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. ūüėČ 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?

Teaching History and Science with Music

On the hallway bulletin board as you entered my high school band room was a quote by Plato: “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”¬† The idea is that music is so powerful, it can not only change our moods and inspire us, but it can actually shape our thinking.¬† We all know that music plants in our memory like nothing else will, and while classical music may not be what you listen to on the radio, it can have a profound effect in your child’s understanding of their lesson.

In our history and science lessons, I try and make the concepts ‘3D’ for my kids.¬† It’s great to know who the Goths are and their role in the demise of the Roman Empire, but it’s so much more meaningful understand how this people group still affects our lives today through words we use and the architecture of the buildings in our country.¬† Now when my children see a picture of Notre Dame or some of the buildings in our downtown area, they understand what Gothic means and where it came from.

Nothing makes a lesson jump off the page more than music, especially instrumental pieces that allow your child’s imagination to run wild.¬† I encourage you to try playing the music after your¬†lesson and then talk with your children about what they felt from the piece.¬† We often go back and listen again after we discuss the music so they can point out to me the specific parts they liked and understood.¬† My children often get inspired to act out the scene from the lesson while the music is playing.

Here are my tips to adding music to your lesson:

1. The first few times, play the music after the lesson discussion and tell them what the piece is about.

2. Have your children lay down and close their eyes while they listen. Tell them you want to hear what they imagined after it is done.

3. If you are using several movements from a symphony over a series of lessons, play one of the later movements before your lesson and see if they guess correctly what the piece is about.¬† You’ll be amazed at how good they become at this!

4. Be sure to tell your children a quick bio on the composer and help them understand when the piece was made.

5. Don’t feel like you have to play the whole movement, 2-3 minutes is usually the length of an elementary attention span.

6. Every so often have your children draw or sculpt while the music is playing to give them a different outlet for their imaginings.


Ideas for music and topics:

Please note that these are affiliate links, and if you choose to download these items I will receive a small commission.  These are some of my favorites that I have used in the past with my children.

These are just a few of my favorites, but with a little research you can find ways to incorporate classical music into your lessons and truly make an impression that will last!

Top Tips for Visual Learners

Is your child a visual learner?  Here are some quick tips and ideas to help your visual child better understand and retain information:


  • Give your child written instructions rather than oral
  • Show your child a picture or painting about the subject to reinforce the material
  • Draw a diagram or write down the example when trying to explain a concept
  • Have your child make or use flash cards for memorization
  • Have them find the country or culture you are discussing on a map or globe
  • Group ideas or concepts together in bullets

Ideas for visual learners

  • Check out a National Geographic or other documentary from the library on your subject for additional reinforcement
  • When reading aloud, have your child sit next to you and read along with you
  • For history and science lessons, be sure to have pictures that go along with your topic
  • Use manipulatives to help explain math concepts
  • For foreign languages, put a picture of the object on the flash card with the word.
  • Use color coding when possible. For example, when teaching the parts of speech, make a worksheet that lists the verbs in purple and the nouns in green.

Ideas for auditory learners

Continuing our series on learning styles, let’s take a look at ways to present material to your auditory learner.¬† Auditory learners retain and understand information best when it is received through their ears.¬† Music and the spoken word will be your best tools.

If your child is struggling with understanding a book he is reading, consider obtaining an audio copy of the book that he can listen to after he reads the passage.  (You can also have him read the book out loud or read to him). Audio books are readily available these days.  Our local library has quite a large collection, and sites like ITunes and offer most any book you can think of! If you find a particular lesson takes too long to get started, try having your child read her directions out loud to you and tell you what she think it says.

If you are using a wordy text, spend more time reading text to your child rather than having him read silently to himself.

Music is by far the most powerful way to present information to an auditory learner!¬† Today’s market is full of new and old songs that teach everything from science to grammar.¬† How many of you can still sing “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?” from¬†Schoolhouse Rock?¬† Music is easily retrieved from our memory, and it can be a wonderful way to help your child learn.

Adding music to your lesson plans will also help your child understand the context of the lesson better, and give him or her a deeper knowledge of the subject.¬† I like to call it ‘learning in 3D.’¬† When your child hears Holst’s Mars from¬†The Planets, it makes the red, hostile environment of Mars come alive.¬† Your child can instantly picture their version of the mythological god of war, and will be much more likely to remember it long after your study is over.

Please note that some of the above links are affiliate links.

Do you know your child’s learning style?

As parents, we know our children better than anyone.¬† We know how to make their sandwiches the way they like, what their favorite toy is, and we can rattle off their stats to the pediatrician without blinking.¬† However, if asked, many of us wouldn’t be able to answer what our child’s learning style is.¬† Why is that?

I think that individual learning styles are undervalued in our educational systems today, and as parents we aren’t even aware that the trouble our child is having with a particular subject or classroom may not be the subject itself, but the way the information is presented.

This post will serve to be an introduction to a series of posts on learning styles and how you can incorporate them into your homeschool or helping your child with homework if they are in a traditional school.

So what is a learning style?  Your learning style is simply the method in which you best receive and process information Рthe method in which you learn best.  There are 3 main types of learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

Visual learners understand information best when it is received through their eyes.  These learners prefer books to lectures, like pictures, maps, and charts to help explain a subject.  They learn better when you show them how to do something rather than just tell them. They tend to study maps or refer to their book when looking for an answer.

Visual learners often do well in¬†fields such as design, photography, and planning.¬† They often use phrases that include a visual term like “Let’s SEE how this works” or “If you LOOK at it this way.”

Auditory learners do best when they hear information.  They remember more what you tell them than what they read. Sounds, music, and lectures help them to best understand topics.  They often read aloud to themselves or mouth their thoughts when doing math work.

Auditory learners do well in fields like audiovisual, and music.¬† They use phrases like “I HEAR you loud and clear,” or “SOUNDS good to me.”

Kinesthetic¬†learners understand by doing.¬† They need to feel, touch, and maneuver to truly comprehend a subject.¬† Kinesthetic learners do well with manipulatives and experiments when learning¬†a topic. They often take things apart just to see how it works, and act out scenes from the show or book they’re watching/reading.¬† They also tend to fidget when sitting and trying to concentrate on¬†a task.

Kinesthetic learners do well in fields like sports, construction, and repairs.¬† The use phrases like “It just doesn’t FEEL right” or “He’s out of TOUCH.”

Several learning style tests are available online. This one from Learning-Styles-Online is very thorough:

Understanding your child’s learning style can help you as a parent know how to present information in a way that your child will best understand it.¬† For example, your auditory learner might be struggling with reading comprehension, so rather than have him read a passage and answer questions, you could have him read the passage aloud to you and then discuss it.