Auditory Homeschool Spelling? We’re giving it a try!

Spelling is one of the subjects that causes us the most angst in my house. I have one child who can spell any word, any time, anywhere – regardless of whether she’s seen it before. I have another child who tries very hard, but is often discouraged because spelling just doesn’t seem to stick. I’ve used the same spelling program with both of them from the very beginning, so it’s obvious to me that the problem lies not with the book but with how my son needs to learn spelling.

What confounds me even more is that I myself was a very phonetical speller growing up, and yet I can’t seem to help him (a phonetical speller himself) break through that and become a better speller. I have to admit that when I am teaching him diphthongs and so called ‘rules of spelling’ I find them as mysterious as he does. Sure, ei makes a long ‘a’ sound – but only some of the time?!? Weird. 😉 What saved me in school was that I was able to just memorize tons of words, but even now there are a few that spell check has to handle for me.

When I analyze his spelling, what I have found is that for words he misspells he either spells them completely phonetically OR he has all the right letters, just not in the right order. I should also mention that he reads exceptionally well, and has no problems sounding out large words he’s never seen before. How can you read words great but not be able to spell them??? This was my question.

I think I have found the answers! I have been going through IEW’s Teaching Writing with Structure and Style DVDs this past week, and Andrew happens to mention as an aside that spelling and reading take place in different parts of the brain. He explains that when you study spelling visually, your brain sees the word as an entire unit and stores it that way. However, to spell, your brain needs to recall the word sequentially to get the letters in the right order. Herein lies the problem. He goes on to say that particularly for boys, this visual/sequential storage can be more problematic. It totally made sense to me and seems to be exactly our problem here! (Cue angels singing in the background).

You can see a quick video introducing their ideas on spelling here.

So my plan is to take a leap and try out this (pretty expensive) spelling program and put our regular one on the shelf for now. I normally wouldn’t invest in something like this, but if I can help him succeed then it will be worth it! I really like the methodologies IEW uses, so I feel confident that we will be happy with this auditory style of spelling instruction. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Do any of you have experience with The Phonetic Zoo?