Sometime last fall, I had to give up using Ordinary Parent’s Guide... for reading. It worked like a charm for Ian. But his twin, who was allowed to go at his own pace, was still struggling. He was starting to loathe reading time. I had to admit that the time for teaching diligence was over and the time for preventing Sam from hating books was upon us.
So I played around with different options and, as is my nature, I researched the issue to death. I finally settled on All About Spelling. But I bought it as a phonics and language arts program, not for spelling. It felt a bit risky. Ooo, danger and excitement in a homeschooling post? Unheard of!
Per instructions, we started at Level 1, even though it begins with basic “this letter makes this sound” sort of stuff. Instead of learning short and long vowel sounds, though, we learned the phonograms of each letter. Still memorization and chanting, but of phonograms. I think this way works better.
Sam responded well to the built-in visual cues of progress in the program, like the sticker chart, moving spelling words or phonogram cards from review to “Mastered.” (Sam called them “Masterpiece,” my little artiste!)
As we moved through the book, there would be a box at the end of the lesson that said, “If you’re doing All About Reading, your child can now read stories X and Y from their reader.”
In addition to the basic curriculum, I bought the hardcover companion books. They are short little stories written to coincide with the lessons in the program. The books are illustrated (something I used to think was a bad idea), but they are black and white pictures, so it’s not overly BRIGHT and DISTRACTING!!
Sam loved that there were only a few sight words to learn before he could read a whole story. Because he’s such a visual learner, the pictures were helpful for keeping his interest. What I’ve found (with both Sam and now Adam) is that they may be able to guess a few words from the pictures, but I will always catch them if they’re not really reading. The pictures are just vague enough to require the words. Perfect.
An aside: the books are expensive, but they were necessary for me to use the program as a reading program. And now that I’ve used them, I think they were money well spent. I bought them one at a time, or as I caught them on sale. They’ve held up well. And they’re easily recognizable as school books, so we haven’t left them out or lost them yet.
Sam quickly moved through Level 1 and onto Level 2. We both enjoyed doing the lesson together. I learned as much as he did, including certain spelling rules I never understood before. (Our favorite: C says “s” before e, i, or y. All the other times, it says “k.” Who knew?)
I also realized the major gaps in Sam’s understanding of phonics and how words are built. We fixed them quickly and, as his confidence grew, so did his reading ability.
Just this week, he started working his way through his first Bobbsey Twins book. His brother has been reading them four at a time for months, so Sam is standing a little taller just carrying his book around. He’s going a lot slower than Ian does, but he’s reading, y’all. And I can hear his “sounding it out” ability improving every single day. Now he can convert all of the individual sounds to a familiar word much quicker.
I’ve decided to start adding Ian into our lessons and actually doing it as Spelling with the twins. Ian is playing catch-up to learn some of the rules Sam already learned, but he’ll pick it up in no time. And I’m already seeing some holes in Ian’s spelling and reading that will benefit from this program. I think it’s going to work well for us this next year.
In the meantime, I also began teaching Adam how to read. I started from the very beginning of Level 1 again, only at a much slower pace. It took him awhile to learn all the phonogram sounds, but as soon as he did, it was no time at all before he was spelling entire words. My little wiggly, kinesthetic boy can spell like a champ! It was super easy for him to switch from spelling to reading the words. And he’s very proud that he can already read whole “chapters” from the All About Reading readers.
My goal with teaching my kids to read was always to cater to the different learning styles I knew they possessed. Ordinary Parents Guide did this, but in small ways. The curriculum didn’t FORCE me to use letter magnets to teach if I didn’t want to. I never wanted to. But I needed to.
All About Spelling makes teaching a breeze AND requires that we do all of the fun letter tiles, card reviewing, syllable labeling, and other fun visual cues to help my kids really learn. (We put our first “rule-breaker” word in “jail” the other day. We actually took the card (with an outlaw on it) and put it on top of a paper that said “jail.” Such a small thing, but my boys still know exactly which word is the “bad guy.”) But the program is set up to make it super easy for a busy mama like me to make it through the lessons with no prep. It’s all there, it’s all put together. I just have to show up. THAT I can do.
And just so you don’t think it’s all fun, learning, and perfect syllables around here, I figured I’d better show you The Truth: my kids perch on baby food boxes to write their spelling words while their sisters crawl around my ankles and whine.
Glamorous as always!
This isn’t a paid advertisement and nobody asked me to write this. And we bought our own products. The end.
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