Minecraft tree by stiffyogi
I realize that the language one uses is vitally important in getting the correct message across and I would really appreciate some advice on how to approach this.
When your daughter was a toddler and said "Mommy! Up!" did you worry that if you didn't correct her that she'd stop there and never move onto "Mommy, could you pick me up, please?"
The standard spellings are all around us, just as full sentence speaking is. Perhaps even more important are other kids trying to communicate using creative spelling. Since no one uses the same creative spelling as anyone else, kids realize trying to read nonstandard spelling is an effort and sometimes the meaning isn't clear. There's a motive for standard spelling when kids feel a need to be clear.
When it's "vitally important" to her to get the correct message across she will.
As others suggested, asking if she wants help is good :-) But accept no if that's what she says. She isn't yet writing for others to read so right now it's only important that she be able to read it.
Opportunities to mention English spelling isn't obvious have popped up naturally with my daughter. Someone came up with the idea of "word jail". It's where any word that isn't spelled how it sounds goes. She liked that. So she doesn't feel as though there's something wrong with her if she can't guess the standard spelling.
Grown unschooler update (2015) ....
At 24 Kat has been spelling well for a long time. At 14 or so she got interested in writing online collaborative stories and IMing friends. Her spelling improved as a side effect. It was a combination of knowing others would be reading what she wrote and a natural desire to be more competent at life skills.
When people are pushed to do things for others' reasons it's natural to erect barriers, to decide not to care, to only do it when made to. When kids have the space to grow into their own reasons to care, spelling in the standard way comes naturally. (Given the right genes, of course!)
We like all the same foods, read the same books, both have high IQ's but she can spell and I can't.
There does seem to be a spelling gene. :-)
We are both voracious readers, so it seemed to me that it is not the exposure to the written word but rather what is going on in the head.
You're right. It was a simplistic description meant more to encourage people that spelling -- if it's in someone's genes! -- will come with time and natural exposure. If it isn't in the genes, then neither time nor pages and pages of spelling work will help.
Can you tell when a word is spelled wrong? Even if you can't pull the correct spelling out of your head? I know that when I'm writing -- hand or typing -- I use their, they're and there interchangeably without the slightest twinge that I've written the wrong one, but when I read it, it jumps out at me. Think about trying to spell something out loud without seeing it. I certainly need to picture it in my mind. It suggests there are a number of different areas of the brain involved in the reading/writing/recalling/spelling process.
And yet they're all linked too. I know my daughter was writing well before she could read. Her reading is now well ahead of her spelling, and yet reading undoubtedly grows a sense of familiarity of how something should be spelled.
How many faces can we recognize? And yet how well would we be able to reproduce them?
It seems simple to connect spelling with being artistic or mathematical. And yet my father is mathematical, musical and artistic and spells well. My sister is artistic, musical and spells well. I'm mathematical, artistic and was only so so at pulling spellings out of my head though, as far as I can recall, could tell when something wasn't right. (We're all big readers.) Writing a lot seems to have improved spelling for me.
Perhaps sort of like having watched someone do something for so long -- the part reading plays in spelling -- actually then doing it yourself (writing) -- and doing it for reasons you care about, not just practice because someone tells you to practice -- gives us an important connection.
If we've got the gene that makes that connection easy, of course :-)
I really detest the "whole language" approach to spelling. My children picked up on writing very easily and happily as they wrote to their grandparents, friends or "Rule's for my Bedroom!" LOL! And knowing how to break down syllables and knowing the rules with each syllable. They were happy to not to have to ask for help in their spelling as often and got a huge feeling of independence from it. That was my observation.
And my daughter too picked up writing easily getting all the same things except the syllables. (Though she has a vague concept of them from writing comic books and having to split lots of words to fit into the balloons she insists on drawing first ;-) Her spelling is still occasionally creative at 10 but it's vastly improved to what she used at 9. She's never had a spelling lesson and doesn't seem irritated at asking for spellings. To her spelling is a big messy interesting puzzle.
Which is just saying that lessons weren't necessary for it to come about. There are pros and cons to lessons and no lessons, but lessons are not necessary. For me at least two of the pros are her realizing she's puzzled out the intricacies of the English language without being taught, the freedom to do other things during what would have been lesson time. The cons are getting spelling later than some other kids. (But not all kids. Some people never do learn to spell even with "expert" instruction.) Which is only a problem if she is faced with some sort of comparison but that's never happened so it's no big deal.
Words in a properly spelled sentence are easier to read than are words in an improperly spelled sentence.
This is one of those ideas that is hard for teachers of spelling to grasp: the idea that someone would actually observe misspelling and conclude that when they don't want to confuse a person they're writing to that standard spelling is a good idea. And the idea that kids would actually care about how well someone is able to read what they write.
But of course in school, the kids often don't care. They aren't writing to communicate ideas to another who cares what they think. They're made to jump through a hoop for a grade. So of course they don't care about spelling. From that it's supposed that kids' lack of interest in spelling well is inherent rather than a lack of interest in performing for school.
They may or may not learn, but they probably will. There are no guarantees and even IF you do school at home, they may not ever be great spellers or have great handwriting.
Virtually all the people who can't do the things we worry our kids won't be able to do went to school. All the bad spellers (and good spellers) and bad handwriters (and good handwriters) came out of school.
We tend to give credit to the school for successes and blame the child for not working hard enough or not caring enough if there is failure.
But considering that unschooled kids learn fine without schooling then the more likely conclusion is that kids learn despite school and fail because of school.