Phonics Road Review

I have been planning to homeschool for years.  I have looked forward to every aspect of watching my kids discover new things and learning alongside them.  But the task of teaching them to read and spell seemed really overwhelming.  I did not trust myself and worried that I would leave them scarred for life and unable to read through a Dr. Seuss book.  I think I was mostly terrified that I would teach them the wrong way.  Well, there are many ways to teach reading, phonics, spelling, handwriting, and composition.  The method chosen often hinges on the teacher’s preferences and the learning styles of the students.  I did not know my teaching style or my kids’ learning styles; however, I knew I wanted a program like what I was taught in my private Christian school.  I wasn’t sure what I was looking for but I knew that when I found it, I would know.

Well, I found it!  The Phonics Road!

Thanks to the Old Schoolhouse Magazine, I was introduced to the Phonics Road several years ago.  I looked at the website and knew that this program was exactly what I was looking for.  It is a complete language arts curriculum which has 4 levels and can take your student from at least K or 1st up until 4th grade.

This year we completed the first half of level 1.  I decided that we would take it slowly.  We actually began the phonics flash cards in PreK and worked hard to blend letters and sounds throughout K, as we added spelling words and spelling rules.  We also begin the handwriting in PreK and completed all the letters (upper and lower case) and numbers in K.  Next year, we will complete the spelling portion, work on the composition and dictation, and go through the readers.

The program contains 2 notebooks-one for the student and one for the teacher.  The program has a construction theme.  The Teacher’s Guide is the Foreman’s Construction Guide and the Student Notebook is the Apprentice’s Building Manual.

The Construction Guide has 4 sections:
Introduction: A brief history of the English language

Plot Plan: The DVD’s of Barbara Beers showing you how to teach each lesson.  She goes through every spelling word, rule tune, and explains how to complete each page of the Apprentice’s Building Manual.

Blueprints: The lessons for each week.  This section contains a list of the rule tunes to used to reinforce spelling rules and completed spelling pages which list every spelling word and their markings.

Building Codes: The grammar and spelling rules.  This last portion contains completed pages which use spelling words to illustrate the spelling and grammar rules learned throughout the program.  Throughout the program the student adds words to these pages as they learn the words which illustrate the rules.

The Apprentice’s Building Manual contains blank pages for spelling words, composition and dictation assignments, and building codes as well as 23 readers which can be illustrated by the student.

 That is Level 1 in a nutshell.  But what do we think about the program?

Pros:
The handwriting has been wonderful.  Curly was able to understand how it was taught and her handwriting is beautiful and clear-at age 5.  So impressive!

Curly can sound out words using the phonics she has learned.  No more guessing at words!

Currently, Curly can spell better than she can read.  Spelling seems natural to her as she is able to logically choose letters or letter teams to complete the word she is spelling.

We could use the program at our pace and begin slowly.  While each lesson is considered 1 week of work, we have moved at our own pace and allowed Curly to have a strong spelling foundation.

Curly’s reading just happened one day.  She had been writing and spelling and then she just started trying to sound out every word in sight.  Something just clicked with her and she began to read.  The realization stunned her that she was reading on her own.

Curly wants to write her own sentences and is able to sound out words and spell them (often correctly) even if it is a word she has not learned in her spelling lists.

The DVD’s have been so helpful to hear and see Barbara Beers say and demonstrate each spelling word and rule.  Now I know what I’m doing and Curly even enjoys watching her “spelling videos.”  Strange child….

Cons:
The program is written at an ambitious pace if you are beginning with a younger student.  If we had followed the schedule we would have failed miserably with the program and both been frustrated.

The DVD’s can be tedious to watch.  Sometimes I have a hard time fitting in my DVD viewing and I have to watch little snippets of each lesson when I have time.  Sometimes I even *gasp* fast forward through portions.

There are virtually no extra teacher’s notes.  There is no scripted lesson or outline.  If you want to understand the completed spelling lists in the Foreman’s Manual, you have to watch the DVD’s.  I take LOTS of notes!  However, Barbara Beers expects the parent to be a student as well and to learn along with the student as they teach.  I will admit, I have learned a lot already.

The first portion of Level 1 is learning the phonograms, the handwriting, and lots and lots of spelling words with some spelling rules.  There have been times that I have wondered if I should be supplementing with some extra language arts.  However, I have read many reviews that say that Level 2 and beyond is much more comprehensive with literary analysis and extensive grammar study.

And the upfront cost was a little……..hard to swallow……….at first.  But when you consider that this is our complete language arts program and that I will only be supplementing with lots of read alouds and readers, it does help with the sticker shock.  For us though, the price has been worth it!

So, overall I love the program even though it is somewhat teacher intensive for me.  Curly has taken off and is reading, spelling, and writing and her confidence has soared. 

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