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Comparing Phonics Methods

Anne, you state that you use Abeka to teach reading, yet you also say that All About Spelling is your favorite spelling/phonics program.  Do you use both at the same time, or use Abeka for two years (K & 1st) than switch to AAS in 2nd grade, or maybe some other combination altogether?  Also, could AAS be used alone, as the only resource for teaching reading & spelling?  From my preview of their website, I almost think AAS could be used alone, adding in readers as the child progresses. Any other suggestions for “teaching reading” curriculum to use before or with AAS?

Yes, you’re right. My advice IS confusing! 🙂 I think one of the downsides to blogs is that as I find new things over the years of homeschooling, I forget to go back and update old posts. On the other hand, it’s kinda fun to read things from years past and see how God has led us and provided new resources for us.

For those who are just joining me, here is a recap of my previous posts on how to teach reading:

I’ve been teaching one child or another to read for over ten years now. Four children can now read well, and a fifth child is learning her letter sounds (“phonograms”). I’m a firm believer in phonetic instruction, not sight-word instruction, but I’ve found that a child’s personality really does make a difference in how I teach reading. I’ve also noticed that my children seem to have a lot of trouble figuring out phonics, then I get frustrated and worried, but then they wake up one morning and everything “clicks.” Then I wonder what I was so worried about!

Learning letter sounds, learning handwriting, and learning spelling are all inter-related skills, in my opinion. It seems to work best when I combine all of these “subjects” together. No matter whether I use a homemade teaching plan, ABeka, or All About Spelling, I do the following each day:

  • I teach new letter sounds every few days.
  • I review previously learned sounds daily.
  • We review handwriting skills daily. We make the letter’s sound as we shape the letter. For young children, I start with BIG letters (in sand, on the white board, or on a large piece of paper). As their skills improve, we trace over flashcards, then we progress to worksheets. I used to teach manuscript handwriting first, but I now teach cursive from the beginning.
  • I teach vowel sounds very quickly so that we can begin sounding out words together. ABeka uses “blend ladders” to practice blending sounds together. All About Spelling has the child move magnetic letters together and practice blending those sounds. I’ve also simply used my finger and simple Bob Books to practice early reading. (Note: Abeka teaches only the short sound of each vowel at the beginning; All About Spelling teaches EVERY sound a vowel makes, which I think is better.)
  • As soon as possible, I dictate sounds and simple words to my children and have them “spell” them back to me. This is the foundation of All About Spelling, and it’s one of its best features, in my opinion.

So what are the strengths of Abeka compared to All About Spelling?

  • My favorite features of Abeka are tons of repetition and review, great color (which my children love), worksheets that correlate with every part of their curriculum, and wonderful readers (both my children and I love the stories!). I think it’s essential to purchase the homeschooling curriculum guide, plus the flashcards, to get the full benefit of the program. This can make it expensive, but if you have seven children as I do, it’s not a bad investment at all. (The worksheets are consumable, however.) A downside of Abeka is that it moves VERY fast in kindergarten. I like using something else to teach the consonant sounds, then switching to All About Spelling (at least Level One), then moving back to Abeka for their full first-grade curriculum.
  • My favorite features of All About Spelling are the wonderful hands-on magnets (“letter tiles”), the way they teach the letter sounds (“phonograms”), the way the children quickly begin reading simple words, and how easy it is for me to pick it up and teach without much preparation. AAS does not include readers, however. (I still like using Abeka’s readers.) AAS also doesn’t include a formal handwriting curriculum, but Cursive First is an excellent handwriting curriculum that goes very well with it. So with these additions, AAS could certainly be used exclusively to teach phonics and spelling. It would be an excellent way to go!

So there are MANY good options for teaching reading! Isn’t that great news? It’s really hard to mess this up, actually. 🙂

If a mom were teaching reading for the first time, I would recommend that she also gets the following books and reads them as good “teacher training” materials:

  • Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons — Borrow this book from the library and learn from it how to teach your child to sound out words. I love their “say it slow, say it fast” technique, and I’ve been using it for all my children ever since I heard about it.
  • Ruth Beechick’s The Three R’s — She has tons of creative ideas that even ABeka uses in their curriculum. She’s a wonderful mentor.

I hope this helps! If you have more questions, please ask away.

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  1. I have just started using AAS this year. We are really liking it for the reasons you listed. I wanted to let you know, they have now added readers. The TOS Homeschool Crew reviewed these just recently–actually the level two reader is currently being reviewed, so not all reviews have been posted yet. They will be a complete program–hopefully in time for this fall–with teacher’s guides and a few readers for each level. I am not an affiliate of AAS, just really, really pleased with their product and excited about their new reading program.

  2. Anne Elliott says

    That is really good news! I look forward to seeing these. I think AAS has done an excellent job of making all of this practical, haven’t they?

  3. The tiles in AAS look really neat. I’ve been using tons of scrabble tiles and boggle dice with my kids, not in a game but just playing around to make words. AAS sounds like a great way to teach phonics and spelling rules. Can you re-use the student book with other children, otherwise, I would never be able to afford it.

    I have a developmentally delayed son that AAS might really benefit. He’s a sight reader (he taught himself at 4 while I was waiting until he was more mature to teach him phonics (age 5 or 6 was my plan.) I’ve tried different methods to go back over phonics but it just hasn’t clicked with him. I’d leave him be (he’s now 10) but I’m afraid he’ll hit a wall later on like I did with my sight reading from school. Tackling “phonics” from a “spelling rules” method may work.

  4. Laura, Yes, the book is completely reusable. That’s a great feature! I also think this would be very good for your son. There is nothing in it that feels “young,” and also, I know several children his age and older that are using it for spelling only (they already read). Spelling makes so much more sense with her system. I wish I had been taught like this. You’d probably move rather quickly through level one. There is no rule that you have to spend a week on each lesson. Go at his pace.

  5. Yes, Anne, they have made this so simple. I don’t mind planning–the perfectionist in me loves it–but life usually keeps much from happening. We can just pick this up and go. Love it!
    Laura, my eldest is a reluctant reader, 9 yrs old. We have been using another product, Rocket Phonics, from my season of reviews. I had never heard of it before. It is working great. It complements AAS really well. It is also another one needing little prep–so important with many young learners 🙂 It is pricey, but can be used over again.

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