The plethora of curricula available to homeschoolers today is dizzying. While wading through the options and recommendations, I eventually made charts of my top three to four choices for history, math, grammar, writing, and spelling to narrow them down. I thought I’d share my research with you. I hope it helps save someone else time!
Some of the curricula that I’m reviewing I have not seen in person or used. The thoughts shared here are my own personal thoughts based on what I’ve read. I noted price, description, and what I perceived to be the weaknesses and strengths of a curriculum based on our philosophy of education, users’ reviews, and practical aspects of our family.
If you are researching curricula, Cathy Duffy’s site is helpful to succinctly describe how a specific curriculum works. For actual user’s reviews, look on The Well-Trained Mind forums or Homeschool Reviews.
Based on my personal history and having read The Well-Trained Mind, I began my search into spelling curricula with these four choices: ABeka Homeschool (ABB), Rod & Staff Spelling, Spelling Workout, Spelling Power, and an internet program called wizardsSPELL, which I cannot find anywhere on the internet anymore, so apparently that’s not an option anymore! (I did find this, but I don’t think that’s what I researched a few years ago.) 😛 Since then, I’ve also researched Phonetic Zoo and All About Spelling, which I’m currently using.
In my short homeschooling career, I have used ABeka’s 1st grade spelling and All About Spelling; I have also purchased Spelling Power and Rod & Staff Spelling. Yikes! So today in true-to-Amy form, I’m starting with the program I know the least about (personally): Spelling Workout.
Again, since I haven’t used this program, Cathy Duffy was very helpful: “There is a student workbook and teacher’s edition for each level. Teacher’s editions are most useful for sample sentences to be used in pre- and post-tests. They include reduced pictures of student pages with answers overprinted. Students past the first few grades should be able to work through lessons on their own, so this is a good choice for a program students can use independently. Spelling Workout correlates with MCP’s Plaid Phonics program, but can be used apart from the other.
“Spelling Workout has all the components you need to lead students from simple sound-letter relationships to more complex spelling patterns. Students learn spelling skills based on phonics through unique, cross-curricular reading passages, practice, and high-interest writing activities. Packed with flexible lessons, motivating activites, including fun riddles and puzzles, this dynamic program leads students to spelling success!”
The Teacher’s Edition: Provides detailed lesson plans for either a 3- or 5-day plan. Offers strategy activities for reinforcing and analyzing spelling patterns. Includes Dictation Sentences for a Pretest and Final Replay Test. Suggests tips for meeting the needs of English learners. Features Take-It Home masters to help foster home involvement. Follows the scope and sequence of MCP “Plaid” Phonics.
“The weakness…is that the unaltered Spelling Workout 2002 de-emphasizes memory work. Lesson exercises do not specifically ask the students to spell the words or repeat the phonics rule from memory. On the contrary, the answers to the exercises (the list of correctly spelled words) are found on each page of the exercises. Only the tests ask the students to spell the words from memory; the phonics and spelling rules are not even tested at all. The level of phonics in the spelling rules is far from in-depth. This is a weakness when helping students who are struggling spellers, who often benefit from careful and detailed study of phonics.
- Top pick in the Well-Trained Mind and by Cathy Duffy thru 7th or 8th grade. (Actually, Cathy Duffy no longer lists it as a Top Pick.)
- Primary levels have a strong phonics base; learn the rules of spelling; upper shift toward word origins (Latin and Greek, giving foundation for Vocabulary from Classical Roots) and vocab.
- After the lower grades, student can work independently.
- Have to buy teacher and student books for just a spelling course.
- Many teachers report that it is too easy for bright students, but does little to help struggling students.
- Whether they do well on the tests or not, students seem to not retain the material well.
Comments or Modifications:
Also, the reading passages and dictation sentences contain some words that are more advanced than the spelling words, sometimes a cause of frustration for pupils. One recommendation from homeschoolers, is to move through the lessons faster, thus completing 1½-2 books in just one year.
Many teachers compensate for the weaknesses by assigning extra activities such as spelling bees, midweek quizzes, and extra copy work for missed words. These teachers often test spelling students on the rules themselves, which they are supposed to be able to explain and point out the use of, if not quote from memory.
Spelling teachers handle the advanced words in reading and dictation in various ways. Some use the words as weekly bonus words; some edit the higher level words from the dictation, and read the passage along with their spelling student to help with difficult pronunciation. All that said, Spelling Workout receives warm recommendations from many teachers, who say their students loved learning from it.
My personal thoughts:
The Well-Trained Mind makes Spelling Workout sound like the best program. She recommends keeping a spelling notebook along with it, with the child copying each spelling rule for the week into a list of rules. After reading several users’ reviews here at Homeschool Reviews and here on the WTM forums, I decided not to go with Spelling Workout. The biggest reason is for this weakness mentioned above: “Many teachers report that it is too easy for bright students, but does little to help struggling students.”
In my humble opinion, Susan Wise Bauer, author of TWTM, was a very bright cookie. I also picked up on reading and spelling naturally and quickly as a small child. I think people like Bauer and me (haha, do you like how I put myself on her level so easily?) don’t “get” people who aren’t natural spellers.
From the research I’ve done, it seems that natural spellers could use any spelling program, and actually would probably only need homemade lists of the words they misspell along with a basic knowledge of spelling rules from a spelling resource book. Struggling spellers, on the other hand, will need a more teacher-intensive program. Spelling Workout then, wouldn’t fit either case well, unless you simply want something independent for your natural speller to work through to make you feel good as a mom-teacher that your child is “doing spelling.”
Graded Spelling Workout Homeschool Bundles from Christianbook.com (including teacher’s edition and student workbook) range from $17.99 to $18.49.
Have fun shopping!