SWR Asof April 2012

We are using Spell to Write and Read. (This is our first year of "real" homeschooling. Our oldest is in first grade.) SWR has its roots in The Writing Road to Reading, which my parents chose to teach me back in the 80's. It is a phonics program with spelling lists that go through the first year of college. The lists are arranged by frequency of use. The first six lists (of twenty words each) include more than 40% of all we read and write. Add seven more lists and you have over 60%.

Curt Bumcrott of Basic Skills Assessment and Educational Services told me that Spell to Write and Read is the Cadillac of phonics programs. Sounds expensive. I don't know how it compares price-wise to other programs because I knew that this was the one I wanted to use. Hansome consented, so I did not do any shopping around. What I can tell you about the price is that once you have paid for the curriculum (and the highly recommended training), there is one notebook to purchase per student per year. And perhaps some loose leaf paper or a spiral bound notebook for quizzes, tests, and writing assignments.

I knew I wanted to use this program because I feel like it gave me foundational skills that I used all the way through college. This program, combined with Abeka's English workbooks, I believe, gave me significant advantages not only in my college English courses, but in Spanish and math as well. Yes, Spanish has different rules than English. Because I knew the rules for English, I could compare them with the rules for Spanish and adjust accordingly. Oh yes, it helped in math too. You see, I wasn't much of a reader in high school and college. So I chose math as my major. It turns out you still have to write papers in upper division math classes. And you need strong grammar skills to write about math because no one in the English department can understand what you're talking about well enough to proof them for you.

SWR utilizes several pathways to the brain so it is helpful for people of all learning styles. We use a dictation process for teaching spelling words. Before the student sees the word, he hears it, hears it used in a sentence, notes the number of syllables, hears the way we "think to spell," repeats the way we think-to-spell, sounds out the individual phonograms, repeats the way we think to spell, then writes the word himself, reads the word he wrote, and dictates the sounds to the teacher to write on the board. Then, he compares his word with the teacher's and analyzes it, noting spelling rules.

Here are some links to videos of Heidi, an endorsed trainer, working with her sons. (I'll put these on my blog post. To find them in the mean time, search on YouTube for "Heidi SWR.")

The teachers' manuals are filled with enrichments for "playing" with words. We are barely scratching the surface of them this year. There is enough grammar/punctuation information included that I feel like we don't need a separate program for that for at least another year. Our first grader did work through some of "Mastering Punctuation," an ebook published by BSAES. It is written for first through third grade. I felt like she reached a point where it was well above her level, so I was content to drop it for the rest of this year. I'm planning to have her start it over again next year.

I am very pleased with SWR. Yes, there have been some rough days. But I expected that no matter what the curriculum or subject. According to diagnostic test results, our first grader is spelling at a mid-third grade level. Our five year old is spelling at a second grade level. And they both write in cursive. Our three year old has picked up on many of the single letter phonograms. Not only their sounds, but how they look in manuscript and cursive. She can play phonogram games right along with her sisters.

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