There was a question on one of the homeschooling groups on Facebook earlier, asking how many members taught spelling to their children, and if so, how and at what age was the teaching started.
There were a number of responses, the majority had replied with "Of course! It is so important!"
I stuck my neck out and admitted that I don't.
I almost regretted hitting the send button, cringing at the thought of what possible responses that statement may invoke.
Then I remembered that the facebook group is based in the US. The legal situation for home-educators over in the US varies widely from state to state. There are some states that allow parents the freedom to home-educate as they see fit, whilst other areas demand that a curriculum is followed and progress tests carried out. Really it was no wonder that various spelling curriculum appeared to be very popular over there.
I needn't have given any thought to possible negative responses. Everyone that answered just spoke of their own experiences and didn't question any one else's. My posting even got 15 likes so others obviously agreed with my way of thinking. It was nice to read others perspective and it certainly made me take a moment to consider.
Firstly it got me thinking about how wonderful and diverse home-education is. It reminded me how fortunate we are that we live here in England where few rules and regulations regarding home-education are imposed. Here we can tailor-make the education of our children to suit the individual child and family. We can (in most cases without a fight) do as much or as little structured work as we choose, we don't have to follow any curriculum, we don't have to keep up with what being taught in schools, we don't have to be a qualified teacher, and we don't have to put our children under the pressure of exams.
As children learn and develop at different paces, excel in different subject areas, have an interest in different topics, are diverse in their learning styles, have differing personalities, characteristics and home-life situations, and have varying ideas of what they want for their future, it is really no wonder that home-education is ever growing in popularity. People are seeing how the large school system cannot possibly cater for their child's individual and unique needs. In a class of 30 children, with the best will in the world, the needs of many will not be met.
Due to the popularity of this blog, I receive on average, 3 emails a day enquiring about home-education. For some, they feel their hand is being forced down the home-education route due to ongoing school issues. For others, they have seen a change in their child since starting school and it isn't a positive one. Recently I've had many emails from people with younger than school-age children. Often just 1 or 2 years old when they contact me, wanting to know more about how home-education works and what it's all about. They feel they don't want to hand their child over for someone else to teach him or her, instead they are choosing to consider all options or they explain that home-education fits in with their parenting ethos. The word is getting around. Parents are starting to realise they do have choices. Parents are beginning to learn that there are alternative options to the usual school at 4/5 route.
Going back to the original question, why don't I teach spelling?
Because for me, it goes hand in hand with reading. My belief is that if my children can read well, if they can read books of all genres, if they continuously push themselves with regards to new vocabulary and book 'level', the spelling issue just clicks into place. I've seen it happen with Chelsea. At 16 years of age her verbal vocabulary is wide and words are interesting to her. Within our home we have a large selection of books - fiction and non-fiction, of all genres, from the classics through to modern day. Chelsea loves to read. She actively looks for new words and chases up the meaning in a dictionary. I've never done any sort of spelling "lessons" with her, nor have I with Joseph, Tiegan or Callum. Joseph spells well, sometimes even helping his sister with a word she is struggling to spell correctly. It amazes me. He was what the school system would refer to as a late reader, mainly due to the phonics teaching method he was being taught in primary school was severely hampered by his speech dyspraxia. I tried to "teach" him to read, but many times our lessons ended in frustration on both sides. I took my foot off the pressure pedal and relaxed. Joseph started to read. Now he too reads to pleasure and has an ever-growing vocabulary, often bringing out the big impressive words during humorous discussions about just why his room doesn't need tidying.
Tiegan is a prolific reader. She must spend half her time snuggled up on the sofa reading. She has a wide and varied reading list - at the moment she is rather taken with Jacqueline Wilson and bugs and spider books. Diverse. She is a completely self-taught reader. At no time was any instruction given to her on how reading should be done.
Callum is starting to develop an interest in books. He has for a long time enjoyed being read to, and has often picked a book up from the shelf (normally non-fiction) and flicked through the pages - showing me and talking about what's going on in the pictures. His reading level is developing rapidly as he is using the computers and following instructions on game console games. He has a few books that he enjoys reading, such as The Gruffalo. He is at the stage where he reads part from memory and part reading the words. That's ok! He types on the computer; he messages friends, uses a search engine, looks for videos he wants to watch on Youtube, and types when necessary on the various game websites he plays. He is reading and spelling whilst on the computer, and not even thinking about it. Natural learning, progressive and stress-free.
As always I will say...
Do whatever is right for your child and your family. Follow your instincts. What works for one may not work for another. But, if your child is struggling and becoming frazzled and frustrated, and if reading or spelling is becoming a chore, it may be a sign to ease off that pressure pedal for a while. Relax and look at life as one big learning tool in itself. Surround yourselves in reading material of all levels and genres and get back to enjoying the written word again, together :)