Spelling Wisdom

Spelling Wisdom

(74 customer reviews)

Charlotte Mason spelling curriculum that teaches today’s 6,000 most frequently used words presented in the writings of great men and women of history. Available in both American and British spelling versions! (Grades 3–12) See full description

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Product Description

Teach spelling with some of the greatest minds in history!

Learn today’s 6,000 most frequently used words presented in the writings of great men and women of history! Now you can have the confidence that you’re teaching the words your student needs to know, using the Charlotte Mason method of prepared dictation.

Teach Them Diligently Homeschool Family Favorites 2023 AwardPractical Homeschooling Reader Award 2017Cathy Duffy's Top 102 Picks 2015

Individual Books

Each Spelling Wisdom book will take your student two school years to complete.

Bundles with Using Language Well

With Using Language Well, the same passages from Spelling Wisdom are used for lessons teaching English usage, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and composition.

What Is Prepared Dictation?

Prepared dictation is a method of learning spelling words in context. For each lesson, a passage is studied until the student is confident he knows how to spell every word. The teacher then dictates the passage and the student writes it. No rote memory with long lists of spelling words! This is the truly natural way to learn to spell.

A Complete Homeschool Spelling Curriculum

The five Spelling Wisdom books’ exercises become progressively longer and contain more difficult words as you work through the series. Each book contains 140 exercises. If you cover two exercises per week, you should be able to finish a Spelling Wisdom book in a little less than two school years.

  • Easy — Teaches spelling and punctuation in just a few minutes each week. (See our simple how to use Spelling Wisdom instructions.)
  • Thorough — The Spelling Wisdom series incorporates more than 12,500 words, including the 6,000 most frequently used words in the English language.
  • Effective — Uses the tried-and-true method of prepared dictation, which Charlotte Mason endorsed.
  • Interesting and inspiring — Presents beautiful and fascinating ideas from great men and women of history that encourage and motivate children as they learn to spell the words.
  • Flexible — Allows you to progress at each student’s pace.
  • Saves Time — Can be used for copywork as well.

A Complete Homeschool Spelling Curriculum

The five Spelling Wisdom books’ exercises become progressively longer and contain more difficult words as you work through the series. Each book contains 140 exercises. If you cover two exercises per week, you should be able to finish a Spelling Wisdom book in a little less than two school years.

Placing Your Child

Dictation exercises begin in 3rd grade. Here is how the books correspond to each grade:

Book 1: Grades 3 and 4

(Transcription for lessons 1–70; transition to prepared dictation with Lessons 71–140.)

Grade 3 (Exercises 1–70) — Assign the whole passage to be transcribed. Occasionally ask the student to verbally spell two or three words from the passage from memory.

Grade 4 (Exercises 71–140) — Assign up to the whole passage. Dictate one or two sentences.

Book 2: Grades 5 and 6

Grade 5 (Exercises 1–70) — Assign up to the whole passage. Dictate two or three sentences.

Grade 6 (Exercises 71–140) — Assign up to the whole passage. Dictate three or four sentences.

Book 3: Grades 7 and 8

Grade 7 (Exercises 1–70) — Assign the whole passage. Dictate up to one paragraph.

Grade 8 (Exercises 71–140) — Assign the whole passage. Dictate up to one paragraph.

Book 4: Grades 9 and 10

Grade 9 (Exercises 1–70) — Assign the whole passage. Dictate up to two paragraphs.

Grade 10 (Exercises 71–140) — Assign the whole passage. Dictate up to two paragraphs.

Book 5: Grades 11 and 12

Grade 11 (Exercises 1–70) — Assign the whole passage. Dictate up to three paragraphs.

Grade 12 (Exercises 71–140) — Assign the whole passage. Dictate up to three paragraphs.

Quality Sources

Compiled from dozens of quality sources, including:

  • Excerpts from Literary Classics, such as Aesop’s Fables, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Black Beauty, David Copperfield, The Deerslayer, Freckles, Les Miserables, Little Women, Robinson Crusoe, The Secret Garden, The Story of My Life, and The Wind in the Willows.
  • Speeches and quotes of historical figures, such as Sir Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and George Washington.
  • Charlotte Mason quotes and excerpts from Ourselves.
  • Letters written by famous people, such as Beethoven, Seneca, Mozart, and Abraham Lincoln.
  • Poems, written by poets such as Stevenson, Wordsworth, Emerson, Longfellow, and Holmes.
  • Scripture passages.
  • Excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays, plus several Sonnets.

These links and tips that correspond to Spelling Wisdom may be helpful to you.

You might also like to read about How to Use Spelling Wisdom.

74 reviews for Spelling Wisdom

  1. Heather Teichrib

    Can I get a British spelling version of this in print? We are from Canada and follow more the Bristish rules rather than the American ones, but I do not want an e-book.

    Also, I do have one question. Do you recommend grammar for a child in grade 7 or 8 and if so, what would you use? We have tried so many, but my daughter does not have a love of learning and so I am struggling to find things that will peek and hold her interest to create this love (which I have!) before it is too late!

    Thanks so much for your time!


    • Sonya

      Hi, Heather –

      We don’t currently have plans to produce the British version in printed form. We figured it was more cost effective for International orders to not have to pay shipping for these books. However, if enough people tell us they want them in printed form, we’d be happy to make that happen.

      For grammar I like to use Analytical Grammar by Robin Finley. She also has a Junior Analytical Grammar that would give a gentle introduction to the parts of speech and diagramming. You might take a look at the samples on her Web site and see if they would work well for your daughter.

  2. Susan Crist

    Do you have Spelling Wisdom materials available for 1st and 2nd grades, as well? Thank you!

    • Sonya

      Good question, Susan. We don’t have spelling materials for 1st and 2nd grade because Charlotte Mason didn’t start spelling/dictation exercises until the child was about 10 years old. Up until that age the child is building up a mental storehouse of how words look while he is reading. Ideally, once he starts spelling/dictation exercises he will have enough of a storehouse already in place that there will be no more than three or four unknown words in an exercise.

      • April

        Sonya, I am looking into homeschooling my son who will start school in about 2 years. I really like everything I have read about the Charlotte Mason method, but I have a couple of questions.

        First, my state requires that spelling be taught in first and second grades, so how would I do this if I choose to use the Charlotte Mason methods, since her spelling doesn’t really start until 3rd grade?

        Second, my state also requires that homeschooled students be able to pass standardized tests at the end of each year. Will using Charlotte Mason’s methods and living books give my son the knowledge he needs to pass the state’s tests?

        Thanks for your help.

        • Sonya Shafer

          Good questions, April. Spelling is taught informally in grades 1 and 2 by using Charlotte’s methods of learning to read and word-building. If you watch the video on the Delightful Reading page, you’ll see how she used word tiles and playing with words to encourage the children to look carefully at how words are spelled. Formal spelling lessons (dictation) don’t start until 3rd or 4th grade, but if you are using a combination of copywork and reading lessons as shown on that video, your child will be piling up a storehouse of word spellings before those formal lessons. That way when he gets to the formal lessons, he will already know a lot of words.

          Standardized testing is a tricky question. You are basically dealing with two things: skills and content. I have no doubt that using CM methods will give your child the skills he needs to be successful; however, there is no way to tell what content will be covered on the tests. If, for example, you cover the Middle Ages during the year in your history readings and the standardized test asks questions on, say, American history, your child wouldn’t know that content yet. Sometimes it is possible to specify a test that covers only skill questions, but you would need to check your state’s laws and see what your options are. It always saddens me to see parents’ hands being tied by test expectations. Makes me appreciate all the more Charlotte’s emphasis on treating and teaching each child as a person.

          I hope this information is helpful.

  3. Karin Whitney

    Hi. I am looking for a way to simplify spelling and manage the time spent at it (which has ranged from no time to an hour). We have one 3rd grader, two 5th and a 7th. Would it be possible to get away with two book levels rather than three… and does each student need a book, or can this be used as a teacher’s guide?

    • Sonya

      Hi, Karin – Yes, absolutely you can use two book levels for your students’ grade range. I’d be inclined to start with Books One and Two. Your 5th graders could either begin in the second half of Book One or first half of Book Two.

      If you get the printed books, they can be used over. Just have the student study the passage from the book and do his practicing and dictation writing on a separate paper (or on the computer if you want to). If you get the e-book versions, you can easily print the pages you need for the students as they need them (and, of course, print as many copies as you need over the years). Then the student can mark right on the page and you can print a new copy for the next student who needs that page. Either way, you need to purchase only one copy of the book.

  4. Diane

    I like the idea, but since my boys are in jr./sr high, I’m not sure what book to jump in. My 13ds loves to read and his spelling is good. My 16ds was not quick to pick up reading and his spelling is not good. How do I know where to begin?

