Friday, March 16, 2012

Life is about Making Choices

Life is about Making Choices

John is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I would be twins!"

He was a natural motivator.

If an employee was having a bad day, John was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up and asked him, "I don't get it!

You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?"

He replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or ... you can choose to be in a bad mood.

I choose to be in a good mood."

Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or...I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it.

Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or... I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.

"Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested.

"Yes, it is," he said. "Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood.

You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live your life."

I reflected on what he said. Soon hereafter, I left the Tower Industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

Several years later, I heard that he was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower.

After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, he was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back.

I saw him about six months after the accident.

When I asked him how he was, he replied, "If I were any better, I'd be twins...Wanna see my scars?"

I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.

"The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon-to-be born daughter," he replied. "Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or...I could choose to die. I chose to live."

"Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?" I asked.

He continued, "..the paramedics were great.

They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read 'he's a dead man'. I knew I needed to take action."

"What did you do?" I asked.

"Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me," said John. "She asked if I was allergic to anything. Yes, I replied.”

The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, “Gravity.”

Over their laughter, I told them, "I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead."

He lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude... I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.

Attitude, after all, is everything.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34.

After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Could /fish/ be spelled "ghoti"

Could /fish/ be spelled "ghoti" or "-fici"?

To illustrate the weirdness of English spelling, George Bernard Shaw once said we might as well spell the word fish "ghoti." The fact of the matter is, Shaw was only partially right but 100% wrong!

True, the gh may be pronounced /f/ as in laugh.
The o may be pronounced /i/ as in women.
The ti may be pronounced /sh/ as in nation.

But there is no word in English in which the initial letters gh are ever pronounced /f/. There is no word in English ending in ti in which the ti is pronounced /sh/.

As a matter of fact the sound /fish/ is spelled fish only in words that can be reduced to a base (morpheme) of one meaningful syllable. The words fish, fishes, fished, fishing, fisherman, fishermen, fishery, and fisheries can all be reduced to "fish."

But surely we wouldn't want to spell beneficial as benefishal or official as offishal and that should be sufficient to make my point. The sound /fish/ happens to always be spelled fici in words that have a base of more than one syllable. For the phonic patterns rarely taught in schools see The Fancy Words.

If you have comments about this website or questions concerning spelling, invented spelling, whole language, phonics, learning disabilities, homeschooling, etc., you may always e-mail We appreciate any comments that will help us make this website even more useful.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Characteristics of Good Readers

Characteristics of Good Readers:
Things that are Never Taught,
but are Somehow Learned

To list all the many things good readers learn that are not taught in school is almost impossible. There are so many. But I am starting a list here on this website and hope that others will add to it.

  1. Good readers learn to automatically read letter combinations at the ends of words differently than the same letter combinations that form a word. For example, a good reader reads the letters t-r-y as "tree" when it comes at the end of words such as entry, pantry, country, etc. Likewise, a good reader reads the letters t-y at the end of a word as "tee" as in party, county, jaunty, nasty, and empty. At the beginnings of words t-y is usually pronounced tie as in Tyrone, tyre (British spelling), typhoid, and typist. Tries becomes "trees" in entries, pantries, countries, etc. Ties becomes "tees" in parties, counties, and empties.
  2. Good readers learn how to pronounce the -sque letter combination as sk as in Basque, masquerade, mosque, grotesque, and bisque. They learn that que at the end is /k/ as in unique, technique, and pique. View more of the specific phonic patterns that are not taught.
  3. Good readers learn how to scan without being systematically taught how to scan.
  4. Good readers can use a dictionary and without being systematically taught have learned to correctly pronounce any word by using the dictionary diacritics.
  5. Good readers can read dialects in print. For example, the following are definitions from Dictionary for Yankees and other uneducated people by Bil Dwyer. Bad--a place for sleep or rest. Bail--this rings on Sunday mornings. Bait--What people do on "hawse" racing.
  6. Good readers know the conventions cartoonists use to indicate thinking, motion, speed, dreaming, as well as talking.
  7. Good readers catch satire and puns.
  8. Good readers enjoy reading.
  9. Good readers know how to find things in catalogs and can use telephone directories and anything with an index.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sequential Spelling for the Home School

Sequential Spelling for the Home School

Sequential Spelling for
the Home School

Sequential Spelling is a uniquely constructed spelling system with the following key features in its methodology:

- Words are taught in relationship to one another, both horizontally and vertically
- Children can figure out the rules for themselves from their relationships and commonalities, but spelling rules are not taught
- Students begin by "testing" themselves by trying to write words correctly before they study them
- Words for each grade level are selected for common elements rather than grade level appropriateness

Some of these features might sound strange to you, and rightly so. Let's take these features one by one. Word relationships is not a new idea on which to construct a spelling program, but Sequential Spelling's implementation is unique in working with words both horizontally and vertically. What that means is that lessons build from common elements in two directions. For example, the first common element in level 1 is "in." Three different beginnings are connected to in to create "pin, sin," and "spin." That is the vertical development. Horizontal development combines with vertical development on the second day. The list for day 2 begins with the word "I" then expands yesterday's list to "pins, sins, spins" for horizontal development. In addition, "kin, skin, win," and "twin" add vertical development. Horizontal development continues through words such as "pinned, pinning, skins," and "skinned." Although the first lesson is short, by the ninth day, there are 25 words per day.

