I hated spelling tests when I was a kid, and I bet you did, too. You remember why, right? First the teacher would say the word. Then she would say it again. Then she would say a sentence including the word. Then she’d repeat the sentence. Then she’d say the word again. And again. And just when I thought we might possibly be able to move on to the next word, some rat bastard kid would put his hand up and say, “Would you repeat that, please?” so she’d say it AGAIN. (If you were that rat bastard kid, don’t tell me, okay? I will ban you from my blog. I’m not kidding.) And you remember how she liked to d-r-a-a-a-a-g that word out just as long as she possibly could. She savored it. It made me want to just jump down her throat and rip that word out of there so we could move on to some other excruciatingly dull subject. Social studies, for instance, or maybe square dancing. Anything but spelling.
You know what’s really bizarre? People had this crazy idea that I liked spelling just because I made A’s on my spelling tests. I made A’s in social studies and square dancing, too, but nobody ever accused me of liking them. I suppose it’s because we weren’t allowed to speak during tests, so my true feelings were never expressed properly, though you’d think my sighing in despair while gripping the sides of my desk until my knuckles turned white might have clued them in.
When we started homeschooling I was bound and determined that none of us was ever going to have a day ruined by a spelling test. (Spelling can be learned from osmosis, right? Right?) I made good on that promise until 2005, when I read The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise-Bauer (Actually, I read The Well-Trained Mind in 2004, but it took me until 2005 to be convinced of the need for a spelling program.) I gave JellyMan the first three Spelling Workout books, and he took off with them. It was his easiest (hence his favorite) subject. I couldn’t see that he was getting anything out of it, but it certainly wasn’t hurting him so I let it go and used those extra minutes to practice reading with Anemone.
A year later, I decided it was time for Anemone to start Spelling Workout. I gave Anemone an initial spelling test to see where she was – I don’t remember which book or lesson it was from, but it had to have been from one of the first three Spelling Workout books. This testing experience made such a lasting impression on me that I still have it tucked away in my homeschool files, and I’m going to share it with you now.
So much for learning spelling by osmosis! Anemone started Spelling Workout A and scored very well on just about every spelling test thereafter, but her actual writing was full of mistakes. So here I was with one kid who could spell anything and didn’t need a program, and one kid who could make an A on a spelling test and then turn around and spell the same words incorrectly in a writing assignment. My frustration overflowed into Donna Young’s old homeschool forums on March 12, 2006:
We are using Spelling Workout. There are 36 lessons in each book, and each lesson is four pages long. One page is a little article about some generic topic using some of the lesson’s spelling words. Three pages are full of little exercises. Book C, lesson one has exercises titled: Syllables, Puzzle, Rhyming Words, Proofreading, and Writing a Descriptive Paragraph. My son would knock out a whole book in a week if I let him. My daughter does one page a day, and also writes her words once a day. We test on Fridays. My kids hate the writing assignments. I don’t blame them – the topics are lame. They do enough writing in other areas that I feel comfortable skipping most of them.
The jury is still out on whether or not this program is beneficial – my son is a natural speller and doesn’t need the extra practice to begin with, and my daughter still misspells an alarming number of words, even though she makes a 100% on nearly every spelling test.
Well, nobody ever said homeschooling would be easy. We limped along with Spelling Workout for a few years; JellyMan got through book F and Anemone got about halfway through book D before we called it quits. I felt guilty about it at first, but eventually we got so wrapped up in Latin that I forgot all about spelling. And Anemone’s spelling errors became less and less frequent, and now she spells words like “immediately” and “bipartisan” without blinking an eye. (I would be dishonest if I didn’t mention that she also spells words like “anywere” and “accually” occasionally, but she’s getting better.) Who says spelling can’t be learned by osmosis?
I suppose there was no real reason to post any of this – thanks for listening, though.