    • Sonya

      Seems like Book Four might work for both, then. All the books start with shorter passages in the front so the student can get used to doing prepared dictation. As the passages get longer, you could easily select only portions for your 16ds to focus on.

  5. Linda

    I have a 10yr. old son in 5th grade. He does not spell very well. Currently he is using BJ 3rd grade spelling.

    Would Spelling Wisdom Bk 1 be a good place to start? I’m wondering if it might be on the hard side for him.

    I also have five more dc to teach. How teacher intensive is SW?


  6. Dawn

    I am interested in using Spelling Wisdom for my daughter who will be in 5th grade next school year. Should I buy Book 1 or Book 2 for her?

    • Sonya

      @Linda, yes, I think Book 1 would work well for him. The first lessons are very short (only one or two sentences each) and designed to help build confidence. If you get to a point where he is finding more than two or three new words in an exercise, set the book aside for a while. You can always pull it out and use it again later.

      Re teaching intensive: You do a Spelling Wisdom exercise only once or twice a week. The dictation itself takes only a few minutes (maybe 5 or 10). The studying time is the variable. If your child needs help studying any unknown words, you would invest some time with that process. How much depends on the child.

      @Dawn, a lot of it depends on how confident a speller your daughter is. If she struggles with spelling and needs easier exercises to start with, go with Book 1. If she is comfortable with studying spelling words, start with Book 2. The exercises at the beginning of Book 2 are easier and shorter to help the student get the feel of prepared dictation, so she probably wouldn’t be overwhelmed.

  7. Michaela

    Thank you, Sonya for making this wonderful resource available! The kids learned very well with this method and it is much more fun than spelling lists plus they acutally retain so much more.

    In Christ,
    Michaela in Minnesota

  8. Caroline

    I just love this resource! We use Sonlight and CMize it. SL has dictation lessons, but even though they go with the kids’ readers they still left me feeling very disjointed. I couldn’t help feeling that I was missing words they needed to learn. Prepared dictation is wonderful, but I didn’t know how to make sure I was getting everything covered.

    Spelling Wisdom took care of this problem! Now we just do two or three prepared dictations a week and I finally feel relaxed about the whole thing.

  9. Robin

    I have an 8th grade daughter who is terrible at spelling. If only I’d known Charlotte’s thoughts on spelling sooner! Should I start her in book 2 and move to book 3 next year?

    • Sonya

      Usually each book takes two years to go through, based on the recommended pace of doing an exercise once or twice a week. Let’s see if we can get a feel for which book would be close enough to her level to not overwhelm her, but still give her an interesting challenge. The goal is to have no more than two or three (maybe four) unknown words per exercise.

      Here are a couple of exercises from the beginning (shortest and easiest) of Books 2 and 3.

      Book 2:
      “All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words:
      freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

      “Habits are soon assumed; but when we strive to strip them off, it is being flayed alive.”

      Book 3:
      “Not to excite suspicion by her look or manner was now an object worth attaining.”

      “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

      Which of those exercises looks closest to her level, with only two or three unknown words? Then keep in mind that those are the easiest and shortest exercises in those books.

      Does that help with the decision?

  10. Robin

    Sonya, thanks so much for answering my question. It was very helpful.


  11. Justine


    I have a nearly 9 year old who is a great speller and a nearly 11 yr old who struggles a little. Can I teach both from the same book? If so, which book should I start with.

    Thanks ~ Justine

    • Sonya

      Yes, feel free to use the same book for both. I would recommend, however, that you start them at different places in the book and do their dictation lessons on different days of the week so the 11yo doesn’t have as much opportunity to play the “comparison game.”

  12. Frances Holmes


    My 12 & 1/2 yr. old son struggles greatly with spelling. We believe he has some auditory processing difficulties. Is it advisable to do these exercises as copywork and not dictation? He seems to do better if he can see words first before he is expected to sound them out.

    Thanks & God bless,


  13. Linda


    If I’m using The Phonics Road to Spelling & Reading with my 2nd & 3rd graders, would it be too much if I added Spelling Wisdom?

    The Phonics Road teaches all the rules and such but I really like the selections to be copied in Spelling Wisdom.

    Thank you for your time,

    • Sonya

      Frances, certainly you can use the exercises as copywork. Absolutely.

      Linda, I’m not sure how long the Phonics Road curriculum takes, but if you were done with it this year you could easily start Spelling Wisdom in grade 4.

      As far as adding Spelling Wisdom to the Phonics Road, I guess it would depend on how much time you’re spending on it during the week. Spelling Wisdom is done only once or twice a week, so it might fit into your schedule. However, I’m not familiar enough with Phonics Road to have a good feel for time required.

  14. Glori


    should I star spelling wisdom or wait another year?
    my dd will be (technically) on the fourth grade next year. She will be almost nine (birthday on Dec) We haven’t done any spelling whatsoever and she wants to write notes to friends and is constantly misspelling. I thought she was too young since CM age suggestion is 10 I don’t want to frustrated her if this is book is too advance for her. Should I try with book one or you think she is too young?

    Also does Selling wisdom have spelling instruction and English rules or do I need a grammar curriculum for that.

    • Sonya

      Hi, Glori. I would suggest you wait at least until January to begin spelling lessons. The beginning exercises in Spelling Wisdom are quite short so as not to be frustrating, but you want to make sure she has enough of a mental storehouse of words stored up in her brain so that there will be only a few unknown words in each exercise.

      Spelling Wisdom does not include rules because there are so many exceptions to the rules when spelling English words.

  15. Becky

    This looks very promising. My ds will be in 7th grade. He’s very fast to learn, but we have neglected spelling and it’s the only are where he tests below grade level on written spelling (above in visual). Overall test scores are 11th grade level. Our other problem is that he greatly prefers to avoid the physical act of writing and will try to convince me to allow him to answer questions orally or do math in his head. Am I right in thinking that this could give him the writing experience (I was going to do copywork) and the spelling instruction all in one resource? Can you recommend a beginning level for him? Thank you!

    • Sonya

      Many moms use Spelling Wisdom for both spelling and copywork, yes. If he would prefer (and you agree), you could have him type the dictation exercises. Two of my daughters prefer typing to handwriting their spelling exercises. Just open a word processing document, turn off spell-checker, and crank up the font size to about 18pt so you can see over his shoulder as he types. Just an idea. 🙂

      I would think he could start in Book Three. The beginning exercises are shorter and easier to help him adjust to the concept of prepared dictation. Keep in mind the guideline that he should find no more than three or four unknown words in an exercise (fewer in a short exercise with just one sentence). If he’s finding more than three or four words that he doesn’t know how to spell, back up to an easier book. You might want to download the sample and take a look at those exercises to get a feel for whether he might do all right in Book Three.

  16. Anita Hambrick

    Hi Sonya,
    I am homeschooling 3 schoolage children with 3 toddlers. I am trying to switch over to the CM way of schooling. I have a 4th grader, 6th grader, and 9th grader. All have had very little spelling experience ( one year of Sequential spelling about 1/2 the book) Should I just start them all on book one to build a good foundation or should I still try to stick to their grade levels? My 9th grader reads alot of great literature but is a poor speller. My 5th grader doesn’t find reading enjoyable but isn’t terrible at spelling. My 4th grader doesn’t spell well. Any insights would be great!!! Thank you!

    • Sonya

      Good question, Anita. I wouldn’t recommend starting all of them at Book One. The way you can tell if you’re at their level is if they find no more than two or three (maybe four) words that they don’t know how to spell in an exercise.

      If you count up about twelve comments on this page, you’ll see my reply to Robin along with some exercises from Books Two and Three. Those might give you a good feel for how difficult the exercises are and help you decide which books to start with.

  17. Amber

    Can I use book 1 for copywork/penmanship for my first and second grader now? I am looking for copywork that will hold my son’s interest and this seems right up his alley, (quotes from historical figures, Shakespeare, poetry) my only hesitation is I don’t know if the selections would be too long for copywork at this level. He reads very well but writing is still very tedious and difficult. The one sample from book one seems short enough to split into 5 days of copywork but what is your opinion? Of course we would then use it for spelling later as well.

    • Sonya

      The selections grow in length from 1 line to 3 lines to full paragraphs in Book 1. I suppose you could still use them for copywork, just taking more than one week to complete a selection. However, if you’re planning to use it for spelling/dictation later, the joy of discovery would be gone since they would have already “been there done that” with these selections. Do what you think best, of course, but I think I would save them for spelling later.

      Have you looked at the copywork books from Queen Homeschool Supply? I know she has one for little boys.

