help with LA for dd 10

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  • Linabean

    I wasn’t sure which topic group to put this in as it involves more than one topic in LA’s.  

       So anyway, here is the problem as it is now.  We have just begun our term 2 for the school year (our first week).  As we were planning out this year we felt we needed something to help my dd 10 with her LA.  In particular her spelling and getting her writing more.  She was unable to work with Spelling Wisdom well at all and so we wanted something different for this year.  She does fairly well when taught grammar and can give well enough oral narrations when asked.  She is a fine reader as well.  She tends to feel overwhelmed easily (we are working through an axiety disorder with her currently) and so we thought it would be good to give her something that was just one book but that incorporated all of the LA topics that we wanted her to cover.  Mainly grammar lessons, spelling, writing etc.  

       We ended up choosing Learning Language Arts Through Literature.  She took a placement test and we decided on the Orange Book(grade 4 skills).  We were hoping to get her working more independantly for her individual subjects this year and thought that after a couple weeks of getting used to this, she would be able to just work through it on her own for a lot of it.  She never got to that point.  She has almost never just sat down and tried doing it on her own and when she has, it has been so minimal that it barely counts as anything at all!  The spelling instruction has not helped her at all either.  She has not really improved in this area whatsoever.  She did well on the book study type sections with me (well, all sections were done with me sitting beside her and working it through with her).  Most of the grammar seemed to come fairly quickly to her as well.  She never really enjoyed it, though.  I thought it may come after she was more sure of it.  It never did.  She was in tears for most of the writing assignments, even the small ones and needed A LOT of help with them ( she can’t spell, so that is a large part of the problem with the writing)  She is now to the point that she is saying she hates writing, any writing, though she realizes it is something that she needs to learn and that it is not an option.  We are working through this book SO SLOWLY!  I was thinking of adding in a separate spelling program for her to work on (something like sequential spelling) but I think it might just make her feel further bogged down and overwhelmed to add something more onto her schedule.

        I don”t know what to do right now.  Should I continue to get her to plow through it with me?  Should I ditch it and find a completely different way to teach her the things that we feel she should be covering?  Am I giving her to much or have I given her too little in the past and now she is balking at the larger workload?  I personally don’t mind LLATL but she seems to HATE it and so I have come to dread it too as I really don’t want to induce panic and dread and tears for every day’s LA’s lesson!  It still seems like a solid program to me, actually.  But I am not sure it matters much if I like it or not, if my child dreads it!  I really don’t want any of my kids to hate their schooling years.  I don’t have any seasoned CMers that I know that can help me with this as all of the CMers I know personally are in the same age level as me.  I would really appreciate some advice for making this work better than it is.  

      If I were to switch to something like SS for spelling, Jump In for writing, and then something else that was rather small (daily grams?) for grammar would that cover everything?  Would it be to much at once?  Oh, we are also doing Jack’s Insects narration notebook with her and though she likes the overall book much more she still does not like writing the narrations and it will take her quite a while to get through one small narration, even with help.  So that is going VERY slowly as well.  Any advice from some older and wiser CM moms is welcome and coveted!  

      sorry for the long post!



    I don’t really have an answer for you as I am in the same exact situation with my dd10. What I am planning with this second term is to continue with the spelling wisdom on Monday for copy work and Thursday for dictation then I have just purchased a spelling book from Christian Liberty Press for her to do daily (they are short lessons and should only take 5-10 min). Then on Friday I am trying to have her do a written narration. She can do oral narrations great and begs me to let her and complains of writing daily but I have put my foot down and decided that this is something she must learn to do better. I plan on making it a gradual increase so that it is easier for her but we are in this situation to begin with because I went to easy on her because she complained. So now we have to make up for it.

    I also plan on intermittently having her do some journal or story starter writing as well in place of the written narration to keep it from getting boring.

    I would certainly like to here others ideas and opinions as well.

    Rachel White

    I’ve never used LLATL, so I can’t speak to it, I’m sorry. I can tell you our situation. My son, 12, has never liked writing and always struggled in spelling, even though he’s an advanced reader. He has always done wonderful oral narrations. I, too gave in to his requests to write less and determined no more this past summer and made it clear to him that things wre going to change. At the same time, I am at a point where I will need mine to be more independent for several reasons. So I got him self-directed materials that give him specific intructions where there is no negotiating room (because if there’s room, he’ll look to negotiate).

