Simple Spelling

This summer I was in a scramble for a spelling curriculum.  My daughter was getting ready to start 1st grade(ish).  (One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we don’t have to conform to one grade, or one curriculum, or one… anything!) 

Now, I know that spelling in the first grade isn’t actually a necessity but I felt like it would help her with her confidence in reading. I knew that if we backed up her current reading level with similar spelling words or word families that she would start to gain some proficiency and confidence.

At first, I asked around my local homeschooling circles and found a few wonderful curriculums, but I just wasn’t feeling it.  I decided that (at least at this current stage) we needed to keep it simple.  You see, one of the beautiful things that I have learned while being involved in Classical Conversations is to keep things “stick and sand.”

The premise of “stick and sand” is that you really don’t need anything more than a stick and some sand to teach your child.  Leigh Bortins, founder of Classical Conversations encourages us to ask ourselves,

If I only had a stick and sand, could I engage and effectively dialogue with my students about the concept I want to teach them?”

First, I searched online for a weekly first grade spelling list.  Once I found one that I liked, I just wrote the words out on our little dry erase board that hangs above the girls’ work table.  They also have their own  small dry erase boards to write on.  (Here is an affordable way to make your own dry erase boards.  This is what we use, not only at home, but at our CC Community day as well.)  If you do not have (or do not want to make your own dry erase boards,) a simple paper and pencil approach is just fine. (Remember, stick and sand.)  We love using dry erase boards because lets face it, to the tiny humans, EVERYTHING is more fun while writing on dry erase boards.

Each day while I am getting other things ready for our school day, my 6 year old copies each of the words (my 4 year old attempts to copy 2-3 words, which is quite a stretch but REALLY great practice.).  That’s it, spelling done for the day and it only took 5 minutes.

So let me show you what it looks like during our personal school week.

Day 1: Have your child copy the words from the board onto their personal dry erase board (or paper.)


Day 2: Copy the words from the board using magnet letters and a cookie sheet (their favorite.)


Day 3: Copy the words from the board using these awesome, dry erase word family wall hangings.


Day 4:  At the end of the week, we have our spelling test.  I take my board down and dictate the words to her while she (only my 6 year old participates in this test) writes them out from memory.

Simple copy work is a very helpful tool and a fundamental piece of classical education.  It accomplishes training in multiple areas all at once (integration of subjects is a very important part of Classical Education.)  While  the student is copying down the words, they are practicing not only spelling but also reading, hand writing, sitting quietly, fine motor skills, and strength in hands for writing.  All of this in one quick, simple lesson that requires very little one on one help from you (which frees you up to tend to a sibling, switch loads of laundry or empty the dish drain.)

It’s that simple.  For now at least, this method is working great for us.  In the future I intend to start using more copy work but I know that for right now, this was all that we need.

I just thought I would share this for any of you with younger kids who are just starting out or who do not have the money for an expensive spelling curriculum right now.  I cannot stress enough that YOU ARE ENOUGH.  You do not have to have an expensive curriculum (although in some cases it is very nice.)  Keep it simple, keep it “Stick and Sand.”

*Disclaimer* The dry erase, magnets and wall hangings are all things that are a little step up from “stick and sand” but I really lucked out at a yard sale this year and got some great school supplies from my dear sis-in-law/former kindergarten teacher.  If you don’t have these supplies on hand, USE WHAT YOU HAVE or what you can find affordably.  Pencil and paper are JUST FINE!



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