Although these words are related by phonograms or common elements (e.g., doubling the ending consonant and adding "ed"), it is left for the student to make his or her own connections and formulate rules inductively if they so choose. (That makes this program a good choice for children who hate learning rules, but a poor choice for those who want explanations for why things work they way they do.) Of course, there is nothing to prevent the parent/teacher from presenting rules anyway if it seems appropriate.

Students begin by "testing" themselves, but this is not a pretest as in some other spelling programs. This is the actual instruction. The parent/teacher says a word, says it in a sentence, then repeats the word. Children are to try to write the word the best they can. Even if they only know a few letters that might be in the word, they write those down. After they've taken their best guess, the teacher writes the word. The author suggests using colored felt pens on a whiteboard. Use one color for the basic sound such as "in." Use another color for the beginning letter/s such as "p" or "sp."

Before going on to the next word, children erase and correct their word as needed. The idea is that they process their mistakes and the necessary correction. They think about the construction of words in a way that is missing in most other spelling programs. This will be helpful for some children and frustrating for others.

As they continue to build horizontally and vertically, children are quickly spelling words that would be considered well beyond their grade level. For example, by the fifth day, they are spelling "beginning." The last lesson of level 1 has no "easy" words; among the 15 words are "spying, multiplying, dissatisfying, falsifying, denying, lullabies, couldn't, wouldn't" and "schools." (Try that list with most fifth graders!)

The program is quite comprehensive. It includes spelling "demons," homophones (e.g., "air, heir"), homographs (e.g., "bat"), heteronyms (e.g., "lead"), prefixes/roots/suffixes (e.g., psy, hypo, graphic), and what the author calls "advanced patter" words such as "techniques, chauvinism," and "hors d'oeuvres." (As I typed this I realized I have yet to master the spelling of that last one!)

Sequential Spelling for the Home School has seven levels that are supposed to correspond to grades 2 through 8, although it can easily be used by older students. The program does increase in difficulty from level to level, so it makes sense to start students of any age at level 1, then work through the levels at whatever speed suits them. Personally, I would wait until students are about third or fourth grade then begin them at level 1. I would also use this program with high school students (and even adults) who have never learned to spell well. The publisher has a free placement test on their website that will help you determine the best starting point:

The program is taught from the course book. You can buy individual books for each level or one large three-ring binder with all seven levels. Students can write their words in the Student Response Book or in their own notebooks. The Student Response Book has three columns per page, but they are numbered such that children are never writing their lists on the same page two days in a row—this prevents comparison or copying of word elements from the previous day. Thus, the first day's list is on page 3, the second day's list on page 5, the third day's list on page 7. The same book is used for all levels of the program. You can come up with your own system for doing this in a spiral notebook or with loose binder paper, but you DO want to keep all these pages together for comparison later on. One Student Response Book comes with the binder, but they are available separately for extra students. This is the only consumable element to the program.

I suspect that Sequential Spelling will work best for Wiggly Willys and Sociable Sues who are not detail or rule-oriented. The author breezily dismisses concerns about questions students might have about things like "s" sounding like "z" at the end of "pins." This sort of thing matters to some students, especially Perfect Paulas, and not at all to others.

While Sequential Spelling does need to be presented by the parent/teacher, it does not require preparation time. If you follow my suggestion and wait till at least third or fourth grade, I doubt lessons will take more than 15 to 20 minutes a day.

Wave 3 Learning publishes a number of additional items that use the same methodology. However, Sequential Spelling is the easiest to use and most practical for homeschoolers. The Patterns of English Spelling [$159.95] is ten "volumes" or sections packaged within two binders. Think of this as a teacher's handbook for spelling. It has all sorts of cross-referencing and tools for selecting word groups, identifying difficulty levels, and finding related word patterns within the ten volumes. Sequential Spelling includes cross references to Patterns in case parents/teachers want to locate additional words or words related to those they are teaching. However, Patterns is not an essential companion to Sequential Spelling. On the other hand, a confident teacher could work solely from Patterns, selectively working through the various lists while using the same techniques used in Sequential Spelling. The simple teaching methodology is explained in both books.

Yet another option designed for older teens and adults is titled If it is to be, it is up to me to do it. It seems about equivalent to lower levels of Sequential Spelling, but it has only 21 words per day. It features sample sentences for about a third of the words, something lacking in most lessons and levels of Sequential Spelling. However, coming up with sentences should be easy enough for most parents that this should not be a significant feature.

[After I posted this review, one mom wrote: "I wondered if you might consider a little 'tweaking' of your review of Sequential Spelling. I don't think moms of children doing well in spelling will like this program. However, I have a 13 year old who can't spell easy words and is frustrated by traditional spelling programs. This series is a breath of fresh air for us, because she finds it easy and yet not childish. It teaches her how words are supposed to look, something that does not come naturally to her."

Also, Chrystal Smith wrote: "There was a comment at the end of the review that children who are natural spellers won't like this program. True, to a point. I almost threw this out the window until I read through this link for suggestions: We ended up saving a ton of money for my gifted son by getting the ADULT version of SS. It's a
condensed, tougher version of the original. The reason it's for adults is that the words build more quickly, and in some cases, build into words that children don't use at all. Some are words that would build their vocabulary (like extortion), but some are words that a child doesn't need to know (like whore). If you don't mind skipping the adult words that would be offensive to a young child, this is an excellent way to teach gifted children in the style of SS."]