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Review of Spelling Workout A: I miss Explode the Code!


It’s funny how lovely a curriculum can seem until you try it on your kid.  How do schools manage?  I mean, obviously, someone must love Spelling Workout, but not me… not US.

Naomi has gamely gone along with the first two “real” lessons in Spelling Workout A after a few introductory lessons that basically ensured that she had a grasp of phonics.

imageBut after the easygoing, fast pace, good humour and bizarre graphics  of Explode the Code (see right), the earnestness of this book – its very seriousness! - is driving me bonkers.

The cover starts out promising enough.  But it very quickly degenerates into deathly-dull prose, coupled with politically-correct images of multi-culti children, some on crutches.

Yawn.  It doesn’t help that she knows all the words – I decided Level B was too advanced.  And the “spelling tips” at this level  are really insulting, like the page below shows tips like “The word duck begins with the sound for d.”  So does DUH.


imageYou  know what it is?  I think I’m homesick.  Explode the Code was our first REAL schoolwork.  It was fun, it was easy.  I could dish out two pages, double-sided, and she could whip through them super-fast on a good day.  We went through Books 1 and 2 in about 6-7 months each, at a very leisurely pace.  I liked staying with the same set of words, the same phonics rule, for a couple of weeks at a time, throughout an entire lesson. 

In Spelling Workout, the lessons are 4 pages, but she has to look back and forth at a list, which I honestly don’t think will help her learn to spell any better than REMEMBERING the word, which ETC requires her to do.  And these word lists feel arbitrary and unconnected after Explode the code.

Since ETC is ostensibly “only” a phonics book, I was thinking of doing both programs simultaneously… but I don’t think I can stay the course with Spelling Workout.  So that’s where we’re at: 

Explode the Code, we’re a-comin’ home!!!


image The only thing I was looking forward to in Spelling Workout that ETC doesn’t give her is writing practice. 

But now that I’ve  joined TeacherFileBox, I have access to the Daily (6-Trait) Writing program, which sounds dumb (I don’t write with 6 traits; why should my kids???) but actually seems like a lot of fun. 

Like all the Evan-Moor “daily” programs, it only takes a few minutes a day, or less if you only do a couple of lessons a week – I’m not married to their schedule. 

I’m not a HUGE believer in creative writing for kids, so if there’s no time for it, so be it.  (as most Charlotte Mason homeschoolers know, kids at this stage often learn more from copying well-written sentences than struggling to “think up” their own original work)

p.s.  I still haven’t mentioned joining TeacherFileBox because I’m ashamed.  It’s rather expensive… but still – you can still join through HomeschoolBuyersCo-op, and it may well be worthwhile for you, especially if you want to use any of the Literature or History Pockets programs and/or other Evan-Moor products.  TFB doesn’t have them ALL, but there’s quite a good selection, and you can browse everything before you buy in.

What curriculum did you ditch early on because you just couldn’t stand it???  Or do you believe in staying the course?  Do you love Spelling Workout or ETC?  I’d love to hear your experiences!


  1. My brain is still a little fuzzy right now so I'm not remembering any curriculum I've ditched but we tried ETC after your rave reviews and my 7 yo LOVES it! They make it fun for her and she always giggles at the silly examples they use. It's perfect for her. We started with book 4 since she'd had another phonics workbook but I'll start my youngest with ETC from the beginning! Which I guess does mean I'm ditching the Veritas Press Kindergarten workbook Phonics Museum. I thought it was good because it combines handwriting practice, art and phonics and also had readers. She often got confused (I did too at times) about what a picture was supposed to represent and it took a LONG time to get through the very thick workbook. She wasn't crazy about the readers either although I've seen much worse.

  2. We've decided to drop McGuffey's Eclectic readers because my older child HATES them with every fiber of her being. She's rather practice her reading out of storybooks.

  3. Drat - it's too bad that they didn't work out. Naomi Rivka adores the old-fashioned look/feel of these, but something tells me Gavriel Zev will not be thrilled with them. I told him we'd wait to start Book 1 until he's finished the BOB Books, though, really, he's ready now. So... different kids love different stuff. Go figure. :-)))

  4. We ditched Spelling Workout after *two weeks*, way back in our first year of homeschooling. My dc couldn't stand it. After three years of workbook-type spelling ccurricula, we switched to Spelling Power last year. We really like it.


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