I’ve talked before about how my six-year old has struggled with learning to read. We had the opportunity to review the Traditional Spelling I program from Memoria Press and I thought it would be helpful now that my daughter is a beginning reader. I think the program is GREAT! But…we struggled somewhat with this review. Both of us. Let me explain how the program works, and what we loved as well as what was hard for us.
Keep in mind that we are relaxed homeschoolers and I try to stay away from curriculum that requires a lot of preparation on my part or a lot of aspects to each lesson because then it feels like it’s too rigid for us. It stresses out my child and it stresses out this mama.
This article originally appeared on my old blog, Townsley Times. If you came here looking for this particular article but thought you were going to a different site, never fear, you’re actually in the right place. 🙂
First, let me tell you what materials we received. This is all part of the full Traditional Spelling I set.
- teacher’s manual
- student book with 34 lessons (consumable – one per student…happily, they are not that expensive!)
- giant set of over 200 flashcards
- workbook containing practice sheets for extra writing practice for each lesson
- phonics book, which has every letter and sound in it, with lists of words with that sound or spelling
The teacher’s manual has a breakdown at the beginning that describes each activity in the book so you’ll know what you’re doing when you get to it in a lesson. It also has a sample lesson with what activities can be done for each. I found these to be good to reference as I led each day since the teacher’s manual was somewhat overwhelming to me. I imagine you don’t HAVE to do everything the book says to do, but for the sake of this review, I wanted to stick with the book as much as I could to get a feel for what the publisher has in mind.
The student book has the same activities in it for each lesson. These include a list of the spelling words for that lesson (10 each), several places to write them in varying orders, a reading comprehension page with the vocab words, and a page for you to dictate the words to them.
Each lesson in this Memoria Press spelling program is broken into five days of work, with the last day simply being a test. The first day seems disproportionately long compared to the others, and there are a lot of components if you are utilizing the entire set the way it was designed to be used. I feel some of the activities were a bit too demanding of her short attention span (she’s 6, after all). I believe they want you to do one lesson a week, and with 34 total, you could definitely finish in one school year that way, even if you go slower and take days off like we did.
Day one might look like this:
- flash cards (around 5 to 10)
- several pages from the phonics book
- definitions of each word
- short discussion of which words have which sounds
- complete the day 1 activity in the teacher’s manual (e.g., write a sentence on “sentence strips” and cut them into single words so the child can put the sentence together [picture further down], or the “auditory workout” where they sit and stand based on which sounds you read off – this was a fun one)
- complete the first page for that lesson in the student book
- approximately an hour of time for all of the above
- day 2 activity in teacher’s manual (e.g., fill in the blank using a white board [see below])
- second page of student book (“colorful letters,” which involves going back over certain letters with colored pencils or ink)
- approximately 15-20 minutes
- day three activity from teacher’s manual (e.g., word “math” [see below])
- reading passage in student book
- sentence completion based on the passage
- approximately 20-30 minutes
- dictation for the words
- dictation for a given sentence
- 5-10 minutes
- test given via dictation
- 2-3 minutes?
Days one and two vary somewhat between each lesson, but days three to five are more or less the same for each. Looking ahead in the teacher’s manual, the activities get slightly harder as the child progresses through the program. Lessons cover everything from basic phonics to R-controlled vowels and various vowel teams, compound words and plurals to prefixes and suffixes.
This spelling curriculum does expect you to use the marks for long and short vowels (breve and macron). I did not do this. I felt it added just another layer of work that wasn’t totally necessary. Due to my daughter’s age and the fact that she’s only beginning to get the hang of reading at all, I didn’t want to confuse her with the marks. She sees them at times and I’m not sure if it really helps or not. It doesn’t seem to hinder but going out of my way to explain what they are and make her use them just seemed like it would be a burden for her.
Keep in mind that Memoria Press is a classical Christian curriculum, and something at this level would be considered the first stage of the trivium, which is more or less “knowledge gathering,” so it didn’t surprise me that the marks were included. Same goes for the phonics book and flashcards. All repetition to drill that knowledge into their heads. That works for some, but hasn’t seemed to work for my oldest child in my experience thus far. She really loved the hands-on stuff, though!
I would say your child needs to be a confidant reader when you use this. They will have a much easier time than my girl did. She JUST started reading over the past couple of months and she was struggling with the flashcards in particular. It teaches from a phonics-based approach, and includes all the different spelling rules for the sounds that make no sense. Your child should be familiar with these things, in my opinion, before starting this spelling program.
The back of the teacher’s manual has a dictionary, tons of ideas for spelling review games you can play aside from what is included in the lessons, games you can play as a group (excellent for large families! We will be using these when they are a tad older), and posters of the word rules. It also has an overview of phonics for adults so they can brush up on things like the various symbols used (e.g., macrons and breves) and syllabication rules. The teacher’s manual has the student book with answers pictured within each lesson also.
Okay…you might be able to see how it’s A LOT of stuff to teach and learn! For some learners, probably those who prefer a classical curriculum, this is right up your alley. For us, being the relaxed homeschoolers we are, it’s just too many components for each lesson, since we do have other subjects to do! I was thinking, though…we use a math curriculum without all the other supplementary materials and it works great, so I decided that that is what we will end up doing for the remainder of this.
The parts that seem most effective for my daughter were:
- student book
- activities I mentioned from the teacher’s manual such as the sentence strips cut up into words and the word “math” (she’s a math girl so this really helped her a lot)
- dictation and reading passage (part of the student book, but particularly helpful for my child so worth another mention – and I thought we would HATE dictation!)
PIN IT FOR LATER! Continued below….
The parts that created more work for me and didn’t seem as effective include:
- flashcards (sorting through and storing them presented a bit of a challenge)
- phonics book (would be good as a reference, though)
- practice sheets
- some of the extra activities in the teacher’s manual
- the test at the end (it’s basically doing the dictation lesson from day four again – I can tell at that point if she has mastered the words without having to do it again the next day)
I’m sure there is a reason they set it up as they did, but for us, the long first day became something we both started to dread, especially when reading the flashcards and phonics book. We may add the other items as necessary when she is having a hard time with something. I’m not opposed to them, it’s just a lot, and it feels overwhelming to both my daughter and me. I also was not entirely sure when to have her do the practice sheets, so I added that to days three and four (there is room to write the words twice for each lesson).
Something to note is that they expect you to photocopy the test sheet in the teacher’s manual and use that for the test on day five of each lesson. Thankfully I JUST got an all-in-one laser printer so that was no biggie. As a last resort, you could take a picture of it, send it to your computer, and print it that way.
Overall, we liked certain aspects of this beginning spelling program and I would recommend it. You know your child best so you’ll have to determine if the extra components are right for your homeschool. They are available separately so you do not need to purchase the whole set.
Please take a gander at what the other Homeschool Review Crew moms are saying about Memoria Press! We had some members reviewing their Latin programs, the second level of spelling, and also a new music appreciation program they offer. Click for more reviews!