  18. Rai-Tonicia King


    This sounds like a great resource, however, one of my goals in homeschooling is to provide a culturally diverse education to my children. This goal is especially important concerning literary offerings. Does Spelling Wisdom include works by African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and/or Native American authors? Or does it only include works considered “classic?” Thanks!

    • Sonya

      Hi, Rai-Tonicia. When I was searching for quotes and excerpts for Spelling Wisdom, I must admit that I didn’t consider race or ethnic background; I was just looking for good quotes. I (and the team here at SCM) believe we’re all one race: the human race, so it wasn’t even a factor in our thinking.

      Once I saw your note, I was curious what the mix ended up being, so I went through the bibliographies of all of the books. The selections came from at least 12 different countries. Most of the writings would be considered classic, including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the Bible passages.

      We did intentionally exclude some kinds of literature. We unashamedly approach what we do from a Christian worldview, so we did not consider selections that are out of line with those truths.

      I’m so glad you asked this question, Rai-Tonicia. It was an interesting exercise to research the answer. 🙂

  19. Louise Tountas

    Hi Sonya
    I have 9 yr old son who dislikes reading and a 10 yr old daughter who is an avid reader (bookworm) I have never found a spelling curriculum to work for us. I like the idea of doing spelling 2 – 3 times a week. I can not handle more than that as i have three younger children who take alot of my attention. Spelling has always been a dreaded subject in our home…
    Do you think that this curriculum is interesting enough to hold their attention and help them to enjoy spelling and not dread it so much?
    What book/s would you recommend i begin on?
    How do I order from the UK? Do you have someone in the UK who supplies these books?
    THese are probably questions you are tired of answering. Sorry. I would really appreciate hearing from you.
    Many Thanks

    • Sonya

      They’re good questions, Louise. I’ve heard back from many moms saying that their children really enjoy this method of spelling. The selections in the Spelling Wisdom books hold their interest and also help them learn spelling in context rather than in isolated lists.

      The British spelling version is available only as an e-book. Downloading it will save you a lot of time and shipping expense. Then you can print out each page as you need it. I would recommend getting Book 1 for now. Start your 9yo at the beginning to build his confidence, and start your 10yo near the middle. Once you hit an exercise where she finds about three words that she doesn’t know how to spell, you’ll be at about the right place for her.

  20. Tamberly

    I have been using Spelling Power with 5 of my 6 children for only 1 school year. Everyone but my oldest has had lots of trouble with it. I am considering switching to Spelling Wisdom but would like to know what your thoughts are on it compared to Spelling Power. Thank you so much!

    • Sonya

      Spelling Wisdom is a totally different way of doing spelling lessons than Spelling Power, Tamberly. Whereas Spelling Power teaches words in lists of word families, Spelling Wisdom teaches words in the context of an interesting idea.

      Another main difference is that with Spelling Power the student takes the test first to see which words he doesn’t know how to spell. With Spelling Wisdom, the student looks over the passage to identify any words he doesn’t know how to spell and studies them before any “test” is given. Spelling Wisdom doesn’t want the student guessing at a word’s spelling. Preparation and constantly seeing the word spelled correctly are key components.

  21. kathy

    Could you please give me 3 or 4 more examples from book one?

    • Sonya

      Sure, Kathy.

      • Exercise 10: “There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” – Charles Dickens
      • Exercise 23: “Who is there that doesn’t get a scratch when an enemy holds the rake?” – James Fenimore Cooper, The Deerslayer
      • Exercise 70: “In a recent motor ride it was found that we had gone at the rate of ten miles an hour, but we did the return journey over the same route, owing to the roads being more clear of traffic, at fifteen miles an hour. What was our average speed? Do not be too hasty in your answer to this simple little question or it is pretty certain that you will be wrong.” – Henry Ernest Dudeney, Amusements in Mathematics
      • Exercise 103 is the poem “The Arrow and the Song” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
  22. michelle

    I have a 13yod, 12yos, 9 yod. I am considering buying book one so we start at the beginning and also because they have never done any copywork (gasp) before or formal spelling. I thought seeing as how I have a 9 yo and a slower 12 year old this would be the place to start.

    My 13yod is more than capable I am sure for even a more advanced but if I can only buy one level I thought why not overburden her with more advanced copywork. This has to be a lighter year because of my health and she will be called upon to help more.

    Is any of this making sense? Please, I give you permission to tell me I am all wet and should buy a different level. Any advice would be appreciated.


    • Sonya

      Yes, it makes sense, Michelle. You might want to start your 9yo and 12yo at different places in the book if your 12yo might feel awkward about being at the same “level” as the 9yo.

  23. Robin

    I have a son who is a junior and has never spelled well. He has mentally given up and we have tried any number of different methods. Please suggest what can be done at this late date. He is very discouraged about it and has started school this year in a college prep high school and the one thing that is holding him back from excelling is his spelling. Any suggestions?

    • Sonya

      Hi, Robin. Charlotte Mason believed that the key to good spelling was developing the habit of looking at how words are spelled as you are reading. Is your son a good reader? If so, you might try this little exercise to help him develop that habit: First, explain to him about looking at how words are spelled as he reads. Second, give him a paragraph to read out of a book that he is using for a class. Tell him that when he is done reading it, you will ask him how to spell one of the words in the paragraph. Pick an easier word for the first few times, to help him build confidence. Just doing that simple exercise a couple of times a day might help him start to develop that habit of looking at how words are spelled as he reads.

      You’ll also find some helpful information in the Introduction pages of Spelling Wisdom. Download the sample for free and you’ll see those pages.

      Once he progresses past the one-or-two-words-from-a-paragraph, you could start him studying the whole paragraph, which is the method used in Spelling Wisdom exercises.

  24. Robin

    Hi Sonya,

    How are the books arranged? By rules, common words to know by certain grades, etc?

    I’m new to CM way of teaching and am wondering how this works. We are using a great spelling program but the dictation is dreadful. I would rather use the wonderful quotes I saw in the examples.


    • Sonya

      Hi, Robin. The books are arranged so that each one contains more difficult words and longer passages. Each one starts with shorter exercises in case a student is just getting started with the whole idea of prepared dictation. But overall, the passages are more difficult as you progress through the books.

      The exercises are not set up according to word families or rules. One of the strengths of this style of dictation is that the child sees the words used in context. So he learns to spell each word as it is, rather than learning the “formula” for that particular word-family list and then not carrying that formula over when he uses the word in a sentence some other time.

      The series covers the 6,000 most frequently used words in the English language, but they are not divided into grade levels. They simply get progressively harder as you work your way through the books.

      Hope this helps!

  25. MArjorie

    Hi Sonya,
    I was thinking about purchasing spelling wisdom ebooks but was wondering if once downloaded if they can be put on cd for hardcopy in case of computer failure as for I have had many problems with my last computer crashing and wouldn’t want to have to replace them even at their discounted cost when buying them all at once.

    Thank you so much Marjorie 🙂

    • Doug

      Hi Marjorie,

      Yes, we encourage you to make a backup of your e-books for that reason. And if you ever do lose one just let us know and we’ll take care of you. Of course, it’s always better to be prepared and never lose one, though. 🙂

  26. Cindy K.

    Would doing a passage as copywork for a day or 2 before doing dictation serve the purpose of studying the passage? Would this still be in line with CM teachings?

    • Sonya

      Yes, Cindy, using the passage for copywork could be a good part of the studying process. However, I wouldn’t depend on it solely. It’s easy to copy a word yet not learn its spelling. So you would probably want to still do the initial look-through with the child to identify any words he/she doesn’t know how to spell, and give those some extra attention.

  27. Jennifer

    I’m currently using book one with my 6 and 8th grader. I’m wondering how to use the longer passages towards the end of the book. Also, the really long passages in book four–should the student copy it in one session? How many times? Should I dictate the passage in one sitting? WWCMD?

    • Sonya

      For the longer passages, the student should study and prepare the whole passage but you can select just a portion to dictate.

  28. Vera

    Hi Sonya,

    Would you recommend Spelling Wisdom for a struggling junior? If so, what level and would you recommend accelerating the pace, to maybe to say, 4-5 times a week?


    • Sonya

      Vera, I think prepared dictation is a great method to help any struggling student or adult. The Books do not have a grade level on the covers, so you can start with whichever one fits best. A good guideline is for the passage to contain not more than three or four unknown words for your student (words he doesn’t know how to spell). If you download the sample and look at the exercises from the various Books, look for how many unknown words you see in them. If you scroll up a bit on these comments, you’ll also see more exercises from Book One. Hopefully, those samples will help you determine which book would work best.

      Each book starts with shorter exercises, and several moms have told me that the child enjoys the method so much that they go through those short exercises at a quicker pace. Be careful of rushing through too quickly. If your son catches on quickly and is making good progress, you might do 3 times a week, but I don’t think I’d do it every day.

