Charlotte Mason Phonics and Spelling

Charlotte Mason Phonics and Spelling: Gentle Lessons

(This post contains affiliate links and links to my business, Shining Dawn Books.)

In Charlotte Mason Homeschooling in 18 EASY Step-by-Step Lessons, I obviously discuss things like copywork, dictation and transcription.  In the early years of homeschooling, these methods (along with reading living literature) are fabulous for teaching the language arts of handwriting, spelling/phonics, grammar, writing and more.

This question always comes up, though…“If I only utilize the Charlotte Mason methods of language arts, is that enough for my young children who need to have a strong understanding of phonics to become good readers and spelling to become good writers?”

Great question.

While I address the answer in more depth in the book, a quick answer is yes and no.  Some children will internalize all the early language arts they need strictly using the CM methods.  Others need a bit more intentional practice in phonics and spelling.  Since phonics and spelling are so closely tied together, I consider the lessons one in the same most of the time.

Great news…there is a way to teach phonics/spelling with a CM flair.

  • Make the lessons “living” – real, meaningful and engaging.
  • Integrate the lessons seamlessly into other lessons when possible.
  • Keep the lessons short and sweet.

While you certainly can use a phonics/spelling program if you see fit, I wanted to share a few examples of how I oftentimes gently integrate phonics and spelling into our day.  These are just a few examples – the possibilities are endless.  Have fun learning with your children!

Phonics from Living Literature

Charlotte Mason Spelling/Phonics "Open Door" Lesson

When reading a book with Eli (1st grade) the other day, he was consistently struggling with “open door words.”  He’s great at decoding CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, but couldn’t quite grasp on to one consonant words ending in a vowel.  Why?  Well, just like with all other phonics “rules”, there are “rule-breakers” that tend to confuse matters.

Day 1:  I pulled two words from our reading – go and do – and wrote them at the top of a piece of paper.  I explained that, in open door words, the ending vowel usually says its name – like in “go.”  But, there are always rule-breakers like “do.”

I wrote several open door “o” words down the paper, remembering a Cheerio lesson idea from First Grade WOW on my reading board at Pinterest.  I asked Eli to place a Cheerio at the end of each word and read them.  Now that he understood the rule there were no problems.

Next, I told him, “Uh-oh. Two words you come across all the time are rule-breakers – do and to.”  I wrote them on the same paper with “uh-oh” signs.  He now has a visual in his mind of the rule-breakers.

Day 2:  Before starting our reading for the day, I gave Eli a gentle “test” to see if we needed to review open door words.  I simply wrote some CVC words alongside some open door words on a piece of paper and asked him to read them.  Then, I asked him to circle each open door word and draw a long vowel line over the vowel to remind himself of the rule.

He gets open door words now.  One specific, hands-on, visual lesson pulled directly from a book we were already reading was all it took to “get it.”  If he struggles at all in reading an open door word, I just have to say, “opened or closed?”  If he struggles with a rule breaker, I just have to say, “Uh-oh.”

More Phonics from Living Literature

Charlotte Mason Phonics/Spelling: "Sneaky E"

Another day:  I noticed Eli was consistently wondering whether “silent e” words were to be read with short or long vowel sounds.  I remembered pinning another awesome idea from First Grade WOW at Pinterest about the silent e rule that used the Sneaky E paper bag puppet as a hands-on,visual reminder.

After Eli put together the simple puppet, I wrote several CVC words on a piece of paper and asked him to read them.  Then, I said, “Sneaky E loves to trick little boys.  He sneaks right up to the end of some words and doesn’t make a sound.  But, if there’s only one consonant separating the short vowels and Sneaky E, the short vowels notice he’s there and choose to say their long vowel names instead.”

I asked Eli to underline the short vowels then add Sneaky E to each CVC word.  He noticed that only one consonant separated the short vowel and Sneak E in each word, so I had him read the new word with the long vowel sound.  Again, after this simple little lesson, he’s got it.

Spelling from a Science Lesson

Charlotte Mason Phonics/Spelling: Gentle Lessons

In January:  We were having fun learning a bit about snow and ice and had recently talked about compound words.  When we came across the word “snowflake” in one of our science literature books, I noted the perfect opportunity for a phonics/spelling lesson.  Once the book was finished, I said, “Eli, I found a really big compound word in our reading today.  Did you happen to see it, too?”  He hadn’t.  🙂

We pulled out the white board that holds our All About Spelling magnet letters and I pulled out the word “snowflake.’  I said, “Can you find the two words in this big word?  Great.  Now draw a line to separate the words.  Do you remember what we call this type of word?  Yes, compound.”

Then, I challenged him to pull out letters from the word “snowflake” to make new words.  “Can you make any open door words?  How about CVC word?  Can you add Sneaky E to any words to change them?”

I hope you can see how easy it is to pull phonics and spelling lessons from things you’re already doing in your homeschool.  Please don’t worry if you’d rather use a full phonics or spelling program.  I’ve used those in the past, too – especially with my little one who struggled immensely to grasp on to reading.

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Is Easy

If you need a jump start to get your Charlotte Mason homeschool up and running on all four cylinders, I have just what you need.  Charlotte Mason in 18 EASY Step-by-Step Lessons is your gentle way of learning the CM method.  Yes, even parents do well with gentle, living learning!

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling in 18 EASY Lessons

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