I Seriously LOVE This Spelling Curriculum!

OK, I toyed with the idea of calling this post

“Phonetic Zoo – A Review”

because it rhymes, but that title does not do justice to how much I love this program!  “Review” always sounds so stale to me, so I thought I would just title this precisely the way I feel!

You heard me mention it back when I did the SpellQuizzer giveaway; however, I didn’t really tell you much about it except that SpellQuizzer meshes well with it.  So, let me explain a bit about Phonetic Zoo itself, and hopefully, you’ll see why I LOVE this spelling curriculum!

Quick Background:
Last year, my almost 10 year old son was struggling at spelling.  Voracious reader.  Horrible speller.

I happen to believe that spelling is important.  I’d be one of those people who says poor spelling makes you look ignorant no matter how intelligent you are.  I know there are people who struggle terribly with it and I am forever grateful for spellcheckers; however, you honestly have to have some basis of correct spelling or even the best spellchecker in the world won’t figure you out.

So, this child who speaks well, writes well, reads well, needed help.

Yet traditional spelling programs weren’t working.  Sure, he could get the test right (eventually), but he wasn’t retaining a thing!

I’d all but given up when I got my Veritas Press catalog for the year.  In it, they recommended Phonetic Zoo from Institute for Excellence in Writing.  Now, I had heard Andrew Pudewa speak at a homeschool conference years ago, and I loved what he had to say about spelling, but I somehow missed the fact that he had actually created a spelling program.

Anyway, the review in Veritas Press convinced me this was worth a try even with the $100 price tag.  I ordered the product, watched their Spelling & The Brain DVD that explained why this method works, and set my son loose with the curriculum.  I immediately started seeing steady results and it has continued into this year!  He is retaining the information.  He is more confident in his ability to spell correctly.  All this done with very little effort on my part.  Spelling well without cramming it down his throat is worth $100 to me!

So, let me give you a quick run down of my favorite aspects of this curriculum:

*Independent learning – Very little is required of me.  In fact, I no longer go over his words at all with him.  He is entirely in charge of his learning.

*Auditory – My son uses the CD player and headphones.  The CDs follow a pattern similar to spelling bees.  My son hears the word, sees it in his mind, then writes it.  The words are even checked orally, which solidifies that concept of letters being put into the correct order to form the word.

*Simple & Non-consumable – No workbooks.  Let me just say that again…NO WORKBOOKS!  As you see in the picture at the top of the post, there are some cards that introduce the child to the words and cards you can hand them as they finish each lesson, but these are non-consumable.  The simplicity of it means I’m not storing and finding places on my school shelves for a monstrosity of a curriculum.

*Repetition of all words – The child must master the entire spelling list twice in a row before moving on.  So often a curriculum lets them off the hook if they ever once get a word right.  Speaking from past experience, that does nothing to cement the word into the child’s brain.

*No need to rush – Spelling levels are not age graded.  You start at A no matter who you are.  Each level can easily last longer than a school year.  When A is complete, you move to B.  No one thinks you are behind.  It is truly a go-at-your-own-pace curriculum.

I’ll be honest. This was the first time I purchased something for school and immediately sighed with relief.  It was perfect and I am so glad I went ahead and bought it!  I love it and it Works For Me!)

OK, your turn!  What  piece of curriculum have you purchased that was a sigh of relief to your homeschool?

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37 thoughts on “I Seriously LOVE This Spelling Curriculum!

  1. For us, it’s Building a Foundation of Scientific Understanding. My husband is a structural engineer and was very distressed by what our son wasn’t/wouldn’t be learning in school. This book/guide/lesson plan manual is really going to help our son (and daughter) learn to think critically about his/her environment and ask questions. Makes me so happy.

  2. Sounds great….I love Veritas and would have bought this years ago, except for the price. i found a cheaper alternative that everyone loves…but I can tell not as good. Oh well.

    I dont think I know you well enough to laugh at a misspelled word in your blog post about spelling. Oh wait…yes I can. LOL. I couldnt help myself. LOL

  3. This is good to know about. I have a nine year old who really struggles with spelling. If I don’t see some improvement in the next year with our current curriculum (Spelling Workout), I might have to give this a try. Thanks for sharing!

  4. We have used this spelling curriculum for about five years now and haven’t looked back. My oldest is currently using IEW’s highschool spelling program, preparing him for college and the SAT’s it is great!!!!!!

  5. Thanl you for writing about this! We’ve been looking at getting this and I’m glad to see another positive review! Can’t wait to try it out!

  6. Amy,

    This sounds like so really incredible curriculum and I thank you so much for sharing all the ins and outs of how it works.

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  7. We were struggling with science this year until we found Ellen Johnston McHenry’s Elements: Ingredients of the Universe Introduction to Chemistry for ELEMENTARY students. It explains the basics of chemistry in a fun and simple way. My first grade science-lover enjoys it so much, I use it as a reward for finishing his less favorites (like spelling):). I think it cost me $20 at Rainbow and we are so pleased!

  8. I haven’t found the right spelling curriculum yet, and my oldest really struggles with spelling (because of special needs). I wonder if this might help him as well.

  9. This is what we use in our homeschool and have done from the beginning (of our homeschool). It is a fabulous resource as is the “Excellence in Writing” course. It is also very self propelled…there are DVD’s for the children to work through with their workbook and it is a wonderful course. I’m so glad you thought to post about this course Amy…it is great!

