Final Analysis Friday: Apples and Pears Spelling

I hate to think of the money I spent trying to find a spelling program for Chipette her first grade year. Well over $100 for sure.

While I didn’t use rule-based spelling in school, I was a fantastic speller. However, rule based programs (specifically Orton-Gillingham based) were supposed to be the best, and I wanted the best for our homeschool. I tried using three different versions of rule-based spelling programs.

The first one used manipulatives which Chipette did NOT like. Manipulatives for math, she likes; spelling was a no. The next two programs were rule-based one with workbooks and the other simply used notebook paper and a teacher’s manual. But again no and no. It was at this point I realized that rule-based spelling was the problem, not how it was presented. Chipette would either 1) forgot which rule applied, get frustrated, and meltdown or 2) remember the rule, but it was still the wrong phonogram combination (ee and ea can both say “e”, but she would inevitably pick the wrong combination to put in a word).

Next I started looking at programs that weren’t fully rule based or phonogram based. But I had a pretty big list of wants:

  1. It had to be open and go.
  2. I didn’t want a word list to memorize, test, and then forget.
  3. I wanted sentence dictation to be a big part of the program.
  4. I wanted it to be somewhat fun.

And on my favorite homeschool forum, The Well-Trained Mind Forums, someone mentioned a spelling program called Apples and Pears. Since I had looked at EVERY spelling program under the sun without finding what I wanted, I clicked over to their website.
ALL of the teacher manuals and student workbooks are online so you can look through the ENTIRE book before deciding if you want to purchase. So I did five lessons with Chipette using those free books and it was perfect! Every single thing in my wish list was in this program. Chipette didn’t complain. In fact she liked it!

I gave Chipette the placement test and she tested around the middle of book A, so I bought book A and we’ve never looked back. We are now in the middle of book B and Apples and Pear Spelling has been AMAZING in helping Chipette with her spelling! Within 15 lessons she had improved 110% and it was carrying over into her other writing as well.

Very beginning pages of Book A

Middle of Book A

So here’s the 411 on the program itself:
  • It is a spelling program from Great Britain, but if you order from the US then they publish your books here to save on shipping charges and to make sure the differences between British and American spellings are corrected. But they still use British terms for some things that make Chipette and I laugh. For example, one sentence was about leaving a “torch on a porch” and Chipette commented that it wasn’t very smart because they would burn the house down. So I explained that in Britain a “torch” is a flashlight. She loved it and spent the rest of the day saying her dictation sentence in a terrible British accent!
  • It is a morpheme based spelling program with a few rules thrown in as well. Morphemes are the smallest part of a word that has meaning, so spelling is taught by being broken into chunks. In other words you don’t remember rules or phonogram sounds, but you practice chunking words in your head over and over until you know how to spell those words and all of the words in that word family.
  • It is a spiral spelling program. I don’t know if there is any other spiral spelling programs out there, but I LOVE this aspect. You never have a list of words to memorize, but all the words and spelling patterns are constantly being reviewed and returned to in the workbook, so the student cannot forget it.
  • It uses fill in the blank, copy, then write from memory in almost every exercise. You fill in the missing letters for sentences or words, copy the sentence or word, and then write sentence or word from memory. The spelling test and dictation sentences part of the program is the only part that doesn’t do this because those areas are for reviewing everything previously taught.
  • It includes puzzles and games. In the workbook there is a crossword, word search, or game in just about every lesson. Chipette loves these and they are a nice break from regular spelling.

Walking through a lesson:

While the books are all available to look at on the website, I thought I would show how the teacher’s manual and student book actually mesh together using Book B where Chipette is currently working, Level (or Lesson) 28 Book B.

Activity 1: Key sentence

Basically I read what it says, “The sentence should say…”

In her book she sees this for activity 1:

So she fills in the blank to make her sentence match the one I told her. Then she writes the sentence on the next line. Then I cover up the sentences and she has to write it from dictation on the next line.

Activity 2: Spelling Patterns

These words always have a unifying spelling characteristic. In this case it is long vowel sounds of “o” and “i”, so I would point that out before starting this section. 

Next, Chipette would read the words, copy the words, then I cover them up and she writes them below as I dictate them to her.Her page looks like this:

Activity 3: Word Sums

In this section root words, prefixes and suffixes are studied by taking base words and adding prefixes, suffixes or both to it. In each lesson there is usually practice combining and separating root words and beginnings/endings. In this case, Chipette is adding “en” to some words.

Once she makes the words, she reads them, then I cover them up and she writes the words from dictation.

Activity 4: Filling in the blanks

This is like the sentence fill in the blank in Activity 1, but this time with words.

My instructions look like this:

While her page looks like this:

I tell her the word and she simply fills in the missing letters.

Activity 5: Morpheme Analysis

Now we go the other direction with root words and prefixes/suffixes. Chipette must split the words into their parts this time in her workbook.

