I Really Hate Spelling Homework

I hated homework when I was a kid. I never saw the point in my having to practice stuff at home I already knew. I still don’t by the way. I understand its importance for those who might need a little help though. I thought I was trough with hating homework after I was done with school. Silly silly me I was so unprepared for the daily battle I have to face now with my son.

My son is just starting to get the grasp of reading. He isn’t really doing that great at it yet and still needs some help. He thinks that I should do it for him. “Mom I can’t read that word.” he says. I tell him to “try sounding it out I will help you if you cant figure out the correct sound for it.” His absolutely defeated hurt response is usually something like” That’s not helping! You don’t know what helping is. I can’t do it, I hate you!” All while he is sobbing. I usually get him back on track with telling him about the fun things he can do if he sucks it up and tries, but, other times we sit there for an hour both not budging on the issue.

Reading homework is not the worst though. The worse homework battle starts in the car on the way back from school. We will both be so Happy. I am glad to see him, he is happy he got a good behavior report in school. Then he ask the dreaded question.Image

at which point I start getting sweaty hands at the anticipation of knowing its not a Friday and what comes next.”Yes” Image

I have just declared war on my son in his mind. He has to do spelling homework. He does not want to do it. He hates It. Its the one thing I hear him constantly say he can’t do. It breaks heart heart but I know its stuff he needs to learn. We trudge through it all week till we get to the dreaded Thursday. The spelling test is tomorrow and I have to find some way to make sure he knows these words. I try quizzing him at first. I am met with such apathy that it makes me really worried. He flings out letters to me with such randomness he can’t possibly be even considering what the word actually is.  So I send him to the table to study.not going to do it.

He sits there and refuses to look at them. He doesn’t want to do it. How to you convince a six year old to study their words? I try  and tell him what will happen if he fails a class in school. I try taking away his favorite activities or toys. I try rewarding him for passing the test. I am met with a brick wall, and all I am managing to do is bang my head against it. By the end of Thursday I feel like I have been in a gladiatorial arena.  Him and the spelling words all ganging up against me.

I surrender

I   give up this week, can it be the weekend yet? I would really rather enjoy the time with my son.

This post is illustrated at the request of my son. He has been very interested in the fact that Mommy has a blog. the only critique he had was “Mommy you don’t have any drawings it needs drawings.” So let me know in the comments what you guys think. Is my son on to something here?

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35 thoughts on “I Really Hate Spelling Homework

  1. I loved the drawings. So cute! Also, my hubby handles the spelling part. Spelling is one of my favorite things but my son enjoys doing it with him. So, I let them have at it! I’m dreading the year when Algebra show its ugly face. YUCK!

  2. I loved the drawings too! They are awesome! With the spelling…maybe try a rewards chart where he gets a check for every day he does his spelling homework. If he get all 4 days that week there is a reward regardless if he passes or fails. Maybe it will encourage more study but removes stress about the outcome? I’m not at this stage yet so I am by no means an expert but thought of this so thought I’d put it out there! PS Love your blog 🙂

  3. In ‘The Well-Trained Mind’ we are told, “Give the child a good chance to sound words out, but if she gets stuck, sound it out for her and move on. If you get to a word that uses a rule she hasn’t used yet, simply tell her what the rule is and keep going.” (Pg 33)

    In ‘Nurture Shock’ we are told that long hours of homework contribute to less sleep, which contributes directly to obesity and lower IQ’s in children.

    Basically, I would ease up if I were you. Why should you be battling with your darlin’? Maybe if homework is not such a dreadful experience he will be more amenable. However, I doubt homework really matters until third grade. Building mental habits and acquiring learning tools is more important, and at 6 (mine is 6, too, plus I helped my mom homeschool my seven siblings) he can still benefit from watching you sound out words or do math problems for him, as long as you go slowly and verbalize what you are doing. If you think he’s not getting enough practice, read with him, a “real book” from the library or whatever, after the homework reading – but get through both of them much faster by helping him whenever he asks for help. This is how I did it, without a school to help me at all, and my six-year-old is reading at at a fourth grade level. So no fears.

    If he’s not coming up with the answer right away then either 1) he thinks it’s stupid – and maybe it is, or 2) he’s genuinely stuck and no amount of time is going to suddenly pop the answer into his brain. This is the age when his brain is prepared to memorize facts and learn rules and procedures. You can’t expect critical thinking, i.e. reasoning his way to an answer he doesn’t know, until at least the age of 10, after he’s absorbed your methods and all the facts and rules and successful experiences he can hold. Also, he may be really tired.

