The tears flowed freely as my son declared he hated language arts.
He hadn’t ever spoken like that about any of his school subjects. It broke his mama’s heart: instead of finding joy from his learning, he was beginning to despise it (well, at least in this subject).
I knew something had to change. Spelling was ruining our school days.
What went wrong?
I decided to go with an all-in-one language arts curriculum—little bit of grammar, little bit of writing, and the spelling. While he didn’t particularly like any of it, it was really the spelling portion that put the nail in that curriculum’s coffin.
We trudged through it all for about 4 months. Each day seemed to get worse. He wrote out his spelling words each day. He did the little word finds and other spelling activities. Then he took the spelling test at the end of the week. Boring.
I had assumed Cameron, like his older brother, would just get spelling. You know—he’d just be able to catch on. He was a good reader, and good readers are supposed to be good spellers, right? Well, not always.
That’s where I went wrong. I made the mistake of assuming Cameron would be an intuitive speller, but he wasn’t. He really struggled with it. The drill-and-kill approach just wasn’t working.
What’s a Mom to do?
After about 4 months of it, we slowly started dropping pieces of the program. We eventually dropped the entire language arts program because it was causing entirely too much stress in my little boys life (and by proxy, in my life too). It was time to look for something new.
It worked out well that we traveled to speak at several homeschool conferences that Spring. That gave me the chance to look through numerous spelling curricula. But I just wasn’t finding anything that seemed like it was different enough to turn us around.
One afternoon, I headed over to the Institute for Excellence in Writing booth to explain to them the situation (we love pretty much everything they have). The kind representative listened thoughtfully and nodded sympathetically as I explained our frustrating year.
She told me she knew just what I needed.
When she pulled me over to the table, I stood there looking in horror.
All About Spelling. *groan*
I’d seen it before. I heard great things about it. But, but…there were so many pieces.
Surely, this mama of 4 boys (including twin preschoolers) could not pull off a spelling curriculum that had this many moving parts and pieces.
I’m sure she saw the look of shock on my face because she proceeded to reassure me that it isn’t hard to implement and only takes 10-15 minutes per day.
I was still skeptical, so I decided to spend some time processing.
In the end, our need for change, the recommendation from a trusted curriculum provider, and the 1 year money-back-guarantee won out (hey, at least I wouldn’t lose money on it if I hated it).
Guess what? It wasn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, both Cameron and I loved our first year with All About Spelling. There wasn’t even one tear shed over spelling. And none of my worst spelling nightmares came true.
Cameron whizzed quickly through level 1 and also completed level 2 his first year. This served as a nice boost in confidence that he really can spell. And while the vast majority of level 1 was complete review for him, it made sure we didn’t miss any foundational info that might have slipped through the cracks.
This isn’t a spelling curriculum your child will be doing independently (and you know I love nurturing independent learners), but it has many other virtues. Here are a few things we loved about All About Spelling…
- Learning how to spell, not just a list of words – All About Spelling helps students learn and understand the phonetic rules and concepts—along with hi-lighting “rule-breakers.” This is great for non-intuitive spellers who need to be taught how to spell, not just given lists of words to memorize.
- Scripted lesson plans – This is truly an open-and-go curriculum. Despite my worst fears after seeing all the pieces, there really isn’t any prep for the day-to-day lessons. There is a little bit of prep (maybe 1 hour-ish) to get everything ready before you begin the curriculum, but once that’s done, you’re good to go.
- Only takes 10-15 minutes a day – We have lots going on. There’s much more to school than learning how to spell. I appreciate that the lessons aren’t long and drawn out, and there’s not a bunch of busy work. Everything in the lessons is purposeful.
- Lessons are multi-sensory – Students use their sense of sight, sound, and touch for each of the lessons.
- Focus on mastery – You don’t rush through one lesson a day or a chapter a week. In fact, the book is divided into “steps.” And each step is completed in the student’s own time. When they have mastered the work from that step, then you move on. That might mean you spend 2 days on a step or 2 weeks on a step. Either way, the goal is the same—to understand and master the material.
- Built-in review – This program does a great job of continuing to review important concepts and information. It has flash cards you review each day, but there is also oral review. And each step includes sentences you dictate to your student and they write down. Of course, those sentences include words previously introduced. The goal is to move all of this information from the short-term memory to the long-term memory.
- 100% money back guarantee for a full year – I can’t mention what I love about the curriculum without mentioning this. Of course, no curriculum works for everyone all the time. With All About Spelling, you don’t have to worry you’re dumping your money down the drain with yet another spelling curriculum that won’t work. You can try it out for a year and send it back in any condition for a full refund. Can’t get much better of a guarantee than that!
This year we’re diving into level 3 of All About Spelling. Both Cameron and I are looking forward to it.
If you’ve been searching for just the right spelling curriculum or maybe you’ve seen All About Spelling and were a little intimidated by it like I was— give it a try! You don’t have anything to lose.
This made me happy to read! We are trying IEW for the first time this coming fall and it included AAS1.
I’ll be sharing this with my homeschooling kids. I think a couple of my grandchildren would benefit from this. Thanks for sharing.
I hope your kids find something that’s a good fit for your grandkids. The nice part of homeschooling is we can try different things when something isn’t working :). There are so many different types of learners, it’s nice there are so many different curricula out there to try.
We’ve been using All About Spelling for 3 years now. Like you, we did levels 1 and 2 in the same year. We are now heading into 4th grade and Level 5 of AAS. I was wondering, though, why you move to Phonetic Zoo after Level 3. Do you like it better than AAS? If so, why? I’ve read both your posts on these two programs, but I’m not clear on why the switch. Is it just because Phonetic Zoo is more independent? Curious and always searching.
Yes, we primarily switch just because Phonetic Zoo is mostly independent. As our kids get older we like to do what we can to foster independence in learning and use curriculum that will help with that (as long as it works well of course!). 🙂