Ah, spelling – I think most homeschoolers struggle with it.
But I never thought I would. Because I am a GOOD speller, so I assumed that my children would be too.
As usual, homeschooling humbled me. It turns out that being able to picture a word in my head and read the letters from left to right is great for me, but an absolutely useless skill when it came to helping my children learn how to spell.
Only one out of the five of them inherited my trick. The rest needed to learn in a more traditional way.
And as I had zero knowledge of spelling rules, I had to start from scratch too.
We tried spelling lists – they were boring, and the words didn’t stick. So we tried a few other free homeschool spelling curriculums, but they followed the same drill and kill approach.
But then I borrowed All About Spelling from a friend back in 2018, tried it out, and it WORKED.
Better yet, the kids didn’t complain about doing it – and trust me, if they don’t like something they ALWAYS tell me!
Best yet, it matches All About Reading seamlessly – and we’ve also had great results with that. Having integrated curriculum for both reading and spelling means we’re running both on the same timeline, so there’s far less confusion (and effort on my part).
All About Spelling – my review
First, the nerdy stuff. All about reading uses the Orton-Gillingham approach. I’m not an expert in spelling methods, but here’s what I like the most about this approach.
Multisensory – it’s not all book based, there are manipulatives and hands-on materials. Read more about the multisensory approach here.
Mastery-based – Instruction doesn’t jump around, it aims for mastery of each skill before moving onto the next one.
After around 13 years of homeschooling my children I’ve learned that these two features are incredibly valuable to us. Resources need to provide something concrete to reinforce abstract learning, and skills need to be taught properly the first time, not just skimmed. These are features I now look for in every resource we use, and the ones that do it well (like All About Reading and Math-U-See) give us great results.
All About Spelling Lesson
Watch for a walk-through and to see Forrest and I do a full lesson.
Please note, lessons are not always this quiet and quick – there’s usually a lot of joking and talking (and sometimes complaining about how ridiculous English can be). Maybe I should video them all and hope the peace remains?!
Each All About Spelling lesson takes around twenty minutes for a new concept, and less if your child masters it quickly. You can also easily break them up into shorter sessions for shorter attentions spans, or double up into longer sessions for older children.
Like the look of All About Spelling so far? Let’s take a closer look through the different components of the curriculum.
All About Spelling Teacher’s Manual
If you have NO IDEA about spelling rules and how to teach them (like me), this is your new favourite resource.
The All About Spelling Teacher’s Manual provides lessons with step-by-step instructions and scripting, so you can’t mess it up. Each lesson tells you EXACTLY what to do and in which order to do it. Each step of each lesson is laid out clearly – you just need to collect the materials and follow the instructions.
I admit, when I first heard about scripted lessons I thought they sounded silly and false. But after using First Language Lessons I became a huge fan – scripting makes resources incredibly easy to deliver and it’s never felt awkward or rote for me.
Each lesson details exactly what it will cover and how to prepare for the lesson. There’s very little preparation time involved – I find I can be ready in a few minutes, and definitely don’t need to plan out ahead of time.
You then go through the new teaching (for lessons that contain them), with multi-sensory activities so you’re not just talking at your child. They get to move letter tiles around, write, and generally participate.
The lesson contents vary, and contain activities like dictation, breaking words into syllables, adding prefixes and suffixes, and basically applying all the knowledge learned in all the ways kids need to apply it in real life – it’s definitely NOT just reciting spelling lists.
All About Spelling Student Packet
Each All About Spelling level contains a Student Packet.
It contains a progress chart, the phonogram and sound cards, rule cards and charts, and other activities and resources related to the level.
The Rule-Breakers activity is fun. Surprisingly, for those of us who never learned to spell systematically, most English words follow spelling rules.
But for the naughty ones that don’t follow the rules, there are consequences – your child gets to throw them in jail!
Spelling rule-breakers are treated just as systematically as their law-abiding cousins, and it’s a great fun way to get kids remembering sight words.
Spelling Review Box
The Spelling Review Box is an essential part of each lesson. You’ll usually start by reviewing previous sounds and rules. During the lesson, new cards will be added to your review section.
All About Learning don’t say this specifically, but I’m pretty confident saying it’s a spaced repetition system. This means that newer and more difficult material is reviewed more often, while material that has been mostly mastered is reviewed less often.
We’ve used a form of spaced repetition (Leitner Boxes) for language learning, and I’m a big fan of it. The Spelling Review box takes all the thought out of it, and makes review incredibly easy.
