Why We Ditched Spelling Lists

/ / Articles, Blog, Writing

Why We Ditched Spelling Lists and What We Do Instead


I haven’t given a legitimate spelling test in over a decade. In our previous homeschooling lives, we followed a traditional spelling program which received rave reviews from other families. It was meant to teach spelling rules without tears, but, oh, people, I tell ya—the tears! My kids hated the tests and lists. I hated the tests and lists. But most of all, I hated the tears.

So I shelved it…way in the back where nobody would ever have to look at it.

We hear quite a few questions about why we don’t “do spelling.” Questions like these:


Why did you ditch spelling lists?

Life is too short to shed tears over spelling, don’t you think? When Grandpa died, when a bone is broken, the final scene in the original Cheaper By the Dozen—those are tear-worthy moments. Misspelling a word—not so much. It was torture we didn’t need.

Also, our time is valuable. Spelling lists—no thank you.


Don’t they need to learn to do hard things?

There are ten of us plus pets living in a 30-foot travel trailer with one bathroom. Despite our daughter’s incurable auto-immune disease, we move to a different place every couple days for our Christian music mission ( We live in church parking lots and often run through wind and rain to get to the bathroom. Our budget is based on whatever lands in our basket at events. We have to calculate amperage before making toast and thaw eggs for breakfast.

They do hard things.


Why We Ditched Spelling Lists and What We Do Instead2


But don’t your kids need to learn how to spell?

Yes, they do. We do not believe in over-reliance on spell-check, eyeballing, and text-speak. What does CUL8RAT*$ mean anyway? (For my fellow squares, that’s “See you later at Starbucks.”)

Fortunately, they do know how to spell—quite well, in fact. Our reading, writing, and occasional copywork is generally plenty. Some read from McGuffey Readers and voluntarily quiz each other on the included spelling words. Some of the children keep a list of misspelled words—most don’t, because they don’t need to.

When I spot a spelling mistake in their writing, I correct it faster than I snag the last cookie so they know what the proper word looks like. Likewise, I make sure everything I spell is spot on.


What about the kids that aren’t natural spellers?

Unfortunately, not all of my eight children find spelling to be easy as pie. The strugglers use a Christian workbook designed for high schoolers: Apples. Some tackle it as early as third grade; others skip it. Apples brings the strugglers up to speed without tears.


Wouldn’t they learn to spell faster with a program?

Maybe. Probably. But I’d end up in the grave faster—there’s a trade-off. Also, spelling a word correctly on a spelling list doesn’t always translate into practical usage. Weird, I know. And have you forgotten about the tears?

Without a spelling list to stress over, we have more time for the delightful side of school. Best of all, there hasn’t been a tear shed over spelling words in ten years. To me, that spells j-o-y!



Christy Bagasao is a freelance writer, wife to Christian music missionary Stephen Bautista, and roadschooling mother of eight highly adaptable children. The family travels the United States full-time, living in a 30-foot travel trailer with a 100-pound dog and 10-pound cat taking up more than their fair share of space. Christy blogs about simple living at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).