First, let me say that I have bought all of the All About Spelling products that I use. No one has given me anything, or paid me anything for reviewing this product. I just really love this program and thought that I would share how I use it.
We used All About Spelling two years ago. Then last year, I had an “expert” tell me not to use it anymore. Turns out that this expert believes more in whole language than in phonics. She says that if phonics doesn’t work the first time you try it, it won’t work so you should try something else. She also told me that she didn’t know how Honey had learned to read so well with her vision being so bad. (She couldn’t keep her place while reading, but she could read a lot of words.)
Later, I put all the pieces together and realized that All About Spelling is what had taught Honey to read. With this in mind, after a year off, we are going back to All About Spelling this year. In fact, it is almost all we are doing for English. (I do have a writing program that we do every other week or so.) I use All About Spelling as a Spelling, Reading, Grammar, Speech, and Handwriting program. Here is how I do it:
When you start All About Spelling, you start with the first book. When we started this year, I started both Honey and Kiddo in the first book. I had no idea how much Honey had forgotten, and I knew that we could go very quickly through the first book so that is where we started. Even though Kiddo could spell all the words in the first lessons of the first book, there was a lot more that I wanted her to learn, so I started her at the beginning of the first book too.
The first book starts with the child learning all the sounds that each letter makes. This was an easy first lesson that only took one day for both girls. Even Kiddo, who I asked to not only make the sound, but to make it correctly! There were a few sounds that she couldn’t make due to her retainer, but she know HOW to make them all. Now, neither girl had mastered all the sounds that day, but they knew most of them so we went on. We start each day with review, so there was lots of time to learn these sounds. I consider a sound mastered when the child can say the sound on the first try after a break (like the first time they see it or on a Monday after not working on it all weekend).
We start handwriting with lesson 4. (Now remember that I am doing this with older children. If I was doing this with a 4yo or 5yo I might do things very differently.) In this lesson the child is to write the sound when the teacher dictates it to them. My only change is giving the child a handwriting chart (showing the correct formation of letters) and asking that they not only write the correct letter, but that they write it correctly! Honey flew through this lesson (she had some things to practice, but only a few), but Kiddo stayed on this lesson for a week! I was very picky as to how the letters were formed. This is the only handwriting lessons that she is getting right now, so I make it count!
Later in the book, the author adds in phrases for the parent to dictate to the child. I write these out on cards and have my children read them (one child reads them to practice her reading, the other reads them to practice her speech). They also write the phrases as dictation. Grammar comes into play here as any word that should be capitalized that is not, is counted wrong. The phrases eventually give way to sentences and we have a chance to practice punctuation, and I plan to throw in a few questions about parts of speech. There is so much that can be learned from each lesson.
One question I had before I started was how do I know when to go to the next lesson. I don’t have any hard and fast rules, I just know. The beginning of each lesson is review. You review phoneme cards, you review sound cards (and handwriting as the child writes the sound), you review key cards (phonics rules), you review the word cards (reading, speaking, and/or spelling) and then you begin the lesson. When the review starts to take too long, I camp out on that lesson for a few days. When the lesson doesn’t seem to click with the child, I do the lesson again the next day. There are only 24 lessons in the first book, so it is fine to take a while on each lesson. (There are 36 weeks in a school year.) On the other hand, if the child clearly knows the material presented, there is no reason not to go on. I believe that Honey will finish her review of book 1 in less than 2 months. Kiddo will take longer, but she is younger and has never done the book before. I don’t know where the girls will be at the end of the year and I don’t care. I care that they are learning at a pace that is comfortable for them. (Going too slow is just as stressful as going too fast.)
Another question I had was how do I know that the child has mastered the card. You can sometimes tell, but I use this rule. Any card the child can do easily on Mon. (after the weekend break) the child has mastered and no longer reviews that card daily. (The mastered cards do come up for review on a regular basis.) This seems to work well for us.
Can you tell that I really like All About Spelling? I like that it tells you what to do, but that I am in control of how long the lesson takes and how fast we go. (I had a math program once that I thought would be like this, but there was so much to get done each day that we couldn’t keep up.) In All About Spelling the lessons are short enough that it doesn’t feel like the lesson will drag on forever, but there is enough material in each lesson to feel like we are making progress.
Its funny, I haven’t talked much about All About Spelling as a spelling program. Neither Honey or Kiddo has any trouble spelling any of the words that the program asks them to spell, but then they have learned the rules before they are asked to spell the words. I really like the rules. They help me in my spelling. With spell check I am not so bad, but there are a lot of words that I can’t remember how to spell. I have learned a lot of rules in this program that I use when I am writing. If book 1 and 2 (we got part way through book 2 the first year before we quit using the program) have helped me this much, I know that my kids are getting a better spelling education than I did.