Gemma-Rose isn’t a defiant child so when she said to me, “You can’t make me learn anything I don’t want to learn,” I stopped and listened.

We were talking about spelling. Did Gemma-Rose want me to enrol her in an online spelling program?

“No thank you, Mum.”

“Well, how will you learn how to spell?”

“I’ll pick it up as I go along,” she answered confidently.

“But wouldn’t it be easier to do a proper program. Don’t you think it’s a fun way to learn spelling?”

“Not really.  And if I don’t want to do it, I won’t learn, so it’s a waste of time.”

I didn’t enrol Gemma-Rose in a spelling program. She is going to pick it up as she goes along.
Actually all my other children have also picked up spelling as they’ve gone along: I answered their spelling questions, and pointed out a few patterns here and there, and they learnt some words on their own because they liked them. And they’re all good spellers. I don’t know why I was distracted with the idea of an online website. New things come along and sometimes they are worthy of consideration… We try them out and then return to what we know works for us.

We are reading Anne of Green Gables. Gemma-Rose is sitting on the edge of her seat, her whole body quivering with enjoyment. As I read Anne’s long speeches, Gemma-Rose’s face lights up and she can’t resist interrupting: “Anne is such a chatter box!” Every now and then she asks me a question: “What’s an alabaster brow, Mum?... alabaster… alabaster…” Gemma-Rose rolls the word off her tongue, delighting in the sound. When we come to the word ‘excruciatingly’ she is absolutely delighted. She repeats this word a few times too, asks me its meaning and wonders when she can use the word herself.

A few days pass and Gemma-Rose appears and announces: “When I fell over when we went running this morning, it was excruciatingly painful!” A huge grin spreads over her face and then she adds, “It didn’t hurt that much really but I wanted to use ‘excruciatingly’. Isn’t it a wonderful word?”

A few more days pass and Gemma-Rose asks me: “Do you think you could write me a list of spelling words? I want some nice long interesting ones like ‘excruciatingly’ and ‘Australia’. If I could spell them I could use them in my stories.” I write her a list of interesting words.

For the last couple of weeks, Gemma-Rose has been writing a stage play for the Script Frenzy Challenge. I registered her for the scriptwriting program Celtx and every day she has been working by herself, writing page after page of script.

“Do you want to read what I have written so far, Mum?”

I glance over Gemma-Rose’s shoulder and I am surprised. I can read everything she’s written and most of it is spelt correctly. And it hasn’t even been through the spellchecker.

I come to the conclusion that there’s more than one way to learn spelling. The picking-it-up-as you-go-along method is working for Gemma-Rose. She wants to learn the spelling of the words she wants to use.

Now I have to admit that one of my children was not a good speller. I tried organised spelling lists and phonics based spelling and still he spelt things his own way. I talked this ‘problem’ over with an educational representative who reassured me that many very intelligent people cannot spell. Many are so successive in their fields, they can employ someone to spell for them. Or they use spellchecker. So I stopped worrying. I did however notice something very interesting. When that child started participating in online university discussion boards his spelling miraculously underwent a transformation. Almost overnight he could spell. I guess it comes back to need.

The other day Andy texted me while we were driving. Imogen read out the message: “Tonight’s parish council meeting has been cancelled.”

“Excellent,” I said. “Now we don’t have to hurry home from our day out at camp.”

Imogen texted Andy: “Mum says exellent.”

The reply came instantly back: “You missed out the ‘c’ in excellent.”

“Dad! You can tell he’s a school teacher,” groaned Imogen. "It was only a text message. I do really know how to spell.”

And Gemma-Rose will know how to spell soon too, not because she's using a fabulous spelling program, but because she wants to learn.

Post a Comment

  1. We've had exactly the same experience! Spelling lessons were a complete waste of time- and so boring. They all learnt by asking how to spell or looking up words when they needed them. I'm gradually finding there's more and more that they can teach themselves and they prefer it that way, rather than having boring drills and workbooks forced on them.

    Oh, and I'm a bit pedantic about spelling in texts, too! And, abbreviations - but I'm having to change that. My texts were rolling off the page and no-one reads more than 2 sentences at a time, these days, anyway;-) Hmm, come to think of think, this comment is way too long, too - are you still reading?

    Interesting topic, Sue - it's encouraging to read your similar experiences:)

    1. Vicky,

      Maybe workbooks and spelling programs haven't worked for us because they present many words which are not being currently used in my children's writings. Learning the spelling of words without using them doesn't seem to work very well for some children.

      My children write a lot and use some words very frequently. These words they soon learn to spell because it gets time consuming looking them up or asking me. I am sure you know what I mean!