  29. Wendy

    Sonya, I have one very left-brain 9y/o son and one VERY right-brain 6.5 y/o son… my older son does really well in spelling- we’re using Spelling Workout which has been great for him as he loves the rules that go along with the spelling lists, for him the spelling rules help him make sense of the words. My 6.5 y/o, however, is not so concerned about the rules, the ‘how & why’ of it all, and for him things like spelling rule will bog him down and confuse the issue. We haven’t formally begun any spelling with him yet, and don’t intend to until he’s older, but I think this approach will really be an encouraging one for him… my concern is that without learning spelling in word families or according to certain spelling rules, he will experience ‘gaps’ as words here are learned individually based on what the child knows/doesn’t know vs. learned in groups of similar words? I hope this makes sense… Thanks!

    • Sonya

      Wendy, your explanation makes perfect sense, yes. Two things come to mind in response. First, Charlotte didn’t emphasize spelling rules because the English language has so many exceptions to those rules. I was reminded of that fact again today when my beginning reader was trying to sound out “shoe.” It doesn’t fit the typical rules (no pun intended). That’s just one example. There are probably hundreds of words that refuse to fall in line with word families.

      Second, concerning gaps: we all have gaps in our mental spelling storehouses, because there will always be words that we haven’t seen before. Once we hear them, we can guess at their spelling, but we won’t know for sure whether we’re right until we see them and can compare our guess with the real thing. The goal of dictation is to teach the child to see how words are spelled as he reads. Once a child has developed that habit, he will be continually filling in any gaps for the rest of his life. Prepared dictation cultivates that habit by having the child look at the words in context, where he will be seeing them for the rest of his life.

  30. Kathy Stuart

    Hi Sonya,
    I also would be interested in a print version of Spelling Wisdom with British spellings. Also,how much American content do you put in each book.


  31. Darla

    Will be trying to use a CM style next year for the first time with a 10th & 12th grader…. have always been homeschooled and been using spelling power i want to try dictation but don’t want to overwhelm. Should i get book 3 or book 4?

    • Sonya

      Good question, Darla. If neither student struggles with spelling, and both are comfortable reading such authors as Jane Austen or James Fenimore Cooper, I think Book Four would work well. The exercises in the first half of the book are not even half a page long, so I don’t think they would overwhelm. And remember that on the longer passages, the student should study the whole thing but you can dictate only a portion of your choosing.

  32. Shelley

    Hello, I have a 6 yr old who is a voracious reader. She pretty much taught herself to read the summer after she turned 4 and is now reading (very easily) on a 6th grade level. We are currently finishing first grade with her. She reads with such ease, but her spelling is not good. She loves to write stories and books and such, but we spend all of our time with, “Mom, how do you spell _____?” I try to help her figure it out as much as she can on her own, but then she gets very frustrated and doesn’t want to write. I am struggling with encouraging her to write, but not spelling everything for her. I know you say that CM didn’t recommend formal spelling lessons until around 3rd grade, but I am afraid that she will have developed some pretty bad habits if I just hold off. Any suggestions? Should we just start reviewing spelling rules? I just don’t want to mess this up.

    • Sonya

      Here is what I would suggest, Shelley.

      1. Encourage her to look at how words are spelled as she is reading. You can do a fun, informal game with her to help her start this habit. Use a book she is reading anyway. Tell her that you want her to read a certain paragraph (a short one to start with!) once and then you are going to ask her how to spell one of the words in it. When she has read the paragraph, select a word and have her spell it orally. Start with an easy word in the beginning times of the game in order to help her build confidence.
      2. When she asks you how to spell words, tell her. I know it can be time consuming and tedious sometimes, but you want her to see the words spelled correctly as much as possible. If she wants to learn correct spelling, help her do so.
      3. Encourage her to look at how words are spelled as she does copywork. This is another great opportunity for her to learn to look at words’ spellings as she reads.
      4. All of these activities will help her build a mental storehouse of correctly spelled words, so once she gets to formal spelling lessons around third grade, she will have only 3 or 4 words per exercise that she doesn’t know how to spell.

        You are laying the foundation now, and I hope these ideas help.

      • Shelley

        Thank you so much Sonya… great ideas!!
        Something else happened after I posted my question the other day. She was having trouble spelling a small list of very easy words…words that she easily reads on a regular basis. We stopped and I asked her to close her eyes and imagine the word on the page of a book in a sentence. I asked her if she could see it and she said that she could. I asked her to look at it and to quietly “read” the letters in her mind. After a couple of seconds I told her to open her eyes and write what she just saw. She opened her eyes and immediately corrected the spelling of the word. We did it with each misspelled word and she was able to correct almost every one of them with little or no problem.
        I think that your suggestions go a long with this as well. Since reading and spelling are different skill sets, all of these things might help to connect the two!!!
        Thank you~

  33. Melissa

    Sonya, I greatly enjoyed your video. You made me excited to want to teach spelling in this manner. I felt such a sense of peace seeing how spelling can be taught in a manner so different from anything I’ve had on hand and attempted to use with my older daughter who is 8. She is doing what we call 3rd grade this year. I’ve never done a spelling program with her before but have tried a few sources this year to see if anything would be a hit. So far, not so good really and we’ve set it all aside.
    I noticed that you mentioned age 10 for starting. And now I am wondering if it’d be best to put off spelling until 10. Or if you think that book 1 might be a nice place to work from.
    She is just beginning grammar this year using Climbing to Good English (one page per day) and does daily copywork.

    Thank you so much for your time and such a neat resource.

    • Sonya

      Melissa, I’m so glad the video was encouraging for you! I think it would be good to wait at least until your daughter is 9, or is about halfway through 3rd grade. Feel free to wait until she is 10, or 4th grade. Keep in mind that these years before starting formal spelling lessons are not wasted. They are laying the foundation by helping her see words spelled correctly as she reads and does her copywork. As she adds correctly-spelled words to her mental storehouse, she will be well prepared to do the dictation lessons in a few months, because you want only about 3 or 4 words per lesson that she does not know how to spell.

      In these preparation years, you can encourage her to develop the habit of looking at how words are spelled as she reads and does copywork. A few ideas for that are given just a couple of posts up from this one, in my reply to Shelley.

  34. E

    I have a 5th grader who has a bit of a photographic memory when it comes to spelling, and he’s an advanced speller for being 11 1/2. I perused the sample download, and he could breeze through the Gettysburg address from Book 3, and could probably get through Exercise 112 from Book 4. With what book and where in that book do you suggest he should start?

    • Sonya

      A photographic memory would be very handy in achieving the goal of noticing how words are spelled as you are reading. Sounds like your student will have an easy time of it. In that case, the exercises will more serve the purpose of giving him interesting “mind food,” modeling good writing style, and reinforcing correct punctuation and capitalization. Your student might find a word here and there to challenge him, as well.

      With that in mind, I would probably start him in Book 3. If he is familiar with Pilgrim’s Progress, you could start with Exercise 22, the poem John Bunyan wrote about his book. If he likes math problems, you could start with Exercise 39. Or find another exercise that is from a book he has enjoyed.

  35. Leslie

    My 9 ds is dyslexic and his spelling is HORRIBLE! Will this work well with him? I want to make things easier for us all this year.

    • Sonya

      Spelling Wisdom was not specifically designed for helping with dyslexia, so I’m not sure whether it will make things easier for him. I would think that seeing the words in context would be helpful to someone who struggles with dyslexia, so that aspect might make things easier. Then you could help him study the words he doesn’t know and use any techniques that you have learned that might be specific to his needs.

  36. Malissa

    Hi. I am most likely going to be homeschooling my brother this coming fall. He has high functioning autism and will be in the 12th grade. He can read extremly well and I think his comprehension is fine. Do you think he would be okay on book 5 of this series? My concern is that he has had very little, if any, handwriting practice since elementary school. What do you think? Also, what do you recommend for a situation like this? Is there anywhere I can get help on this that you know of? I am asking everywhere I can. By the way, we are already going to be using Genesis through Deuteronomy. Thanks for all your help and God Bless You!

    • Sonya

      If his reading and comprehension skills are fine, Book 5 should be all right, but keep in mind a couple of things. The exercises get pretty long. Usually, we recommend that the student study the whole exercise, then you select just a portion to actually dictate. I don’t know if that uncertainty (which portion?) will be unsettling for him. If you think that unknown factor might cause problems, you may want to go with Book 3 or Book 4 that has shorter passages.

      One thing you might do RE the handwriting is allow him to type the passage as you dictate it. Two of my daughters prefer typing their dictation. Just open a word processing document, turn off spell check (!), and select a large font size so you can read over his shoulder as he types.

