These are a Few of My Favorite {Homeschool} Things: Elementary Reading & Spelling Curriculum

By | February 3, 2024
This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series These are a Few of My Favorite {Homeschool} Things

I am now in my eleventh year of homeschooling, and I’m often asked what curriculum I use. I’m always very animated when I answer, because I have honestly LOVED every curriculum option I’ve chosen. Several people have suggested that I share here what I’ve used, and I hope this is helpful for others.

I’m going to start with reading, because this is the first thing I’ve always started my kids with. The company that I purchase my reading and spelling from is All About Learning Press. I cannot say enough good things about this company, their customer service, and their materials.

The basis for their approach to teaching reading and spelling is the Orton-Gillingham approach, which breaks down the learning into small, appropriate steps by learning sounds and phonics. Each step builds until the child is able to read/spell any word on that level. There are very few “sight words.” The only words that are taught by sight are common words (such as the) that are helpful to know right away, but contain a phonetic sound not yet taught.

I’ve compared this approach to learning to read music. You have to do the hard work of learning the individual notes to be able to read the music. Once you’ve done that, you can read multiple notes and play songs. You could simply memorize how to play the music (think sight reading), but you’ll be able to play a lot more music if you learn to read the notes.

My kids have all thrived with this program. I’m always amazed how they’re ready for the next level. And they always are. I started all my kids with All About Reading Pre-Reading when they were about 3. If any of the levels felt a bit pricey for what it offered, I would say it was this one. You could probably find free printables online and familiarize your child with the alphabet. However, what I would say were extremely helpful and foundational are the activities in the teacher’s manual. Even if this is all you bought for this level, you would be helped. The activities include listening for rhymes, beginning and ending letter sounds in words, etc. This is critical for a beginner reader.

When my kids were about 4, I started them on All About Reading Level 1. My kids progressed at different speeds through this level. I always slowed down when necessary. It always took a while for them to learn how to blend a word together. S…..A…..M will eventually become S..A..M, and then one day it just clicks, and they finally say SAM. That is always a wonderful day, and it happens at different stages for each kid.

The levels do not correspond with grade levels. I simply moved on whenever we completed one. The customer support team gladly answer any questions that their website does not answer or give recommendations about placement. I remember being confused about how to teach something, and I sent an email. I received a kind, helpful, and quick response.

When my kids were about halfway through kindergarten, I started them on All About Spelling Level 1. I found that with a solid foundation for reading underway, they were always ready to start spelling. I usually knew it was time when I noticed them trying to spell out words for themselves. Again, the spelling levels do not correspond to grades. I simply started the next level when I finished the last.

For reading, I took as long as necessary to complete a lesson. I typically did about 2 lessons a week once the kids were blending words. As unexciting as the fluency sheets are, I highly recommending reading through them to improve, well, fluency. 🙂 The readers that accompany each level contain only words that the child is able to read at that level and that lesson (unlike beginner reader books one might find at the library that contain many words a beginner reader cannot decode yet).

Also, I unashamedly admit that I “bribed” my kids to read their stories by offering 1 Smartie after each page read (for level 1; 1 Smartie for every 2 pages read on level 2). Learning to read was well worth the extra bit of sugar, and I don’t mind that they associated reading with something sweet. And, for what it’s worth they all still love reading (no sugar incentive required). 🙂

Personally, I chose to be done with formal reading education at level 2. By that time, my kids were all fluent readers. Any child still struggling would certainly benefit from All About Reading levels 3-4.

I use the All About Spelling program all the way through the final level 7 (which my oldest 2 completed about halfway through 6th grade). My youngest are currently on levels 3 and 5. I usually do 1 step per week with the kids.

When my kids finished All About Reading, level 2 I have them read out loud from McGuffey’s eclectic readers, starting with level 3. I take turns reading paragraphs or stanzas with them, which helps it not be as overwhelming and examples good reading for them. This is a great opportunity to learn to read other words that may not have been covered in the first 2 levels of All About Reading as well. These stories/poems/essays are always educational and teach wonderful moral lessons.

One final word about the program—the program uses letter and phonics tiles to engage the student in the process. When I began, I used the magnetic tiles on a big, magnetic white board. This worked really well, but when the company came out with the tile app, I bought it in a heartbeat. We still use the app, and it works great. It’s much less of a pain to pull out my kindle than a big whiteboard with loose tiles (especially when I had toddlers).

Oh, and one more amazing bonus—the company offers “box art.” With any physical order, you can request in the comments area a drawing on your box, and their team will make it happen! Spelling is way more fun when it comes in a box with Angelina Ballerina on it! 🙂

I hope this post is helpful. Feel free to reach out with any questions!

Image by Наталия Когут from Pixabay

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