Teaching Reading and Spelling...

A while back, I wrote about spelling. I shared which curriculum I favor and some reasons why I like it. But how does that apply to a more Charlotte Mason approach of schooling?

Mason's belief of living ideas can still be implemented even when using a curriculum. It just requires an understanding of the curriculum and the freedom to begin stretching yourself. Let me first inform you that I am just a mom. I do not have a special teaching degree. I am just a mom who believes that this is where God has placed me and therefore I must be a good steward of this role. I also believe in self-education and living by example which means I take this very seriously. With all that said, I needed a curriculum that would teach me how to teach spelling. I did not want a workbook to do the job for me but I would need some help along the way.

Enter Spell to Write & Read

My first few years of using this curriculum taught me just as much as my children. We trudged through relying on grace as I wrapped my brain around this new concept of phonics. Eventually I began to understand and felt more liberty with the curriculum. I was learning the how's and why's of spelling and this knowledge would help me in the next phase of teaching.

At the same time I was reading Charlotte Mason's view on teaching spelling. She spoke of a child's first reading lesson and using a letterbox. My youngest at the time was in kindergarden and expressing interest in reading and spelling. (side note: I think one reason for our success is that I waited on him. I did not push him) I used magnet letters and basic flashcards to introduce the letters. During this time I taught him the sounds of the letters and we played short games throughout the day and before bed. It was an ejoyable experience for him. As time progressed I began to introduce multi-letter phonograms.

Teaching Spelling
"But the fact is, the gift of spelling depends upon the power the eye possesses to 'take' (in a photographic sense) a detailed picture of a word; and this is a power and habit which must be cultivated in children from the first." CM

I wish I had read this quote prior to trying to teach my then 6th grader. She could pass a spelling test but after that she could not remember how to spell the words. In frustation one afternoon I asked, "Can't you see the words?" She replied back, "NO!" That was an eye opener for me.

Not everyone learns how to spell the same way but there are some core principles that can be applied. I finally reached the decision that teaching phonics was the key and found that SWR met my goals of learning how to be a teacher as well as teaching phonics in a multi-sensory way. The first year, we just filled in the gaps and strengthened the foundation for my daughter. We were still struggling with "seeing the words" but I was patient. The following year we began to implement Charlotte Mason's dictation method. Over the summer, I attended a class on teaching spelling the CM way. Putting myself in the student's position helped me to see that this was not an easy task. It would require discipline and study. This would be the next layer in our journey. I will try to share specifics in a different post but for now, we used dictation to intentionally build her mind's eye. We progressed from "Mom, how do you spell...?" to "Mom, do you spell it...?" She was beginning to see it!

Illiterate spelling is usually a sign of sparse reading; but, sometimes, of hasty reading without the habit of seeing the words that are skimmed over." CM emphasis mine

Teaching Reading
One evening while his sister was at basketball practice he told me he wanted to learn to read. I had heard this before but procrastinated starting anything official. Quite truthfully because I felt like my plate was rather full at the time and I had a great fear of teaching this particular subject. That night he persisted and so I wrote down on a scrap piece of paper some simple words that used the phonograms he knew. I touched each letter as I made the sounds. I spoke slowly and then repeated it quickly. After understanding what I was doing, he took on the next few words alone. By the end of the night we had made a collection of words and I informed him that he was reading! :-) He was so proud and so I knew that it was time to introduce the next phase.

We began our first official SWR spelling lists and also began using our Pathway readers. The first book was a primer entitled First Steps. As learned in SWR, we "marked" the words that he did not know. Then we began reading about this little family and their adventures. He enjoyed the stories so much that he never thought of this as work. After a while I no longer needed to mark the words. He would get a pencil and do it himself. We progressed through the series and now he is reading chapter books and his Bible.


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