We've begun our Writing Road to Reading program. Also called the Spalding Method. The girls really enjoy learning the 70 different phonograms, on the flashcards you see in the video above. Ellery is close to knowing them all. Callista has learned about half. Emmett, is hilarious. This is by far his favorite part of the day. He searches for the phonogram cards and starts making monkey sounds, okay letter sounds. Don't worry, he isn't really reading the sound from the card :) but it is amazing what he picks up while he terrorizes the toys and books.
About the Writing Road to Reading Method
I love this method so far. It was very overwhelming to me at first. The book, the marking system, it all seemed so complicated. I bought the Writing Road to Reading book, the Kindergarten and Second Grade Teacher manuals, the phonogram cards and CD, word builder cards, mental action posters, spelling notebooks, and McCall-Crabbs Test lessons in reading. All available on their website. I also ordered from amazon a book which breaks down the Spalding method for homeschoolers. It is titled, Teaching Reading at Home and School by Wanda Sanseri.
Paring it Down
After spending many hours the last 6 weeks, I have decided only to use the Spelling/Phonics portion of the program. Based on the research I have done with the classical method and the way children's brains work, I am not going to start teaching formal grammar or writing this year. Instead we will focus on copywork (copying word for word, punctuation etc. of scriptures, poems, and selections from the stories we read) and dictation. This takes the "overwhelming" out of the program. (It cuts out about 2/3 of the book.) Spalding recommends 3 hours a day for the complete program. Clearly that was not going to work for us. The proven methodology of this program is in the phonics/spelling/reading. The other parts have been added later, to make a complete language arts program.
What I Don't Need
I probably didn't need the teachers manuals. They are written for classroom teachers, but sold as homeschooling manuals (a little deceiving). And they were expensive, (70$ a piece). I may use them more next year, we will see. So the verdict is probably still out. However, if you are on a shoestring budget, pass. Ellery wasn't yet ready for the 2nd grade curriculum. She needed to be introduced to all the phonograms, rules, marking system. That part felt a little overwhelming, playing catch up. I think beginning reading in this program is far simpler than starting an older child.
We use the McCall-Crabbs reading passages a little differently. We use them for dictation/recitation. I read them to the girls (or Ellery reads) and they try to recite back as much as possible what they heard. When they get better at this we will move on to writing as much as they can.
Sanseri's book is very helpful. She strays from the program a bit, but she has some great scope and sequence ideas for homeschoolers. It is definitely worth it.
Advantages of the Program
What amazes me about this programs is how phonetical the English language actually is. There are very few "sight" words. I am struck by the huge loop holes in the other phonics programs I have used, and researched, or seen Ellery use at school. There is so much more to things than long a and short a. For example there are actually 5 ways silent e's are used in our language. Did you know that? I didn't. I have learned some much and I am a college graduate. It is a little embarrassing actually. But the information is valuable and makes so much sense, where there used to be mystery. I wouldn't recommend teaching reading any other way. This is a proven method, and well worth researching for your own children.
Ellery is still learning to actually "see" the phonograms in the words she reads in a book. When she becomes fluent in that, I think her reading skills will really feel a boost. Right now she has stopped trying to sound out words and just blasts through guessing. This program should improve her accuracy. Callista, we just do as much as she wants. No pressure. I just try to keep it fun and positive for her.
We usually break the lesson up into a few different parts about 15-20 minutes a piece. We review and learn new phonograms orally during one session. Later, we work on writing the phonograms (a harder skill, to hear the sounds and remember the phonogram spelling) and finally dictating spelling words (about 15 words 3 times a week or so).
I will keep you posted on my feelings of this program and how the children progress. I am excited for the potential. Especially next year, when we will be focussing on it exclusively. I think we are going to withdraw completely from the elementary school. More on that to come!