(Last Updated on March 27, 2021)
When we first started homeschooling, I set out to find the perfect curriculum for each subject.
You know, that magical product that would be a great fit for all of my kids, no matter what their personality. The one that I could reuse over the years to maximize my investment. The one that’s customizable but also requires zero teacher prep. Is that too much to ask?
Well, it’s been almost a decade since I started my search. I can now say there’s only one subject where I found a magic bullet that achieved all those goals.
That subject is… spelling.
DISCLAIMER: Sensible Homeschool is an affiliate of All About Learning Press, the publisher of the All About Spelling curriculum. However, I’ve never received any free or discounted products from them nor do they know I’m writing this review. I only endorse products we’ve used ourselves and would recommend to friends and family.
After a brief attempt at a spelling program that was basically just a bunch of word lists, I knew I needed something else.
When my oldest son was in 2nd grade, we started All About Spelling and he finished Levels 1 and 2 that year. He’s now finishing up Level 6 and I’m about to order the final book in the series for next year!
With my early elementary kids, I’ve typically spent about 15-20 minutes on spelling, 4 days per week. They’ve all loved using the letter tile manipulatives and have rarely complained about spelling.
This year, with my oldest on Level 6 and my middle son on Level 3, we typically spend no more than 10-15 minutes a day, 3 days per week on spelling. The older they get, the less they’ve needed/wanted to use the letter tiles. But the curriculum continues to be effective and very efficient, helping them learn whether they’re natural spellers or not.
I highly recommend the All About Spelling curriculum to any home educator in search of a spelling program for their kid(s). Check out the review below to find out why!
All About Spelling Curriculum Review
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What It Is
All About Spelling is a fully scripted, 7 level, spelling curriculum based on the Orton-Gillingham approach (that is, a multi-sensory, phonics-based method that builds mastery of concepts). It’s used by homeschoolers, tutors, and classroom teachers with students of all ages and ability levels.
It teaches spelling in a logical order, building on past lessons and providing continual review. It’s a flexible program allowing for customization while still minimizing required teacher preparation. It teaches the English spelling rules in a step-by-step way so students know the why behind spelling.
The curriculum includes a teacher’s manual as well as student review flashcards (including phonogram cards, sound cards, and key concept cards). Additionally, magnetic phonogram tiles and other resources (for example, a Silent E mini-book, or homophone list template, etc.) round out the program and provide a multi-sensory learning experience for students.
You can find out more or purchase the curriculum at the All About Learning Press website.
- It’s truly “open ’n go.” Once the initial setup of cards is done, there’s very little teacher prep required. And, because it’s fully scripted, you don’t have to know (or even have looked at) the material beforehand.
- It’s good for every learning style. Whether your student is a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner, this curriculum can work for them.
- Visual – Kids use magnetic phonogram tiles to spell out words and learn about syllables. The color-coded tiles have been a huge help for my visual learners (and me, too).
- Auditory – The scripted teacher’s manual guides you in knowing exactly what to say to fully explain the spelling rules. Their emphasis on spelling sentences (not just individual words) helps strengthen auditory and memory skills. The sound and phonogram flash cards have students hearing and saying/writing answers which is great for auditory learners.
- Kinesthetic – The program includes several manipulatives – the main one being the magnetic letter tiles. Actively moving the tiles around to spell syllables and words engages students who need movement to learn. The review cards lend themselves to all kinds of active games (like hopping down steps as you call out answers to the flash cards, for example).
- This program is NOT just word lists! It teaches the rules – the “why” – of English spelling. From sounding out the first short one-syllable phonetic word to a thorough understanding of all English spelling rules and patterns you’d ever need to know, this curriculum covers it all. Lessons proceed consistently and gradually to build confidence, even for not-so-natural spellers.
- Students spell full sentences, not just words. As early as Level 1, students are writing complete sentences to practice all concepts previously learned. This is so valuable! It provides constant built-in review and helps them write in a more “real-life” way than just writing ten disconnected words on a test.
- There’s a reasonable number of lessons. Level 1 has 24 lessons and even Level 7 has only 30 (one lesson per week is an average pace). If you follow a typical 36 week school year, this leaves plenty of time for breaks, extra review, and catch-up weeks throughout the year.
- There’s no busy work. This program is very efficient. I appreciate that it doesn’t waste my time with fluff.
- It holds your hand. The teacher’s manual provides helpful tips and hints about upcoming lessons so I feel prepared even if I haven’t looked at the next lesson! Some curricula say they’re low teacher prep but there’s still work for me to do ahead of the lesson. All About Spelling is truly a low-prep curriculum.
- It’s fun but not too cutesy. Some fun ideas are incorporated but not so many that it becomes too cheesy or distracting. For example, my kids have always liked putting “rule breakers” (words that are exceptions to spelling rules) in “jail.” And most weeks there’s at least one fun-but-not-too-silly sentence. The picture above shows one: “If you ask me, this kitchen has a real shortage of cupcakes!” For us it’s the perfect balance of serious and fun; the kids learn a lot of good content without being bored.