      Do your children love to collect new words like Gemma-Rose? She often asks me to spell new words to her so she can use them in her stories.

      I used to be pedantic about text spelling too. Then Callum taught me some short-cut spelling and I amuse him by sending his messages in text-talk. I am trying to teach Andy too!

      The one thing I haven't conquered is emoticons. In a way I hate them. I think the words should convey the emotions. I wonder if we getting too lazy with how we are wording things and just add emoticons as a back-up in case we are misinterpreted.

      Your comments are never too long! My comments are so wordy they could exist as posts of their own!

      Thank you for sharing!

  2. Sue, I've noticed the love of vocabulary as the children have got older. At university, some tutors don't always know the meaning of words that we take for granted. I'm not meaning to be proud or critical but it took me by surprise, particularly as it's happened so often that our oldest had to consciously dumb down her vocabulary for the sake of good grades (in the Education Dept of all places! These are our future teachers!!)

    As for emoticons - I must admit, I love them! Like you say, they make it easier to avoid misinterpretation. Maybe, it's because we write in a conversational way on our blogs, so we miss the facial expressions and body language. I wonder if the writing style was more formal, whether it would be easier to express ourselves more eloquently. Whenever I try to be too eloquent on my blog, I end up sounding snobby and proud!

    But I haven't been able to bring myself to use LOL - yet! - ever since I heard of someone using it in real life speech! Pleeeeease!!!!! What have we come to?!

    1. Vicky,

      I must admit that sometimes I go to use a word and then have to check its meaning just to make sure I am using it in the proper context. Sometimes simple is safe! I guess our children can always use their vocabulary in their personal writings and in their conversations.

      I understand your reasons for using emoticons but I don't think I will ever be an emoticon person. And yes, I could never say LOL in conversation. I don't even like using it in writing. Perhaps I am just getting old, Vicky. I can't seem to adapt. For a long time I thought LOL meant Lots of Love!!! I couldn't understand why girls were using this in emails to my boys. They're great boys but surely not all the girls loved them!!! Abbreviations can lead to misunderstandings!

  3. Your daughter sounds like the type of person who will learn no matter what you do or don't do. She seems excited about it and hungry for it. How delightful !

    1. Colleen,

      You are so right! Gemma-Rose is like a sponge, eager to soak up any experience. She's a very 'easy' child. I do delight in her and take the time to enjoy her as my days of having a little girl in the family are almost over.

      God bless!

  4. I attended public school as a child. I did very well in spelling, but in my oh-so-humble opinion, the true reason I did well naturally was because I was an avid reader. I did not have to "study" for spelling tests. They were (to me) stupid pointless tests.

    I have had my girls home for three and a half years... and I have not given a single spelling test... nor have I 'taught' spelling. I had encouraged reading though..

    My eldest daughter Amy, who has been a terrible speller and disliked reading, is now free to choose what she wants to read, and when... and her spelling has vastly improved, naturally. My youngest, Robyn, LOVES books and reads constantly. She too, has naturally become an excellent speller... and in addition to reading, may I add that both my girls have learned SO MUCH... all from reading...

    What's that old line? "The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the further you'll go!" :)

    1. Susan,

      I agree that reading and writing and spelling go hand in hand. If our children love reading then they do learn so much. My girls like to copy the styles of books they read and try out the vocabulary they have read and like... that all involves spelling and they soon learn the correct way to do it.

      "The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the further you'll go!" :) I love that! I've never heard that saying before. Thank you for sharing it.

      And I can see you are an emoticon girl!

  5. It's so fun for me to read your posts, nodding my head in agreement. I am keenly aware that my 15 year old - my youngest - will only be with me a short time longer. She's one I think will try her wings earlier than her older siblings. Gemma-Rose is smart to realize her ability to learn is dependent on her wanting to learn! And we (parents, teachers) just can't MAKE someone want to learn.

    1. Amy,

      I always enjoy sharing my posts with you! I am glad we have similar experiences to chat about.

      I wonder if you're feeling sad as you think about the possibility of your youngest trying out her wings in the near future. I feel time is going much too quickly and Gemma-Rose is growing up before I am ready.

      Amy, I was really surprised by Gemma-Rose's conclusion that I can't make her learn if she doesn't want to learn. (Don't children come out with some interesting things sometimes?) After thinking about it, I am sure she is right. It's a bit like trying to make children eat. We never have much success if they are determined not to eat.

      Despite Gemma-Rose's words, she is very eager to learn. She just wants to learn her way which is fine. She really is learning at a fast pace.

      Thank you for stopping by, Amy!


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