Once upon a time, in a leafy and whimsical part of England I held a simple ideology.
My child’s school would take care of his education, and I would take care of showing him what he could do with it.
I really thought my job was to show him why it was worthwhile to learn to read, to add up, the real value you can get from learning to play a horrific version of Three Blind Mice on a recorder.
The way I saw it I wasn’t qualified to offer guidance with formal education – I would simply be messing that up – but I have experience of applying learning from school, and knowing what is and, perhaps, isn’t useful.
How wrong I was.
I mean I was right about the part of showing a child how they can benefit from learning, providing them with motivation for school, but I was wrong that I wouldn’t be part of aid his learning in the craft of putting letters in the right order.
I’m still not entirely convinced about the obsession with spelling acumen. How relevant will it be in the future, or is there some plan to rid the world of F7 keys that I’m not in on?
In fact, it was quite a challenge to get my word processor to allow me to spell correctly with a k (only worth the persistent for the hilarious blog title, I’m sure all three of you will agree).
Despite not being convinced of the long-term virtues of the three Rs I’ve been minded to help my son improve with them. If for no other reason than I don’t want him to find school a struggle, and therefore be sad about going to class.
Not helping saw him fall behind, and get low scores in his weekly tests, and it felt like it was up to me to do something about it.
I started by following the plans laid out by the school. Using their materials, and their ‘Look, cover, write’ principle.
We were doing these just before bedtime, when it was calm, but ultimately my boy was tired.
So I changed that for mornings before school.
Might seem like a crazy thing to try and add school work to the morning routine, but I just got up a little earlier, and worked in five or ten minutes to the routine protocol for spelling, reading or number practice.
I also mixed up the ways we were going about learning my boy’s spellings.
Even if you weren’t sticking them to a magnetic surface.
Yeah, I didn’t eat those bad boys after my delightful looking bowl of sugared oats. I got Max to spell out his words of the week with them.
But the spelling game he really used to enjoy was Hangman.
We have a chalkboard easel, which my son would take great pleasure in erecting for the purposes of humiliating his father.
Taking turns I’d let him choose any word from his list of spellings, which would normally cover the whole term, or any other word he was confident of spelling. On his goes I would be restricted to only picking words from that particular week’s class spellings.
It was genuinely a fun, and all too even, contest. One he would generally be more eager than me to play before school.
His spelling improved enormously at school. And in between times we played different versions of spelling games, limited spelling to Star Wars characters, or making gaps in famous lines from the film ‘U_e th_ F7 key Luke’ that sort of thing.
I also got a used Junior Boggle game from T’interweb, and that’s had its uses.
I think basically we just have to keep trying different things, to see what works best with your child, keeping them interested and enjoying their learning.
Either that, or simply wait for us humans to evolve to having built in spell checkers.