Are you part of a Classical Conversations community, or do you follow the classical model as outlined in The Well-Trained Mind?
Do you have a child enrolled in a classical school or co-op? Or maybe you’re just beginning to explore the idea of using the classical approach in your homeschool.
No matter where you are on your classical homeschool journey, you don’t have to wonder about how to teach reading and spelling, because I’ve got some great news for you.
Classical homeschoolers LOVE All About Reading and All About Spelling! I can’t wait to share what we’ve heard from some of our classical friends, but first let’s take a quick look at an important question.
Classical education encourages learning in three stages known as the trivium.
So the next question is this:
All About Reading fits perfectly into the grammar stage (approximately K-4th grade). This is the stage where kids “learn to read,” so later they can “read to learn.” This systematic phonics program takes a “parts-to-whole” approach—children learn the parts of words (phonograms and affixes) and how those parts work together to make words. The program uses direct instruction, so your child is told exactly what he needs to know, with no fluff and no guessing.
All About Reading is also useful in the dialectic stage for kids who previously struggled with reading and need remedial help. The program isn’t “dumbed down,” and students can progress at a level that is comfortable for them. Levels 3 and 4, in particular, give kids the opportunity to reason and analyze through comprehension activities.
After completing Level 4, students have the technical skills to read just about anything that is within their vocabulary and comprehension level.
All About Spelling also takes the parts-to-whole approach. Phonograms are introduced as the most basic unit, and instruction gradually builds to the more complex system that makes up English spelling. By the end of the program (Level 7), students are able to spell at the high school level.
All About Spelling begins in the grammar stage after students are able to read at a basic level. In a precise step-by-step manner, instruction continues through the dialectic stage. Dictation and word analysis activities encourage students to apply what they are learning and help move information into long-term memory.
At the end of Level 7, students develop their own plan for a lifetime of spelling success. With this self-guided process, students take what they’ve learned into the rhetoric stage.
Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, co-authors of The Well-Trained Mind, are well-respected authorities on the classical approach. In the newly revised fourth edition of The Well-Trained Mind, they recommend both All About Reading and All About Spelling to their readers.
The Well-Trained Mind shares some general thoughts about what makes a reading or spelling program “fit” the classical approach.
Most of the curricula they recommend aren’t divided into grade levels. Like us, they believe that “you should always spend as much time on one level as you need and progress to the next level only when your child has mastered the first level, whether that comes before or after the ‘normal’ age.“
The authors of The Well-Trained Mind also believe that reading and spelling should not be taught together. I like how they put it: “It’s important to allow students to progress at a natural pace in each of the language arts areas without frustrating them by limiting their progress to the speed of their worst subject.“
In addition to fitting the classical model, the programs the authors selected to include in The Well-Trained Mind met four important qualifications:
In the authors’ recommendation of All About Reading, they write:
“We find this to be the most age-appropriate and parent-friendly Orton-Gillingham program on the market.”
And they had this to say about All About Spelling:
“In keeping with our approach, All About Spelling allows spelling to be studied at its own pace, rather than connecting it to other language arts areas, and does not require significant handwriting in the early years. Directions are clear, there is little busywork, and teacher preparation is minimal.”
But for many moms, the next question may be even more important than what the “experts” think.
Homeschool mom and blogger Becki Malloy first read The Well-Trained Mind ten years ago and immediately became “wholly invested” in the classical approach. Here’s what Becki has to say about how our programs fit into the classical model:
“When you begin to learn something—whether it be to read or how to grow a garden—you start in the grammar stage. You learn the basics and work up from there. You make sure those foundational pieces are cemented in place in order to build knowledge from that base. All About Reading and All About Spelling do exactly that.
“AAS doesn’t just start with the short sound of A and lists with those words. Rather it starts with the foundational concept that letters make sounds, and sounds make words. Put that in place and you can learn to spell anything or read anything.
“AAS and AAR fit into the classical approach in a somewhat unconventional, although precisely perfect way. They start reading and spelling at the grammar level, not as something to be memorized, but as something to grow in understanding with.
“Perhaps without even meaning to, AAR and AAS are the best classically-based reading and spelling programs I’ve invested in.”
Renee Seats describes how effectively AAR and AAS fit into her family’s classical homeschool:
“Both programs easily incorporate into a classical education since they are a no-nonsense approach to learning and focus on skill mastery prior to moving on to future lessons. They also incorporate multiple learning pathways so that all students—no matter their learning style—are sure to find activities that interest them and also meet their learning needs.
“I have tried a few other methods and I always quickly get frustrated with the gaps or the lack of consistency in those programs. I cannot recommend AAR and AAS highly enough for anyone using a classical approach in their children’s education.”
Classical Conversations community member Beth Hodges shared the importance of memorization:
“Classical education uses memorization and exposure to set up memory pegs in our kids’ minds. It sets a foundation for our kids to learn on and add new information. Then as children learn new information they are able to add to already learned information, building their foundation.
“This is exactly what All About Reading and All About Spelling do.”
So, why do classical homeschoolers love All About Reading and All About Spelling? Classical homeschooler Claire Wilkerson ties it all up into one nice, neat package.
“You could not have created a curriculum that is more compatible with classical education if you had tried.”
The experts and homeschool moms agree—AAR and AAS are the perfect choice for the classical approach. Here are a few reasons why:
If you are exploring reading and spelling programs for your classical homeschool, you’ll want to download these free reports to find out more:
Do you use the classical approach? If not, how do you categorize your approach to education?