Why I Chose All About Spelling Over Spell to Write & Read

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Jonathan has now completed the first two levels of All About Spelling, but before using All About Spelling, we used Spell to Write & Read for a couple of years. I used Spell to Write & Read for preschool as Jonathan was learning to read (in addition to Pathway Readers and Workbooks) and we used it through Kindergarten. At that point I was feeling a little frustrated with Spell to Write & Read and I was introduced to All About Spelling. I decided to find out what all the fuss was about and I fell in love.

But, let’s back up a little…

Choosing a Spelling Curriculum

Spelling curricula, in my opinion, are difficult and confusing to wade through. There are so many options and ways to teach spelling. Certainly you can very successfully teach spelling by simply using dictation and copywork, but, some parents feel more comfortable having a book to teach from. That’s how I felt.

Using Spell to Write & Read

Spell to Write & Read was recommended at a local homeschool convention. It seemed like a good approach, so we went with it. It is based on the Spaulding Method, which as I understand it is an off-shoot of the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching spelling. All About Spelling is also an off-shoot of this same method. The idea of one set of books that would take us all the way through high school spelling was also appealing. I mean, who doesn’t want to save money and have a nice compact curriculum to work with.

I felt very overwhelmed with Spell to Write & Read when I first sat down with the books. To teach using Spell to Write & Read, the parent must do a lot of reading and preparation before even thinking about starting to teach spelling. The parent also really needs to memorize the phonograms, rules, and a special set of markings. I consider myself fairly smart. I mean, I made it through grad school without too much difficulty, but, when it comes to learning this spelling method, I felt completely inadequate. If you spend a lot of time with the material, you can learn it, but most parents need to go through a seminar to learn to teach Spell to Write & Read well.

In general, I’m not a fan of scripted curriculum. That’s why I really thought that I’d like Spell to Write & Read. What I found out though is that spelling rules are difficult to teach when you don’t fully understand them yourself and don’t have good, simply worded explanations to fall back on.

That’s where I found myself at the end of Jonathan’s Kindergarten year. We had breezed through the first 4 Spell to Write & Read spelling lists, but I was terrified to move forward because I didn’t see the point in memorizing special markings and just writing the words was boring for Jonathan. He tends to be a little more oral/auditory oriented in addition to having a strong visual learning style. And he’s also a young and active little boy. He can write, but his hands tire quickly. He can sit, but only for so long. He likes to spell out loud rather than writing all the time as was regularly needed in Spell to Write & Read. We needed something better – for me and for him.

Moving to All About Spelling

Now here’s where All About Spelling entered our lives. Honestly, I was put off by the price at first. Spending $40 a level to teach spelling is a lot of money. Plus, add on $30-$50 for the interactive kit that contains, among other things, the letter tiles. That adds up quickly.

I was also nervous about the scripting. I stopped using Saxon Math K because the teacher script drove me crazy. I opened the All About Spelling teacher’s manual and I think I heard angels sing. The intro says that the activities are designed to work with varied learning styles and provide a multi-sensory approach to teaching spelling. I found that the way that the manual is laid out makes it easy for me find what I need to say but also put it into my own words as I go along if I want to. I also found that I could speed up a lesson when Jonathan clearly understood the material by reducing the dictation and saving some of that for later review between levels.

All About Spelling makes teaching spelling easy for the teacher. I don’t have to spend hours preparing in advance of teaching a lesson to make sure I understand all the rules and special markings. I just open the teacher’s manual and go. I learn along the way too. When questions do arise, I can answer them because I’m learning all the same spelling rules in the same way as my child at the same time. I really wish I’d been taught to spell this way.

8 Reasons I Now Use All About Spelling

Here’s why I will continue to use All About Spelling instead of Spell to Write & Read:

  1. No tedious advanced preparation. Just open and teach.
  2. No memorization for me as the teacher. I learn along side my child.
  3. Brightly colored and engaging manipulative letter tiles.
  4. Multi-sensory approach without having to come up with the activities on my own.
  5. Classical / Charlotte Mason dictation exercises.
  6. Teacher’s manuals can be reused for future children.
  7. Easy to personalize the script and activities to fit my child.
  8. My child begs to do more spelling with All About Spelling.

