Homeschool: Spelling – What We’ve Used, What Works For Us Now

Teaching our children to write with proper spelling is an important part of their home education.  Numerous programs exist to assist homeschool parents in this task.  I’m going to tell you what we have used before, and what is working for us now.  We try to do as many things together with all the children as possible, to minimize the grading and preparation workload.

What We’ve Used

After our children were reading and writing well enough to do copywork (which by itself is an excellent spelling exercise), we began to use Building Spelling Skills from Christian Liberty Press.  It worked, but the books were black and white, and not very exciting (I do not know if they have been revised). It required a daily exercise, which needed grading every day, and a test each week.

The next program we used was Spelling, Vocabulary, and Poetry from A Beka Book.  My children enjoyed this much more.  The book was in color, there were fun exercises like crosswords, word finds, and word scrambles – and it did a good job of teaching vocabulary along with spelling.  There was also a selection of poems for memorization throughout the school year.  This also required grading every day and a test each week.  When I had 5 or 6 children in different levels of these books, the grading began to get overwhelming on top of my other homeschool responsibilities.

What Works For Us Now

A few years ago as I was researching homeschool options that would cut down on my workload and enable me to teach more of the children together, a friend highly recommended Sonlight Curriculum. It works splendidly for us!  In the pages of the Sonlight catalog, I discovered Sequential Spelling (you’d never know this was developed by a man with dyslexia).

Now I give one 25-word spelling test every day to 7 of my children in 15 minutes. We all love it.

Here’s how it works:

  1. I say a word and use it in a sentence.
  2. The children write the word on their paper.
  3. I write the word on our whiteboard.
  4. The children check their spelling and correct any mistakes.
  5. After the list is done, I check over their lists, stickers in hand.  They get a sticker on their paper only when every word is spelled correctly.  (There are occasional times where they obviously have not checked the whiteboard!)

Not only has this program saved me a tremendous amount of time, but I have been amazed at how everyone’s spelling has improved dramatically.  I use the same list for 7 children ages 7 to 15.  Sometimes my 7-year-old will skip a list, particularly if the words are long and she can’t write as quickly as everyone else.  Other times she will just copy it at her own pace.  My 5-year-old, who is still learning to read, loves to copy a list here and there!  Because the lists use similar word patterns and letter combinations, I also count this as handwriting practice.

I took some pictures of 3 days of lists to show you the natural progression of the words, and how the spelling gets reinforced.  The book works in sets of 4 days – the first day will be the root word (I didn’t get a picture of that), then the following three days will be different forms of that root word, or a different word that fits the same pattern.  If it is a verb, it will follow a logical progression like trim, trims, trimmed, trimming.  So a little grammar gets taught here as well.

Occasionally I will miss a word and have to write it at the end of the list.

Sometimes the lists include phrases, proper nouns requiring capitalization, or possessive forms and contractions that teach the use of apostrophes.  This is where using the words in a sentence really help students figure out which word to write before it gets put on the whiteboard.

For writing the lists there is a Student Response Book that has 180 lists arranged on 60 pages, 3 lists per page.  The sequence of the lists is set up so that students will not see the words from the previous day’s test.  In the actual workbook there are fun quotes on each page.

It was much cheaper for me to do my own template in Word and make 7 copies for my children.  (I had a Student Response Book given to me from a “grab bag”, so I could see how the lists were numbered.) I hole-punched the pages, put them in binders for each child, and had the children fill in the list numbers.  Next year, I will look into how much it costs to just print out pre-numbered lists, because numbering them ourselves was just a bit tedious.

There are 7 levels of progressive difficulty in Sequential Spelling that do not correspond to grade levels.  As the author suggested, we started with level 1 – these pictures are from level 2.  I’ve been very pleased with the results – most importantly in the children’s spelling, but also in how easily this program works for teaching many of my children at once.

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9 comments to Homeschool: Spelling – What We’ve Used, What Works For Us Now

  • Jen

    I have been going back and forth about Sonlight for a while – it seems like it can work well in for families that desire a more family approach to learning. Great post!

  • Jen

    Forgot to mention I stopped by from HHH today!

  • I was so excited to see this last night. I just (very) recently started using Sequential Spelling with my 8 yr old. It’s great to see it working so great for your kiddos of multiple ages.

    After reading this I’m going to add in my 6 & 7 yr old. I think it will be good for them as well. We’re only on day 2 so it won’t be difficult to catch them up:)

    • Cardamom

      Hi, Holly – it will be easy since that first list is so short! 😉 Depending on the list, my 7-year-old either tries to spells the word, or just waits until I write it on the board. Either work for me. She loves to write stories, and used to come to me all.the.time. asking how to spell words. Now she’s doing so much on her own and it’s fantastic how much she’s learned.

  • Oh! Have you ever used the games at Spelling City ( with your kids?? These are SO much fun!!

    • Cardamom

      I haven’t seen those. With my youngest child about to turn 4, I’m just now looking into some other online homeschool aids. Thanks for the tip!

  • Debbie

    I switched over to this spelling curriculum several years ago also when I was about to pull my hair out teaching my older 3 kids to spell. It has worked wonders for them!! They are now 15, 14 & 12 and spelling is no longer a chore. I have just transitioned my younger 3 (ages 7, 9 & 9) and they love sequential spelling also. This program for spelling and Math u See for Math has really helped me in teaching a larger family.

  • Sylvia

    I have decided to switch to this for spelling next year. What we were doing (Spelling Power) was working for my 9 and 6-year-olds, but not my 11-year-old. Ideally, I wouldn’t change the younger 2, but for my own sanity I would like us all doing the same thing. However, I also have a 3-year-old and 1-year-old. Looking down the road, do you have any suggestions for transitioning them into doing spelling with us without me eventually have some kids in level 1 and some kids in level 3 or 4? Thank you for your post! I hadn’t considered adding my 14-year-old in with us (she is spelling well) but, it might be fun to have her join us, too. Who know? Maybe she’ll learn something or teach the others a thing or too!

    • Cardamom

      Hi, Sylvia, thanks for commenting! Realistically, I think you may only need to do, at most, 2 levels down the road. Perhaps you could dictate the list for the older children, and then your oldest child could “do school” with the youngers and dictate and grade that list.

      Sometimes when I had to shave some time off my school day, I would simply write the list on the board and have everyone copy it, THEN check someone else’s list. So perhaps your younger children could just do spelling as copy work while they transition. The beauty of this program is it doesn’t take long, yet it really works!

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