    Blessings,
    Camille

  10. Pingback: Setting Up a School Schedule – Part 1 | Raising Arrows

  11. Teaching Textbooks has changed my life. HUGE sigh of relief for this busy homeschool mom of seven. I know some people are critical of it, but it is amazing!

  12. I am so glad you wrote about this, Amy! I also heard A. Pudewa at our hs conference this spring, and even ordered his “Spelling and the Brain” CD since I missed that session. I had no idea he had a spelling curriculum! I guess he’s extra careful about over-hawking his products…and just trusts that the word-of-mouth will sell them! Definitely going to try to work this into my budget…

  13. I am just wondering what you use as a spelling program before the age of 9? I was looking forward to this program and then noticed the age recommended.

  14. I see you purchased this for your ten year old son. My daughter is ten and is a terrible speller. I’m interested in purchasing the curriculum. Which level did you start with? I would think A would be for Pre-K or K or 1st? My daughter just finished 4th grade.

  15. I just stumbled upon this curriculum… and I was looking for reviews on it. Your review popped up. Are you still happy with it? You should have been using it for awhile now. I did the placement test with my struggling 11yo boy speller. He got Level B as a suggested place to start. I was wondering though, would you recommend starting him on A? I have to buy it anyway for my 4th grader. He missed 24 on the Level B test! It still said to put him in that level.
    Thanks for taking the time to review this curriculum. I look forward to trying it out. I pray this is the answer for him! :) Kellie

  16. Amy,

    Dear Amy,
    This is our 2nd year of homeschooling our daughter. She is 12 years old. She is doing Lifepac curriculum through Alpha Omega Publications and Horizons Math, also purchased through them. I just ordered everything from AOP for the 2nd year in a row. It seems like everyone else I have encountered does a mix of curriculum and also, does not buy it brand-new. Am I missing out on giving her enough variety by sticking to one company primarily for my curriculum sources? I sometimes feel like I don’t “fit the mold” so to speak of traditional homeschooling Moms. Help! ………can you give any encouragement from a veteran homeschooling Mom such as yourself please!! :)

    Thank you,
    Julie B.

    • The old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” works in homeschooling quite well. ;) If you are satisfied with what she is learning and how she is learning it, then by all means keep it!

      • Wow, Amy! Thanks for your encouragement and quick response!! I needed to hear that. I am happy and she is too; I just have to get out of the rut so to speak of comparing and analyzing everything that I do to assure it is “right” and “best’ and as good as what all others are doing .
        I enjoy reading your blog and I have enjoyed your many tips on family, homemaking, school, and more. Thank you for being such a great support to others. I am trying to soak up all that I can from moms like you :)
        I am a late bloomer to homeschooling. Our oldest is almost 16 and I had always thought about homeschool but never made the leap with him. Now, here we are with our daughter who is now 12 and in her 2nd year at home………. but I just tell myself, “better late than never?” Right?
        God Bless you in all you do to enlightenen others :)
        Julie B. in MO

  17. I have a 12 son who was a late learn to read child. I let him do his basic learning, but did not force him to really read until it clicked. (Oh the looks and comments I got from that, but I digress…) He is a non-speller. You can give him a list of words with the same three last letters and he will have a disconnect within three words. Does this sound familiar? Will this curriculum work for him? He’s a gamer. Loves strategy. Bright. Reads. Loves Nate the Great. But spelling? Bah!

    Your further comments would be helpful, as he has reached a point where I need to switch his curriculum to his learning style.

    Thanks.

    Patrece Coblentz
    (Trece, for short)

    • Hi Trece! Andrew Pudewa, the creator of the program, has a really good handle on how the brain spells. I would encourage you to actually call IEW up and talk this over with them. They are super helpful! I do believe this could help him, but if you need more encouragement and understanding of the program, give them a call: 800.856.5815
      Blessings,
      Amy

  18. You are a life saver. I was trying to find curriculum for my difficult to teach ten year old who is the oldest of 5, when I popped into your blog on spelling curriculum. Now typically if I pop into a blog while “shopping” I leave immediately, BUT I have fallen into your blogs before while bored and I have always loved reading your blogs. So when I saw it was you I left it up so I could read through it once I had the time. I loved that you answered every single question of mine, without having to look else where. $100 might seem like a lot but I just spent $53 a few weeks ago on two first grade spelling workbooks. Add three more kiddo’s onto that and then do it over every year. $100 for non consumables are looking really good right about now. Also I love that you said it is very independent work, with four 6 and under independent work for my big kids is great news for me. Do you have any advice on preschool materials? :) Thanks for your blog, I always enjoy reading it!

    • Fabulous! My oldest just finished the curriculum and I’ll soon be adding my 8 year old in. As far as preschool, we LOVE the ABC series from Rod & Staff. It has all sorts of fun and useful lessons, but nothing too stressful for mama. :)

  19. My son will be 12 in November and really struggles with spelling. He can have a list and memorize it and do fine that week on test. Two weeks later he is spelling only what he hears. No where near correct. How many levels is this curriculum? I really want to get him caught up.

  20. I’m so glad I stumbled across this review. I have been researching spelling curriculum and only found All About Spelling, but this one appeals to me more because of the hands off approach. My youngest struggles through spelling…but after reading the information on your blog…I’m going to hold off this year. I’ll let her enjoy writing and reading and developing those skills better without the stress of spelling. However, my other three kids are 9 and up and can work independently and this sounds so great. Thank you for sharing!