Every single one of the English topics we study has been approached higgeldy piggledy from the very beginning, and that includes spelling. Recently, like two weeks ago, recently, we went back to doing old school spelling. We start with a pre-test on Monday, practice all week, and then have a test on Friday.
My kids, shockingly, are loving it. In fact, I asked Isaac what homeschool thing we’ve done lately that he likes (in hopes of inspiration for a post) and he said “spelling”. I pressed him for why he would say spelling. Does any kid ever say, “You know what I really liked today? It was my spelling practice.” No, they do not. He couldn’t give me a reason so I am forced to speculate.
Old School Spelling
We’re using this ancient little brown speller that was written for one-room schoolhouses back in 1928. It smells strongly of cigarette smoke; all those kids with their spellers behind the shed smoking and practicing for Friday, I’m sure. Tim, my second oldest, scored it, proudly, when a man had him help clean up his recently deceased parent’s home a few years ago. The man gave Tim some books, including the speller, along with the wages he earned.
It’s called Horn-Ashbaugh Fundamentals of Spelling: Grades I to VIII. I’m not recommending that you scrape the bowels of the internet looking for the book. I just want to explain why I think my kids like it. Then you can do what you like with the information.
The words in the speller were researched and chosen because they are the most commonly used words in the English language. These are actually words that you actually write, not obscure words for SAT prep or something. But, wait, it gets better. The words are also arranged so that the words most used by first graders are in the first grade spelling lists, the words most used by second graders are in the second grade spelling list, and so on.
Some things in the book are out of date. They spell weekend, “week-end”. And the words “computer” or “internet” never appear.
Spelling Tests on Fridays
But the thing I think my kids are liking is the test. Weird, I know. The thing is, we’ve never done much testing in any subjects (something that is changing). So the kids are really enjoying success. Tests may not be all that fun, but getting an A on a test or learning to spell twenty words you didn’t know a few days ago? That is fun and more than fun. It’s deeply satisfying.
Isaac very proudly showed me his list after today’s practice. He only got three words right on Monday, the first day we had those words. But today? He only missed three.
I think the little manky brown speller works because of the thrill of achievement. Yes, they’re learning to spell words, which is important, but they’re also learning to have a taste for success.