Spelling for the 6th grader who didn’t learn to read using phonics.

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  • kernat

    I’ve been using Rod & Staff for this child, but I don’t think he always absorbs the rules.  He’s a far better reader than speller.  Plus, I am kind of bored with the format after a couple of years.  On my classical forum, I asked the same, and people seem to really like the curriculum.  I was thinking of trying ULW and Spelling Wisdom for this rising 6th grader, but I am terrified of “letting go” of a formal spelling curriculum that teaches rules he didn’t get when he learned to read.  Now, I know it’s not quite the same.  How much guidance does SW give to the parent to teach what the child is looking at in words, patterns, etc. for spelling?  I think this is a subject I would like to be somewhat scripted if I am buying a curriculum.

    Karen Smith

    Spelling using Charlotte Mason’s methods is quite different than what most of us are familiar with for spelling. Charlotte Mason used prepared dictation for spelling instead of lists of similarly spelled words. By using excerpts from great literature, poetry, and the Bible children learn not only how to spell words but are exposed to great ideas, see well-written sentences, and can even be taught grammar and punctuation using the same literature excerpts.

    There are no spelling rules to learn because there are so many exceptions to them in the English language. Instead the student looks at the literature excerpt and identifies any words he is unsure how to spell. Charlotte Mason encouraged her students to look carefully at the words to notice how they were spelled. Students can then write the words, close their eyes and orally spell the words, or any other method that works for each individual. After the student has studied the words, spot check him on how ready he is for dictation. Ask him to orally spell the words you know he was studying. If he can spell them, then dictate to him a few words at a time from the exercise as he writes the words on a separate sheet of paper.

    If you want to add the grammar lessons, then Using Language Well can be used. Just make sure that you get the same book number of Using Language Well as you are using for Spelling Wisdom, as Using Language Well uses the exercises in Spelling Wisdom. For example, if you are using Spelling Wisdom, Book 2 get Using Language Well, Book 2.

    It is important that should you choose to use Spelling Wisdom that you place your son according to his skill level and not by his grade level. You can look at the samples of Spelling Wisdom to determine which book to start with. Because dictation is different than a list of words, you are looking for the level that there would be no more than 3-4 words that he could not spell in an exercise. You don’t want to burden or frustrate him with too many words to learn how to spell. You can learn more about dictation and Spelling Wisdom from our blog post on How to Do Dictation.

    If you want to add Using Language Well, we have a placement guide to help you place your child at the appropriate level. Scroll down the page to find it.


    Prepared dictation really does work! I have three kids and the one who has solely used prepared dictation is the best speller. My oldest did Rod and Staff for a couple of years and then Sequential Spelling and then we switched to Spelling Wisdom for a bit. His junior and senior year he took coop classes so there was no spelling – he is a terrible speller. My younger two are great spellers. My youngest has only ever done SW and ULW and he is hands down the best of the three. We do SW/ULW twice per week as suggested and then they do additional copywork the other days. Even in high school they are doing copywork. I am firm believer in learning spelling, grammar, and composition by copying good writing.

    Spelling Wisdom is so simple to use you might feel nothing is happening, but time will prove the methods work.


    Thank you both so much for the reassurance if we do go this route. I wanted to try it last year, but I quickly returned to R&S out of fear.

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