The St. Jerome Catholic Spellers series is both traditional and distinctly Catholic in its approach. This new series has courses for grades one through eight:
- Spelling Jungle: Grade 1
- Spelling Gardens: Grade 2
- Spelling Caverns: Grade 3
- Spelling Mountain: Grade 4
- Spelling River: Grade 5
- Spelling Seashore: Grade 6
- Spelling Forest: Grade 7
- Spelling Space: Grade 8
The theme in the title for each book is reflected with illustrations of creatures that live in each biome and other biome-related features. Even the eighth-grade book has colorful pages with large fonts for the text. This makes the books look visually appealing and not overwhelming to students.
For the most part, lessons follow a common format through all levels. Each lesson begins with a list of the week’s spelling words. There are ten words per week for first grade, then fifteen words per week for all other levels. Courses for grades three and above add definitions for the spelling words in this initial list.
Students then practice writing their spelling words (three times for each word) on the lines provided in the book. Models of the words are in print rather than cursive, so it would be up to parents or teachers to decide if students need to practice writing in cursive. (They might wish to provide cursive models for students who have not yet mastered the cursive forms.) The publisher tells me that they "don't use cursive in these books, because our focus on cursive in the St. Jerome School curriculum is taken care of in the 'Catholic Penmanship' series that we use."
The next activity for each week has students fill in the blanks in sentences with their spelling words. The second-grade book adds an exercise where students match spelling words with their definitions. In the books for grades three through eight, instead of matching definitions, students match columns of synonyms and antonyms.
Students are to be given an ungraded pre-test on Wednesdays or Thursdays, and a final test on Fridays.
Spelling Jungle: Grade 1 presents words by word families of common phonetic sounds. But the rest of the series presents words in roughly alphabetical order without concern for common phonetic elements. The words for the lessons are those commonly used in reading and writing at each grade level plus a selection of words that help build a Catholic vocabulary. For instance, second graders learn words such as most, scream, winter, bishop, devote, and rosary. The proportion of religious words ramps up gradually with fifth graders learning words such as Genesis, Eucharist, liturgical, and reverence, and seventh graders learning words such as martyr, magisterium, corpus, and consecration. While some of the secular words might be slightly more challenging than is typical for each grade level, the Catholic vocabulary significantly raises the level of difficulty.
These courses assume familiarity with the Catholic faith when they ask children to fill in the blanks for sentences such as, “Did you pray your _______ yet today?” (Spelling Gardens: Grade 2, p. 79), and “It’s been a long Advent, and we are all so excited about the _______!” (Spelling River: Grade 5, p. 109).
The first-grade book has a one-page answer key at the back. A single book has all of the answer keys for grades two through eight.
The entire series is easy to use which makes it very practical for busy homeschooling families.
Note that the Vocabulary Voyages series from the same publisher is essentially a continuation of the same methodology for grades nine through twelve.