More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment
Not Just a Spelling List! How Heart of Dakota’s first spelling instruction teaches beginning skills for Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation…
A fellow homeschool mom recently asked some questions about Heart of Dakota’s spelling. She’d been planning on continuing to use another spelling program. However, she mentioned it was pretty time intensive, and neither she nor her son really liked it. When she read in Heart of Dakota’s catalog: “For spelling, students focus on learning to spell a basic body of frequently used words. Next, they move on to studied dictation to cement their spelling skills,” her curiosity was piqued. She thought if Heart of Dakota’s way produces good spellers, and if it wasn’t so intensive on teacher and student, then maybe she should make the switch. She asked if the basic body of frequently used words were taught as just a list to be memorized? I thought this was a great question, and I wanted to share my answer here with you too.
The Charlotte Mason-style lessons planned with the spelling words are very effective.
Dictation is a process that must be trusted and faithfully applied, and it will yield results. Dictation is harder than spelling, and the way spelling is done in HOD is a stepping stone for dictation. The Charlotte Mason-style lessons planned with the spelling words in the language arts box of the guide are very effective. I know we probably all grew up doing spelling lists, by studying them and taking a test. Well, the plans written in the HOD guide are totally different. The plans apply the idea of the mind being like a camera taking a “picture” of the word each time it sees it.
Day 1 of Spelling Instruction:
So for HOD’s spelling, Day 1 always has the child look at one word written in black on a white index card. The child studies it, and when the child says he is ready, you (the parent) take the card away. Then, the child writes just that one word on his white marker board in black marker. If he misses it, right away, you erase it and show him the card again. (This is to erase that incorrect “picture” in his mind immediately.) When he says he is ready, you take the card away again, repeating this process until he writes it correctly.
Day 2 of Spelling Instruction:
Then, for Day 2’s spelling you (the parent) just say the word, using it in a sentence. The child tries to write the word from memory, again a black marker on a white marker board is best. If he misspells the word, you erase it immediately to erase the incorrect “picture.” Then, you show him the index card, allowing him to study it as he did on Day 1. The child then writes the word again, repeating this process until he writes it correctly.
Day 3 of Spelling Instruction:
On Day 3, you (the parent) choose three words the child needs to practice the most. One word at a time, the child should use the word in a sentence orally, as you write the sentence on marker board for him. Then, the child looks at the marker board to copy the sentence on paper. You help the child correct any mistakes then.
Day 4 of Spelling Instruction:
Finally, on Day 4, you (the parent) say the word and use it in a sentence. The child tries to write the word correctly. This time, if it is missed, you erase it, and show the child the index card again. Have him fix it on his paper, and while looking at the index card, do the activity to review any missed words (the activity rotates each week).
Many skills are learned though this four day rotation of spelling instruction.
Many skills are learned in this method of spelling, rather than a child just studying a list and taking a test at the end. This four day method of spelling provides an important foundation for dictation the following year. You can see that using the word in a sentence, using the word within copywork of sentences, studying a word and having it taken away then, fixing errors, etc. all prepare children to do dictation the following year.
My son, who was born quite prematurely, had speech therapy for several years as a young child. Yet, he has managed to thrive with HOD’s spelling/dictation plans using Charlotte Mason-style methods. I highly recommend giving this four day spelling approach a patient try, and then I am certain you will see the fruits of it given time! I’m a former user of Spelling Power, and R & S spelling, as well as other programs. However, I’ve found Charlotte Mason’s methods have been the most successful and produced the most carryover to children’s own writing – which is the core reason we’re studying spelling in the first place . This took me awhile to come to this consensus. But now with my second and third child, I’m totally on board with it – and it shows in their excellent spelling.
A few other links that may be helpful…
Here is a link that gives samples of the spelling lists:
Here is a link that gives dictation samples: