Spelling Apologist

The Spelling Apologist: Why Good Spelling Is Essential and How to Select the Right Curriculum
By Ellen Barski

“When our spelling is perfect, it’s invisible. But when it’s flawed, it prompts strong negative associations.”
—Marilyn vos Savant

Okay, I’ll admit it right off the bat. I’m a good speller. I’ve always been a good speller. I wince when I see misspelled words inflicted on the public at large: marquees, programs, websites, even magazines. I’ve witnessed poor spelling in student essays and research papers, letters to the editor, resumes, and other publications meant for public consumption. In my corporate world years as an editor, I was by turns amazed, amused, and aghast at both the general lack of spelling knowledge and the widespread indifference toward correct spelling.

But so what? As long as people get their point across, is poor spelling really such a big deal? Are others of my ilk and I fighting a losing battle with cultural change, clinging to outdated rules that are hard to understand anyway? If I may, I’ll hop up onto my soapbox now.

Why Correct Spelling Is a Very Big Deal

In my opinion, good spelling is the most important and useful skill that our society tends to shrug off. In these days of spell check (over-)confidence, text message abbreviations, flat-out ignorance and, frankly, sloppy work, people don’t pay much attention to spelling correctly, and it shows.

Consider this:

Correct spelling leads to well-rounded literacy. Spelling rules, including phonics and syllables, are critical to reading success. Letters are grouped together to make sounds; a working knowledge of these sounds and groups aids in both reading and spelling. Children strengthen their reading skills when they can sound out words successfully. Moreover, their personal bank of word choices expands, which greatly enhances their composition skills.

Correct spelling promotes clarity and speed in communication. Nowadays people don’t have the time or the inclination to decipher someone else’s spelling. If we want our writing to be clear and effective, we must spell well.

Correct spelling creates good impressions. Poor spelling leaps off the page, reflecting negatively on the writer. Even more so than punctuation errors, spelling errors make the writer appear less than fully in command of the native language. To be honest, people disapprove of poor spelling. Using a comma incorrectly is much more likely to be forgiven than spelling a word incorrectly.

Think of all the reading and writing your children will do over the course of their lifetimes. Strong literacy skills, including spelling, are foundational to success in education, volunteer efforts, work—everywhere!

How to Choose a Spelling Curriculum

As home educators, we have the awesome responsibility to prepare our children fully for life. This can certainly feel like a daunting task; but selecting the spelling curriculum that’s best for your children doesn’t have to be.

A quick Google search for “spelling curriculum” or “spelling curriculum homeschool” gleans enough results to keep you busy researching for days on end. I think that’s nifty, but then I enjoy research. If spending days on such a task is not your cup of tea, another idea is to follow the lead of your preferred educational philosophy, be it the classical model, Charlotte Mason, relaxed, etc. Very often, publishers of resources for particular mindsets will offer curricula suggestions.

Even so, keep in mind that spelling curricula are quite diverse, which makes it difficult to group them into strict categories. There are workbooks, textbooks, audio programs, word lists, websites, and other approaches. You’ll want to choose the spelling program that suits your requirements. Below are some tips for making a solid choice.

Like mathematics, spelling is an individualized subject. What works well for one child may not work well with another. Take each child’s personality and learning style into account when choosing a spelling curriculum.

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Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

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