    One more thing. If he hears lots of words, i.e., from you reading to him or from books on tape (always at a higher vocabulary level than he’s currently reading at) he is going to have an easier time guessing what the word he’s looking at might be. And despite the importance of phonics, guessing is actually a necessary component of reading – because it’s a leap from the mechanical pronunciation of a series of sounds to the moment of recognition – “Oh, it’s THAT word!”

    Good luck!

  4. I forgot to add that your son, like everyone, has to finish learning to read before he can learn to spell. He needs to learn spelling rules that are related to his phonics rules, and not just memorize lists of words. You may want to supplement your school curriculum with an at-home resource. (The Well-Trained Mind recommends ‘Spelling Power’ by Castlemoyle Press. However, if you are too busy and just need to get through that spelling list, try the following steps.

    1. Tell him, “We’re going to do it differently this week.” In the car on the way home, have HIM quiz YOU. He reads you a word from the list and you tell him what letters are in it. Get a letter wrong every now and then so he can correct you. Say “Oops!” really dramatically. “Then what is the right way to spell it?” He tells you.

    2. At home, after his snack, have him read you the words from the list. Every time he says a word, ask him what letters are in it. Let him look at the list to answer you. Get through the list once this way.

    3. Have him read the list aloud again. This time have him “write” the words in the air with his finger (the air is a forgiving medium, and you want him to practice visualizing the word before he recites or writes it.)

    4. Have him type each word on the computer, again allowing him to copy from the list. Or you could even have him arrange his letter magnets on the fridge to spell the word, and then take pictures of the words.

    5. Now tell him “You’re almost done. If you can finish the next step in ten minutes (or whatever you think is reasonable) I will reward you with…insert favorite reward.” Set the timer. On a new page, have him write or type the words again, this time without looking. Complement him for his effort, and don’t tell him if he gets anything wrong. Focus on getting it done in ten minutes. (If he sees a light at the end of the tunnel he may move forward rather than balking in despair.)

    6. Give him his reward. Now have him check his own work against the list and fix anything he missed. Sloppy is OK as long as he gets through it.

    7. Let it go – it’s good enough. Be happy with his score on the quiz and complement his effort. Remember that this will work better after a few weeks of subsiding spelling homework battles. If possible, spread these steps out among the nights of the week instead of doing it all the night before. Also, don’t worry too much as he WILL learn how to spell – it’s only first grade!

    Hope this helps.

  5. Thank you so much for the advice AR. I am going to really try hard to let it go. I think with the worry of him failing it put me into overdrive protective mode and I now realize maybe it cause me a to put a little too much pressure on him to get it right. I guess sometimes it takes someones else looking in from the outside for me to realize the solution. 🙂

  6. Oh, no problem, I’m just glad I had experience that relates to your difficulty. Every parent is a homeschool parent during homework time! You are already performing a hero’s task – we all are – so we have to share ideas and experience.

    Thanks for sharing. The drawings were great – we’ve all been there! 🙂

  7. Love the illustrations!
    My son is nine and has always struggled with spelling. I finally found a way to get through to him, though – the internet! Have you ever used Spelling City? It’s a free website where you enter the child’s word list and they can do activities on the website with their words (games, review, etc) and it’s quite fun! My son is finally passing his tests and actually enjoys spelling now! They also have a premium membership which is around $30 a year and you get more games and activities but you don’t have to pay anything if you want to use the free version. HTH
    Also, with reading, unless I KNEW it was a word my son could easily sound out, I would always tell him what it was if he asked, because reading is already a chore when you’re learning, and not receiving help makes it 100X worse. He’ll remember the words eventually. 🙂

  8. The ‘dun dun dun’ lightning strike picture is absolutely how I’m feeling about the high school math days in the future. I’m lucky, as in reading as come pretty easily for our boys, but when they start throwing in letters and the dreaded Pythagorean theorem (seriously, someone needs to go back in time and tell Pythagoras to put a lid on it) my whole world will become a ‘dun dun dun’. Great post.

  9. Just a word of caution. There is a chance your son is dyslexic. Look into it before you push spellings as if he is dyslexic spellings will never be his thing no matter how hard you push. I have two dyslexics out of four I did a couple of posts on it. Just a thought.

