Why Classical Homeschoolers Love AAR and AAS

Why Classical Homeschoolers Love AAR and AAS

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.

What Is the Classical Approach?

Why Classical Homeschoolers Love AAR and AAS - from All About Learning Press

Classical education encourages learning in three stages known as the trivium.

  • The grammar stage begins by laying a foundation. During this stage, kids focus on absorbing the facts and rules—the “who,” the “what,” and the “where.”

  • Next comes the dialectic (or logic) stage. At this stage, kids focus on developing a logical understanding of the “why” behind what they know.

  • And finally, during the rhetoric stage, kids focus on applying what they know through communication and expression.

So the next question is this:

How Do AAR and AAS Fit into the Classical Approach?

First let’s take a look at All About Reading.

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.

Now let’s look at how All About Spelling fits into the classical model.

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.

Here’s What Classical Experts Say

Well-Trained Mind (4th Edition)

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.”

Well-Trained Mind Badge

But for many moms, the next question may be even more important than what the “experts” think.

What Do Classical Homeschool Moms Say?

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:

Beth Hodges 5

“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 Bottom Line: AAR and AAS Fit the Classical Approach in Several Ways

The experts and homeschool moms agreeAAR and AAS are the perfect choice for the classical approach. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Our programs set up “learning pegs” through the use of modeling and imitation (through letter tile demonstrations).
  2. Lessons involve memorization of the phonograms and spelling rules. Then we transition to application with real words, using phonograms as building blocks. Application occurs during dictation exercises in AAS and reading from decodable books in AAR.
  3. We ignore grade levels, and instead focus on mastery-based learning.
  4. We teach reading and spelling separately.
  5. Our programs have no gaps.

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?

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Jana Anderson - 2nd Grade teacher


Has anyone been successful in using these materials in class? Class sizes range from 6-12 students in our lower grades.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

YES! We have many schools successfully using All About Reading and All About Spelling in their classrooms! Check out our 12 Reasons Teachers Love All About Reading and All About Spelling blog post.

Please email us at support@allaboutlearningpress.com if you have more questions about using our materials in a classroom.



This has been the ideal spelling program for us!

Sue Boswell


Love what I ‘m learning about AAR and CC



I plan on using the classical approach to homeschool my boys next year. I want to base their learning on what they know, not on what they should know for a certain grade. My oldest finds math very easy to understand, but has a harder time with reading. My youngest is already showing that reading will come easy for him. No one grade level curriculum will fit their needs.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It sounds like you are well prepared for a wonderful homeschool experience!

Christy Maloney


YES! I am a classical method homeschool mom and I love AAR and AAS. IT’s great for my kiddos still in the grammar stage and who have sensory stuff! My son love to “change the word”. :):)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

My kids love “Change the Word” too. It’s a great activity. Thanks for letting us know that AAR and AAS has worked so well for your kids with Classical Homeschooling.

Raquel Barrera


Thank you for sharing this article and your incredible work and dedication to equip our children, and parents, with the tools needed to learn and succeed – naturally :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Raquel. We are very happy to help parents and teachers help students succeed!



We love Classical Conversations and All About Reading!!

We are considering homeschooling our four. I love learning more about this approach as it seems quite natural to me. I’ll nee to check that book out too!

Keri K.


We do Classical Conversations and LOVE AAR and AAS!!!



My house loves All About Spelling!

Colleen Cruff


We love AAS!



We are using the AAR program for the first time and my daughter loves the simplicity. It’s not long and drawn out and she loves to do all the fun hands on activities.

Lauren S.


We are in our 4th year with Classical Conversations and AAR/AAS are a perfect fit for my 7yr old daughter. I love that there is little to no prep for me. She loves the activities and stories. She always chooses to do her reading lesson first each day! It has been great going at her own pace – we have gone quickly through the reading levels and are slowing down for spelling. I recommend AAR/AAS to all of our friends!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for letting us know just how well AAR and AAS are working for you and your daughter.



We love AALP!!! It has made my job as a mom/teacher easier and less frustrating for my child that has learning disabilities! I’ve see all 3 of my kids improve quickly on their spelling and reading skills!
Thank you AALP for this amazing curriculum!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you so much for sharing your kids success with us, Desiree!



We are a classical homeschooling family and love AAR.

Nicole Schofield


In our classical homeschool, we love AAR and AAS. The approach through phonograms makes perfect sense. I even use the “word card” organization technique to organize our Latin vocabulary cards.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

The card system is a very effective way to keep track of what needs to be reviewed, isn’t it?

Rachael Carri


We belong to CC and my son loves AAS!



As a special education teacher, I am interested in viewing AAS resources to consider recommending them to families and other teachers when I run professional learning opportunities



I was looking for something that took the guessing out of spelling and AAR seems to fit the bill!

Chelsey Stafki


I had no idea I was using a Classical approach to my son’s spelling instruction. It is however, an excellent curriculum. It’s also been an eye opener for me. I attended public school and often didn’t learn the reasons behind why words were spelled a certain way, we simply memorized the words on our spelling list for the most part. We absolutely love All About Spelling!



Love the classical approach and looking forward to using AAR and AAS with my youngest.

Whitney Hunt


Great information!

Stacie F


This is my favorite blog article from AAL. Ww will be using both programs for my kids now that we’ve joined a classical homeschool distance learning program.



I am new(ish) to homeschooling, but have really liked the AAR & AAS programs. I have many friends who use the “classical” approach and would like to learn more about it myself.



We love AAR and AAS and do a classical / eclectic education



I use All About Spelling but have never heard of the classical approach. I plan to look into it and learn more about it.



I love the idea of meeting the child at their level for every aspect of schooling, but sometimes it’s hard to juggle so many pieces and programs. I like using a combined LA with something like AAS to help weak spelling skills.



I love this program! I have used it on my 3 girls up to level 3.



Really want to try this.

Wendy Thelen


I do love the how easy AAR and AAS are to use for the average homeschool mom.

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