and how much time we will invest in the subject.

Here are a few tips I learned as I experimented with ways to produce proper spellers. Maybe one or two will be helpful to you.

  • A natural speller may be more challenged by using a vocabulary program and spelling those words correctly rather than waste their time working through traditional spelling texts. Others will merely need to be required to spell correctly and they will find and use resources to do so.
  • Weekly lists following specific rules or using Latin and Greek (older students) roots are better than an arbitrary list of words.
  • Your child needs to be doing writing assignments frequently to be “practicing” the words she’s learning. If she is not, have her copy every day for a specified length of time. The Bible is a great book for copy work.
  • Be cautious about using computer spelling programs if your child needs writing practice to commit his words to long term memory.
  • I found that printing the rule portion of the word in red helped. For example, writing meet and meat. The theory is that red imprints on the brain better.
  • Creating clever ways to remember words helps, too. For example, “A principle is a rule; a principal is a pal” (which, of course, isn’t true, but it helps us to remember the spelling).
  • Engage the child’s audio memory instead of only the visual by spelling their words aloud together throughout the week.
  • I found Spelling Power to be a wonderful resource. Though a $50 text, it can be the only spelling program you will need for all your children through eighth grade. A natural speller can simply progress through the word lists.There are a number of approaches (nine or 10) in the program used to learn to spell each word. Your child may need to use them all or you may discover and use the methods which work best.
  • One parent I worked with rated spelling number one on her list of subjects to teach, to the neglect of others. Be wise about the emphasis you put on spelling.
  • Be wise about which assignments in a spelling program are busy work and which are truly beneficial.
  • Use word games like Quiddler or Scrabble Jr. Have spelling bees while driving to soccer practice. Make spelling fun.

Proper spelling is extremely important to me. It is important to my adult daughters, too. Once in awhile, I get a phone call asking how to spell a word. It happens just often enough that I know I’m still needed, and that’s OK by me.

Copyright 2006. Bethany Bennett. Reprinted by CHEA of California with permission of the author.

Bethany Bennett served Christian Heritage School in Corona as a curriculum advisor and high school counselor for many years. She has been married toher husband Bob for 32 years.Bethany and Bob homeschooled theirthree daughters, graduating the youngest in 1996. Since then, Bethany has been teaching nieces and nephews, two of whom graduated in 2002. Bethany and Bob currently reside in Redding, California.