Our Personal Story Regarding Reading and Spelling
We are all interested in something. Some of you may even be gifted in some areas. Maybe you can sew beautifully or cook better than your grandma. Maybe you have a green thumb. (If so, I’m jealous!) One of my kids has great aim with a slingshot or a bow and arrow. Another is a very talented artist. One enjoys science. The youngest loves anything with a motor!
My interests are reading and writing. I love school and I desperately want my kids to love it as much as I do! Regarding reading and writing, my four kids range all the way from “not at all interested” to “Why, yes! Let’s look up the word of the day and use it in a sentence just for fun, shall we?!”
When my third child showed an early interest in learning, I thought I had it made. I was wrong! He enjoyed listening as his older siblings did their school work and sometimes called out the answer to a random multiplication fact as they studied. He liked being read to. He asked good questions. When it came time to begin his “formal” education, though, I was surprised to find that he had a very difficult time learning to read and write.
He was often frustrated. He seemed to forget everything he had learned the day before. He gazed off into space and guessed instead of sounding out words. His handwriting was terrible. His spelling ability was nonexistent (even for sight words that could be simply memorized). I felt like a failure.
A Dyslexia Diagnosis
After two years of trying to teach him to read and write with very little success, I had him screened for dyslexia. To make a long story short, he was eventually fully tested, and we found that he is indeed dyslexic. He has difficulty sounding out (decoding) words, trouble recognizing sight words, challenges with word recall, and much more. Once I understood what he needed, we worked for three years to help him learn to read with fluency. Part of our strategy included using a program called All About Reading. Click here to read my All About Reading review.
Improvement in Reading (with AAR) but Not in Spelling, Handwriting, or Typing Ability
He may always have some degree of difficulty with reading and word recall, but by using All About Reading (AAR), his skills became close to those of his peers. One area in which his skills continued to remain poor, though, was spelling!
I knew he disliked handwriting, but I always attributed this to dysgraphia. It’s not uncommon for dysgraphia to go along with dyslexia.
When he began working on his typing, I once again attributed his reluctance to fine-motor difficulties related to dysgraphia.
Finally, in a moment of extreme frustration, he was able to explain that his main problem with writing and typing was not fine motor-related at all. It was spelling! Both typing and writing took a very long time and were very labor-intensive for him due to looking back and forth so much (from his source text to his paper) because he was unable to spell the words. Thankfully, I knew where to turn once I understood the root of the problem!
How We Chose All About Spelling
After having such great success with All About Reading, I had great confidence that All About Spelling (AAS) would help my son improve his spelling. I did research other programs, but I kept coming back to All About Spelling. I determined that this was the program I had the most confidence in and moved on to the next step – administering the placement test.
I administered the All About Spelling placement test to determine the best level for my son. It was very straightforward, quick and easy to administer, and definitely helpful. My son remembered many of the reading rules he had learned in All About Reading and was able to use those to begin at Level 2. I highly recommend that you begin at Level 1, however, if both you and your student have not yet used a thorough, systematic reading or spelling curriculum that included both reading and/or spelling rules.
The reason for beginning with level 1 is that there are many rules and hints that are introduced in the first level that will be very useful as you move on through the levels. Since they build on each other, I don’t suggest skipping any levels. Even though we began with Level 2, I purchased the flashcards from Level 1 and reviewed them with my son before beginning Level 2. These cards contain information to help your student learn words, sounds, phonograms, and spelling rules that will be needed to spell successfully.
Preparing to Use All About Spelling
To give you some practical information about the program, I’ll share my experience with preparing to use All About Spelling.
Spelling Review Box
It took just under an hour to separate the flashcards and organize them in the Spelling Review box. It would be easy to reduce this amount of time with the help of an older student or friend who can help fold the cards at the perforated lines and tear them apart.
Getting Familiar with All About Spelling
I spent about 30 minutes reading through the introductory information on how to use the program. I suggest making a cup of coffee (or tea) and settling down and enjoying it.
Phonogram Sounds App
The introductory material has a QR code to download the phonogram sounds app, which I love! This app teaches you, the parent, exactly how to pronounce each letter sound. Don’t be tempted to skip this part!
I highly advise getting familiar with the letter sounds yourself so you don’t accidentally make common mistakes when helping your student with letter sounds. (Your familiarity with phonogram sounds will help you to remember to make the “c” “a” “t” sounds correctly, for example, rather than “cuh” “aah” “tuh.”) And yes, this is important even for kids who read well.
Letter Tiles App
You may choose to use physical letter tiles or use the Letter Tiles App. My son didn’t have a strong preference, so I chose to use the app. I wanted the convenience of having the tiles all in one place with no risk of loss, but either method will work just fine.
