What if your Homeschooler isn’t winning Spelling Bees?

As much as we (homeschoolers) are attacked  in the socialization areas – we are also praised for our kids being the brightest – thoughts of poor lonely boys sitting around the house all day in thrift store attire reading boring classical books all day – entering random spelling bees and winning them. 

Among the homeschool moms – there can be an undercurrent of
“My kid is brighter than your kid – or at least those public school kids  – so that is why we had to pull them out – so they could have a “better education”. “

What if?  What if you son has a learning disability? What if your dreams of winning the spelling bee are just not going to happen? What if your first grader doesn’t read? What if their memory does not work normally? What if they can not process random information?

Agony in finding out WHAT WOULD WORK

We spent an agonizing year – cramming the information down our eldest’s throat. 

Frustration – fear – worry.

Research – TONS of research. I can not even begin to tell you all of the “how to” websites, books, magazines, and testimonies that I read during those beginning years. And yet, at the end of the first year of schooling -  he still could not memorize the alphabet.

At this time, we were doing “school at home”. Cute little desks. Posters on the wall, flash cards, drills, songs on cd, songs in the car, immersion of information. We spent 2-3 times a day on phonogram learning.  We had games up sleeves that I didn’t even have enough arms for.  Color. Black and White. Computer. Books. Rice. Sand. You name it. I still have yet to read on the young parenting sites an idea that we didn’t try. Playdough. Mud. Biscuit Dough. Legos. Seriously. 

The Big Party

At the end of the year we thought he had his “letters” down, and saw in the Contenders for the Faith Book that they had a badge for that.  We were so wrapped up in the alphabet that we didn’t realize the badge was for Writing Correspondence Letters, not the small task of memorizing 26 sounds. 🙂 We had a family gathering and presented him with the badge anyway, a certificate, and had him say the sounds, just the first 26, out loud – and he skipped L.  I’m not sure to this day that he gets them all each time. . . .  

We used Spell to Write and Read by the Spaulding’s – had a few tutorials for me as a teacher from a school teacher, and a fellow homeschool mom, used ABeka Materials as well as School of Tomorrow – and any worksheet that ever filtered through any of our local “Marts”.

Desperate, lonely, embarrassed, and almost ready to toss the young lad over to the professionals – I found an online encouragement chat group – filled with moms that had teens. Had homeschooled in the 80’s and 90’s before all of the curriculum was available and targeted to homeschoolers.

They helped me with their examples to turn my thinking around.

They gave me the freedom of learning time – as in I have lots of time – enough time – that they do not need to learn all of their elementary skills before they are 8.

That in time, their bodies will mature, their minds will develop, their brains will function easier, their interests will develop, their desire will come.  Time.

They PROMISED that all of their kids – between the ages of 10-12 started to read. With or without their help – and not at Hop on Pop, but at pick any book level.

That I had a choice.  Teach the boys the sight words designed to make worksheet seat babysitting time easier – or teach them to love the written word. To love sounds. To love to speak, To love to create. The main reason why 4-5 year olds need to have the “words they must know” is so that they can be self sufficient in a large class.

The moms taught me about unit studies, notebooking, lapbooking.  Learning as a team, the whole family.  Of me asking questions, and not giving answers.

That both boys could be taught the same lessons at the same time.

Well – let me tell you – this all sounds like a fine perfume  – but in reality, I had an 8 year old child that wouldn’t read.  That gets awkward at co-ops, Sunday Schools – Boy Scouts.

But what we found – is only the two kids that snapped their hand up could read comfortably in a group – or wanted to.

We learned about the Want To. Nate didn’t Want To.  This got worse for me, fears and worries – as we hit the 9 year old area. I can’t think of anything that was on my mind more than the fact that my future National Spelling Bee Winner couldn’t / wouldn’t read.

We sought help – spent time learning about dyslexia.  Learned about Audio Memory Deficiency – and learned how to Teach Differently for his Learning Differences.

At age 9 and a half he sat down with a mentor in Bend, and she convinced him with a few small encouraging words, that he had the tools to read, any time he desired. That he just had to use the tools he had. From that day on, at age 9 and a half -  Nate has been a reader.  He went from not reading – to reading any book.  Which, by the way, is what the moms promised – from “those who had gone before”. He now reads for at least an hour each night – sometimes Garfield, sometimes books, he loves the Guinness World Record books right now.