And if you need even MORE review, there are plenty of great ideas here.
All About Spelling Letter Tiles
The Letter Tiles are a big part of the multisensory component, and are also used extensively with All About Reading.
They’re concrete, the colour-coding helps immensely, and they’re great for concentration – we find that having a hands-on activity and being required to do something physically helps break up the lesson and make it more interesting.
You can also get the letter tiles as an app – personally, I like the physical tiles because they’re that bit more hands-on. But the app would be great for travellers.
Extra Spelling Resources
Some levels also contain extra resources, such as All About Homophones in Level 3.
These help reinforce tricky concepts with crosswords, games, and puzzles.
Good Points of All About Spelling
Reassuring – You don’t need to know ANYTHING about teaching spelling to begin – you’ll learn it all along the way with your kids.
Multisensory and hands-on – the letter tiles and activities help provide specific practice and give the lessons variety. This is much better and faster than the ‘random Pinterest activities’ approach.
Comprehensive and rigorous – every single digraph, spelling rule, and exception is taught explicitly. Nothing is left to for the child (or parent) to puzzle out. Perfect for children who won’t connect the dots on their own – and let’s face it, spelling is often not overtly logical so most don’t figure it out intuitively.
Lots of structured review – essential for us! Stuff that is taught once and barely mentioned again falls right out of my kids’ heads. The systematic review prevents forgetting.
Great for kids with special needs – really, all the points made above indicate that. Reviews on the site talk about kids with dyslexia, vision problems (plus autism/dyspraxia/processing issues), autism, issues with auditory processing, and English as a second language. The Orton-Gillingham approach seems to work well for the entire spectrum of needs.
Levels, not age or grade specific – great for kids whose ability doesn’t match their grade level – they don’t have to feel bad because they’re doing work that’s technically below their grade level. And it’s not babyish (no cartoons, characters etc), so it doesn’t appear to be for young children.
Prep work is mostly up-front – once you’ve done the initial set-up there’s very little to do to prepare each week, so you won’t be tempted to put lessons off because of the preparation required (we all think that, right?).
Guarantee – this is the best guarantee I’ve ever seen. You can try it for AN ENTIRE YEAR and if you’re not impressed you can send it back and get a full refund. That shows incredible confidence in the product.
Not-So-Good Points of All About Spelling
Some kids will get bored – My girls just didn’t need this depth of instruction. They did it older, faster, and more independently.
Parent-intensive – Yes, you need to do EVERYTHING with them. This is typical of the age and stage of learning, and I find it’s necessary because you need to know exactly what they are and aren’t understanding. But if you want something you can set your child up with and forget about, this isn’t for you.
Price – Like all comprehensive resources, it’s pricey. But the brilliant guarantee means there’s no risk in trying it, it can be used for multiple children, and it has great resale value, so you’ll get a big chunk back if you look after it.
All About Spelling for Australia/Britain/New Zealand
Yes, I know, the USA had to go and be difficult by simplifying their spelling, which means that the world is now stuck with two different versions of many words. And as All About Spelling is from the USA, it’s valid to worry that your children will be learning the incorrect spelling for their area.
We’ve found it fairly easy to point out the differences, eg. US spelling uses a Z, but British spelling uses an S, such as realize/realise. It’s even sent us on interesting tangents, as we’ve looked at the differences and how they occurred, and discussed the history of evolution of language.
BUT I’ve been adamant my children learn the Australian/British version. Formal writing requires it, to the point where both mine and Gabrielle’s universities specifically told us we would be penalised for American spelling. And I was – I never realised that dietician is American, and we spell it dietitian.
In short, the differences aren’t major, they’re easy to discuss and alter, and it’s great for kids to actually learn the differences.
How to Start Using All About Spelling
If you’d like to have a more in-depth look, each level has samples for EVERYTHING. I always feel reassured when I see this, it means the company has nothing to hide.
Pro homeschooling tip: be VERY wary of a resource that expects you to buy without seeing decent samples first.
All About Spelling has a simple placement test – simply run your child through the flowchart and follow the recommendations.
When you’ve found the correct level it’s very easy to purchase – simply follow the instructions on the site. If you’re starting from scratch you’ll need the level’s materials plus the Letter Tiles in either physical or app form.
Once you receive it, simply follow the instructions at the beginning of the Teacher’s Manual to prepare, and then you’re ready to go!
So what do you think? Will you be trying All About Spelling? Do you already use it? Do you have any questions that I haven’t answered? Let me know in the comments!