If you choose to use the app, I suggest that you do the app tutorials (this will only take a few minutes) and practice using the app before you begin with your student. You’ll want to be familiar with how to select and use the tiles, how to clear the screen, and how to select the proper level and lesson.
Some of My Favorite Features of All About Spelling
I really loved the preparation section!
It contains all of the information you need to successfully set up your materials. Additionally, it includes useful information on how the program works, how to get familiar with the material before you begin teaching your student, and some extras and strategies for handling rule breakers (the words…not the kids!).
I found that I enjoy the scripted lessons.
I am a free spirit, and I love to do my own thing in just about every area of life – including teaching my kids. I did not think I would love scripted lesson plans, but I really do!
I have found that my son simply does not learn in the same way that I do. Having a script to follow not only relieves me of the pressure of finding the right way to present a concept, but it also gives me the security of knowing that I didn’t leave anything out or accidentally say it in a confusing way.
Additionally, I know they were scripted by an expert who knows exactly how to get the point across. The scripted lessons were a huge hit with both of us.
Lesson length is flexible, which makes the curriculum easier to adapt for your child.
The amount of time you spend using the program each day is up to you. You may choose to complete an entire lesson (Lessons in AAS are called steps.) at once, or you may choose to break it up into shorter sessions as we did.
My son learns well for short periods of time and then becomes restless when he is struggling with difficult concepts. It was easy to find a natural stopping point within each step (lesson) and to simply continue from that point the next time.
AAS covers information thoroughly and logically.
I have confidence that my son is learning what he needs to learn. I don’t worry that there will be gaps in his spelling instruction that may cause confusion later.
I love that AAS is multi-sensory.
When teaching a dyslexic child to read or spell, including multi-sensory activities is a must! In fact, I believe that ALL kids can benefit from a multi-sensory method of learning.
It is known that kids with learning disabilities benefit from different methods of input, and it is suggested that this would be a great way to teach all subjects to all students. We use movement and multi-sensory input for every subject, so the fact that it was already included in this program really made the program even easier to use.
Bad guys (words that don’t follow the expected spelling rules) go to jail in All About Spelling!
A Few Additional Things I Love
The materials are sturdy and durable. The card box is thick, the lid fits well, the materials fit inside nicely, and the dividers are strong and easy to see above the cards. It even comes with little foam blocks to use if you don’t have a full set of cards. (The foam blocks take up the extra space to keep your cards from falling down. They thought of everything!)
The paper quality is great, and the teacher’s guide is bound well. Even with daily use, the materials and teacher’s guide hold up well and are easy to use!
I enjoyed the clean, uncluttered look of the material. Visual clutter can be overwhelming, so I found the simple but enjoyable look of the materials to be pleasant.
The font of the materials is easy for my dyslexic student to read.
Daily review is built into the program, which helps with long-term retention.
Final Thoughts and End Results
All About Spelling is a fantastic program for kids of any age or ability level.
My son has dyslexia, but the Orton-Gillingham approach that is used in this curriculum is equally great for all students.
Using All About Spelling with my son has been enjoyable for me and so helpful for him!
His confidence in his spelling ability has increased tremendously in a short period of time.
As homeschoolers, we have the option to continue to work with our students until they achieve mastery of many subjects. Spelling is one subject that he and I both felt is worth working hard to master since it will affect his ability to write well for the rest of his life, whether that includes writing papers for school or writing emails for work one day.
He has really enjoyed his increased ability to write without the stress and without the time-draining need to constantly look back and forth at how to spell so many words. He feels much freer to consider what he wants to say and how to say it since he is not nearly as exhausted with the mechanics of spelling each word.
We saw quick improvement and lots more progress over time.
When we first began using All About Spelling, my son had difficulty spelling most words, even the simplest ones. (His reading ability was very good, but producing the words through spelling was not a good skill for him at all.) Before we finished Step 1 of Level 1, I could already see that he was getting comfortable with spelling and that the methods laid out in All About Spelling were working for him. The dictations at the ends of each step are becoming easier and much less intimidating as he progresses through the program.
In fact, he came to me and expressed a desire to write about his journey with dyslexia and learning to read, write, and spell. Whether he ever actually achieves that goal or not, the fact that he has expressed such a desire tells me that he now feels equipped to do so and as his teacher and his mom, I know he is.
All About Learning Press Giveaway!
Melissa Overland is a full-time wife and homeschooling mom. (She also happens to be the identical twin sister of Wendy Hilton who is co-owner of Hip Homeschool Moms.) She loves all things nerdy and creative and is quite unable to keep a clean house. She finds solace, however, in training her children to put God first, to be not only educated but also happy and content, and in aiming to learn to be better at the housekeeping thing as a family! She lives in the South with one husband, two children, and one cat, all of whom must be tough enough to survive life with no grains or gluten, very little sugar, and lots and lots of sloppy kisses.