Some people leave the womb with a natural inclination toward spelling. For others, spelling is a lifelong struggle. I'm in the second category. So is one of my children. After years of searching for the perfect spelling curriculum that would finally enable my son to master the most basic words, I fell upon a set of instructions in Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschool Series. Most of the spelling curriculum out there had only reinforced bad spelling for my struggling speller. After using Charlotte Mason’s methodology for one week, my child could spell words I never thought he'd master.
Charlotte Mason believed that a child learns to spell by taking a picture of the word and imprinting the picture into his mind. Some children do this naturally, while others need to be taught how. She was adamant that a child never gaze upon a misspelling when learning a new word. The chance to memorize the wrong spelling is too great. The child should study the correctly spelled word until he can actually “see” the word in his mind’s eye with his eyes closed. Then, the child will always know when the word is misspelled and what the correct spelling should look like.
I’ve outlined Charlotte Mason’s methodology below. You can use it to help your child memorize the most frequently used words in the English language. I recommend teaching the 500 most commonly used words.
First, print the words on index cards.
Select the first 40 cards from the stack (beginning with the word “the”).
Have the child work on a set number of cards from the stack for 15 minutes each day using this method:
- Study the word.
- Spell it out loud while looking at the word.
- Imagine taking a picture of the word to imprint it in your mind.
- Close your eyes and image the word.
- Study it again, drawing the word in the air with your finger.
- Spell it out loud once while looking at it and once without looking at it.
- Look at the word again before writing it.
- Turn the card over and write the word from memory. If it’s written wrong, immediately cover the word and study it again before rewriting.
After the 40 words are solidly learned, dictate random sentences using words from the list so the child can experience spelling the words in the context of writing.
Continue teaching stacks of 40 words. When testing, include the words previously learned. This transfers them into the long term memory. As the list gets longer, break up the spelling test into several sessions. Limit the spelling sessions to 15 minutes.
Continue this method until all the words are learned. To further spelling mastery you can purchase a more advanced spelling program or continue to teach spelling using copywork and dictation.
I hope you find this to be the solution to all your spelling needs!