If you’ve been trying to decide if All About Spelling is worth the price, my answer is most definitely it is. If you’ve been trying to decide between Spell to Write & Read and All About Spelling, I hope this helps you see the difference from a mom’s perspective. All About Spelling also has some additional FAQ’s about the differences and switching from Spell to Write & Read that you should look over.

Your Turn!

What do you think about teaching spelling? What difficulties have you run into? What fears do you have? Any questions about All About Spelling that I can answer to help you out? Jump down to the comments and let’s talk!

Want to get All About Spelling for your kids? Head over to the All About Learning Press website.

The Homeschool Village


  1. Great review! We have been using All About reading for the last 2 years (pre level 1 and level 1). We will be adding in the All About Spelling portion this year and I’m glad to know that its worth the price over some of the other programs out there!

  2. Caroline Allen says:

    I loved this review! I have my 9 year old in All About Spelling, we switched this year because he struggled with spelling so much.

  3. I’m starting AAS Level 1 with my 2nd grader this year. He has inherited my terrible spelling so hopefully we can both get better!

  4. Lisa Imerman says:

    I am so glad to hear this. I bought Spell to Read and Write based on several recommendations from friends and at conferences. I was new to homeschooling (this past year was my first) and I am well educated (have a Juris Doctorate) and I was overwhelmed when I read the book. I tried to implement it but it just was too cumbersome. We kind of dropped the spelling curriculum. I plan to get AAS this year for my kids and AAR for my younger two. I hate that I wasted money on the other, but luckily it was the only curriculum I bought for my first year that was not good for us.

    • I know. You’d think with a MA I could do it, but SWR just requires way to much memorization without anything to hang that information on. I’m looking at AAR Pre-reading level for Jacob for this year.

  5. We love AAS. I have considered AAR but it appears simular to AAS. I would love to hear how one uses both together.

    • AAR and AAS are made to be compatible. They are similar, because they are both based on the Orton-Gillingham method — but the approach is where they differ. AAR focuses on DEcoding (finding the sound made by a seen letter sequence), while AAS focuses on ENcoding (finding the letter sequence that makes the heard sound).

      http://delightfullearning.blogspot.com/2012/08/correlating-all-about-reading-1-with.html is a blog post where the author shows a good way to correlate the two, if you’re starting with level 1 AAR and AAS at the same time.

  6. DJ Hesselius says:

    I used Spell to Write and Read with my two oldest and don’t regret it. It proved to be too much for my severely dyslexic child. When people ask, I recommend AAS over SWR since it is less overwhelming for all involved. I do think, though, that SWR belongs on people’s books shelves. Its a great reference.

  7. You just described the exact reasons I recently fled SWR. I too have a masters degree and thought I could handle it all. And I could with my oldest who knew how to read (but was a horrible speller). But, then came my next child. I had a love/hate relationship with SWR last year. I came to the same stop point as you. On top of it, I have twins ready to read and I knew I was NOT going to continue with SWR. I just didn’t have the prep time to invest. I decided to go with another program based on the same body of research and though it too is scripted, I think that’s what this busy Mom needs right now, lol! I am so glad I am not the only defector and that there are other curriculum coming out these days that are based on such solid research.

  8. These are all the reasons why I switched as well!!!! With a new baby I had no more time to put into prepping the SWR requires. Love, love, love AAS!

  9. Thank you for this review. I’ve heard people raving about AAS before but didn’t understand why. We have used Spellwell in the past but I think my oldest wants something “more” – she is trying to better her spelling to write fiction. :)

  10. Karin Owens says:

    Great Review and comparisons between the two programs. You have clearly laid them out. Thanks! I actually already use All About Spelling and love it! We haven’t ever used the other program. We are also using All About Reading for my youngest. These are great, clear, thorough, open and go resources that engage the children and don’t take advanced planning really on the teacher/parent.

