How to Teach Spelling in Your Homeschool
Homeschooling is a great opportunity because you can choose the homeschool spelling curriculum that matches your child's needs. As your child's teacher, you decide the method of instruction, how frequent the lessons are, the pace, the intensity, and the amount of review. No one else can do that for your child! For all children, from those needing remedial help to those who are gifted in this area, individualized spelling instruction is an unbeatable choice.
For many, the ideal homeschool spelling method looks like this:
- It teaches the Orton-Gillingham phonograms.
- It teaches useful spelling rules.
- Its lessons are incremental and follow a logical sequence.
- It is multisensory and provides continual review.
- It tells the student exactly what he needs to know in order to spell well.
To create an atmosphere at home that is conducive to good teaching:
- Have a predictable schedule and stick with it.
- Consider the best place to work with your child. It helps to work in the same place each time; you won't have to re-figure the logistics of the setting and your child will know the expectations. Plan a place at a table or counter where you and your child can sit side by side without crowding. The surface should be at least 24 inches deep so you can easily place the teaching materials in front of you. Clear the table of everything you won't be using for teaching spelling.
- Don't allow interruptions to your homeschool spelling class. Everything else can wait.
- Consider how long the lesson should be. This varies widely from situation to situation. One child may have a long attention span and high interest and another may be highly distractible and have low interest. An older child and a younger child will have different needs. The important thing to consider here is how long your child can maintain focused attention. Short, intense, fast-paced sessions are much more effective for teaching spelling than long drawn-out ones.
- Check the lighting. Is it easy on the eyes? Is there a glare at your child's eye level? Get down to your child's level and check. A lamp that is at the right height for us adults isn't necessarily at the right height for a smaller child, and a glaring light can make anyone feel like squirming. On the other hand, is there enough light? Working in dim light is not optimal, either.
- Minimize distractions. Eliminate all background noise. Turn off the radio, the television, the ringer on the phone. Who is more important—your child or the person calling? Isn't that why we have answering machines? Right now, teaching spelling is your priority.
- Make plans for your other children. You know they will all want your attention at the same time—don’t you?—so plan for it now before it turns into a frustrating situation. The goal is a calm teaching situation where your child can learn. If this is going to happen, you must plan for it!
- Consider the time of day that works best to teach your child. You want him at his
most teachable. When is he at his best? First thing in the morning? While younger children are napping? After lunch or snack? After a walk, bike ride, playtime?
Potential trouble spots for teaching spelling
If you don't actively guard against them, these situations can slow your child's progress:
- Some parents put off teaching spelling because they do not know where to begin. In many cases, they themselves were not taught with a method that they feel comfortable with, and they don't know how it should be taught. They don't know where to start, and they don't want to teach spelling the wrong way. So spelling gets set aside in the curriculum while the parent concentrates on math and reading. If spelling has been a trouble spot for you, start looking for a program with step-by-step lesson plans that has everything laid out for you. You can learn along with your child.
- Some parents start teaching spelling, but when their child hits a snag and doesn't make progress, it becomes a point of frustration for the child and teacher. The subject is often dropped while the parent searches for another way to teach spelling. My advice in this situation would be to examine the reason for the lack of progress. Did the method lack review? Was the student expected to memorize strings of letters? Was he taught the phonograms and useful rules? Is your student a hands-on learner who would benefit from manipulatives such as letter tiles?
- Some parents aren't aware of the importance of daily review. They teach new word lists each week, assuming that their child will remember the old words. Realize that review is important in this subject area. What isn't reviewed is too easily forgotten. If the program you are using doesn't include daily review, add it. If your homeschool spelling program does include review, do it! Don't make the common mistake of thinking that just because you presented the information to your student once and he appeared to "get it" that you don't need to review. New information usually needs to be practiced many times before it becomes permanent learning. A review doesn't have to be long—in fact, a short, fast-paced review keeps the child's mind alert and is more effective in the long run.
When looking for a homeschool spelling program, consider the points found in the articles What Works in Teaching Spelling and What Doesn't Work in Teaching Spelling. Find the method you are most comfortable with for your homeschool spelling class, and make it a positive part of your child's day.