Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spelling Roller Coaster

I might have mentioned once or twice (or a million times) that spelling is a bit of an issue for my kids.  One of the first problems is that I’m naturally a good speller, so I expect the same of the rest of the world.  And the rest of the world refuses to cooperate!  Rosie Girl doesn’t like spelling, but she does tolerably well and makes sure to use Spell Check before she turns in any assignments.

But, Wild Man.  Ah, my Wild Man.  What a different story with him.  Wild Man is learning spelling using the All About Spelling curriculum, and I think it is a great fit for him.  It is a multi-sensory curriculum that teaches spelling very methodically.  I’m learning all kinds of spelling rules that knew nothing about!

Unfortunately, Wild Man’s brain doesn’t really work like most other people’s brains.  Letters and words still don’t come easily to him.  He is reading all kinds of things – in fact, he’s slowly working his way through Brisingr right now.  Spelling, though, is inconsistent.  One day, he can spell everything that he’s learned up till that point.  The next day, it’s like he hasn’t had a spelling lesson in a year.

Last week, things weren’t going so well for Wild Man in spelling.  He was discouraged.  I was discouraged.  It didn’t make for a happy homeschool.  This week, for some reason, has been much better, although he still has some issues.  For example, I had him spell “may”, and he spelled it “way”.  (His tutor said that he’s the only kid she had seen who regularly mixed up “m” and “w” as well as the more common “b”,”d” and “p”,”q” pairs.  Funny.)

I think I’m finally learning how to help him.  It’s only taken a couple of years! 

  • Spelling lessons need to be short.  The All About Spelling lessons are usually too long and I’ve been doing only 1/2 lessons at a time for about a year now.
  • We spend at least a week on each lesson.
  • We should try to do some spelling with his All About Spelling board every day, even if it’s just a few words.  
  • Wild Man does not do “leading questions” or the “Socratic method”.  When I was in medical school, the preferred educational technique by most professors on rounds was to ask students questions until they didn’t know the answer and then to start teaching.  Often, if we didn’t know an answer, they’d ask leading questions to try to get us to the answer.  This frustrates the living daylights out of Wild Man.  His brain doesn’t work this way so I’m learning not to use this.
  • I’ve noticed in the last few sessions that Wild Man gets frustrated far more quickly in spelling than most other subjects.  It’s better for me to give him the answer to a question and for us to move on than for me to just wait for him once he’s confused.
  • And, yes, I still sometimes have him drink a cup of coffee before we start working on spelling because it does help him focus!

Teaching my kids at home is incredibly rewarding, but it’s also quite humbling.  I try to read all I can about teaching spelling and working with dyslexic kids, but I’m finding that the only real expert on how Wild Man learns is God.  But, all this time that we spend working through spelling is time together and it’s absolutely precious time that I wouldn’t trade for anything!



Heather said...

Dear Catherine,
I was so excited to read your blog for the first time and yet tearful too because I am increasingly dealing with chronic pain myself. I homeschool a 6year old energetic boy and I also have a spirited2 year old girl. Last year I woke up one day not being able to turn my neck nor get out of bed easily. After chiropractic work, physical therapy and massage and a lot of drugs, I seemed to get 75% better. This past January I had another "incident" that unbelieveably was even worse- level 10 for days. Hydrocodone and flexeril barely touched the pain. Finally someone gave my husband a valium to help me with the pain and it worked. Since then I have seen two orthopaedic surgeons, a neurologist, three anasthesiologists and gt an MRI taken. Turns out I have a bulging disk, an a herniated disk in my neck that is literally dripping out of place. Yesterday I got my first spinal block. I share all this to say that I totally appreciate what you said about medicine and th various doctors not having a lot of answers. I want my life back. And in the midst of it all I feel the very heavy burden that I am not being there for my kids. I see them acting up and having their own issues that I am just not mentally able to deal with right now. My daughter cries because she wants mommy to pick her up and I can't. The house is a mess and homeschooling was hard enough with a very active two year old let alone physical limitations and pain to go with it. Thanks for letting me vent a bit here. It is so nice to find someone out there who understands the "off" days, the mountain of responsibility, and not always feeling equal to it. I love the Lord very much and mentally understand that He is in control and trustworthy but I still struggle with the desire to know that everything is going to get better and that I will be able to exercise, garden, homeschool, clean, grocery shop, etc. again. Thanks for listening Caroline.Sincerely, Heather Clarke

Marie at All About Spelling said...

Hi Catherine! You are doing the right thing by keeping Wild Man's spelling lessons short. I generally recommend 15-20 minutes, 5 days a week. Short and frequent is better than long and sporadic. One Step in the program may take several days or it may take two weeks, depending upon the child.

Twisted Cinderella said...

I have a similar situation with my daughter and Math. We have to do it first before she has done anything else and she is still fresh and I have to be aware of when she has had enough of math that she can take this day.