I stirred up enough chatter with my last serious post I decided to follow it up with a longer description of the phonics program I use. I do want to make the following disclaimers, however.
1. I hold public school teachers in the greatest esteem. They work hard, prepare well, are dedicated, and I’ve never met a teacher I didn’t like.
2. I understand fully that homeschooling is not for everyone. Some children do much better in a public or private school setting and, while I have chosen homeschool for myself and gladly assist others who have made the same decision, I’m not on a crusade to make everyone be just like me. It’s not for everyone and I get that.
3. I also wish to make clear that I’m not trying to devalue anyone’s experiences. By sharing my experiences, which are different from yours, I’m simply explaining why I do things the way I do. I recognize that many people have derived great benefit from the current reading programs. I also recognize that many are not, but don't know that other methods exist. I believe that we determine, based on our free agency, what is best for us and for our own families and if you have found that the exact opposite of what I’m about to say is true for you, I respect that.
Now, that said . . . (this is where Tristi gets opinionated)
I have issues with the concept of sight words because I don’t believe they exist. When a child is taught all four vowel sounds, they can then sound out the words that are presented to them. I don’t consider sight words to actually be reading – it’s memorization and guessing, not actually reading. Reading, to me, is sounding out of words.
I also have a problem with “context clues” and “picture clues.” To me, this is telling the child to make a guess, rather than acting on knowledge. What happens when they encounter that word out of context? What if it’s on a sign, a spelling test, or is used in an unusual way? It will be unfamiliar to them. However, if they know how to sound it out, they’ll never need to wonder what it is.
I was taught using the phonics system I’m about to explain. I also taught my three older children and will teach my youngest when he’s a little older. Additionally, I taught my niece using this system, and have tutored a bunch of kids. Every one of these children has excelled using this program and I have never seen it not work.
Now, for the explanation:
The lady who wrote this program is named Betty Teela. She is a good friend of the family and has done extensive tutoring for decades, working with children of all ages and from all educational backgrounds.
Here’s how it works:
You begin with a set of flashcards that has the consonant sounds (just the first sound of c) and the short vowel sounds. A as in am, E as in end, I as in it, O as in on, U as in up, and Y as in Lynn. The child learns these sounds.
Then the child begins to sound out words, starting at the left and skating over to the right. They start slowly, then go back, reading it a little quicker and a little quicker until they feel comfortable with reading that word. As they become more proficient, they’re soon reading new words with little hesitation.
The program has a reading book made entirely of those words that are written with the short vowel sounds only. Once the child has read through that book with ease, you move on to the next set of flashcards. These cards contain the consonant teams, like sh and ch. There is also a reading booklet to go along with these cards, with stories comprised entirely of the first vowel sounds and these consonant teams and of course, regular consonants.
Then you move on to the third set, which contain the long vowel sounds. These are A as in bake, E as in he, I as in time, O as in hope, U as in cute, and Y as in type. The child learns these and then reads a booklet utilizing all the sounds learned so far.
Next is the fourth set, which is vowel teams. You learn about ea, oa, ai, etc. Same with the reading book.
And now here is the part I know you’ve all been waiting for – the third and fourth sounds of the vowels. The third sounds are A as in all, E as in vein, I as in media, O as in to, U as in truth, and Y as in baby. Now, for instance, the word “all” is on the sight word list. But when the child is taught that the A can and does make that sound, and on a fairly regular basis (think – want, wall, father, etc.) it leaves the realm of the sight word and becomes one that they can read rather than memorize. They learn to do this with a booklet that goes along with these sounds.
The fourth set of vowel sounds are A is in above, E as in the, I as in onion, O as in son, U as in put, and Y as in yes. These words are sometimes taught as exceptions, but in this program, they aren’t exceptions that have to be memorized – they’re part of the rule and can become natural.
This all sounds like a whole lot to learn, and I admit that it is. However, when it’s broken down like this, it’s not overwhelming. My daughter finished the course and was reading at a 2nd grade level when she was six. Pretty much the same for my first son. My second son zoomed through it in six months and now, at the age of six, is reading on a third grade level and is even participating in family scripture study, reading out of Isaiah.
What about comprehension, you ask? Does sounding out words take away from the comprehension? Nope. They get very skilled at sounding things out and soon it comes naturally to them. They understand what they are reading.
I have a question to pose about that. If the child is going along and they forget one of the sight words and guess at it, guessing the wrong one, doesn’t that mess up their comprehension a little bit? I think it might.
So there you have it – the phonics program I swear by. I hope I answered any questions you had, and if I didn’t, go ahead and ask ‘em.
As a final note: I have seen the difference between the way my children read and the way their friends read. I have worked with children who are so frustrated with trying to remember all the sight words that they have just about given up on reading. This has been a superior method of learning for my children, and I’ve never seen it fail. But again, this does not mean that I’m picking on anyone. There are children who are doing well in the current systems.