  37. Shannan

    I have a 10 yo dd with some audio processing issues. I have recently been looking into doing dictation to increase her listening skills. She reads at her level, but doesn’t enjoy to read because of her struggles with comprehension. She can read a whole page very well but then not be able to express it in her own words what the page meant. She is a good speller, but her syntax and sentence structure lacks tremendously in her writing. At the same time I have a 13 yo 6th grader (son) who LOVES to read but has terrible spelling. His comprehension is good.

    I would appreciate your thoughts…should I pursue just using some dictation from selections they are studying in Bible, history or literature to supplement on what they are already doing or would this spelling curr be more beneficial? If so, which book?

    • Sonya

      Prepared dictation could be a good tool for both of your students, Shannan. Two points to remember: First, make sure the student is preparing/studying the passage until she is certain she knows how to spell all the words and is familiar with the capitalization and punctuation. Then dictate it. Second, start with short passages, especially for your 10yo. You might want to do just a one-sentence famous quote or proverb to begin with. Since she is a good speller, she may already know how to spell all the words in the sentence, but by backing off to that short amount, she should be able to concentrate on comprehension and soaking up the sentence structure.

      Spelling Wisdom is a collection of dictation exercises. You can certainly select your own exercises from the Bible or good living books that you are currently reading. The main benefits from going with Spelling Wisdom are that you will be sure you are covering the 6,000 most frequently used words in the English language, and you won’t have to spend time searching for your own exercises.

  38. tony

    Is Spelling Wisdom used in any schools? Are there any teachers that have used this in a classroom setting?

    • Jordan

      The prepared dictation principles from Spelling Wisdom were used by Charlotte Mason in her schools. So yes, this spelling method has been used in schools.

  39. Jen

    Thank you for this wonderful resource! I was a little hesitant to do this type of ‘program’; howeve,r it has been absolutely wonderful!!!! Little by little I have been transferring over to Charlotte Mason type living books and resources for our learning. Spelling has been a tough one for us, especially my oldest son who is an atrocious speller. The improvement has been incredible! I can’t believe how well he is progressing! It is such an easy process! Praise the Lord! For the other moms out there who may wonder if this can truly be a great way to learn to spell…it is! 🙂 No fighting, no hassle, great literature passages all wrapped into one bundle of simplicity! Beautiful! Thank you!!! No more boring lists for us! Yeah!!!! 🙂


  40. Karen

    Hi, I have found that book 2 is not much of a challenge for my 11 year-old. She is a very good speller and I am wondering if I should get book 3. It is a challenge for her to memorize the passages, however.

    • Sonya Shafer

      Hi, Karen. It sounds like your daughter is developing the great habit of looking at how words are spelled as she reads. That’s one of the goals of doing spelling with prepared dictation. Memorizing the passages isn’t a requirement, but if you want to assign one or two special ones for memorization and recitation, that’s fine.

      My daughters have a pretty easy time with the exercises as well, but I continue to have them do Spelling Wisdom once or twice a week for a couple of reasons. First, it reinforces that habit I mentioned above; and once they have that habit set up, it will help them learn how to spell new words into their adult lives. Second, since the passages are taken from great literature and poetry and such, I like the little reinforcement the exercises give toward good sentence structure, correct grammar, and punctuation and capitalization, all wrapped up in a little nugget to ponder and enjoy.

      Since your daughter is only eleven, I would probably lean toward keeping her in Book 2 and not skipping ahead at this point. She has plenty of years ahead of her to enjoy the other exercises as she gleans nuggets along the way.

  41. April

    I hope I do not offend anyone I am simply asking, we are new to homeschooling and I am curious why it is only recommended to do this two or three times a week. Wouldnt doing it daily help reinforce the spelling concepts? Thank you.

    • Sonya Shafer

      Great question, April. The short answer is that Charlotte Mason scheduled dictation only twice or so a week, but your question urged me to go back and think through why she did so (I love questions that do that!). And a few possible reasons come to mind.

      Charlotte liked to keep variety in her weekly schedule. She rarely did the same thing daily. This variety helped the children pay close attention, for it didn’t over-fatigue one part of their brains. Of course, the children were seeing good writing every day as they read their living books, so the spelling concepts were reinforced that way.

      Another possibility for the twice-a-week schedule might be that some passages can take a child longer to prepare. Sometimes a child needs a couple of days to study a passage before he is really ready for it to be dictated. This situation is especially true as the passages get longer. So the child may actually be studying his dictation passage daily (in a short lesson time), but doing the writing-from-dictation exercise only a couple of times a week.

  42. Michele

    I was checking out using Spelling Wisdom for my soon to be 13yos (grade 7) and was wondering how to place him/which book to start with.

    I’ve seen the samples and tried out the earlier and later samples for book 3 on my son. The exercise 9 was very easy for him and he knew all the
    words. With the exercise 136 sample, he didn’t know a handful, but that was much longer.

    How do you handle going through the book if there’s an exercise that is easy for your child? Do you just do it anyway, valuing the quote for what it is and study the punctuation, etc.?

    I’m just not sure which book to get: 3 or 4.

    • Sonya Shafer

      Right, even if a passage is easy, we do it anyway to feed our minds with the idea in it, to once again read something that is well-written, and to study the punctuation.

      For 7th grade, I would probably recommend Book 3. You can start halfway through, if you want to. But since each book should give enough exercises to last a couple of years (doing two per week), you could do Book 3 in 7th and 8th grades, Book 4 in 9th and 10th, and Book 5 in 11th and 12th.

  43. Suz


    First, let me say “thank you” for providing such wonderful resources at really affordable prices. Kudos!

    Next, let me ask a question: Next year I will have a 5th grader and a 7th grader. I’ve always used dictation and narration, but grew weary of finding it all, typing it all, etc. Do you suggest Book 2 for both dc, or Book 2 for grade 5 and Book 3 for grade 7, since I’ll then have the “next step” on the road for future years?

    • Sonya Shafer

      Hi, Suz. Thanks for the encouraging words!

      You could go either way, really; but if your 7th grader is used to doing dictation, Book 3 would probably be a better fit. If you did decide to use Book 2 with both, you would want to start your 7th grader closer to the middle of the book, while your 5th grader would start at the beginning.

  44. Tabitha

    I am looking forward to seeing you and/or your booth at the Homeschool Book Fair in Arlington. I have a list of books I’d like to buy including Spelling Wisdom. If I can’t afford to buy them there, I will have to do a follow up order after convention. I’m excited to read up over the summer break (length to be determined) to regroup and tweak our plan with your wisdom.

    I realize I’m being silly to tell you so early, but I’m very excited about the fair. I’d also like to get physical copies of the materials. (I guess I’m old fashioned that way.)

  45. Laura


    I just purchased Spelling Wisdom, Book 1 to use with my 10 year-old daughter. She reads extensively and we are currently using Spelling Power. We have not done any copywork or dictation and I am looking forward to using your book for both of these purposes. I am wondering how to deal with puctuation both in preparing the passages and during the dictation exercise. As I am dictating, do I actually tell her where to place a comma, semi-colon, and so on? Or do I watch for punctuation errors and correct as we go, or even cover up errors (not sure how that would work)?

    Thank you for your excellent products and your commitment to helping parents educate our children!

    • Sonya Shafer

      Dictation’s main focus is correct spelling. Now, the method is multi-faceted in that it reinforces punctuation, capitalization, good writing style, etc; but the main focus is correct spelling.

      Yes, punctuation should be studied along with the spelling while preparing the passage, but I usually give some wiggle room in the punctuation and focus most of my attention on the spelling in the actual dictation exercise. I expect the straight-forward, foundational punctuation to be correct, but a missing obscure comma or something like that doesn’t bother me.

      Charlotte specifically said not to dictate the punctuation as you speak the exercise, so don’t tell her where to place the comma, semi-colon, etc. It might work well to wait until the end of the passage, and then talk through any punctuation mistakes and correct those when the student can see the whole passage and how it flows.

  46. Cara


    I’ve been looking for a new spelling curriculum for my 9 yo. daughter. She does great at spelling tests from lists, but spells terrible when just writing on her own. I lean towards the thought that spelling follows some rules, but all the rules are broken so much that it’s primarily memorization and visualization, but still feel torn that maybe I should give her more rules. I’ve seen the Spell to Read and Write book that is heavy into rules, but it seems like way too much work for spelling. Can you tell me how well students perform after using this program? Does it work for spelling-challenged students? Also, is there a reason that the lists are working for testing, but she doesn’t seem to be advancing on “natural” spelling? Will Spelling Wisdom help with innate spelling ability?

