Someone who writes with misspellings is someone who is not detail-oriented. But who cares? Only half the world pays attention to details. Spellcheck insures that when the writing counts, the spelling will be right. I imagine many of you are up-in-arms thinking your kids can’t get a job without knowing how to spell.
But here are five reasons why focusing school time on perfect spelling is not only superfluous, but maybe even harmful to your kids:
Children learn to write better without worrying about spelling. Writing is about finding your voice. Each of us has a unique voice, and no one can teach us to find it. It’s inside ourselves and we have to bring it out on our own. When people tell us to focus on how to spell each word, then we focus on the letters instead of the sentences and we disrupt our natural cadence. A quick way to tell if someone is thinking about spelling and words instead of sentences and rhythms: do you hear “utilize?” Natural language never includes utilize. It’s a word people use when they are not using their own voice.
Proper spelling no longer signifies education. You used to be able to gauge someone’s education level by the accuracy of their spelling. Today there is spellcheck, so people who are careful to double-click those underlined words will have mostly accurate spelling. And, similarly, educated people who don’t bother to use spellcheck could send more misspelled words than someone who is uneducated. Technology has leveled us. And in fact, the texting world means that some misspellings actually signify especially good creative thinking. Which brings me to the birthday party that I bought happy birthday candles for and the kids ended up using only three of them. (That’s the photo up top.)
Focus on spelling encourages perfectionism. The real purpose to spelling everything perfectly is to feel like you are safe from reproach. Perfect spelling is something people do when they are scared of doing something wrong. This perfectionism rarely stays within the walls of spelling. And living the life of a perfectionist actually puts a person at high risk for depression. Because of course there is no way to be perfect, even in spelling.
English spelling is irrelevant in an Internet world. My kids call people online “mate” and they had no idea it was an Australian colloquialism. Which tells me that kids are effortlessly crossing international boundaries in the Internet Age, especially in English since so many non-native speakers use it online. So I read that grey is one of the words kids frequently miss in a spelling bee, but now that English is largely the universal language, the distinction between the British and American spelling is irrelevant.
It’s not the spelling, it’s the content. I’m reading A Midwife’s Tale, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and the focus of this Pulitzer Prize-winning history of women is their diaries. Women in the 1700’s in America did not concern themselves with proper spelling when they wrote. However the act of writing down a woman’s daily journey was so innovative and inventive that these diaries, full of misspellings, are essential reading for US historians. When you are writing something we haven’t seen before, no one cares about the spelling.
You’ve taken such a huge step to keep your kids home from school. You’ve opened the world to them. Why undermine that grand act by insisting they spend time at home learning to spell?
Plus, your huge step has primed your children to make their unique contribution to our world. Maybe they will do that through writing. Or maybe through painting or pottery or sprinting. But one thing they will never do is make their mark on the world as the spelling police.