Right off the bat, I was very impressed with the exceptional customer service from this company. Joe Madsen spoke with me at length on the phone explaining how the program worked and what kind of results I could expect. I was a little apprehensive because I speak with a southern accent, and one of their main principles is to teach spelling by "speaking to spell." Unfortunately, there are some words I just cannot pronounce "correctly." I say "pin" and "pen" exactly the same. If I try to pronounce "pen" with the /e/ sound it just comes out sounding like "pan" to my ears! But after visiting with Joe I felt a little more assured that I could do this.
The main premise is that students learn best by using as many of their senses as possible to input information to their brains. Saying, hearing, writing, and seeing are all incorporated as they learn. I had observed that my daughter requires a lot of repetition to remember concepts, so I thought this would be a good approach for her.
We received the complete Part One materials. (There are a total of four parts.) Part One is 5 sections long and is quite bulky. The box we received contained several large spiral-bound books:
- Sections 1-3
- Section 4
- Section 5 (Lessons 1-7)
- Section 5 (Lessons 8-14)
- Section 5 (Lessons 15-21)
- Games, Coloring Pages, Comprehensive Index
- Standardized Spelling and Reading Tests
Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. But I sat down and went through the materials, studying them thoroughly to get an understanding of the approach. My daughter was excited to begin.
The materials are very thorough and very explicate and very scripted. I thought that was going to be great because we could just follow the script. Well, that didn't work out as well as I had hoped. First of all, the materials seem to be geared more for younger (beginning to read) students. Obviously, the idea is that you can adapt them for older students as well, but the script doesn't fit as well if you do. Then, it also seems to be written for a classroom setting rather than for a one-on-one situation. Again, not a huge modification, but still, not exactly as scripted. But the main problem was that my daughter has difficulty in repeating long sentences verbatim. Starting out, I felt like it was very important that she be able to repeat everything back to me exactly as scripted. When it took us a week just to "learn" how to sit in our chairs and hold our pencils, I decided that it was going to require more modification than I had anticipated. At this rate, it seemed like it would take us several years just to "learn" the alphabet!
Then I got to the section that explained that if the student could demonstrate what she had learned that it wasn't necessary for her to have to say everything she was doing. So we made some modifications to the approach and continued. Portions of it worked out really well for us, others didn't. I found the guides to be cumbersome and way too detailed for my teaching style. It's good to have all the information available that is included, but it would have been more practical for me if most of it had been in a separate reference book to look up as needed, or perhaps read on the side, not incorporated in alongside the daily lesson plans.
I really do appreciate and respect the Madsens' philosophy and approach. I like the idea of utilizing all the senses for learning. The handwriting approach that was incorporated was great for my daughter. Her handwriting has improved noticeably since beginning with the Madsen Method. The spelling approach has also been good for her. Overall, I think the concepts are "right on" but I found the method of teaching to be very tedious, and required a good bit of modification to work for us.