Now – ring in child 2.  I swore – to my God and My Family and Myself – Are you listening self – that I WOULD NOT put Jon through the agony of what Nate went through. That I would not put my emotions through that level of fear again. That I would continue to immerse Jon in a love of writing, drawing, creating stories, recording, listening to stories.  We have gone through almost the whole section of the Bend books on tape/cd.  We haven’t always listened all the way though a story, but we tried them out. Jon is the one that wants me to read to him every night. He wants to write a book and get it published. He has two or three on the shelf with the illustrations. We have spent time talking about phonics, as it comes up.  We have copied paragraphs out of the books, noting side by side of the bumble bee caught, a paragraph from a bumble bee book.  Copying the verses from Awana.  Going over the texts of the nature field guides together.  Playing online games.

He has had – very tiny amounts – of the magnet letter arrangement, rice buckets, sand time, play dough, posters, flash cards (except for Spaulding Phonics Cards), or any of the other games to “teach” him the sight words.  He memorizes so quickly, finishes so quickly, and then moves on. He has not had the “want to” to come inside and sit on a chair and read. He seldom sits. Or stops.

I write this to let you know – reveal – that Although we LOVE science, nature, discovery, marine life, lava, mountains, and Math – I can write loads of information on how brilliant both boys are in the math area – you will seldom hear me write, with any authority on reading.

Why do I share now?

Jon read to me last night.  Without my help. A chapter book. I fell asleep while he read to me, and woke up at midnight and wandered to my bed. He’s 9 and a half, and he now loves to read


Same age as Nate. Same time. Same way. He decided this afternoon that he wanted to read to me this time, and he did. Up to yesterday he had only read the level one readers from the library.

I write this for two reasons – one – I’m stinkin’ thrilled that both boys are really good readers now. But two

What if your son isn’t going to win a spelling bee? What if your son isn’t going to be the leader of the Literary Club.  How do you know? There is plenty of time.  Switch Gears. Adjust your expectations. Focus on what he LOVES to do.  Do you love to read? Do you love to write?  Teach him of your love, and he will get the how.

Any one interested in purchasing an entire room of “how to read supplies”? ha ha

I  have included a list of the books that have really helped us with the mechanics of reading – a good tool box. 🙂 I know many of the people on this list personally, and a longer list would need to be compiled of all the people who have been honest with me, shared their secrets, shared their sorrow, and shared encouragement to me. Thank you to each of you who have helped us to this stage. The world is now open to both boys!

Dr. Moore’s Book, Better Late than Early

McGuffey Readers with Ruth Beechick’s Guide

Phonics Pathways

Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons (didn’t work for either boy, but offered “school time” to Jon.)

The Writing Road to Reading

Teaching Reading at Home, Wanda Senseri

Homeschooling Boys – http://www.homeschoolingboys.com/hsboys/

Homeschool Notebook  – http://www.familyclassroom.net/

Education for the Soul – Online Encouragement Chat – http://educationforthesoul.com/hschat/

About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
This entry was posted in Lego, Some Schooling and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What if your Homeschooler isn’t winning Spelling Bees?

  1. Amanda says:

    What a brave offering Angie, and a treasury of encouragement for those of us who are early on in this journey and tend to question ourselves so often and much. Thank you for the confidence to “follow our guts” as Barb said, and be the moms who love our kiddos, what they love and give them what we love….not what they do or ‘win.’

    xo, oh we miss you.

  2. Bravo for following your guts. I think no matter the issue or the subject, if you follow your guts you can not go wrong.

    I sort of feel that with high school. We are following our guts and doing what we think is important. Sometimes that is just like what everyone else is doing and sometimes it is not. We are mixing up our math order and not pushing it. We are picking and choosing our science courses, no particular order but following interest. We do nature study in high school. 🙂

    I wish there were more moms like you who would speak up and say what you said…

    Thanks for sharing our experience.

  3. Spelling Mom says:

    It’s spelled “Bees”, no apostrophe.

  4. I love Better Late than Early!! Reading and writing is H’s least favorite subjects and will only do them on rare occasions but I am encouraged by what he is trying. If I push him to do it, he’s very negative. He liked Headsprout on his own but still does not really believe he can “read” but he can read about 300 words. I have no idea if he will be a good speller… He reminds me so much of my Father who hated reading and writing but was brilliant in other ways. My last post includes an article “Of Daffodils and Diesels” and it reminds me of my father and this will probably be my son if I push too hard. So yes, I agree with you. My child is not balanced with his abilities. Public school is not a good fit for him because he’s ahead in some areas and was behind (until very recently) in others. He learned the alphabet very late too… When he is ready, he does it. If he is 9 before he is reading me chapter books, I’m OK with that. Thanks for the encouragement!!

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