Ihave a confession to make. As a home- school mom, I was a total curricula nerd. Introduce me to a new resource or program, and I would devour it
as I would a thrilling novel. Every year,
choosing curricula was the highlight of my
spring. Yes, I need to get out more.
I have another confession to make.
When it came to spelling programs, I was
stymied. With at least a quarter-million
words in the English language, how could
any program be broad enough to help my
children master enough words, as well as
learn how to decode new words? Sure, I
knew of programs that used systematic
methods of instruction, but I regarded
them with skepticism. Something about
them struck me as inefficient and busy.
Besides, I had no time for that in our already crowded curriculum.
Still, I couldn’t exactly ignore spelling, so
I decided that I at least needed to teach my
girls phonics families and basic rules. You
know, rules like ‘i’ before ‘e,’ except after ‘c’
and when sounding like ‘a,’ as in ‘neighbor’
and ‘weigh’. Not sure of the best way to go
about this, I finally chose the easy route,
grabbing a spelling workbook for each of
the girls from my bookstore’s education department. It was cheap and offered the basics I wanted. I didn’t know what else to do.
For the next few years, we used this workbook, but I never did feel much at ease with
it. Although the spelling rules and word
families that it taught were important, the
weekly word lists were seldom challenging.
Besides, the workbook completely left out
vocabulary building, which meant I needed
One day, I visited a website and read an
article about a new approach to spelling
instruction. It claimed that with an empty
tissue box and a pile of scrap paper squares,
parents didn’t need to buy a spelling program. All they had to do was follow the accompanying study method. The best part
of the method was that the words students
learned were only those they didn’t already
know. Weekly word lists often featured
words my girls knew. This was a flaw in
the workbook approach that frustrated me,
because it meant that the girls didn’t learn
many new words. With tissue-box spelling, every spelling word was a challenge. I
74 Summer 2017 • Language Arts: Spelling www.TheOldSchoolhouse.com
by Cheri Blomquist
For only a dollar, I found
that the tissue box spelling
method was an efficient
way to improve spelling
and build vocabulary.