Helping Your Struggling Speller

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Do your kids struggle with spelling?  One of the hardest things my 2e daughter encountered as a young learner was to learn how to spell, and secondly, to be able to apply  that to her writing.  The second skill took many years to develop.

For example, when my child do her weekly spelling work, she did quite well.  But applying that to her writing just was not happening. She tended to spell phonetically.  At the same time she loved to write in her Hello Kitty journal and create simple reports, usually on penguins, toucans, or airplanes.  She also enjoyed creative writing, and made her own fiction stories.  

But her spelling skills did not show up at all in her written work.  And correcting her spelling discouraged her a lot, and left her frustrated, and upset.

So how could I teach her spelling, and still encourage her in putting words on paper?  I didn't want to squash her creativity by correcting her misspelled work in her written work.  

There are a lot of ways to approach this problem.  In our home, we decided to approach these two skills separately. 

We did spelling work, with spelling tests each week, and we also did a lot of written work.   But I did not expect these two skills to come together, and they did not for many years.  This freed my daughter up so that her written work flourished.  At the same time, she was developing spelling skills through separate spelling study.  And eventually, she learned to apply her spelling skills to her written work over time.  

Today, I'd like to first share with you our favorite curricula for spelling, and then discuss how we helped her to transfer that to her own writing.  Our first curricula for spelling was with Explode the Code Primers.

Note - Links are included, but none are affiliate links.  I share these they show some of our favorite frugal curricula, and how we used them in our homeschool.

Explode the Code Primers

All three Primers make a complete introduction to phonics for your young learners!
This phonics program is research based.

During the K and early elementary years, our spelling was done through the Explode the Code series.  We were using this program anyway, for phonics.  While our student was learning phonics, she was also learning spelling. 

We started with their pre-K Primers.  For more information on that, feel free to check out my review at  Explode the Code - Primers. Here is an excerpt:

"Do you have a young learner who is eager to learn to read? Are you looking for a good, easy-to-use, phonics program? How about a well-researched phonics program? Explode the Code offers all of these to introduce phonics and early reading.  Each primer introduces a group of consonants, their sounds, with fun activities on each page......"

Using these primers not only gave my daughter a good start in both phonics and spelling, but it also gave her a feeling of success, which is so important for our early learners.  And phonics is the basis for spelling.

More Explode the Code

 This phonics program goes from preK through 6th grade.

We continued working in the Explode the Code series each year, starting in Explode the Code - Grade 1, then Grade 2 and so on, through 5th grade.  Are you familiar with this series?  Here is something from my review of it:

"Following the same consistent pattern in each lesson, the series progressed to more advanced phonics, such as consonant blends and phonetic patterns, preparing the child for intermediate reading.  The format and layout of the lessons helped make the learning easy......"  Click here, to read my complete review.

Then, in second grade, we added a phonics based spelling program, by Evan-Moor, one of my favorite educational publishing companies.  It was called Building Spelling Skills – Grade 2.
I like Evan-Moor as it is developmentally based.  We continued with that through elementary school.

Building Spelling Skills by Evan-Moor

"The Spelling words in this book are based on the 200 most commonly used words in the English language and the words frequently misspelled by second graders."  Click on the title above to read the complete review of this  spelling  program.

As my daughter worked in Explode the Code, and her Building Spelling Skills program, she gradually developed her spelling skills.  Each week, she looked forward to her spelling tests, and did quite well on them.  

But when she did her writing, either in her journal, or in her other homeschool work, etc, her spelling skills did not show up that year, or even the next.  And I learned that that is very normal for young learners.

 Reinforcing Success 

Each week, my daughter did well on her spelling tests, and earned stickers for that.  And each week, she did very well in her writing assignments.  She learned to write good sentences, paragraphs, and later, stories and essays.  I graded her on her writing skills, not her spelling, for all her writing projects.

She picked out special stamps and earned them for each writing project that she finished.  She developed good writing skills, learning how to make good sentences, paragraphs, too.  She started writing easy reports in 2nd grade. 

My daughter was becoming a great spelling and a great writer!  But these two skills did not show up together...... for many years

But they did come together, later.  By doing her spelling program, and her spelling tests, she learned good spelling skills, that, much later, were applied to her own written work.

Did I correct each of her misspelled words in her writing work each week?  No, I did not.  I corrected them on her spelling tests, but I did not correct her misspelled word on her reports.  I was patient, rewarding her successes, and when it all came together, later, her confidence in writing was intact! 

So be encouraged.  It takes a LOT of practice, and sometimes, years, to be able to apply newly learned spelling skills to one's actual writing.  By middle school, her spelling skills showed up regularly in her writing.

Today, my daughter got back her first essay for her college english class.  (Brag alert -She got an A).  And it showed her good spelling skills, too.  

A picture from freshman year

She was also asked to write a short piece in her business school's newsletter, based on her writing abilities shown in college admissions essay.   

May you all enjoy your younger learners, as they strive, and work hard in their studies.  Do you have a struggling speller?  What are your favorite ways to teach spelling?  I truly enjoy hearing from you, and sharing your knowledge and experiences with spelling and writing can help another homeschooling family.

Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,


Betsy is mom to her 20 year old daughter whom she homeschooled from day one.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshigh school & college and wrote Homeschooling High School with College in Mind.   She offers free homeschool help and messages at BJ's Consulting

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