I have reviewed several of the Simply Charlotte Mason products because, truth is, I really love their resources. We are a pretty Charlotte Mason focused homeschool so I’ve made use of a ton of their plans, subject-based items, and podcasts, guides, and videos. I love how SCM keeps things very accessible but also challenging and pretty true to Mason.
We have been using Spelling Wisdom and Using Language Well for several years now and have quite enjoyed these two resources all around. (Our kids using these are 15, 13, 11 and they all enjoy them.)
What is Dictation?
Spelling Wisdom uses the idea of Prepared Written Dictation to accomplish the goal of mastery of spelling. Dictation is a classical style of ‘spelling’ lesson. Instead of focusing on list of isolated words, the student learns to spell in the context of a sentence, a paragraph, and eventually, several paragraphs. We use well written, expressive pieces with varied language, sentence structure, and style. Usually, dictation uses passages from the child’s reading books or parts of famous poems, books, speeches, etc.
This is an old but still pretty comprehensive video from Simply Charlotte Mason. It demonstrates very well exactly how to do Prepared Dictation. Click here: Sonia Shafer – Prepared Dictation Explained Video
What’s in Spelling Wisdom?
Spelling Wisdom has 5 Levels. Our family only owns the first two levels. It is super easy to download samples of this program right here. The outline given for grade levels is the following:
Book 1: grade 3-5, Book 2: grade 6-7, Book 3: grade 7-9, Book 4: grade 9-10, Book 5: grade 11-12. As with ANY resource, these guidelines can be flexible. For example, my grade 9 son used book 2 this year and it was challenging for him. This is a pretty advanced program.
These books are full of beautiful passages to use for Studied Dictation as well as a good introduction which provides information about how to use dictation, what a lesson looks like, how to study passages and words, and also step by step details for those new to dictation.
Each book has 140 Exercises. I have found that a single Exercise can take my children up to 2 to 3 weeks to work on, depending on how long it is. So, 140 is a ton to work through.
This book is unique in that it starts with the first 70 lessons encouraging Transcription and then the following 70 introducing Dictation. We actually didn’t really do that… we just used the whole book for Dictation. You can approach it how you like. The idea of Transcription is that it is a building block to Dictation. We have done so much Copywork and Transcription in our home already, that I just started using these books for Dictation with no problem.
Book 1 starts with a very simple passage – actually, Charlotte Mason’s motto of, “I am; I can; I ough; I will.” By the last lesson, the passage is a five stanza poem called, What the Winds Bring by Lillian Cox. Other examples of passages used include passages from: Scriptures (like Luke 12:27), The Wind and the Willows, He Prayeth Best by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robinson Crusoe, Aesop’s Fables, Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Thornton Burgess stories, Hans Christian Anderson, and the list goes on. There are also quotes and poetry from many famous historical figures, writers, and thinkers, such as: Benjamin Franklin, John Bunyan, Longfellow, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Louis Stevenson, and many more. So rich!
Book 1 snatshots-
Book 2 starts with another quote from Charlotte Mason, “Never be without a really good book on hand.” Very simple first passage. But by the end of the book, the student is studying a full page of type from The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse. Other examples of the kinds of passages you will find in Book 2: Poetry and pieces of plays from Shakespeare, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Charles Dickens, a quoted letter written by Abraham Lincoln, The Wizard of OZ, quotes from Helen Keller and Emerson. Again, a very wide and beautiful feast of pieces to read and work through together.
Book 2 snapshots –
For information about Books 3-5, you can always download samples from the Simply Charlotte Mason website.
What’s in Using Language Well?
The Using Language Well program adds grammar to the Spelling Wisdom books. It is very easy to use with each lesson in the Using Language Well program corresponding to the exact same lessons number in the same level of Spelling Wisdom. (So if you are using Book 1 of Spelling Wisdom, you have to use Book 1 of Using Language Well). The passages are the same. You do your dictation with one and then there are tie ins for grammar using the other. I quite like the combination of killing two birds with one stone. Grammar can and should be easy and fairly simple.
I really recommend you check out this page from Simply Charlotte Mason for a comprehensive description of everything found in these books.
A peek at the program –
How We Use Spelling Wisdom to Learn Spelling
I do a tiny bit of pre-prep…
- First, I choose the right level for the child. I honestly recommend starting with Book 1, no matter what, but there is a placement test (at least for Using Language Well, as far as I know…) That’s just me – but I like to cover all my bases. You can work through the books at lightening speed if you need to and they are very reasonably priced. Either way, first, we choose a level and start at the beginning. Alternatively, we continue where we left off.
- I print out all the Exercises I hope for the child to accomplish in the term or school year. I always purchase the PDF downloads of these resources because I use them for all my children and printing copies out is much easier than having to photocopy a hardcopy of the curriculum from a spiral bound book. These pages go into a duotang which I label with the child’s name and DICTATION/SPELLING on the front. I highly recommend printing out the exercises ahead of time. Who wants to rush around trying to print things on the day-of? Super annoying…
Then, we get started…
- My children and I look over and read aloud every new dictation exercise together. This helps them hear the way the piece reads. We go through the words together, looking for words that we know will need practice and work. We look through the sentences and talk about the punctuation as well.
- The child will then spend time copying out the piece practicing proper spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. This can take anywhere from a day to 2 weeks. It depends on the length of the piece and difficulty for the child.
- When the child is ready, they will come to me and ask to do their dictation with me. If its been a while and I feel the child should be ready, I will approach them and ask if we can try their dictation.
- The child takes out their dictation spiral bound notebook, turns to a new page, and as I read the dictation aloud, they work at writing it out.
- After the whole dictation is written out, we look at it together and see if there are any errors. We look for spelling, punctuation, capitalization. If the dictation exercise was done correctly, we move on to the next one. If there are quite a few errors, we give it a couple more days of practice and then try again.
Once we are at this point, I try really hard to remember to now go over the grammar from Using Language Well with them for the passage they just completely in Spelling Wisdom. Sometimes, it is impossible to keep up with all the exercises exactly when linking with Using Language Well, but we try to keep it fairly close, as it helps for them to have a good memory of the written passage when we discuss the grammar.
Work from Book 1:
Learning Grammar with Use Using Language Well
Using Language Well is a very simple to use grammar program that goes along with Spelling Wisdom. If you want to use Using Language Well, you absolutely MUST own the corresponding level of Spelling Wisdom. We just open up the book, read through the exercise together and do the work orally. Very, very easy. I’m not a huge stickler for complex or long grammar lessons. These books are PERFECT for us. Very open-and-go and very quick.
There is only a Using Language Well book up to Level 3, just FYI!
This is another comprehensive, easy to use resource from Simply Charlotte Mason and I highly recommend it!