"I blew it again!" Eric dropped his schoolbooks on the kitchen table. The sound they made matched the dejected expression on his face.
"What's wrong, Honey?"
"Why is spelling so hard? Why are some words spelled alike, but sound different. And, other words sound the same but are spelled different. Then, there's even some that are spelled alike and sound alike but they mean different things? It's just so confusing!"
"Are you studying homonyms?" his mom asked.
"I dunno. What's that?"
"Well, Eric, you gave a pretty good definition of 'homonyms' just then." Mom smiled and turned from the sink to sit down at the table. "Actually, I think words are so fascinating, I love these kinds of words, along with all the other fun things we can learn about them. It's like a game!" She reached out for one of Eric's pencils and a piece of paper. "When I went to school, we had two grades in one room. Behind my parents' back, my second grade teacher skipped me into third grade. She moved me, one afternoon, just in time for a spelling test, one I hadn't had a chance to study for. I remember the word I missed. It was 'sew,' like using a needle and thread. All I knew was that 'so' wasn't the correct spelling. I think I might have written 'sow,' which does sound the same, if you're talking about planting seeds. Of course, if you're talking about a mother pig, then 'sow' rhymes with 'plow' and 'Ow!'"
"See what I mean, Mom?" Eric's chuckle trailed off into a whine born of frustration.
"I know, Sweetheart. Phonics doesn't always work to sound out words. Some things we just need to memorize, or find helps so we remember. Here's an example." Mom proceeded to write "hear" and "here" on the paper. "How do you say these words?"
"They're both the same sound."
"So, what's the definition of 'hear' and what does 'here' mean?"
Eric raised and dropped his shoulders in a huge sigh. "You tell me!"
"Look carefully and tell me if you see another word inside the word 'hear,' which is a clue."
"Okay, I see 'ear.' ...Oh, I get it! We 'hEAR' with our EARs! That's easy to remember." Eric's face brightened in a smile.
"One of my students had trouble with his writing assignments, too. He spelled words correctly, but he often picked the wrong word! He would write 'were' when he meant 'where,' and vice-versa. So, it dawned on me, just in time to help him. I had him look at the word 'where,' and he found 'here' in it. HERE is wHERE you are. So, don't use 'were' when you mean 'where!'"
"If only all the other...homo-nyms...were so easy to figure out."
"How about we try a really hard one, then? How many different meanings can we find for 'bow' and 'bough' ...oh, I almost forgot 'beau,' which has the same sound as one of the ways to pronounce 'bow' ...Why are you looking at me like that, Eric? This is fun!"
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