On Excellence and Good Spelling

    By Renee Miller

Scrabble-words[1]Spelling does matter. It is a discipline our children should be expected to learn from a young age. Charlotte Mason says that if a young child spells a word incorrectly, cover it up. Learning something correctly the first time saves the student from the extra effort of breaking a bad habit later. This flies in the face of the current prevailing wisdom, “It doesn’t matter how or what they write, as long as they write.”

Much has been said about how overzealous correcting can ruin a child’s desire to write. While there is some truth to this, I have seen far more damage done by teaching filled with false praise and low expectations. Lack of fluency in writing is often owing to the lack of confidence in one’s ability to write or spell well. Actually knowing how to spell and write with assurance frees up a student from worrying about mechanics, and allows them to focus on his or her thoughts and convey them effectively.

Good spelling is not a sign of intelligence, but poor spelling does give the impression of a lack of education or attention to detail. While good spellers are typically detail-oriented people, those of us who don’t fit into that category can still learn and at the very least keep a dictionary on hand if we need to.

Although easiest when learned early and correctly, it is never too late to become a proficient speller. The factory system of government schools has given us the impression that learning happens in yearly increments, and if you miss the time when a particular skill is taught, you will always be behind or need years of remediation to catch up. This thinking is never helpful. A great number of things can be learned in a short time with attention, diligence, and a belief in the worthiness of the endeavor.

The old-fashioned spelling bee was beneficial with this in that it reinforced the sequential nature of spelling. Time in the car driving can be put to good use reviewing the Ayres 500 Most Frequently Used Words List, and the one-on-one nature of homeschooling allows for quick correction in context and individualization for each student. As the student progresses to learning inflected languages like Latin, spelling is imperative.

We need to expect excellence from our children and ourselves in every area of education, including spelling. As we raise up this next generation of leaders (our children), let’s equip them with the skills and tools they’ll need to communicate with clarity and power.

What has been helpful for you in teaching your children to become good spellers?

(As one final tip, check out the “Freebies” tab at the top of this page to find out the unique way Garden School/homeschooled student Elizabeth Veldboom learned to spell!)

Some outstanding resources:
The Institute for Excellence in Writing, Andrew Pudewa
The Writing Road to Reading, Romalda Spaulding


    Renee is the founder and director of The Garden School and Cornerstone Classical School (as well as “The Miller Family School”). Though trained in the public school model–she has taught everything from first grade to junior high science–Renee’s first foray away from this system resulted in The Garden School. Renee holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning from Point Loma Nazarene College. She is a strong advocate for classical Christian education and an accomplished public speaker. The Millers currently live in a busy multi-generational household immersed in classical and Christian ideals and a whole lot of love.


One comment on “On Excellence and Good Spelling

  1. Shilo says:

    It is good to hear from you again, you bring so much wisdom and experience to the table your voice is such an important one to our community and kids! Spelling is not the easiest subject, but just like ingredients it seems to help in making the whole product come out exactly like you wanted. It’s learning to perfect a language! Thank you for your post.

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