    So what I did this year was:

    Spelling: Megawords 1 5x a week and SW 1-2x a week (as copywork, then dictation)

    Composition: Meaningful Composition 4A 4x /week

    He doesn’t complain, he just does it and moves on and he’s learning. He actually said he likes the Megawords and there’s been no complaints about MC either. I’ll move him into Write with the Best after MC 5 or 5A. He seems to like the directed writing approach; that way he doesn’t have to “wing it”; he knows in a more exact way (my dd comes by it more naturally and is more reluctant with MC) and with Megawords, he’s getting specific rules, which he’s a rule follower, so it works. He did say he likes MC much better than Grammarland (the first 8 weeks of MC are grammar rules for sentence structure).

    I should’ve made him buckle down earlier, but it’s working now. I decided I wasn’t going to even bother with written narrations until he was confident on the “how” of writing. For him, his massive exposure to excellent lit. didn’t give him the tools he, as an individual, needed to put it down on paper; plus his frustration over spelling was causing him to be reluctant.


    Have you checked into Writing Tales? I am going to try that with a ds9. There are two levels and you go with the age appropriate level, so you don’t have to do level one first. It’s for 3rd to 5th grade.


    Honestly, I woudl back way off on writing. I would certainly not continue with the curriculum that makes her hate writing.

    If at 10 she is doing well with oral narrations, I would leave it at that. Well, maye a little more. Does she do copywork? Does she read or listen to you read living books? All those things will build writing skills though it may seem slow and you may not see the progress right away. To transition to writing, I woudl have her narrate something orally and then write a narration of it. Likely she will have less to write than she said even if she has just done it orally.


    Melissa Henson

    I was also going to suggest Writing Tales. I ordered Level One to start with my just turned 10 year old daughter. I like that it will have copywork (only once per two-week lesson, though, so you may want to add more), spelling (from words she misspells in her writing), grammar, written narration once a week (retelling the fable or story from the lesson) and creative writing (retelling the story with some creative changes). I like that it is all wrapped up in one. I can add some handwriting practice/copywork on days when she doesn’t have a copywork or big writing assignment (like the two retellings) and feel good about her Langauge Arts. Of course, she also reads daily and orally narrates our family stuff (beautifully). She is also a reluctant writer. Not the creative aspect, but the PHYSICAL aspect. She doesn’t like to physically write like copywork or whatever. But, I’m hoping small assignments each day will improve that slowly.

    I started with level one and don’t intend to rush it. I thought if we made it through the two levels over THREE years (4th-6th grades), then I would be happy with that. That will allow for a slower pace, but still cover everything before hitting 7th grade (when I’d like to ramp it up a bit with more formal grammar). At the end of two levels, she will have 60 written narrations and 60 original stories.

    Just some ideas. 🙂



    Thank you for all your input so far! I am still trying to figure out what is best for dd and our situation. I think I will be talking to dh about stopping our current LA plan and starting another. However, I know he will ask me what the other plan would be. I don’t have one yet! HA! That probably won’t go over so well!

    After further looking into Jump In I realized that it is for older grades and probably would not be a good fit for us currently. I have looked into Writing Tales and Easy Grammar since. I think they both look interesting but am still unsure as to whether either of them is what we need. I have also thought of just sticking with oral and written narrations but am concerned that I would screw up teaching her the proper grammar, punctuation and writing skills when going over her narrations. I really want to avoid teaching her things now that will need to be “unlearned” later. Also, after going through some other recent posts I was introduced to Michael Clay Thompson’s LA program. It looks wonderful! However I am still about as “clear as mud” on how to use it on a day to day basis and even where we should be starting and if it is something that can be used with my other kids at the same time, etc. etc. I don’t find their charts or explanations particularly helpful to me right now. I usually do have trouble with these things at first, though. It takes me very long to “get” something from written instructions, usually. I could probably get it a lot faster if they had a video showing how it is used in a real home! So, anyway, I still have not been able to figure out if that is doable for us, either. Plus, I think it may be a lot of $$$!