    • Sonya Shafer

      Hi, Cara –

      We have received lots of good feedback, telling us that this method works well. A couple of reasons for that success relate directly to what you mentioned you are dealing with.

      First, many students struggle with making the transition from lists to “real writing.” With Spelling Wisdom, the student is always seeing the words used in context rather than in lists.

      Second, the method of prepared dictation develops a habit within students that will carry them through to their adult years; that habit is paying attention to how words are spelled as you read. The first step of any prepared dictation lesson is reading through the passage and identifying any words the student doesn’t yet know how to spell. As this habit is engrained, the student can easily continue that process with anything she reads the rest of her life.

  47. Marissa D Fontanini

    I love this curriculum. I was considering Spelling Power when I found this. Can I use the samples as a placement “test”? My daughter is very used to doing dictation and an unusually good speller. I dictated all of the passages to her and she didn’t miss any until she got to book four (the first passage). Should I start her there? She is only 10, but all of the punctuation and spelling were correct on the previous passages.

    • Sonya Shafer

      Hi, Marissa. Sounds like your daughter has naturally developed the habit of looking at how words are spelled as she reads. That’s great! It will make her dictation that much easier for her.

      I’m not sure that the sample exercises will give you an accurate placement simply because they are such a small portion of the 140 exercises in each book.

      Also, keep in mind that the process of doing prepared dictation twice a week will provide many benefits besides just the mechanics of spelling and punctuation. Two of my daughters are similar in that they usually know most if not all of the words. However, I still have them do the dictation because it is (1) feeding them ideas, (2) reinforcing good writing styles, (3) reinforcing good grammar, (4) plus the possibility of teaching them a new word, and (5) reinforcing good punctuation. So I would encourage you to look at Spelling Wisdom as a helpful long-range tool more than a set of books to finish as quickly as possible.

      And remember that most of the helpfulness will come in the pre-dictation studying process. Make sure your daughter studies the passage before it is dictated.

  48. Coral

    Would I be able to put these on my kindle?

  49. Jan

    Hi Sonya,

    I noticed in the sample e-book that “vapor” seems to use the american spelling; wouldn’t the british spelling be “vapour”?

    Would you mind giving me an idea of how different the american/british books are. I’m thinking I may jsut go with the american version.


    • Sonya Shafer

      Hi, Jan. The sample is the American version; it is posted to give you an idea of the format of the books. The British version does use the British spellings. We had a British CM mom (or mum) go through the books and help us spot the words that needed to be changed. You can find more specifics under the heading above called “British Version Differences.”

  50. Daphne LaRosa

    I have been using Spelling Power with my 8 1/2 year old. She is 3rd/4th grade. Don’t get me wrong I like spelling power, but it is list form, and I think she will like this better. We us the Writing With Ease series from Peace Hill Press and she is doing Narration and dictation. Our Grammar First Language lessons uses dictation as well. But it isn’t studied prior to the dictation.

    It this pretty user friendly? What about Dictionary skill training?

    • Sonya Shafer

      The main concept behind Charlotte Mason’s approach to spelling is seeing and studying the words in context before the passage is ever dictated. So Spelling Wisdom is mainly a set of dictation exercises taken from good literature. Because of that focus, it is simple to use. You do it once or twice a week; at that rate a book will last you a couple of years.

      You may be able to get the same results, however, just by changing the way you do the other dictation exercises that are already in your schedule. If you encourage your daughter to study the passages ahead of time, you could use the exercises you’re already doing and not have to add another dictation lesson during the week. In fact, I would highly recommend you not do cold-turkey dictation, as that approach encourages the children to guess at how words are spelled. Studying the passage ahead of time makes sure they are seeing the correct spellings right from the start.

      The best way to teach dictionary skills is to incorporate them naturally as they come up. If you come across a word you don’t know the meaning of, take that teachable moment to demonstrate how to find it in the dictionary. Little by little across the years and in natural situations will make those types of reference skills stick.

  51. Renee

    Hi Sonya, excited about using the books with my 4 kids this winter. As I look over the ebook, i am wondering how others, or how you recommend we do the actual writing of the dictation. I am concerned about them not writing on actual lines. Their work (especially the boys) will be really sloppy. I understand that CM did not want dictation to be combined with handwriting practice, but I don’t want to print a whole page for a few lines if I am not going to have them write on it, and instead use paper with lines. Any suggestions or perspective (like I am making a mountain out of a molehill). Did I make sense?:)

    • Sonya Shafer

      I usually have the children write their dictation on a separate sheet of lined paper. They study the passage from the printed book. A few ideas come to mind for you.

      If you’re planning to print the page anyway, you might create your own printed book one page at a time. As you print a page, put it in a notebook for future use with the other children. Then they can do their writing on separate lined paper, but the printed page wouldn’t be wasted.

      Or you might try laying a sheet of darkly-lined paper behind the printed page. If the lines are dark enough, the children would be able to see them through the page and use those lines as a guide while writing directly on the page.

      If you don’t want to print the pages, the children could study the passage from the computer screen.

      Hope this helps!

  52. Jodie

    We’ve been doing Spelling Wisdom for a while now and my son is struggling more with the punctuation than with the spelling. It has become really stressful for him. Is it ever acceptable (especially with a particularly difficult sentence) to offer hints at punctuation? We also do separate copywork and he never makes mistakes on that. It is with dictation. Maybe we need to take more practice time and have him copy it first? I just need a little help here:)

    • Sonya Shafer

      Great question, Jodie. The main goal of prepared dictation is correct spelling. It reinforces and reviews good style, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation, but those are not its main focus. So I encourage each mom to decide how much emphasis she is going to put on correct punctuation in the dictation exercises. If it is becoming an issue, you want to tweak something, you’re right.

      Charlotte warned us not to dictate the punctuation (“end of sentence period”-type thing), so you definitely don’t want to do that. But here are a few ideas that might be helpful.

      • You could take more time and have him copy the passage first, as you mentioned; however, I’m not sure just copying will draw his attention to punctuation. Therefore, I would suggest you . . .
      • Go over the punctuation with him beforehand, and explain why certain marks are in certain places. Of course, if the passage is long and involves a lot of punctuation, you may want to hold him accountable for it in stages. You might first discuss end-of-sentence punctuation, and then hold him accountable to get those correct in the dictation. After he has a track record of mastering that aspect over several exercises, you might focus on another type of punctuation next, explaining and holding accountable as you keep moving along.
      • Now, you haven’t mentioned his level, so I’m not sure whether we’re dealing with a beginning 10yo or an experienced 17yo, but if his punctuation basics are in place and he’s just struggling with oddities, like poetry punctuation, you have the freedom to decide whether to overlook as he writes and just insert (and possibly discuss the why’s) after the fact. Sometimes I’ll do this with my 15yo. She’ll hesitate in her writing because she knows some type of punctuation goes there but can’t recall whether it’s a comma or semi-colon, for example. In that case, I’ll tell her which it is so she can keep moving and concentrate most on the spelling.

      It’s up to you. One thing you don’t want to do is frustrate him to the point where he shies away from writing. So use your common sense and mommy intuition. Hope some of these ideas help.

  53. Kim

    Oh my goodness! I feel like the biggest fool never having looked into Charlotte Mason education until now! My daughter has homeschooled and attended public charters. She is currently enrolled in K12, but I find it to be a lot of busy work. Her spelling lessons are from lists, where she typically only gets 0-4 of 22 words wrong on the pretest. She’s bored with it.

    My daughter is 9yrs old (skipped a grade), is currently in 4th grade(and bored with the curriculum) and tested at an 8th grade reading comprehension level. From your samples and the ebook samples, I don’t see how she will be challenged at anything less than Book 4. Am I crazy for going for it? I guess if it was too much I could save it for later & go to Book 3. What’s your opinion, Sonya?

    • Sonya Shafer

      I’m glad you’ve discovered the great CM method of prepared dictation, Kim. I’ll be happy to give an opinion, but this is definitely a situation where you will need to teach the child, not the curriculum. In other words, take all the information into account, but realize that you know your child better than anyone else, and make an informed decision based on that superior knowledge.

      You’re right that she will most likely find CM-style spelling lessons much more interesting than lists. It sounds like she is already developing the habit of looking at how words are spelled as she reads; that’s great. That habit will serve her well into adult life and probably accounts for her missing so few words on the pretest.

      One thing to keep in mind is that prepared dictation has several side benefits. The main goal is correct spelling, but it also reinforces many skills, like correct punctuation, capitalization, good sentence structure, and good grammar. So even if she knows most (or all) of the words’ spelling in the exercise, it can still be beneficial to do that exercise. Does that make sense?

