Monday, March 29, 2010

Mythbusters Homeschool Episode 1

I must admit, I am one of those people that is quick to form stereotypes in my mind. I try my hardest not to do this. Until recently, I would consider myself quite an optimist who tries to keep an open mind. There are just some words, people, and phrases that immediately bring to mind a certain image. I am going to demonstrate this. Read the following words and try to picture in your mind this person.

Italian grandmother
T.V. Evangelist
Cocktail waitress
Punk rocker

Now hopefully, at the last one, if you have been involved in home schooling a child for more than a week, you should have been stumped.  I conjure up such an odd variety in my head, I am giggling.

I understand some readers of this blog may not be involved in home schooling. They may be purposely avoiding any posts that even talk of this weird concept. That is why I have decided to begin a series called Homeschooling Myths. I will be discussing what really happens with home schooled children. Now these are my thoughts based on 8 years of homeschooling only boys. I have no experience homeschooling girls, so I may be missing out on many facets of home schooling. My view is a little tainted.

Let's take my favorite myth:

Home schooled children are excellent spellers and win the Scripps Howard Spelling Bees.

Bahahahahbahh, now I must wipe the coffee of my keyboard. 

In my nuclear world of raising 4 kids. I have found this to be absolutely untrue. In fact, my only child to ever win a spelling bee was public schooled. Now this isn't to say there are not excellent spellers in the homeschooling world. We home schooling mothers have access to superior curriculum and can choose how much time and effort we want to devote to spelling.  I, being one of those mom's that get's miffed easily at multiple spelling errors, have spent hours with my children on spelling. Now would you like to know the results of these efforts? One child still spells so horribly, I would never display his unedited work to the public.  Another child is a fairly good speller, but at times, I am baffled when he uses the wrong they're/there/their. The Little guy is only 5, so he won't be judged yet. The oldest, who went through public school, let's me know when there is a spelling mistake on my blog.

When my second son struggled to learning to read and spell, I became proactive. I was using Explode the Code series along with Teach your Child to Read in 100 ez lessons. I used Pathway readers and workbooks also. No amount of workbooks and teaching seemed to stick with him. A sound learned on one day was forgotten the next. I enrolled in an online course to systematically teach my son using the Orton-Gillingham method. There were several things I did with him to improve fluency. His improvement was so slow. His spelling was atrocious. My friend recommended the Spell to Write and Read program. 

I loved SWR, I learned so much. I implemented it with the 2 boys and saw my third son take off in his spelling and reading skills. Despite the hours it consumed learning it, I worshipped this program. I spent days in training, bought all of the program components and worked with my son. I did see a steady improvement in his reading. His spelling still has much to be desired. 

When we were pressed for time while my mom was ill, I switched to Apples 1 and 2, daily drills for secondary students. This reviewed concepts and did not require teacher instruction. My time was limited so it met the need. I don't recommend it as a stand alone program for spelling. 

Now, my 2nd son is back to SWR. We continue to backtrack and cover these lessons again. I have been thinking about all of the time and effort it took to teach my son to read and I offer these thoughts to parents on reading and spelling if there is any difficulties.

  1. Continue to teach the other subjects in creative way. My son was an auditory sponge. I read aloud many great historical fiction books and The Storybook of Science. He listened to any and everything on audio. Many adults in his life were unaware of his reading issues. His vocabulary was superior and his love for learning was not squelched. One of our children's church leaders approached me and said "Your son knows so much about Bible history. I love talking to him." After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I pondered this. I was happy that I had continued feeding his appetite for learning.
  2. Look for steady improvement. Leaps and bounds are great, but they may never happen. Rejoice in the small victories. I continually assess his reading to encourage us both.
  3. In the midst of the reading struggles, my son continued to study advanced math, I used to read the word problems to him. 
  4. Don't make my worst mistake and compare your children to each other or others. This puts undue condemnation on yourself and your children.
  5. Don't give up. My son is a bookworm now. He also is very diligent in completing his assignments. This was not always the case. He is still studying spelling, we are not accepting defeat in this area.
  6. Find out what type of learner your child is and use it to your advantage.
  7. Get library books that are easy readers on all topics of study. For instance, I used the DK readers to enhance our history and science.
  8. Nutrition and sleep can affect your child. Omega oils are known to improve brain function. Grandma's advice still holds true.

Obviously, I am not an expert in teaching spelling. I haven't produced a Scripps Howard spelling bee winner. Click here for an amazing free online spelling program. What I like about this site, is it assumes the person knows nothing. On that web site, it also has a program to teach reading. If you feel led, learn more about Spell to Write and Read. This program has changed the way I teach in all areas. It is not for everyone, but the time spent learning to implement it was invaluable.

If you are interested in spelling bees, I recommend two great movies. You can get these from your local library.

Akeelah and the Bee

Busting myths one at a time,

I welcome reader comments with open arms. I also understand if you aren't the commenting or hugging type of person, you can drop me an email at


Lori Watson said...

First of all- you have a new blog template! Freshening it up for spring? You had the other for so long, it must have been getting old. Snort. :-D HEEHEE. Just kidding, love it.

Second, you are so correct on this myth. My first two kids read and spelled naturally and easily. My next two, not so much. The kid with the largest vocabulary, who is my biggest reader, is also the worst speller. And we have tried many spelling programs, including some of the ones you have mentioned. Thank You, Lord, for spell check!

So what's next on the agenda- All homeschoolers wear jean dresses, Birkenstocks, and have 8.9 children (so says the woman who does not wear jean dresses, would love a pair of Birkies, and has 7 children, :-p)

Linds said...

This is a great idea! I think all of us (me and my siblings) were rather good spellers, but still not sure if that had more to do with the education or genetics :) I'll always throw in my 2 cents regarding homeschooling stereotypes, as I generally get pretty defensive about the whole thing!

LucisMomma said...

My kids are horrible spellers, too.

I laughed at your people list. I know homeschoolers who look a lot like every one of those things. One at a time, of course. :)

susan w from FG BB and FG homeschool yahoo group

Kelly said...

Congrats on your win over at "my little life"... check out my giveaway and continue your winnng streak!! :o)