Review: Madsen Method

4/19/2010
"He SPEAKS; He HEARS what he said; He DOES what he heard; He SEES what he did!"

The Madsen Method, a method of instruction based on how our forefathers were taught and on 1915 literacy standards, is:
“ a complete, fully scripted, evidence-based, field-tested, non-consumable, penmanship, spelling, grammar, composition and reading, use-it-with-all-students curriculum based on systematic and explicit phonics taught via neurological response instruction.”

There are currently 3 parts to the Madsen Method Curriculum with Part Four coming out in September 2011. The Madsen Method is not a graded curriculum, however, used in a graded classroom, the parts would be for:

Part One: Grades K-1
Part Two: Grades 2-3
Part Three: Grades 4-6 1/2
Part Four: Grades 6 1/2 – 8

From my understanding, an 8th grade education in 1915, would be equivalent to a 12 grade education today, so with all four levels you would be able to completely educate your child in all English language arts subjects in 6-8 years with a program that "teaches true literacy."

As a member of the Crew, we received Part One of the Madsen Method for review. With a home educators discount, the price for Part One is $219.95. Without the discount, the price is $299.95.

Part One is five sections long. You can read more about our experience with section 1 in my introduction post and our experience with section 2 and 3 in update #2. In this post, I will give you an update on sections 4 and 5 and my final review of Part One of the Madsen Method.

Section 4 is 252 scripted pages that will enable you to teach your child the seven circle letter phonograms and how to begin writing, spelling and reading words.

In this section, you will begin:
  • a set of Phonogram cards
  • an Explicit Phonetics Notebook
  • a Speaking-for-Spelling Challenge Words chart
  • a Circle Letter Phonograms chart
  • a set of Capital Forms Phonograms Cards
  • and more

I really like how section 4 is conducive to notebooking and I have lots of ideas to use with my Kindergartner when he is ready.

One important facet of the Madsen Method is that:
"This program is a study of the official nature of English phonograms, regardless of how we talk and regardless of where we live."

The method of spelling taught is the "speaking for spelling" method. In other words, you learn the correct English pronunciation, and then you can easily learn the correct spelling. However, the English taught is the English spoken by our forefathers: British English. It does not teach American English.

They teach you to speak correctly so that you can spell correctly. For example, in the word "work" you are taught that the /wor/ does not say /wer/. Then you are to pledge to NOT say /werk/ for /work/ or /uhv/ for /of/. You are also taught to make a pledge to stay out of "Schwah-ville." (The town where all those words live!)

Of course, they teach that when it will obviously make you sound silly, then to teach it the modern way. For example, we would be looked at funny if we said Wed-nes -day instead of Wensday. But in all other cases you are instructed to speak the spelling way.

I truly like the concept that children are taught to learn to read by decoding the sounds they hear in a word - rather than learning by sight or memorization. I applied this with Malachi, who knows the basic phonogram sounds and I was impressed that he could spell on his very first try! I then explained to him that this is how he can learn to read as well.

Section 5 is divided into 3 books with a total of 21 lessons and 542 fully scripted pages.

In lessons 1-7, you will teach:
  • the first set of six Line Letter Phonograms
  • the capital forms for the six Line Letter Phonograms
  • Sentence Writing Challenge #1: Use a Period
  • and more.

In lessons 8-14, you will teach:
  • the Middle Set of Six Line Letter Phonograms
  • how to spell 39 new words
  • eight new Speaking-For-Spelling Challenge Words
  • Sentence Writing Challenge #2: Use a Question Mark
  • and more.

In lessons 15-21, you will teach:
  • the last set of Six Line Letter Phonograms
  • six new Speaking-for-Spelling Challenge Words
  • how to make a Line Letter Phonogram chart
  • Sentence Writing Challenge #3: Use an Exclamation Point
  • and more.
The Madsen Method is a very explicit, very detailed, fully-scripted program. As I mentioned in my introductory post, there are tutorials, text boxes, side notes, formulas, photo illustrations, and cloud notes to help guide you along the way. The Madsen's also offer full phone or email support and also sent me a set of CD's called "Listen in Library" that are designed to help, motivate and encourage parents. A phonogram CD is also available with the sounds of all the English phonograms. It leaves nothing out and I think that this would be a great program for someone who would thrive with this style.

While I did my best to make this fun and interesting by having a lively voice and being enthusiastic and my boys sat through the lessons respectfully, they really did not look forward to this program. I believe it part it may have been due to the fact that they had to start at the beginning and also in part to the repetitive nature of the "say and do." There is a lot of repetition in order to instill the concepts in the child. With this method, the child learns by saying and doing. The concept does work - my children have learned to listen better, follow directions better, and remember more. In fact, we have come to use the concept in other areas of our schooling.

I respect the Madsen's passion for true literacy. I agree with them on many levels about the deliberate dumbing down of America and the effects that it has had on public as well as home education. But I do not agree that there is only one way to teach a child.

I have read that many of our forefathers learned with the natural method of learning. One of the natural methods is copywork and modeling after well written pieces of literature. In fact, Benjamin Franklin learned to write by copywork. However, the Madsen Method does not support the use of copywork. If you follow the methods of Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason, then this curriculum is not for you. I love the natural method and have used it in our homeschool for 5 years. I do think that the MM has a very unique concept that I am adapting for use in my homeschool, but the curriculum as a whole did not work well in our homeschool.

A Standardized Spelling and Reading Test book comes with the program. It includes 8 Morrison-McCall Spelling Scale lists for grades 1-13 and 10 Codified Oliver Spelling Lists for spelling practice. I gave a spelling "lesson" (test) once a week. It was neat to see how my children scored and at what level they are spelling ~ and where we need work. One of my boys still literally begs me to do these each week!

Other Crew Mates are in the process of reviewing this, so be watching for their reviews if you think this might be something that interests you.


I received this product for the purpose of this review and no further compensation was received. I offer my honest opinion. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

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