      Your sweet spot will be an exercise with no more than three or four unknown spelling words in it. If it contains more than that many, back off to an easier exercise. You don’t want an exercise with 22 new words to learn. If the exercise has fewer unknown words, that’s fine. Your student will still be gaining all the other benefits as she studies its punctuation, capitalization, and such. Also keep in mind that the Spelling Wisdom exercises grow longer and more difficult as you progress through the book. Easier exercises are located at the front of each book to help students find their groove with this method, in case it’s new to them.

      So now you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, yeah, okay, just give me a number, lady.” 😉 I think in your situation I would use either Book 2 or Book 3, probably Book 2. But that’s just my opinion, which brings us full circle to encourage you to teach the child, not the curriculum.

      Hope this helps a little.

      • Kim

        Thanks for the reply, Sonya. You are right about teaching the child, not the curriculum. I’ve struggled with school teachers over this same point, hence, why dd is back at home. I greatly appreciate your advice. Dd also has great grammar and punctuation skills due to school drilling so young. I’m sure some of the acquired skills are not yet to her full understanding. A good reason not to push her too far ahead, allowing her to master tose skills. Thanks so much for your insight.

        P.S. I loved the detailed explanation. Thanks!

  54. Leslie

    Dear Sonya,

    May I begin with, “thank you?” Our family treasures the items we’ve purchased and appreciate both the excellence in product and adherence to the CM approach. As I consider moving to Spelling wisdom, I have a question. My daughter is in 2nd grade, but reads at about an 8th-9th grade level. She is spelling currently at 5th grade ranking, according to Spelling Power. Where do you suggest we begin?
    With love for education,

    • Sonya Shafer

      Thanks so much for the encouragement. I’m grateful that our site and products have helped you as you minister to your precious family.

      It sounds like your daughter may be a natural speller. That’s great! One of the beauties of Charlotte’s prepared-dictation approach is firmly securing spelling skills in the context of great sentence structure, along with capitalization and punctuation reinforcement. So I think I would recommend that you start in Book 1 and switch to transcription for now. That will do a couple of things: give her a little break from formal spelling lessons and help her make the transition to thinking of spelling in context along with capitalization and punctuation. Plus, she will be feeding her mind more great ideas all the while. 🙂

  55. masterpiece

    Hi! I am wondering why you suggest using this one or two days per week rather than more often? My 12-year-old spells very well and I think 1-2/week will be plenty for him, but my 10-year-old pretty much just invents spellings as he goes along, even for very basic words that he has already “learned”. Wouldn’t it be more useful to have him do this more often so that he keeps remembering to spell carefully? What is the rationale behind recommending this lower frequency?

    And another question…we are actually a trilingual family, and I’m thinking about tying to find similar passages in our other languages in order to work on spelling in the same style. If I were to do so, would you recommend doing, say, two days a week in English and a different two days in one of the other languages, as if they were totally separate subjects? Or would you still limit it to two days per week in whatever language, as if it were just one subject with different rules?

    Thanks for your help and for taking the time to answer the questions. The ones above have already been very helpful to me 🙂

    • Sonya Shafer

      Great questions, masterpiece. We recommend doing one or two exercises per week because that’s the frequency we saw on Charlotte Mason’s original schedules. Some moms spread the pre-dictation study time out over a couple of days, depending on the length of the exercise and the level of the student. So doing the actual dictation only once or twice during the week allows that extra time in between for more study as needed. The main thing is to go at a pace that helps your student develop a habit of looking at how words are spelled as he reads.

      I love your idea to do dictation in another language too. The frequency would again depend on the length of the exercise and the level of the student. If it’s a passage that he can prepare easily and with minimal study time, you could add it to the weekly schedule, I would think. But if the passages are longer, you’ll want to be careful that your dictation lessons don’t drag out every day all week.

  56. Melissa

    I too would be interested in a printed book in the British version and am from Canada also.

  57. Tisha

    We have used Spelling Wisdom, Volume 1 for the past year and a half. It is a truly wonderful way to “do” spelling. I love the selections in the book. They have a way of whetting my children’s appetites for more. We have even used some of the poems for memorization…just for fun! They love being able to recite an entire poem from memory. So, thank you SCM! We are making plans to order our next volume for the coming year!

    This is a wonderful resource!

  58. CarrieAnn Thomas

    I LOVE Simply Charlotte Mason and your products. We utilize many of them in our school and constantly refer others to SCM! I am trying to decide which Charlotte Mason-based Spelling program to use. Can you answer these questions?

    Do you have an index of words used- so we can look up particular passages for words we know our child has difficulty spelling?

    Do you have an index to look up spelling patterns/rules in words and see which lessons cover those words?

    How do the lessons become progressively more difficult? Word and Sentence length becomes longer or trickier words added? Just wondering how it was all ordered and organized.

    Thank you for your time!

    • Sonya Shafer

      Hi, CarrieAnn. I’ll try to answer your questions. Yes, there is an index in the back of each book that lists every word used in every exercise. No, the books do not have an index that references spelling rules, because Charlotte didn’t teach spelling in that way. Yes, the passages become increasingly longer and more difficult, using more difficult words, as you progress through a book. Each book starts with some shorter passages, in order to help any students who are just beginning the method with that book, but they increase in difficulty as you move along.

      Hope this information helps!

  59. Amie Thomas

    I’m looking for a spelling program for my daughter to use this fall. She will be in 2nd grade, but is easily reading at a 4th grade level. I’ve considered starting Spelling Power, but I prefer this. I think she would be able to complete the first sample, but obviously not the second yet. Should I start her on book one, or should I wait another year?

    • Sonya Shafer

      Hi, Amie. I would recommend waiting another year. In the meantime, encourage her to develop the habit of looking at how words are spelled as she reads. You can do that by using copywork/transcription (the Hymns in Prose copybooks would work well for that). One other thing you can do is tell her that at the end of her copywork time that day you will select one or two words from the passage and ask her how to spell them. Nothing high pressure or elaborate; she can spell them orally or write them; but just encourage her to cultivate that new habit, and it will serve her well when she starts Spelling Wisdom and for the rest of her life.

  60. Anissa

    Question as well: My daughter has not been tested yet, but we are suspecting that she is dyslexic. Are there any suggestions on being able to use CM dictation techniques with dyslexic children?

    Thank You,

    • Sonya Shafer

      Anissa, I have not researched that particular situation, so I’m afraid I don’t have any specific suggestions. You might post that question on our SCM Forum and see if other CM moms have encountered that situation and have ideas for you.

  61. Amie

    Hi Sonya,
    My daughter will start second grade in the fall. She is reading at about a fourth grade reading level. I’ve considered starting with Spelling Power, but this looks like a better fit. I’ve looked at the samples, and I think she would be able to complete the first one easily. Should I try it, or should I just wait a couple of years? I wasn’t going to start spelling until third or fourth grade, but her dad is flipping out that she can’t spell certain words on demand. Since we’re no longer together and he’s not a fan of homeschooling, I’m thinking this might be a place where we can compromise.

    • Sonya Shafer

      Of course, I would encourage you to do what you think is best in your situation, Amie; but my opinion would be to wait on Spelling Wisdom. In the meantime you can do informal spelling with the books she is already reading. Your goal will be to help her develop the habit of looking at how words are spelled as she reads. So give her a sentence or a paragraph to read in her book and tell her that you will select one word from that passage and ask her how to spell it when she is done reading. You can use word tiles or magnetic letters if you would like to in order to keep this a fun, informal activity rather than a formal spelling lesson. Use these years to build up her mental storehouse of words that she knows how to spell, so when she gets to prepared dictation there will be only three or four words in a passage that she doesn’t already know.

  62. Heather

    I was interested in your comment about using this spelling program for copywork as well. We currently use A Reason For Spelling for cursive practice. If I was to use this spelling program for copywork how would she go about it? The passage is not written in cursive as far as I can tell, so how would she correctly copy the passage?

  63. Heather

    Sorry, correction above. We use A Reason For HANDWRITING for cursive.

    • Sonya Shafer

      Good question. If you are still at the stage of having the child see the cursive letters as she copies, the Hymns in Prose copybooks would be a better fit. (They are available in Zaner Bloser cursive and D’Nealian cursive.) The Spelling Wisdom passages would come into play as copywork once the child has advanced to the stage where she is solid in her letter formations and has started copying from a regular printed book or passage.

      UPDATE: We now have cursive instruction books available.

      • Heather

        So I probably should not use the Hymns in Prose for spelling then? It is probably not set up to start with easier words and progressively get harder.

        • Sonya Shafer

          Actually, the Hymns in Prose teacher book has some great word building exercises you can do to informally reinforce spelling as your student reads through the Hymns in Prose for Children reader.

