Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Phonics resource review

I have previously mentioned that I am currently using a phonics resource to teach our now almost five-year old to read. Back in the day, when I was in teacher's college, reading instruction always seemed to center around the whole language approach with just a casual mention of phonics. This whole language approach usually means that words are taught within the context that they are encountered in. So a book selection is made and the words learned are those that are used within that book. Sight words and word walls become important parts of an elementary language arts program. When it came time to think about what reading resource or program I wanted to use at home with my own children, I found a suggestion in The Well Trained Mind(TWTM) co-authored by Jessie Wise and her daughter, Susan Wise Bauer. Both women are well known to the classical homeshcooling movement and have put together many helpful materials for homeschooling families.
The links I provide are for Peace Hill Press, their publishing site. I found the phonics resource that they originally suggested in a local bookstore and over the course of a year had several opportunities to check it out. I never committed to buying it as the format never seemed user-friendly. On a visit home last year I spent some time in a local Barnes & Noble Bookstore and in the Education section I found a copy of The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. I picked it up and was thrilled to find exactly the resource I had been hoping to find in the other suggested material.
Each lesson is simple, easy to follow and builds on previous lessons. The first 26 lessons are teaching the sounds of each letter of the alphabet. Lessons 1-5 teach the short vowel sounds of the five vowels. Then lessons 6-26 cover the consonant sounds. Reading the lesson to your child is as easy as reading the words written for the Instructor and using basic supplies that you probably already have at home. Some of the suggested supplies I simply replaced with my own and it works just as easily.
Another part of the lessons that I have enjoyed is what is taught in addition to letter sounds. For example, the concept that sometimes the letter "a" is printed in some books differently. Exposing children early to both forms helps them to recognize it no matter which font is used.
Also careful attention is given to learning the correct way to pronounce certain sounds, as in a voiced consonant and an unvoiced consonant. And since this is all written out for the parent-teacher in the Instructor's explanations, you do not have to go research these differences before teaching that sound. The work has been done for you.
By lesson 27, your child should have a good grasp of the letter sounds and an attempt can be made to start blending those sounds to make two and three-letter words. I say attempt because blending sounds into words does not always come easy the first time around. I tried for several weeks off and on to have my son blend "at". He just didn't get it. So I let it go for while. In the meantime on several occasions, he watched the Leapfrog Talking Words Factory at our neighbor's house. The next time I sat down with him, he was blending the letters with ease. So much for my bragging rights.
We are currently working on lesson 41 which is starting two-consonant blends.
Despite my lack of routine and consistent lesson times, my son has retained the sounding out skills learned in the early lessons.
We will be using this book for a long time as his level of reading increases.
The information for parent's in the last section of this book answers questions like:
  • How early can I start?
  • Why aren't there pictures in this book?
  • Do I teach reading, writing and spelling together?
  • How will I know if my child is dyslexic?
From my experience so far, I would highly recommend this book.


  1. I love this reading program too! AND, I have used the leap frog videos and am crazy about them. It's fun to see someone else is liking what I am liking :0)

  2. Anonymous9:24 PM

    This sounds like a great book, I will check it out!
    ps- a few weeks ago I was incredibly surprised to be directed to your blog while clicking on some of the coments/blogs on Remedial Eating (referred to me by a mutual friend ;)
    Ha! small world
    .. I haven't read your posts in quite a while it was a good reminder to return


I enjoy reading your comments and try to reply as much as I can. Thanks for reading here.