  10. I have 4 children, the youngest being 6. They all fight with me over homework, but the youngest looks like the boy in the picture! She just sits and stares a it, refusing to do it. Sometimes til bedtime:). Loved your blog. Good luck.

  11. Love your post and the drawings are great! Just my two cents: 9 out of 10 dyslexic kids will not meet the criteria for being ‘learning disabled’ and will not get help at school. The number one clue to look for is poor spelling–not just little kid spelling, mind you, but hideous spelling that spell check can’t figure out. (Check out Bright Solutions, Susan Barton on dyslexia) You know him better than anyone–seek answers if you really suspect there is an issue. Otherwise, relax. Kids usually have so many things they’d rather do than learn a spelling list–it will come in time. Also, have you tried things like getting him to spell his words out with tiles, in sand, with shaving cream in the tub or sculpting words with play doh? Some kids greatly benefit from tactile methods. Good luck to you and thanks for stopping by my blog! 🙂

    • Thanks for the advice. I had no idea I would get so much help when I posted this. Mostly I was just a little frustrated and thought the battle of will between the hard headed mother and hard headed son was funny, and that maybe someone would see something I could do to help. The tactile method sounds like another really neat thing for me to try. Oh and thanks for reading my blog too! 🙂

  12. Spelling homework I can deal with. But math? Oh Lord, why did they invented that! Time to call Mom…

  13. What a fantastic, honest and descriptive writer (and artist!) you are! And wonderful MOM. I feel like I know you after reading your story, because so many parents who have lived this same story have sat across from me at my table at school and told me about similar struggles. Some in tears, many exhausted. It just isn’t fair to anyone. Kids need to be kids, and parents need to be able to enjoy the time we have with them as little ones, because they grow up so fast. We’ve got to prioritize a love of learning ahead of the content. Make it fun. Use Alphabits cereal or Alphaghetti on a cookie sheet to spell the words instead of writing them, or finger paint (or the paint program on the computer – maybe he can do a blog post!) Something has got to be in it for him. If spelling is a real struggle for him, perhaps his teacher could reduce the number of words he is tested on. There are many educators who do not even believe that spelling tests are effective, particularly in primary grades. It is the repeated use of words in the context of a writing piece that consolidates it to one’s memory. Best wishes to both of you. You’ve been given a lot of good ideas in the comments above.

    • Thank you for reading my blog and the compliments! The blog post for him is a great idea. I have actually been trying to think of a way for him to have his own little blog this summer, since he has been fascinated with mine. An adventure in spelling work would be a good idea. If I can find some alphabet cereal I will try your idea too. Your right in saying I have had a lot of great ideas given to me, they have actually made an improvement so far.

  14. Reblogged this on That fun reading teacher and commented:
    I love the honesty of this post from crazymom because her story reminds me of so many I have heard over the years I taught Reading Recovery. So far, she has had over thirty comments to ‘I really hate spelling homework’. For the parents who sat across from me at my table, it was often reading, writing or both. They were in my room because I taught Reading Recovery, an intensive reading and writing support program for grade one students.

    When a child is in the Reading Recovery program, parents are invited to observe a lesson. Often by the time the parents came in, they had seen a shift in their six year old. The child that already knew he or she was behind and ‘hated reading’, started wanting to read a stories to the family. This child who refused to go to school and had tummy aches each morning started walking a little taller to join peers in the yard. What is the big secret?

    Self-confidence. Start with where they are, and build on it. Accept that developmentally, six-year olds do not have an attention span that will allow them optimal learning beyond ten minutes, so change the activity. Let them move and manipulate things, and engage all learning styles. Help them make links between their strengths and their needs, and between oral language, reading and writing; letters, words and sentences. Laugh.

    And share the information with their parents so that what they are doing at school is consistent at home. We now know the importance of using the pictures in reading. Some of us grew up without pictures, and are inclined to cover them up. Confusing for a child to have it one way at school and another way at home.

    Most families do not have the opportunity to observe a Reading Recovery lesson and learn the tricks of the trade. With cuts to education, the opportunity to receive the training is decreasing as well. Nothing can replace the proper training, but there are many tips from Marie Clay, the founder of Reading Recovery throughout this site. Without my training, my colleagues, students, their families and my dedicated teacher leaders, I would not have this expertise to pass on to all of you.

    Please read Crazymom’s post to understand the position of many parents of young children today.

    Does your school or school board have the Reading Recovery program?

  15. Pingback: I Really Hate Spelling Homework | That fun reading teacher

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