  11. christine says:

    I, too, am switching from SWR to AAS (just purchased yesterday, haven’t even received it yet!). My son started reading at age 3, and is now turning 5, but not yet ready to write. I felt overwhelmed by all the little rules, and terrified that if I ignored something that seemed silly, I would regret it on Step 128 or something. I’m also doing Saxon K math, and I have that same aversion to the script! In fact, I don’t even follow it anymore, I just see what skill is taught that lesson and explain it in one sentence. My kids would think I was an idiot if I spoke from that script, lol!!!

  12. Thanks for writing this! I’ve been thinking about spelling a lot. To teach my kids to read, I’ve used the Spaulding method to teach my kids so far and I really like the method, but I’m wondering if it’s enough practical work. Anyways, I was looking at both of the programs you talked about and was leaning toward AAS. Thanks so much for helping me understand both programs better!

  13. I have struggled with SWR AND I have tried Phonics Road. I bought and sold SWR 2 times now. I feel I am destroying our 11 year old because we just don’t get SWR done. I know it’s said that it works if you ‘do’ it, it’s doing it that’s the problem. I don’t mind teaching. I LOVE teaching. I don’t like not getting anything else done, because I have a slow learner and SWR takes us hours.
    My fear of switching to anything from SWR is that I wonder if I can get past the Y saying /E/ in :).
    Those of you who switched, did you find it hard to learn a new system?
    I really want a more definite, laid out lesson plan, and maybe an actual book for the student. Not having them ‘create’ their own notebook. I know that is suppose to be the part that makes it stick, but that is the drudgery for us. :(

  14. Thank you, Amanda. I am really looking into this and will keep my eye on all updates! :)

  15. Thank u for this Very helpful comparison review!!! I graduated college with a Language Arts secondary teaching degree. I have always struggled with spelling so I was very excited to find the SWR all in one program. I bought as many supplementary items as I could afford and I am dismayed to say that it has fallen by the way side. I maybe should have read more reviews….Flipping between 2-3 or more books to figure out the maze of steps has just proven to be too time consuming. While I had the best of intentions and was so excited to find one curriculum that I do believe is brilliant and really works (and I will hang on to for references and all of the supplementary material I bought) but the “earn a degree first” and then dive into teach in whIle still learning approach is ruining it for our family. All this time my second grader is getting further and further behind while I’m still struggling to load up that jet plane full of fuel they describe in the beginning so I can understand what to do. Overwhelming! After a year in a half I’m still intimated by how muttled it feels and my second grade daughter who loves to read and reads chapter books like American Girl stories absolutely loaths doing it. It has taken up too much time and I wish I had known about AAS earlier. I can’t imagine trying to use this with my enthusiastic 4 year old. Im afraid it will destroy her excitement. I do imagine a seminar would have been a lovely luxury but was not available close enough to me. SWR can’t be impossible, I just suggest ordering and studying well in advance of trying to begin and maybe buying Wanda’s DVD or attending a seminar. I bought the other cheaper summarized DVD version by another lady from thier website. To be fair, ours arrived in August just before starting and I was horrified from the get go that I could not just open and begin! Many hours of study and trying to find help (the less expensive DVD that was helpful and I will still use ideas from), but I am just admitting defeat before I waste another grade level not teaching spelling well!! I anticipate traveling through level one of AAS quickly with my oldest and being right on target with my youngest (will be 5 in Feb 2016). And after speaking with a very helpful lady at All About Learning Press, I’m going to start my 2nd grader with level 3 AAReading once I place the order. Over all, I am looking forward to the angels singing when I open the AAS manual!:):)!! And I hope that someday, at my leisure, I will be able to understand SWR enough to use by highscool since it boasts college level by the end and It has just become a personal goal! Thank u again for your generous, encouraging website!


  1. […] If you’re looking for a spelling curriculum for next year this post will be of great help: Why I choose AAS over Spell to Read and Write […]

  2. […] Jonathan learned to read, I started with Spell to Write & Read, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and Bob Books. 100 Easy Lessons was mostly to […]

  3. […] If you’re looking for a spelling curriculum for next year this post will be of great help: Why I choose AAS over Spell to Read and Write […]

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