Activity 6: Writing Words

In this section I dictate the words from activity 4 that she filled in the blanks for.

Activity 7: Spelling Test

This is your classic spelling test. I have the words….

She has empty blanks.

Activity 8: Sentence dictation

There are four sentences for me to dictate in this lesson and the last sentence has a comma so my teacher’s manual points out that I need to really emphasize the pause when reading it.

She only has blank lines in her workbook.

Activity 9: Word Bingo

The word bingos are easily Chipette’s favorite part of the entire program. In her workbook is a blank grid,

but I draw a grid with the same amount of boxes on her personal size marker board because those boxes are just too small. I play with her and draw me a grid as well.

The way it works is I call out one of the words listed in section 9.

Both of us write the word in any of the blank boxes on our grid that we want. Once we fill in the grid with all of the words I have Magpie come in the room and she points at the words in random order from my teacher’s manual. The first one of us to get a row of words wins the game. Super easy and super fun!

Cons with Apples and Pears and How I Overcame:
  • The amount of writing in one lesson. If you followed my outline above, then you probably noticed that it is quite a bit of writing and time to do an entire lesson in one day. Each book only contains about 60 lessons (some more, some less). You are NOT expected to complete a lesson (or level) every day. We break each lesson into two days. So in the above example after Activity 5, we would have been finished with spelling for the day. The next day we would have completed Activities 6-9. You could also just set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes and work on the lesson until the timer went off and pick up at that point the next day.
  • The expense of the workbooks. I’m planning on using Apples and Pears with my younger children since I love it so much, but those workbooks are not cheap! So I devised this method to reuse the workbooks with each of my kids. When they need to write out dictation sentences and their spelling tests, then we do that on their personal white boards.
  • The binding. These workbooks do NOT lay flat. So I took ours to Office Depot and had them spiral bind them for me. Be aware though that the paper size is larger than a normal 8.5x11 because it uses British paper measurements, so the spiral will be a little short. Next time I’m going to have them center the spiral instead of starting at the top of the page.

By the end of the four level program your child should be spelling sentences at this level:

 After we finish with Apples and Pears, which should be in 4th grade or early 5th, we’ll see where we go from there.

All in all, both Chipette and I love this spelling program. Even she can see what a difference it has made in her writing and confidence.

Fruity spelling occurs daily which makes me happy in the tree house,

Homeschooling Hearts & Minds Virtual Curriculum Fair Button


  1. Thanks for the review! I'm thinking of this program for my first grader (in a bricks and mortar school) who is really struggling with reading and spelling. Between me 'afterschooling' him in reading with OPGTR and extra in-school reading at end of first grade he can just barely sound out silent e words and can not spell anything!

    One thing I do to try to save material for any 'next'...he's my youngest (all my kiddos are adopted) but who knows. Anyway, if possible I seperate out the pages and (while could laminate them) I put them in cheap page protectors and let kids write on page protector. Then you can just erase and re-use. It works for Horizon Phonics and Reading work books---did 2 books at Kinder level summer prior to first grade but didn't help at all nothing 'stuck').

    1. I hope the program works for you. They also have a reading program called Dancing Bears that might be helpful although I haven't personally used it.

      We do the pages in page protectors as well to save them for the younger siblings. :)

  2. Thank you for this review! Reviews for this program are not easily found! I am actually planning to get it and use it with my 5th grade struggling speller. The rule based programs aren't working for her, this is our first year homeschooling and she has always had trouble with spelling. Someone recommended this to me (she used it with her struggling speller and raves about it) so I have been seriously considering just spending the money and buying the whole program (my daughter needs to start in Book A around level 41). I'm going to do what you suggested and try a couple of lessons first. Thank you for clarifying how much you do each day, I was unsure when looking at the books online. Two days per level seems pretty good. Thank you again!

  3. Thank you for such a thoughtful review; it is such an awesome program! However, I would like to clarify that at present there is no difference between the books printed in Britain and those printed in the US. Different spellings don't show up until Book D. The author plans to write a US version of Book D at some point but hasn't done it yet.

  4. I just ordered level A for my 3rd grader and 1st grader, both of whom are HORRIBLE HORRIBLE spellers. Like, so bad I don't even like to give examples to illustrate. :-) And as usual, after pressing "complete order," I immediately began doubting my choice. Your review is very reassuring. Thanks!

  5. Thank you for this review. It was the only thorough review I found and it was quite helpful. I am ordering Apples and Pears tomorrow and am confident it is going to make a difference.

  6. Thank you for this review. I've been searching for a spelling program.

  7. I just received my Apples and Pears workbooks, and the pages seem thin. The typing on the back of pages seem quite distracting.. Did you find this with your workboooks?

  8. Thank you for this detailed review. I'm looking at getting it for my son, whom I believe may be dyslexic. Did you continue using Apples and Pears or switch to something else?