    I still do like the look and feel of Sequential Spelling for a strictly spelling program, though. Do any of you have experience with this? One of my other CM friends has started using it with her same aged student who also has troubles with his spelling and she says that it has been very good for him so far. She has just started it, though. So I was wondering about other’s experience with long term retention using SS.

    Thanks again for all the input so far! I still would welcome any more thoughts on the alternatives I have mentioned. Hopefully I will get something else figured out soon.



    My 10yo enjoys Writing Tales. We add Spelling Wisdom, but if you added something like Sequential Spelling (haven’t used it, just saying whatever spelling you choose) and just took both at a pace that was doable I think it might not seem too overwhelming. WT doesn’t take my ds much time at all…maybe 15-20 min. per day (sometimes less, sometimes more). You could always break it up w/a spellling program or alternate days if it’s too much.  Hope you find a good fit:) Blessings, Gina


    I’m facing similar issues with my 10yo DD.  I still have to sit next to her to keep her on track.  I’ve asked around and found this to be pretty normal at this age.  I’m not an older and wiser CM mom, but here are a few suggestions:

    –Have you looked at Dictation Day By Day?  It’s free through Google books and has dictation passages that start out very easy.  She could work up to the lessons in Spelling Wisdom.  

    –For writing, I’ve tried several programs and the only thing I’ve had success with is journal writing (with prompts).  We haven’t begun written dictations yet…just some simple notebooking.

    –For simple grammar, we are currently using Mad Libs.  I’m planning on a more formal grammar study in a year (or two), but this is a fun way to work on parts of speech.   My older two beg to work on this!

    Rachel White


      I tried Seq, Sp. and it helped only marginally. We did not finish it. He would get the answers correct in the student book, but then still miss these same words when writing. It uses patterns and word groupings; the phonics is subtle.

    IMO, you need to figure out the “why” behind her trouble with spelling. I realized that my ds had learned how to read so quickly that he skipped over, and therefore did not absorb, the latter sounding out of phonics that is required with multi-syllable words. For some strange reason, he never memorized the vowels!! Even though I sat with him and instructed him in reading-and he flew ahead reading well despite this. Until he began to write more and then I noticed. Once I figured out the “why” of his spelling struggles, then I narrowed it down between AAS and Megawords; did research and asked questions about those; then taking into account my teaching style, finances, and where we are in our lives currently and chose Megawords.

    I personally think WT is an excellent idea; it’s what I would’ve used had I known about it. You won’t need WT AND Easy Grammar.

    For my son, he needed specific instruction, not necessarily less work. He’s actually writing more now (which is the only way to learn to write, esp. at his age), but Megawords is one page that takes about 10-15 min. and MC takes about 20-30 min. No complaining anymore; he has the info. he needs to accomplish what he’s been assigned, thereby providing self-confidence without further dependence upon me. Does that make sense?

    Regarding more written narrations I plainly figured that that would be putting the cart before the horse. With all his wonderful oral narrations and advanced literature reading and high comprehension, he was hung up on the structure of writing and getting his thoughts down-he needed more directed modeling and instruction-not to mention the frustration of knowing advanced words and their meanings but not knowing how to spell them; so that’s a deterrent, too.

    The LA schedule I laid down on paper is as follows:

    6th (this year): Megawords, SW, and MC 4A and MC 4; Simply Grammar after first 8 weeks of MC 4A

    7th: Megawords; Figuratively Speaking for 1 Sem.; Then Write with the Best 1; Our Mother Tongue

    8th: Megawords, Finish Write with the Best 1 and then Vol. 2; Our Mother Tongue

    9th: Megawords?; Literary Lessons from Lord of the Rings; written narrations; finish OMT, if necessary.

    10th-12th: Essay and Research paper ( WwtB may teach Essay writing, but I can’t remember fully)

    Megawords has 8 levels and at this time, I expect to use them all. I don’t know how long, or even if, I’ll continue with SW after this year. Just haven’t decided yet. As you can see, after the more step-by-step nature of MC, I’ll be switching to WwtB, which doesn’t teach that way. Then OMT for two years+ for final grammar teaching.

