How to Get Your Struggling Speller Up to Speed

When Baloo hit 4th grade, I realized his spelling skills needed some help. He was an incredible reader but even basic spelling words were a struggle.

I wasn’t sure if I should start completely over, start at his ‘grade level’, cross my fingers and hope he improved, or something else.

At some point I had the realization that he has all the time in the world to figure out spelling so going back to the beginning was no big deal. I had been so worried about him getting further behind that I failed to realize two things.

First, he was already behind. And the world hadn’t ended.

Second, behind what? Why did it matter that his spelling wasn’t as good as other kids his same age?

So we decided to go back to the beginning with All About Spelling.

And this is something I highly recommend to anyone else facing the same issue.

All About Spelling walks you through the rules, step by step. It’s clear and easy.

But the reason it still worked at 4th grade was because there was no baby-ish parts. Never did he feel like he was used a curriculum intended for 5 year olds.

But I wanted to go a bit more in depth.

Is Spelling Even Important?

There are so many subjects that we focus on that I have to wonder how many of them are even important. I have a whole post on ‘Does History Even Matter?’ from back when I was questioning history

So one big question is – is spelling even important?

In a time where spell check is easily accessible, we can ask Alexa how to spell any word, and google has a convenient ‘did you mean…’ attached to every search – do we need to know how to spell every word?

My answer is yes and no.

Yes, spelling is important. First of all, spell check has limitations. And that includes google. Alexa is a bit better since she can hear you say the word. But still, not perfect.

Secondly, imagine having to write a paper and needing to research how to spell every word. That would take forever.

Plus, sometimes understanding satire, puns, and things of the sort is dependent of knowing how to spell the words. That’s not an academic reasoning, but I would be really sad to miss out on some of the puns that exist thanks to homophones!

But my second answer is no.

Here’s the thing – some people have bigger struggles with spelling. And I don’t think knowing how to spell all the words is a hill to die on.

There is a balance in life between pushing a child who is unmotivated and pushing a child who is struggling.

If there is something stopping your child from spelling then consider how you can push them to spell without breaking their spirit.

In the end, spell check, Alexa, and Google all exist. If your child needs to use these resources to spell, that’s ok. I still use them – often.

red pen marked on multiple choices on english spelling vocabulary test

Won’t They Be Behind If We Start From the Beginning?

So often we worry about our kids being behind. It’s a natural worry and I know I feel the pressure to be ‘at grade level’ coming from all directions.

And the idea of starting from the beginning often brings up that worry monster of ‘but won’t they be behind?’

The first question I ask myself when approaching the ‘behind worry monster’ is ‘aren’t they already behind?’. Or I might think ‘They aren’t going to get ahead if we cannot fix the foundation to move ahead’.

Spelling, in many ways, is like math. It builds on itself. If your child is struggling with early spelling skills, the more advanced spelling skills are going to be that much harder to learn.

So yes – they will be behind (likely). But they’re already be behind. So starting back at the beginning is taking one step back to take 3 steps forward.

Imagine you’re a snow plow driver and you’re pushing up against a snow bank. Eventually the bank is so big that the plow just can’t get through it. You can keep pushing and eventually get through. Or you can go in reverse and plow around the snowbank. You have to go backward for a moment, but are you going to make more progress faster? Yes.

How Much Time Is This Going To Take?

Honestly, this will take as long or short as you want.

When Baloo was in 4th grade and had been in public school for a bit over a year, we pulled them out to homeschool again. I quickly realized his spelling was not where I thought it was. And if I was going to expect him to write at all, we needed to work on spelling.

I couldn’t figure out where he was in spelling so I decided to just start at the beginning. Yes, the first lessons were far too easy. We raced through the first half of level 1 before we found 1 thing he hadn’t learned.

And then we kept going, moving through lessons he already understood quickly, and slowing down a bit when finding something he didn’t understand.

I believe we made it through 2 or 3 levels as we finished out that school year. It took about 2 years total to get him all the way caught up.

But we did get caught up.