- The program is reasonably priced. This is especially true if you use it with more than one child. I’ve been able to reuse even the student packets (more on that in a minute) which means my cost is essentially $15/year per kid for spelling. That’s doable for us.
- There’s built-in review. Although it’s sold as a “mastery” program, I’ve felt the built-in review in addition to the review cards incorporates a spiral learning approach, too. No matter what you call it, the logical, step-by-step, review-integrated approach really helps kids retain what they’ve learned.
- It’s a very flexible program. It’s so easy to customize All About Spelling. You can easily use or not use the magnetic tiles, do or not do the extra review, skip practice sentences if they’re not needed, add more practice if it is needed – it’s all there for you if you need it. But the program won’t fall apart if you decide to skip a section. Unlike some curricula, I don’t feel like I have to be a slave to the curriculum.
- They have an app, too. If you or your kids prefer, you can download their app to use in lieu of magnetic tiles. Whether you use tiles or the app, this helps all kids (even those who aren’t strong writers) to use this curriculum with success.
- The initial setup is a little bit tedious. Tearing apart the perforated cards before the school year starts was fun the first year. The second year I grumbled as I did it. And ever since then I’ve actually paid my older son $2 to spend thirty minutes tearing cards and putting them in order. Problem solved.
- A parent will generally need to be involved. This is not a program you can hand to your child and have them do independently. But I haven’t found this to be an issue since it’s not too time intensive. Once in a while, to mix things up and give myself a break, I have my two oldest boys read their spelling sentences to each other. But, generally speaking, a parent would need to explain the lesson and read the words and practice sentences to the student.
- A portion of the student pack is consumable. This means that if one student uses it up, you’d have to buy a new pack for your next student when they reach that level. The cheapskate in me found a workaround – I had my kids write on separate paper or use page protectors and whiteboard markers to keep the originals clean. But, lucky you, they’ve recently added downloadable files of some of their consumable pages (certificates of achievement and progress tracking pages)! So this less of a “con” than it used to be!
- You may need additional student packs. If you have two students working on same level simultaneously, you may need to buy a second student pack. Trying to keep track of who has mastered which cards and who needs to review what will be tricky if they’re sharing a set.
- It might not be affordable. I listed its reasonable pricing in the pros and, for us, it has been within budget. But depending on your situation – particularly if you have an only child – the cost might be a stretch considering it’s just a one-subject curriculum. Definitely do the math to see if it will work for you. Keep in mind you can re-sell the teacher’s manual (and even the student pack if you don’t write on the materials) on sites like Homeschool Classifieds to recoup some of your costs.
- All levels have a similar style and method. While I personally don’t see this as a bad thing, I can see some students needing a change of pace every couple years. If Level 1 isn’t a good fit or if your student seems to need a change, you might reconsider using this curriculum since all the levels follow a similar format.
- It’s easy to “over-review.” If you try to do every single review and writing activity in the book, this could become too time consuming. This is easy to remedy, though. Just make sure to review only as needed and it won’t be an issue. One of my sons in particular gets very frustrated when we review things he already knows. So we only review cards every few weeks and he’s a happy camper.
All About Spelling Bonus Tips
- Unless you really need to have the card box and tote bag, just buy the Basic Spelling Interactive Kit. I used my grandma’s old recipe box to store our cards and it works great!
- Don’t feel like you have to do spelling every day. Once you find your groove, you may find that shorter sessions or fewer days per week is plenty.
- Consider letting your kids use whiteboards to practice their words and sentences. This has been especially helpful for my little perfectionists who like being able to quickly erase and try again if needed.
- One way to include your younger kids in spelling is to give them a whiteboard of their own and have them sound out one of the words from their sibling’s spelling sentence or draw pictures of the spelling sentence they overhear. One of my preschooler’s favorite subjects this year was to “do spelling” with her older brothers.
- If you’re starting with an older child, I’d personally recommend at least skimming through the first levels rather than trying to jump in at, say, Level 3. All About Learning Press does have placement tests available, too, if you’re unsure where to start.
- I’ve stored the extra student materials for each level in a binder with page protectors. This way it’s easy to find everything I need for each student each year. I’ve also kept the magnetic tiles for future lessons in a snack-size resealable bag and brought them out as they’re introduced. We leave our magnetic tiles up permanently since I’m lucky I have time to shower each day – there’s no way I’m reorganizing 100 little phonogram magnets every time we do spelling.
- Another way to save a couple bucks (yes, I really am this cheap) is to use some index cards to make dividers for additional students rather than buying the official Spelling Divider Cards.
- At the end of each school year, I reorganize all the review cards and store them in rubber-banded bundles. This frees up my recipe box for the new cards for the next year.
- All About Learning Press has a growing list of free resources on their website. Even if you don’t end up using their curriculum, there are a ton of reading and spelling activities, how-to articles, classroom posters, review games, and more for anyone to use!
We’ve been very pleased with this entire program. It’s a high-quality spelling curriculum that thoroughly covers everything my kids need to know and more. And it’s taught me more than a thing or two about why we spell words the way we do in the English language.
If you’re looking for a spelling curriculum for your homeschool or classroom, definitely check out All About Spelling – download a sample, and see if it’s a good fit for your family!
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