I have the advantage, being an unschooler, of trying radical things that the rest of the public wouldn’t dream of doing. Like, not having any spelling lessons in our day. At all. Anyone who has spent time with their child working on endless spelling tests, spelling workbooks, spelling drills, and countless spelling induced temper tantrums has fantasized about doing just that. Spelling curriculum is the bane of many school kids and parents existence. However, spelling is one of the foundations of the school system. Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic…and spelling is a huge part of writing.
It’s such a big part of writing that it causes panic attacks to think about not having spelling as a part of the school day. Even when we left public school and homeschooled, I found spelling curriculum so I could import the spelling test pain into our lives every day. No one was forcing me to, it was in my control, and I bought in to the idea that if we don’t make our kids write random words down 10 times a day for a week, then they won’t ever learn to spell. And then they won’t write coherently. And then they won’t give a good application to colleges, which will lead to them not getting into school, which means unemployment, which means a horrible life full of grief and misery.
I, actually, am a fantastic speller. I found proof in my basement of doom that in 5th grade, I was at a high school spelling level. I have, like, a photographic memory for words. Which is weird because otherwise, my mind is a sieve. Things come in and flow out almost instantaneously, which accounts for my childlike glee. I feel like I see things for the first time no matter how often I’ve heard or read or seen it. Except words. They stick in there like they have velcro on the back of them. I’m like a wordy Rainman!
To me, every spelling mistake that I come across in my day leaps out at me like a scream. I previously supposed that spelling errors were the sign of a weak mind. Because spelling was so easy for me, I figured that it was easy for everyone…so how lazy could you be to not spell something when you could just see it in your mind.
Well, along came Naturalist. And to put it clearly I’ll do an analogy… Naturalist :: spelling : Me :: staying organized. It was confusing because I knew she didn’t have a weak mind, but she also couldn’t spell. Hell, she couldn’t even use vowels in her words. And this was in 3rd grade.
We discovered that Dyslexia had a lot to do with her spelling mistakes, so for a while when we homeschooled I thought that meant that I just had to make her practice and drill even harder. This was wrong. Let me repeat, THIS WAS WRONG. As wrong as suggesting that a person in a wheelchair just needs to get out of the wheelchair and try walking more often.
If you have a kid with either a learning difference like Dyslexia or is extremely right brained, let go of the spelling lists. I only say that because I’ve done just that, and in 2 years I’ve seen a remarkable difference (for the better!) in everyone’s spelling. Here’s what we do, and why it works:
1. Encourage passion and interest! For Naturalist, this interest was on birds and wolves. Any interest will lead into some form of expression. For her, she would write novels, biographies, and comics about birds and wolves.
2. Encourage internet use! There are ways to safely protect you and your child from negative scary internet-y things, so take those steps and use it. Naturalist would use the internet to search on birds and wolves to eventually find the words that she needed to use in her chosen forms of expressions. Because it was important to her, she would remember the spellings much easier.
3. Encourage more internet use! Naturalist is on a variety of chat rooms and forums like Spore, Indigo Forum, Dyscalculia Forum, Deviant Art, etc. Again, use caution and common sense and discuss proper internet safety measures with your kids, and then let them go. Using words to communicate to other people is a huge incentive to write correctly. And on those forums, usually someone else will correct the spelling in a reply, and this provides a concrete example to follow. It’s important to get ideas across, so these corrections are remembered much easier.
4. Encourage computer use. Spell check on the computer is fabulous!
5. Allow them to ask you how to spell words without answering back, “Look it up!”. Don’t do it. Just spell the word, as many times as they ask, as much as you can.
6. Trust that your kids want to be competent spellers and will find a way to do so when left to their own passions. Really trust this. Especially with a kid with LD who also is gifted who also is right brained. For instance, Naturalist cannot use a dictionary. It’s so hard for her. But this is what she does: She reads books. She remembers words on a page that she doesn’t know how to spell. Later, when she’s writing or drawing or needs to use that word, she remembers what page she saw it on and goes to that specific book to copy the word down properly. So, to get it straight, in her mind it’s easier to remember every word on a page of every book she’s ever read than to use a dictionary. It boggles the mind, does it not? But that’s how she rolls. Not being forced to “do” spelling, she’s come up with a way to spell words properly. Not for a grade, not for a test, not for a teacher, but because she just WANTS TO. She wants to take control of her dyslexia and prove that she can do things in spite of it. She wants people to understand her. She doesn’t like the slow spell check process of having to stop and figure a word out all the time, so she remembers better.
7. Get Scribblenauts!!!! For a visual, creative, right brained thinker, this game is the bees knees, and an amazing spelling facilitator. Basically, what you write down becomes part of the game, so spelling is important and words are introduced that they just remember because they need to use it.
Based around 2D side-scrolling action and word play, the premise of Scribblenauts is simple; quite literally, anything you write, you can use and reuse in the game. Players use the DS’ touch-screen and the in-game notepad/keyboard to help their character, Maxwell, as he moves throughout 220 increasingly difficult levels on his never-ending quest for the star-like “Starites.”
Attaining them requires Maxwell to solve spatially oriented puzzles. To do this players describe objects via the notepad/keyboard, which in turn appear on the game screen and facilitate the starite making its way to Maxwell. There are literally thousands of items in the game, both utilitarian like ladders, ropes, cars and buses, to the outlandish items, such as invisibility cloaks, pirates and black holes.
The game is all about experimentation, imagination and endless replay value as players open their minds to the nearly limitless possibilities that are sure to make Scribblenauts unlike any side-scrolling platformer they have ever played.
So, that’s our spelling suggestions. My kids haven’t done a spelling lesson in almost 3 years, and they’re better spellers because of it. Try it, you’ll see!
Filed under: 2e Tuesday |