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Help with Spelling Rules and Writing Errors

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Dear Carrie

Help with Spelling Rules and Writing Errors

Today was my son’s first day doing Bigger Hearts. He loved it, and so did I! He prayed prayers of thanksgiving to God at snack time and thanked me several times for homeschooling him. What a blessing!!! So, my question is about spelling errors. We did dictation, and he capitalizes letters that should be lowercase. Also, he writes letters backwards and forms them from the “bottom up.” Does he need to memorize spelling rules? He did that in the past, but it hasn’t really helped. Also, for any notebooking, Bible verse writing, etc. I was intending on making him do his “best” writing – correct capitalization, punctuation, neat handwriting. Today, when I did that, he almost cried! He said his teacher at school just let him write it his way. What do you recommend? Always their “best” work except journaling, or only the very best for certain things?

“Ms. Please Help with Spelling Rules and Writing Errors”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Spelling Rules and Writing Errors,”

I’m so glad that you had a good first day with Bigger Hearts. What a sweet story about your son’s prayer at snack time. That just blesses a mother’s heart, doesn’t it?!? As far as your question about spelling rules and errors, the spelling lists in Bigger Hearts are each designed around a word pattern (short ‘a’, short ‘e’, short ‘i’, etc.) Then, as you go along the patterns get into long vowels, vowel digraphs, etc. This is the way almost all spelling texts, public school or homeschool, are set up. We made our word lists from the Dolch and a large combination of other high frequency word lists. The goal in Bigger Hearts is to get kids to visualize the correct spelling and formation of letters in their mind.

Choosing Between Spelling Lists and Dictation Passages

If your little guy is still making errors like capitalizing letters in the middle of words and reversing letters, then he won’t be ready for studied dictation. Even if he can spell the words on the spelling lists with the right letters, if the letters aren’t written correctly (lowercase and facing the right direction), then he needs more practice with the spelling lists. He also needs to experience success!

What Charlotte Mason Has to Say About Spelling and Writing Errors

Charlotte Mason says one letter written correctly is better than a whole line of letters done incorrectly. So, I would go systematically through the spelling as it is set up in Bigger. I would do each of the cards and activities in the spelling box daily, taking a year to go through them all. Then, I would start dictation next year. The error of habitually forming the letters incorrectly takes time to undo, and if there are other learning issues there, it may never go away completely. But, you may surprised by his progress over time of following Bigger’s spelling lessons. I would encourage you to give it a try this year and see.

Inventive Spelling in Public Schools

As hard as it may seem, there are many public school teachers who don’t require the right spelling or correct copying of words by their students (often because they have too many kiddos in the class, or they have been taught that inventive spelling errors are okay). Either way, because of this, there are many children who are still using inventive spelling in middle school and high school! Inventive spelling has its place with little ones, but it is not meant to go on and on, or it will be habit forming. It does sound like this is part of the problem with your little honey.

What is the purpose for learning spelling words?

To me, it was a dawning to realize that many spelling programs or exercises where children are allowed to use inventive spelling, result in helping the child visualize the incorrect spelling! Eventually, the mind has seen words spelled wrong so many times that the wrong spelling looks right! Spelling is not as much of a “knowing how to spell difficult words” exercise as it is a “learning to see the word correctly in your mind and transfer it correctly to paper” type of exercise. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose for learning spelling words?” If kiddos can’t write them correctly on paper, does it matter that they can spell them orally? In life we are not called to orally spell words very often.

You can improve this pattern of spelling by consistently requiring correct copywork.

So, the best way to start correcting this pattern is by requiring slow, steady copywork from a model that is written correctly. You may need to write what he is to copy right on the paper and leave space underneath each line for him to copy directly beneath your text (matching it letter for letter). If your little guy is in tears over the amount of writing, then only have him copy the beginning portion of the text correctly, and then you can write the rest of it for him. A little bit done correctly is better than a whole lot done incorrectly. Over time, gradually increase the portion of the copying that he does, and decrease the part you do! You will see fewer and fewer errors!

Over time, steady practice with copywork will help your son visualize the correct spelling of words.

I would encourage you to see if you agree with what I’ve shared above. I know it was a “lightbulb” moment for me to read about the Charlotte Mason philosophy of spelling and copywork. It made much sense to me, as all of the students I’d had in school who didn’t spell well had trouble seeing the correct spelling. They couldn’t tell the correctly spelled words from the incorrectly spelled ones. Copywork and steady practice in visualizing correct spellings will help over time, but you will need to give it a year to really make a significant difference.


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