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Inventive spelling… a do, or a don’t?

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Dear Carrie

Inventive Spelling… a ‘do’ or a ‘don’t’?

I’m doing Beyond Little Hearts with my 7 year-old son. Occasionally, he will write something on his own, which will include a mix of properly spelled and misspelled words. I always praise him for his work, and I don’t make a point to show him his mistakes. However, for school I’ve noticed most of his writing is copywork. I know Charlotte Mason really stressed the importance of it. What were her thoughts on independent writing? Should I encourage him to write his own sentences and simple stories? I see that that is not being done in the Beyond lessons yet. Is that something that should be downplayed right now? What are your thoughts on this? Would allowing inventive or phonetic spelling undo the good work of copywork? Basically, is inventive spelling a ‘do’ or a ‘don’t’?


“Ms. Please Help with Inventive Spelling”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Inventive Spelling,”

Whether inventive spelling is considered a ‘do’ or a ‘don’t’ is actually a common question! So, I’m glad you asked. As far as Charlotte Mason goes, she did not encourage original writing in the younger years. This was because she wanted the children to develop the habit of seeing words spelled correctly (mainly through copywork).

The habit of seeing words spelled incorrectly and writing them incorrectly is a difficult one to overcome.

In my 11 years of public school teaching days, the new philosophy was getting kiddos to write as much as possible and all of the time… and don’t worry about the spelling. Inventive spelling was “in,” and children wrote volumes of incorrectly spelled work, which I could never get on board with!   As the years passed, teachers were discovering exactly what CM found… that the habit of seeing words spelled incorrectly and writing them incorrectly is a difficult one to overcome. While some kiddos are naturally good spellers, the rest of the kiddos were developing terrible spelling habits and having no sense at all of what “looked right” anymore. So, when I headed into homeschooling and read more of CM’s philosophy, it really made sense to me in regard to inventive spelling in particular.

In general, I don’t correct “free-time” writing.

With my own kiddos I do not discourage them from writing original stories and sentences, and they all do it on their own during free time. Often great literature inspires them to be creative writers on their own. I don’t correct their “free-time” writing. Instead, I just try to compliment them on the content. If there is a glaring spelling error, I may point that out to be fixed.

Early writing in school is kept to the form of copywork, so inventive spelling is not used.

During school-time, we keep their early year’s writing practice to copywork. So, we do not use inventive spelling. Then, in grade 4 and on up, we begin moving onto some original composition, as planned in the Heart of Dakota guides. I do require correct spelling for school-related work. I’ll often write their ideas on a markerboard to be copied correctly. Likewise, I do check every paper they do during school time for spelling. Then, I do require correction. I write the correct spelling in pencil above the incorrect word (or in the margin). The kiddos then copy my spelling and erase my word, so only their corrected word remains.

There are many ways to approach inventive spelling, but the CM way has made the most sense to me.

I realize there are many ways to approach inventive spelling and that the CM-style of teaching spelling is just one way. But to me, it has made the most sense of any that I’ve tried.



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