Saturday, December 27, 2008

All About Spelling

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion.

I've mentioned before that for our first four years of homeschool (including two years of preschool for my oldest), our children went to a cottage school for homeschooled children. They attended school there two days a week and I taught them at home three days a week. The school provided all of the curriculum and I simply followed the lesson plans that they handed me each week. In both Kindergarten and 1st Grade, the focus of the student's lessons were spent following the Riggs Institute The Writing and Spelling Road to Reading. While we saw some success with this method, I quickly felt like the kids were bogged down by the tedious writing involved. When we decided we were not returning to the school, this was the first curriculum we dropped...well, sort of.

I went looking for a program online that was similar to The Riggs program, but ...well...more interesting. I know...spelling? Interesting? I was asking a lot. That's when I found All About Spelling. I wasn't quite ready to purchase another Spelling program, but I bookmarked the site promising myself to do more research on it later. You can imagine how elated I was to find out I would be receiving all 4 levels of All About Spelling from the TOS Crew! That's what I call a kiss from the King...when God reaches down to give us something we want 'just because'.

All About Spelling is similar to the Riggs program in that it teaches reading using a parts-to-whole concept, which I really like. Let me give you an example...

In most public schools today, pre-reading students are shown a picture of a cat with the letters c-a-t written underneath it. Soon those students have memorized that the letters c-a-t spell 'cat'. Eventually when they memorize enough words like 'car' and 'can', they realize that the letter 'c' says /k/. Sometime after that they will realize that the letter 'c' also has the soft sound /s/. This way of learning is called 'whole-to-parts'.

But when you use a program like AAS with your child, you will first teach them the sounds of all 72 phonograms (26 letters and 46 multi-letter combinations like 'sh' or 'ch'). They will learn from the beginning that 'c' has two sounds, /k/ and /c/. They memorize them in the order they are most often used. This is called a parts-to-whole method, because you are giving your child all of the tools they need from the start to put together any English word they would need to spell or read.

In addition to memorizing the phonograms the students will also memorize significant spelling rules using AAS like the Silent Final E Rules, or

The sound of /ch/ is
usually spelled tch after
a short vowel.

It is spelled ch after
everything else.
(match, lunch)

I've heard people say that having students memorize the sounds of 72 phonograms and spelling rules seems like too much. But besides the fact that all of my children have memorized them quickly and even had fun doing it...the only other way of teaching students to spell is to have them memorize the spelling of thousands of individual words. Which seems easier to you?

I believe the key component to AAS that makes this program a fun way of teaching spelling are the letter tiles which includes all of the phonograms (with double of the 26 English letters). You can purchase magnets for the tiles for $5.95, which I highly recommend doing unless you already have magnetic backing at home. We placed a magnetic white board on the wall at the kids' height to keep the tiles on it and they can simply stand at the board and move the tiles around to spell out words.

There is virtually no teacher prep time after initially familiarizing yourself with the program and cutting the tiles. Each lesson can be completed in about 15 minutes. You should start at Level One regardless of what grade your child is in, realizing the older your child is the faster they will move through the beginning levels. There will be six levels, but four are currently available. Each level is $29.95 which includes the teacher's manual and one student packet. You'll also need to purchase one set of tiles for $9.95. I think this is an incredible value considering I have seen other spelling programs that cost upwards of $200.

I also wanted to mention that All About Spelling also has an inexpensive bingo and file folder game that you can purchase and download. We love incorporating games into our school subjects and I have particularly liked using the file folder game to help the kids review their phonograms. I can just hand two or more of them the game and they can play it themselves while I am teaching one of the others.

I am thrilled to say that I need to look no further for a spelling program. We will be using All About Spelling for many years in this house!

For more reviews of All About Spelling, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

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