  64. Amanda

    Would you recommend starting with a child who will be 8 in the summer and 3rd grade? Or is 3rd-4th grade really meant for a child 9 and up? My son is a very advanced reader who doesn’t love writing but tolerates it 🙂 I was thinking that we would start book 1 in the Fall.

    • Sonya Shafer

      I would recommend waiting until he is 9 or 10 years old, Amanda. During this year he should be making the transition from copywork to transcription, which is preparatory for dictation.

      • Amanda

        Thanks, Sonya! What a great post and series! Would you suggest using passages from Spelling Wisdom 1 for transcription, then? And then mid year or at age nine moving on to Spelling Wisdom 2 or starting over? Or should i just wait to get it at all until he is older, and find other passages to practice transcription with? Thanks again!

        • Sonya Shafer

          Yes, you can use the first part of Book 1 for transcription and about mid-year, or when the child is ready, transition easily into prepared dictation. If you do two exercises per week, the book will last you two years.

  65. Beth K

    Sonya, Hope you can help me. I teach at a small Charlotte Mason school, and we love your books and articles. We used
    Spelling Wisdom this year for grades 3-5 and we enjoyed the great
    passages and dictation. However, after receiving the Stanford Achievement
    test results back, most of the children are average to below average
    in the spelling part of the test. I am not concerned, but parents
    definitely are. They think spelling lists to memorize will be more effective.

    I’d appreciate any light you can shed on this topic. Thank you so much!

    • Sonya Shafer

      Hi, Beth. The interesting things about assessing spelling through a standardized achievement test is that in order to administer the test in printed form, they must include misspelled words and they don’t give the words in context. This technique is completely opposite to Charlotte’s philosophy of the child’s seeing the word spelled correctly as much as possible and always seeing it in context. So it seems like the children are being tested with an emphasis on a completely different skill than they have been practicing throughout the year.

      • Beth K

        Yes, thank-you so much!

  66. IrieMomma

    I was just looking over the sample and I noticed that the Beethoven letter was really long. This would be down the road of course (I only have a 4th grader), but I’m curious. Do you really have them write that entire thing as you dictate it phrase by phrase? It seems like an awful lot. I was just wondering if I was understanding it correctly. ?? Maybe they are more capable and willing by then and I just have a hard time imagining my daughter writing all of that at the moment b/c she balks at two lines of copywork, lol. Or, could they type it? If so, what do you do about the fact that the spell check automatically underlines misspelled words?


    Also, if I intend to start this year with a rising 4th grader, would she just need to complete two lessons per week, hoping to finish Book One in the next two years (4th and 5th)?


    • Sonya Shafer

      Once you get to the longer selections, you can have the child prepare the whole thing and be responsible for knowing the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation for the whole thing, but when it comes time to dictate, you select only a portion to have her write. She won’t know which portion you are going to select, so she will need to prepare and study the whole thing. As you mentioned, that’s a long way down the road; by the time you get to those long portions for the older grades, she will have lots of experience under her belt and a lot of spelling words stored up in her mind. We do want to challenge, but it should still be attainable.

      My older students type their dictation exercises, and it enables them to do longer passages since they can type faster than they can handwrite. You don’t want automatic spell correction turned on, obviously, but I’ve found that the underline works about the same way as the Post-It note to alert them when a word is misspelled. I can’t put the sticky notes on the computer monitor, but the little red underline is an immediate feedback in its place. And I’ve found with the older students that they go back and correct the typing on those words as soon as they see the red underline appear, so it doesn’t get the wrong spelling engrained in their minds. Of course, our goal is to be so well prepared that those mistakes are very few and far between.

      Two exercises per week should be sufficient to complete a Spelling Wisdom book in two years. Each book contains 140 exercises, which makes 70 per year = 2 per week for 35 weeks in a school year.

  67. Jennifer

    Just asking a crazy question here, but was wondering if the same dictations and exercises could be translated and used for any foreign Language Reading/Writing/Spelling. Will the grammar/punctuation rules apply to a foreign language? I am considering Book 1 for my Dd, 3rd grade. We probably won’t do any written foreign language until next year but was just curious.


    • Sonya Shafer

      It’s an interesting question, Jennifer, and one I would welcome more input on. The word order and grammatical structure would vary from language to language, but I’m not sure about punctuation differences. I would assume they are different in some aspects as well.

  68. Francy Zembo

    I’ve been using a different spelling curriculum with my 4th grader, but am considering switching to this method. I do have a question – if it’s very important that a child study and only write words when he is confident how to spell them correctly, how does this carry over to when he writes his written narrations? Obviously he won’t be studying the words he wants to write ahead of time, so naturally he will misspell words he doesn’t know. How do the two methods connect?

    • Sonya Shafer

      Good question. This is one of the reasons Charlotte postponed written narration until about 4th grade — so the student would have a good mental storehouse of words’ spellings already built up in his mind. At this age, too, the student is beginning to read his own schoolbooks, instead of just listening to them, so he is seeing how the words are spelled, words that will probably be included in his written narrations of those books. Yes, he will probably include some words that he doesn’t yet know how to spell, but he will be much farther along than if he tried to do this earlier. Misspelled words will happen, but hopefully we have been, and are continuing to, set up the good habit of looking at how words are spelled as he reads, so he will continue to progress and refine his spelling.

  69. Le1gh

    I just finished downloading both Book 1 and Book 3 for my third grader and seventh grader. After looking through both books, I can’t wait to start on them! This could be the first time in my eleven years of homeschooling that I am excited to work on spelling, copywork, and dictation with my children. Just glancing at many of the entries has my mind spinning with all the discussions that will ensue from going over these passages. My children may not be as excited as I am about the upcoming discussions, but their mother is looking forward to them, and a passionate teacher can’t be beat! Many thanks for the hard work in putting together these lessons.

  70. Charis

    Dear Sonya,
    Are all 6000 words in each book? If I started with book 2, for example, would my children miss out on book 1?

    Also, do you recommend any intervention to address misspellings at an early age, for example in creative writing? Should those words be covered up, for example, and properly spelled?

    Thank you!


    • Sonya Shafer

      The 6,000 most frequently used words are spread across the five books in the series, Charis. If you started with book 2 you would miss out on the words in book 1; however, book 1’s words would be less difficult than subsequent books, so I wouldn’t worry about it. If the student can spell the words in books 2–5, he will most likely be able to spell the words in the first book.

      Children love to experiment with letters and sounds at an early age, and somehow there seems to be a mental filter that differentiates between their experiments and when they are deliberately studying correct spellings in school work. I wouldn’t worry too much about the creative writing in the early years. We don’t want to stifle their enthusiasm for playing at writing. Make sure they have plenty of opportunity to see correctly-spelled words, and always answer their “Mom, how do you spell ___?” requests (though it can try the patience!). They will progress in spelling as they grow in their language arts lessons.

  71. Kelly

    What about learning what the word means? Do you incorporate dictionary work with Spelling Wisdom? Thanks.

    • Sonya Shafer

      Dictionary work is not written into Spelling Wisdom. Most of the word meanings can be picked up through context; but if the student does not know what a word means, you can take that opportunity to teach him how to use a dictionary.

      Some dictionary work is included in the companion studies, Using Language Well, which add English usage, grammar, and composition lessons based on the same passages in Spelling Wisdom.

  72. Julie K

    Which Bible is used for the Bible verses?

    • Sonya Shafer

      The Spelling Wisdom books feature the King James Version of the Bible.

  73. Danielle

    Do you recommend doing copywork in 5th grade or just Dictation? Also I am starting homeschooling for my 5th grader. She has always gotten 100% on spelling in private school. Where would I start in this book? How about Using Language Well?

    • Sonya Shafer

      Usually by 5th grade the student has made the transition from copywork to transcription to the dictation stage. My recommendation would be to start at the beginning of Spelling Wisdom, Book 2, and pair it with Using Language Well, Book 2. (Those books will last you two years, by the way: 5th grade and 6th grade.)

      Your student will be gaining a lot by using the prepared dictation method, even if she already knows how to spell many of the words. She will be consistently seeing and spelling the words in context; she will be feeding her mind with excellent thoughts; she will be studying good samples of well-written literature, which reinforces composition, English grammar, usage, and mechanics points; she will have weekly practice listening carefully and writing what she has heard in complete sentences.

      If you add the Using Language Well lessons, she will be learning/reviewing parts of speech and other English points in those same passages. There is also a composition component explained in the back of the teacher book, along with rubrics to help you evaluate her writing.

      All in all, I think this twice-a-week focus will add much to her growth in language arts without becoming cumbersome.

  74. Maisie

    Thank you so much for providing a British spelling version, wish more curriculum providers offered this. So much great curriculum comes from America which can be a challenge when you aren’t american or living there. Thank you!

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