Beyond Phonics. Can you really imagine ever moving beyond phonics? Most homeschooling parents take pause to consider that thought almost daily! Myself included!
Nancy D. Nelson has put together a nice, fat workbook that will last your student more than a year. In fact, I recommend that you start using it when your kids are in second grade and keep it until they are in about sixth. It's summarized nicely in the front, where it reads, "Cement all the words in over 100 spelling patterns with short character-building narratives, poems, and songs."
Nancy sent us the program some time back and, at first, I had planned to pass ii on to one of our superb review staffers here at the magazine. However, as I casually flipped through it, I was reminded of one of my favorite authors, Dolores Hiskes, and her Phonics Pathways. It reminded me a lot of that, only it was purposefully more advanced, designed for older children. I decided it needed to be mine! It would go hand-in-hand, with what I received from Dolores. This author's philosophy is built upon an obvious principle - and something I agree with strongly - that when you utilize word pattern stories, you'll better cement spelling and vocabulary learning than with rote memorization. I remember being in public school as a kid and slavishly taking vocabulary class. I can probably recall three words I learned in all of those classes combined. I certainly never went on to use them throughout the rest of the semester or in my life after high school. Those words memorized out of context were nothing more than fluff. They meant nothing and did nothing for me. So, did I continue with my lacking vocabulary? Well, sort of. But not for long! I found my vocabulary somewhere and it was not in a vocabulary class. It was in a gazillion books. Because I have always LOVED to read, my vocabulary grew and grew. My children have done very little vocabulary rote memorization activities. However, they love to read as their father and I do. Sometimes they astound me with the words they use in our everyday conversation; even my six-year-old, Julia, quips phrases that I would not have until years later. I believe this was what Nancy was thinking when she developed this better philosophy into a superb program.
I set my son Levi working in it. It's perfect for dictation and spelling - excellent. I appreciate the stories. They are all in first person, which helps the child to relate to the content. I happen to love the messages behind Nancy's stories - all character building. She's smart; I don't know how she fits so many word patterns into one story. It's incredible to me. I want my kids to read these.
Nancy is not saying you cannot use a word list. She's also not downing the act of memorization. On the contrary! She asks us to expose our children to many words! Here is a small blurb from the Beyond Phonics website that helps explain the method further:
The Beyond Phonics Method is the synthesis or marriage of all approaches to language learning-phonics, intensive phonetics, sight word memorization, whole language, etc. It encompasses all the best of each approach while eliminating the confusion, inconsistency, and frustration of any method used alone. This method provides a necessary bridge between beginning reading and higher level spelling, between phonics and the word memorization needed to apply phonics principles with automaticity.
Beyond Phonics is the perfect resource for all teachers of English the world over, requiring no training or philosophical adjustment, little or no classroom time. It levels the playing field in classroom settings. All students are simply learning a short narrative, first through their ears, so no one is embarrassed. Since it is simply the language itself in a unique presentation, it is compatible with all curricula and terminology and all learning styles.
This is what I love about it! She lists word pattern after word pattern for you. The font is large and non-intimidating. I also love the "boxes" throughout the book. She lists many, many common words to master early. Perfect for spelling tests where memorization is crucial.
I recommend Nancy's program for gifted students, struggling students, and the mainstream homeschooler. We don't plan to get rid of Nancy's program - we'll use it for all four of our children.