Spelling still isn’t his strongest subject. He got behind in spelling because it didn’t come naturally to him.

But he can spell and he’s much more confident in his spelling.

The Best Program to Get Caught Up on Spelling

We used All About Spelling to catch up Baloo on his spelling (and also for Royal and Logi-Bear on their spelling). I was so happy that we had one program that worked for each child despite that they all learn spelling differently.

Here’s why I think All About Spelling is the best program for struggling spellers.

  1. It’s scripted. One of my favorite things in All About Spelling is that it’s scripting. So I don’t have to know the exact right way to explain a concept. We often go off script. But it’s great to have a script to rely on. Especially on days when I’m finding it hard to focus on spelling.
  2. Multiple forms of learning. Not everyone learns in the same way. I love a curriculum that includes multiple options to meet everyone where they’re at. So All About Learning includes hands-on spelling activities, copywork, games, reading, and more. My kids didn’t all need all of the things.
    When Baloo was going through the lower levels, we skipped almost all of the games because he didn’t like them and it didn’t help improve his spelling. I appreciated that there were other options for things that did work for him.
    Logi-Bear, on the other hand, thrived with the games. He did every single one (multiple times).
  3. Simple step by step. When we first received the curriculum, it looked so simple that I was afraid it wasn’t enough. But what I found out was the simplicity was a great strength.
    All About Spelling doesn’t include any fluff. It is just what is needed and no more, no less.
  4. There are 7 levels. I wanted a spelling curriculum that wasn’t going to just drop off at 3rd grade and rely on weekly spelling tests to teach spelling.
    More specifically, I wanted something to teach the roots of words so that all words would make more sense.
    All About Spelling goes all the way from first writing to latin roots.

I would feel remiss to not include any pitfalls of the curriculum. Nothing is perfect, right?


  1. Cannot just skip lessons. Since the lessons build on each other, it’s hard to just skip a lesson. There were some lessons that I felt confident that Baloo knew most of the material but there might be one little part that we missed. And missing that little part would impact him later on. So we didn’t just skip any lessons. We might blow through a few lessons at once, but I found that we couldn’t just skip any.
  2. The Tiles. Honestly, I don’t feel like is a huge con. I like the tiles. But many people really do not like the tiles.
    There is an app for the tiles now. So if you don’t like the ‘stuff’, then consider checking out the letter tile app.

A Plan to Catch Up in Spelling

I don’t want to leave you without a plan so I’m going to share what we did to catch up. It was a pretty simple system and it worked.

Each level of All About Spelling has about 30-40 lessons (don’t quote me on that, but that’s what I remember). We could easily do 1 lesson a week and it would last about a school year.

When I first started with Baloo on level 1, we went through 1 lesson a day, 3-4 days a week. We didn’t do the full lesson every day in those lower levers. We could mostly review the lesson, see if it was something he already knew, and then move on.

I would have him type the words for that day. Early on, I found that letting him type the words instead of write meant he was much more willing to work through the material.

When we came across a lesson with material he didn’t know, we would slow down. Sometimes it took an extra few minutes of that lesson, sometimes we would take an extra day. It all depending on how much we needed to do.

Very often, we would just learn the material and write out the words the following day, instead of doing it all in one day. The break would help me make sure he had retained what we learned the day before.

In the early lessons, this was enough. It was usually just some small piece that he had missed.

Once we got to a level where we had more lessons to learn than review, we switched to doing 1-2 lessons a week. Same process – review the material, write the words out the following day. I just changed my expectation from doing 3-4 lessons a week to doing 1-2 lessons a week.

When we eventually got to the level that was considered ‘grade level’ we stuck to doing 1 lesson a week.

The general outline there was this:

Day 1: Review the lesson, learn the new material.
Day 2: Try an activity or do a short review
Day 3: Write half of the sentences
Day 4: Write the other half of the sentences.

And that was it!

So if you have a struggling speller, I hope this plan helps.

And if you want to try out All About Spelling – make sure to check out their website and see if it’s a good fit for your family.

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