A few weeks ago I received Level 1 and Level 2 of "All About Spelling" in exchange for the following review. Even though our guys are beyond the basic spelling programs, being 11 and 13 years old, I chose to use it as a review for them. Early in our homeschooling days, I read about Charlotte Mason from a few homeschooling speakers. In their interpretation, our boys would be great spellers simply because we read great literature. Well, that didn't happen. Our boys are not what I consider great spellers. In annual tests, they are on grade level, but to me, when every other test is at least a few grades above grade level, spelling is lacking. So, I decided to begin at square one with the boys using All About Spelling Level 1. BOY was I surprised at what I found!
I was pretty excited to review this product because I had read about it several years ago. The idea is that there are very specific sounds or phonograms in the english language that are used repeatedly. (think shun for "tion") If you learn these phonograms and how the sounds are spelled, your spelling improves. When I did try to instruct our boys in spelling years ago, I used the old spelling rules that I was taught. We all quickly learned that all these rules were made to be broken! This made our spelling careers very frustrating. Using the methods in All About Spelling, we aren't learning or teaching rules, but sounds. It's quite brilliant.
I received the starter kit, available for $26.95 and Levels 1 ($29.95) and2 ($39.95), of All About Spelling. On the Sunday before I planned to begin the program with the boys I sat at the kitchen table to assemble all the materials in the Starter Kit. There were several laminated sheets of color-coded letter squares. I had to cut out each square to make 105 individual letter tiles. Also included in the kit are two sheets of magnetic squares with adhesive backs. I put one individual magnet on the back of each letter tile. Then I had to separate the perforated flash cards which are color coded for different skills. All of this preparation took about an hour and a half. I spent another hour reviewing the lessons and getting prepared for the week ahead.
Because the boys are older, I bunched several lessons together into one lesson to move them through the program. Surprisingly, we did find challenges in this program! I thought that since this was such a beginner level, we'd breeze right through it. But even I was challenged to write the letter based on the sounds it makes. For instance, if I made the sounds "ssss" as in snake and "zzzz" as in zither, would you write the letter S on your sheet? Or if I just made the sound "k", would you know it was the letter K, when later I made two sounds "sss" and "k" to indicate the letter "c"? Learning the basic phonograms was really interesting.
I loved the concepts used in All About Spelling. The tiles are colorful. The flash cards are color coded. There are colored see-through chips to use for some activities. The children have to move tiles and chips to do certain reviews and some new activities. They are not just sitting and spelling, but touching and moving as well. By using more than one sense or brain function, the spelling lessons are solidified in their minds. It's an excellent way to learn.
All-in-all I think this is a fabulous spelling program. It is logical and makes sense to learn. It did take a lot of time to prepare for our initial outting, but after that, getting a lesson going took no time at all. You organize once and you're set for the next 6 levels. (level six will be released soon) It is not a program that is easily used for multiple students. I have always taught my boys at the same grade level in everything except math, so I may be a huge exception in the homeschool world. But the script and activities are set up for one on one instruction. I have managed to tweak it so that the boys and I could all do it together. If the material was more challenging, such as in the upper levels, then I may have to work with each boy individually. However, for this review, we are managing to complete our spelling lessons as a group.
If you would like to see all the products that All About Spelling has to offer, check out their product page. This is a really great spelling program. I highly recommed it. You could begin using level one for a first-grade child or use the early levels as review for struggling spellers like mine. Using each level would take you through all the elementary grades. But again, if you have a remedial speller in the highschool level, this is a great program. Just make sure to schedule enough time to get it all prepared ahead of time.