    Just thought I’d share in case it may help. I put a lot of praying and research into this last year since he was at an important turning point, IMO. BTW, I did look at Jump-In and, for some reason, I decided on WwtB instead; though others have had great success.



    Thanks Holly and Rachel, It definitely helps to see others plans.

    Rachel, your plan sounds as though you have made sure it was very comprehensive. I think I may need to approach this in a similar way. Know exactly what she needs to learn by the time she graduates and then figure out what bases to cover in what years and make a plan to get there.

    I agree about it being important to find out the “why” of her spelling troubles. I am just not sure how to go about doing that. She makes such BIZARRE spelling mistakes at times! And she does NOT seem to retain a learned spelling of a word even after writing it, saying it, reading it, etc. several different times. I have had the thought that she may have had insufficient phonics foundation and so has not properly learned how to listen for all the different sounds and blends that are in words. I will look at Megawords, I think. I have never seen it, so I don’t really know how it works at all. Maybe it would be a better fit.

    Thanks for helping! I really want things to work better than they are and LA is not something I want to skimp on.


    Rachel White

    I make a Big Picture plan every year. I admit, I like planning…Smile

    Megawords, there are samples:

    I scoured the WTM boards, reading people’s experiences and views. All About Spelling was the other one, due to it’s phonics base. But it was too expensive, too teacher intensive and many found that they had trouble with their older children being offended by the more childish-type words to work with at the beginning and it caused a stumbling block. It didn’t take into account that these are older children who could usually read quite well (another reason they were insulted), it was just a spelling issue. NOw, other people have not had that problem; they just went quickly through the first few lessons.

    BTW, the reason I”m going to use SG, too is that it’s gentle yet covers the essential grammar. MC just covers enough grammar to form the most important parts of a sentence then moves on. Plus, I didn’t want them to get “rusty” from the 8 weeks of MC before hitting OMT (appropriately rigorous and timely for a 13/14 yr. old). So I decided to fill in the time frame with SG-it’s simple, gentle and gives a full first exposure-but not “rigorous”.

    Have you sat down and asked her about why she thinks she has trouble spelling? What does it feel like when asked to write a sentence and/or paragraph? In other words, what about writing causes problems; from her perspective? Open ended questions so she has to think about it because a solution must be found adn you’re there to help her so her input would make things go smoother. Sort of bring her along side of you since this is her education and her future. At age 10, I think they have some interesting perspective and should be moving towards the idea and mind-set of  taking responsibility for their education. My son’s own comments about himself were very helpful to me in addition to my own observations.


    Rachel, I love your big picture plan. My son will be finishing ETC 8 soon, the last in that series. I know it has helped with his spelling as well as phonics and reading. I seen it recommended to use Megawords after ETC. They are published by the same company. Would you consider the Megawords to be for vocabulary too or would I look for something else for that? I am liking the looks of Vocabulary from Classical Roots or English from the Roots Up. I have also heard good things about Wordly Wise. Is Spelling Wisdom for vocabulary too, or what do you use for vocabulary?


    Sorry, I’ve only skimmed through the other responses, so I hope I’m not repeating something here.

    I’ve used the new editions of LLATL and I think they are overwhelming — so much to do!!  Most of my kids would have a hard time doing that on their own.  If you want to continue with that, I’d just do the copywork and then pick out the most important things from the lesson and do it orally.

    OR, switch to Dictation Day by Day as someone else suggested.  It’s free and a good start for a reluctant writer.

    I’d totally skip grammar for now unless you just read something like the Ruth Heller books.

    All About Spelling is expensive, but it works.  Since she seems adverse to the actual physical act of writing, I think AAS would be a good choice since you can just use the magnetic letter tiles.  It is teacher intensive, but if you’re consistent you can cover a lot of ground in ten minutes a day and you will see improvement in her spelling. Also, AAS holds its value and you’d probably be able to re-sell it.  Megawords is also a good program, but it’s a workbook and she’d have to write.


    Not to be a downer, but this just happened to catch my eye on SS: Of course, I’d take w/a grain….any curriculum has people who love it and people who hate it:) We have used Spelling Workout w/good success….but my kids are pretty natural spellers.

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