With my first reader, I wanted to know how to choose a homeschool phonics program like a pro. It’s hard to do when you’ve never taught a child to read. Teaching a child to read has many parts and choosing a homeschool phonics curriculum is only a small part.
Today, I’m diving into helping you understand what is phonics and how the reading journey progresses.
Beyond choosing a homeschool phonics program, you’ll want to focus on how to develop a strong love of literature in the early years.
In addition, I’ll share a few recommendations of the best homeschool phonics curriculum.
First, before you can choose any curriculum, understand what is phonics.
What Is Phonics
Simply put, phonics means using letter sounds to read words. Mastering sounds is the first BIG step.
Did you know that it’s not as important to read the words immediately as it is to become familiar with the letter sounds? But let me back up a minute to explain two different educational mindsets about phonics.
Back when I started homeschooling, whole language advocates were numerous and very vocal.
But what exactly is the whole language approach? The whole language approach means to learn whole words basically in their context and not by phonics in step-by-step lessons.
One of the best examples of to show that we need both a whole language approach and phonics was shared with me by a seasoned homeschool veteran.
She explained that eating requires both chewing and swallowing; learning to read is similar.
Now, the educational world has shifted in how to teach phonics. There is now a focus on skill driven learning like phonics.
Most young children need direct instruction to make the transition from sounds to words.
However, remember that while children are learning phonics, we are exposing them to sight words.
Sight words don’t really follow regular rules of phonics. This makes complete sense to me — we use both whole language and phonics as we need them.
As you can see, when you start teaching phonics, tap into both direct lessons and a whole language approach. It really is a natural way to begin reading.
What Grade Should You Teach Phonics
Next, I get many questions like what grade should you teach phonics.
While it’s true that you want to teach phonics as early as Kindergarten, there are many factors which affect when a child should begin.
For instance, it’s important to know that pushing a child when he is not ready can have a negative effect.
From the beginning, a child’s love for reading can be ruined if you don’t look for clues of readiness by your child.
While waiting on the development of your child to show readiness in learning to read, you want to create a literate environment.
Look at these 4 ways to foster reading awareness while watching for phonics readiness.
- Set the example by reading. All my children as adults love to read although my childhood was not filled with many books. My parents didn’t see the value of great books in our home, but I loved reading. I carried that love into adulthood.
- Fill your home with a mix of genre. Wordless books, picture books, and even beginning chapter books introduce the fringes of the world of reading to your budding reader.
- Reading aloud. Out of all the things I did, reading aloud to all of my children from birth was one of the best things I did. It was hard to appreciate that at the time.
- Continue having fun with letters and crafts. The transition from letter sounds to beginning reading is a gradual one. Don’t rush it. Allow a child to linger with letter names and hands-on fun manipulating letters.
Better Later than Early Philosophy
Additionally, remember that each child is different. I had one child that was interested in reading early and I started with phonics lessons at age 5.
In contrast, my second son waited until closer to 6 years old before he showed the slightest interest in reading. Teaching him formal phonics lessons in Kindergarten would have been counterproductive.
Waiting on my son’s maturity to catch up, I did formal lessons later in the school year.
You are the only one to decide if a later start will work. But do keep this important thing in mind.
Children are soaking up everything they can learn. It’s our job to lead our children and not push them.
Introduce phonics and move at the child’s pace. Waiting too long for some children can likewise be disastrous.
Teaching phonics can be like an ebb and flow. I do think that children take huge leaps when they’re ready then seem to linger or ruminate.
When my children didn’t seem to retain anything I taught them, I realize now they were ruminating on the lessons. It’s important to let a child stay at a level until he is ready to move.
Next, don’t quit teaching phonics the minute your child seems to get it. As a rule of thumb, a lot of phonics programs go to about the fourth grade. There is a good reason for that.
If you stop teaching phonics too soon, a child may not master decoding (breaking written words into spoken sounds).
Eventually, it’s my experience that encoding (translating a spoken word to a written word or symbols, i.e. writing) is affected as well. By the way encoding is taught through spelling.
And although writing and reading are connected, they’re not learned at the same time with beginner readers.
So, the point is to take cues from your child and keep learning fun. You are the only one to know whether you need to wait later or move ahead.
Best Phonics Homeschool Curriculum
Then, there are many wonderful homeschool phonics programs that we have available now.
Here are some of the ones I really love.
I loved using All About Reading because of how interactive it can be made for your child.
When your child is learning to read, using all his senses are important.
Some kids are visual, and others are stronger using audio. In addition to having everything you need to make learning fun, the teacher’s manuals are helpful.
2. Explode the Code.
Second, we used Explode the Code series and loved using every books. This is an affordable and easy to use program which makes it easy for beginner readers. I love how complete the set it is.
Just follow the sequence suggested which makes this program easy. Your child can progress at his pace.
Another one I used and loved is The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading.
If you want a bit more hand holding, you’ll love using The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading.
Now, this next one I haven’t used as much, but have helped others to use it.
Hooked on Phonics. is an easy-to-use program which has been around for a while. There is a reason. It works. This program is geared for ages 3 to 4. Again, many have a love or hate relationship with this program.
Another program loved by many homeschoolers is Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Many homeschoolers have successfully taught their children to read using it.
I started using it but found that I wanted more hand holding. Again, you decide if it will work for you.
Lastly, we loved using Horizons Phonics.
I used Horizon Phonics with my son who was later to learn reading. It is an advanced program, but if you use it from the beginning the pace is gentle. I started using it with later grades.
Homeschool Phonics Program
Choosing a homeschool phonics program does not have to be scary. Creating lifelong readers happens by choosing beautiful books. It begins with a solid phonics program and thankfully in the homeschool world we can choose from many excellent ones.
What do you think, feel better narrowing your choice?