I have been hearing about All About Spelling for over a year now. It receives high praise on a popular homeschool message board, and it also was very popular with the crew members who reviewed the program last year. I confess I was a bit skeptical. I don’t like to make things more complicated than they have to be. I’d rather not have my children memorize a bunch of “unnecessary” rules to learn to read and spell.
And if my oldest were an only child, I’d probably still be thinking that.
I was very excited that All About Spelling was one of the Homeschool Crew vendors again this year and even more excited when I got to review the product this time. I really wanted to see what all the hype was about. Plus, I suspected that I had at least one child who might benefit from learning all those “unnecessary” rules.
I received the Starter Kit (includes letter tiles, magnets, and a phonogram CD rom), Level 1 and Level 2 Teachers Manuals and Student Packs to review. The student pack consists of flashcards with phonograms, words, and spelling rules, as well as the dividers to keep the cards organized. As I assembled the card box with the perforated cards and dividers, I was impressed by the organization of the system. Each card is color coded and numbered. (That comes in handy if someone dumps the box.)
The teacher’s manuals contain the lessons with explicit instructions on what should be taught each day. There are guidelines for what to review which is very helpful to me. I’m very obedient to follow instructions, but not very good at providing review on my own.
Here’s what I discovered.
All About Spelling is not a phonics program that consists of memorizing a bunch of spelling rules. It is a multi-sensory program that enables the student to UNDERSTAND the phonics. Sure, there are rules to remember, but using the tiles and the dictation helps to cement the rules in the student’s mind. It teaches the student to segment the word. To some people, it’s intuitive. But to others it is not! This spelling method provides a way to teach students how to break the words down into the sounds.
What I did was start at Level 1 with my 4th grade daughter. She’s a good reader, but not a good speller. Maybe that’s not the right way to put it. She does fine on standardized tests, but some of the spelling mistakes she makes are…well, they’re just odd. It’s not that she just gets confused over which way to spell the long o sound in a particular word, but she leaves out whole syllables or reverses the order of letters. We went through Level 1 at a fairly rapid pace because she was very familiar with her sounds, and she didn’t have any trouble with the short words presented in Level 1. But I wanted her to get used to the method of the program, plus All About Spelling recommends starting in Level 1. Honestly, there are a couple of rules in Level 1 that I did not know, like how to tell if c is making the /k/ sound or the /s/ sound at the beginning of the word. I knew how to pronounce the words, just not the why behind it. So, we’re ready to start Level 2.
This method holds a lot of promise for my daughter. I think just a more thorough understanding of phonics will help her spelling. Not to mention how much the practice of listening and segmenting the words will assist her.
But I’m really excited about trying this with my 7 year old son. I’ve been doing some research, and I highly suspect that he is dyslexic. All About Spelling is based on the Orton-Gillingham method, which is the recommended method to teach dyslexics to read and spell. Plus, he has difficulty writing and I think he will love the letter tiles.
I had hoped to start the program with my son before completing my review, but I needed to get my daughter through Level 1 first. (The student packs are essentially non-consumable, BUT it is difficult to use the same level with more than one student without additional student packs. The flashcards are filed based on whether they’re current, future, or already mastered so sharing the card box would be tough.) I’m ready to start with him and will have to give a report on that later.
All About Spelling is available from their website.
The price is on the high side, especially at the beginning if your child will be moving through the early levels quickly. But, the material is mainly non-consumable with the exception of a progress chart in Level 1. I’m not sure about the other levels, but the bulk of the student packs are the cards, which can be reused. I don’t think it is priced too high after seeing the content of the program, but I recognize that it may not be in the budget for many. But if it works for my son like I think it will, I expect to be purchasing Levels 3 – 6.