When I taught elementary school, there were some things we teachers would lament about year after year. Near the top of the list was our students’ truly atrocious spelling. Oh sure, they’d do okay on the spelling tests. But going through a piece of their writing was as grating as nails on a chalkboard. Simple words – common words – misspelled here, there and everywhere! And to make matters worse, getting the kids to go back and edit their work was like pulling teeth.
So now that I’m a teacher-turned-unschooling-mom, I’m pleasantly surprised (and mildly shocked) to find that spelling in the real world is nothing at all like spelling in a class assignment.
First of all, I’ve discovered that misspellings are sometimes okay. If my son is writing a silly note to his sister, his invented spelling is good enough. If my six-year-old is making a list of Christmas presents, a missing silent e here or there isn’t going to bring the holidays to a screeching halt. Back when I was teaching, I felt it was my sworn duty not to let misspelled words slip through the cracks. Now I see that diligence for what it was: overkill.
Second, to my very great delight, I’ve witnessed the power of self-motivation. Recently, my kids have been caught up in a swirl of enthusiasm about letter-writing. They’ve each got pen pals with whom they are daily exchanging email or snail mail. You would not believe how meticulous they are. They want their spelling to be correct, because they want their pen pals to understand what they’re writing. Now there’s a good reason to edit your work!
Like so many other skills, unschooled children pick up proper spelling as a side effect of pursuing their passion and living in the real world. No spelling tests or red editing markers needed!