Little Boy gets 6 weeks of spelling words at a time. He brought home a new list Monday. While listening to him practice last night I glanced ahead. In three weeks he will be a better speller than I am.
He will be able to spell DIFFERENT. Technically I can, see I just did. But it is one of those words that always gives me a hard time.
Diferrent. Differant. Differrent. Diffarent.
Despite having come in third in the 5th grade spelling bee I have never considered myself much of a speller. It wasn’t an honor for me so much as a shame for the school.
Ironically it is my inability to remember which order the letters are in and how many of them there should be that makes me a good editor. I have a very intimate relationship with my dictionary collection. Don’t tell DD. (Actually he already knows – the bedroom is also my library.)
I had a hint that this day was coming a few weeks ago at homework time when Little Boy asked me to spell a word I didn’t know. I have a large working vocabulary, far larger than my spelling vocabulary. Thus I often cheat by finding another word to use when no dictionary is handy.
Several good words substitute well for DIFFERENT. Not like. As opposed to. Many forms. Other options. Variety. Changed from. Alien. Weird. Deviant. In contrast.
I have never wanted my dis-spelling to be a disability. Perhaps I have over-compensated. For a writer being a poor speller can be a serious handicap. No one wants to read something unintelligible. But a large and flexible vocabulary is a most useful asset.
Frequently the focus on building vocabulary is just learning the meaning of more, bigger words. I would argue that it is just as important to be able to use small words well – and to be able to spell them correctly. “Little words, like if and but” (Dr. Seuss) are at least as useful as big words. Some audiences are impressed by big words. But many readers will be lost and turn on TV if they run into words they don’t know. Thus I argue that my inability to spell had made me a more accessible writer.
But all the same, this writer is bracing for her second grader to rub it in. I’m looking at the bright side though, pretty soon he’ll be a walking dictionary and I won’t need to carry one any more, I just have to swallow my pride and ask a 7 year old.