Tuesday, April 7, 2009

We've made our choice for the 1st of The Three R's (Reading):

Norah's moving on to the next level of Kindergarten.
For Reading during the next few months, we will use:

A Handbook for Reading

Bob's Books Sets 1-5

We got The Handbook for Reading free from a good friend who orders Abeka grade kits for her children year after year. She had extra copies because this book is included with their Kindergarten and elementary curriculum, over and over, for several years. If you need to order the book, it is available used online or new from the publisher.

This is my no-frills approach to phonics. It really works for us. This book was the only thing we used for reading for over a year. I used it when I was tutoring remedial readers as a full-time teacher, so I was already comfortable with the format. Norah and I started with the alphabet chart inside the cover. From there, we eventually moved on to the short vowels, going forward page by page and back again till she "had it." We learned and reviewed the consonants one by one, learned how to blend each consonant and a short vowel, and now we are about to finish the long vowels and move into special sounds.

Along the way, the book teaches sight words and spelling rules when they come up, such as "K comes before i, e and C comes before a, o and u." Norah can't actually apply these rules, but to me, it makes sense that she learn them along with phonics and be able to recite them at a time when she enjoys memorizing things. The rules will make sense to her soon enough and she will apply them as soon as we start a formal spelling program.

Since we aren't following the formal curriculum that goes with this book and tells us how and when to review these kinds of things, I have to be more diligent to remember to go back and review the rules. I will often use homemade audio tapes to review the rules Norah has covered. I'll also, eventually, have to make my own flashcards to practice quick recognition of the special sounds, adding new cards as we get to each new sound. But, that will be easy enough with a set of 3 by 5 cards and a Sharpie.

I have been told by mom after mom who orders the complete packages from Abeka not to, to simply use their materials and not waste money on the lesson plans and teacher's guides, which hardly anyone ends up using anyway. So, I followed their advice and to save money, it is well worth it to me to make some of my own flashcards, audio tapes for review, etc.

For our beginner readers, we chose Bob Books, after looking into several publishers. Norah enjoys them and gets a sense of accomplishment from reading "a whole book" herself. We borrowed the first set from the library to make sure we liked them, then we purchased all five sets new for around $60 through Amazon (with free shipping on large orders like that). We shopped around for the best price. At the local book store, they were nearly $20 per box, making the total over $100. And, on the Bob Books website, they weren't as expensive as the bookstore, but they were still more than $80 when we added in the cost of shipping.

I thought these books would be a wise investment. They are already up on the shelf where Norah doesn't have access to them, so she can't tear them up with constant use. I liked the idea of having these books on hand right when my children are ready for them and for convenience sake, not having to request the specific sets from the library, then wait till they come, then go get them and then get them back to the library before we may actually be done with them, etc. I know I will likely use the books again with Avril when she is old enough to read and by then, they are so simple, Norah may actually be ready to lead her younger sister through the books for me. I can also imagine reading them with my grandchildren. I've been inspired by my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to save things of this kind. They've shown me that before you even know it, you may have a chance to bless your grandchildren with them.

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