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Category: Reading

Last time I blogged about Explode the Code (ETC), it was last June and we were in ETC book 3. Four and a half books later, we are in the middle of Book 7. We have used ETC as a phonics supplement, and now that our main reading program has ended, I guess we are using this as our main phonics program. Still, Satori has learned all the rules, so this is all just a great review for us. We love the silly sentences and crazy drawings. She inserts her own examples and makes me smile.

For most books we’ve done 4 pages a day, but starting in Book 7, we’ve slowed down to just a 2-page spread per day. It just takes 5 minutes and is great review for phonics, reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and vocabulary.

Some words are getting tougher. She has her Children’s Dictionary near her desk, and she looks up new words frequently. She used to ask me what the new words are, but now I’m happy she’s starting to use a dictionary. I think some of the words they use are not in a normal 6 year old’s vocabulary. Then again, a 6 year old probably normally doesn’t work on Book 7. Here are some examples of words she’s had to look up: sledgehammer, drawbridge, gadget, pledge, beachcomber, knickers, slipknots, and glisten.

If you notice the above page (click to see bigger), she still sometimes inserts her own silly exercises for me to do when I correct the pages. (I could have sworn I blogged about that last year.) Today’s lesson was a picture of a vampire, and I had to choose from these: “Ema dresses up like a vampire.” OR “Ema is a vampire.” While I was sitting there puzzled, she came over and pointed out her clue she gave me – a sun in the sky. She said Ema isn’t a real vampire because vampires don’t go out in the sun. 🙂

Satori doesn’t talk about vampires much, but I though the problem was pretty cute.

ETC Book 7 introduces a paragraph story with comprehension questions to answer. Each 9 page lesson includes a story like this.

There are also a couple crossword puzzles, although I think there’s just two in all of Book 7.

Since it looked like I didn’t blog about books 4-6, I will say that out of all the books Satori’s done, the only book she needed extra practice with was Book 4. It covers words with 3 syllables, and had Satori dividing them into syllables. She wasn’t getting them all correct, so I broke down and purchased 4 1/2. The 1/2 books are extra practice books.

We finished Book 4, and went on to Book 5 and 6, but then we went back to complete Book 4 1/2. By this time, she was much more comfortable working with multi-syllable words. All her syllable work in All-About-Spelling has paid off, and she polished off Book 4 1/2 much more easily than her first time around.

Here’s another sample page from book 4, where she includes her extra exercises for her mother. 🙂

One of our favorite curriculums is launching their new All About Reading Level Pre-1 program on 3/2/2011!

They are offering two free activity e-Books for you to preview the program. I know a lot of people who can’t wait to start this program.

We will not be using this program with Satori, as she already knows how to read, but if I ever homeschool more children, I for sure will be checking this out. It looks so much more fun than the reading program we did use. For those of you who do ending up using it, please let me know how it goes!

Reading has been our number one priority this past year. We’ve been using Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading as our main reading/phonics program. I chose OPG as I wanted a very systematic way to go through all the phonics, and it was just the most thorough program I could find. I even started pronouncing some of the tougher words correctly after going through this! For example, I always pronounced “cordial” with a d, not a j sound. Even though I was taught phonics when I grew up, I don’t think it was as complete as this. Combined with our spelling program, I just see words in better clarity now (if that makes sense).

There are 231 lessons, although we did the first 30 lessons in one day. Satori had learned all her letter sounds in one evening by watching the  Letter Factory DVD. So we got to breeze through the first section, as she could already read/spell CVC words. So that leaves 200 lessons that we did one lesson per day, so it took us 14 months to complete the book. I think it was designed to take a few years. The last lessons were tough, we took two days per lesson to finish the last section, which consisted of 7-syllable words. This is one of the shorter pages from these last few chapters. Talk about tongue twisters for a 5 year old girl!

And our final lesson – a fourteen syllable word!

One of my next posts will talk about what we’ll be using next for our reading lessons – Beyond the Code. I talk about the good and bad for our experience this month with it.

My goal this summer was to have Satori reading chapter books. We took a pretty long spring break, and still have about a month of our reading program to go. Even taking two weeks off, we should be finishing Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading around mid-August. After that, we’ll be reading for fun, improving fluency and vocabulary.

I took this photo a few weeks ago, but thought I better post it now before it becomes seriously outdated. But here’s her lesson from a few weeks ago and an example of what she can read. She’s now into 3-syllable words and learning new word endings.

Just out of curiosity, I did place an easy chapter book in front of her and she read the first chapter no problem. Most of you will probably be familiar with The Magic Tree House series. I took a video of her reading, I’ll try to post that soon.

I am so tempted to get their 28-book Boxed Set, they come with a timeline and world map, but I’m just not sure as anything could happen. She might not get into these books, could find them boring, she might move past them quicker than anticipated… Some people consider them twaddle, but they all have some kind of useful lesson in them.

We’ve also started our Nora Gaydos readers again, we’re on Level 4 (the last level before the Independent topic books). I have the Science book lined up next, it looks pretty neat. These books come in a set of 10 books in a magnetic binder and have stickers in the front, 4 for each story. They’re cute and colorful and make Satori laugh, so I’m glad we have them.

I really want Satori to love reading as much as I do, but she doesn’t pick up books to read as often as she sits down to write a story. I do not push her to read on her own, and we’ve never really focused on early readers, as I want her to read books that are more exciting. This fall, after we finish OPG, we will start practicing our reading until she’s fast and fluent. Here’s my methods:

  1. Mom continues to read-aloud good literature.
  2. Satori works on Explode the Code workbooks as long as she wants for phonics practice.
  3. To take the place of our 20 minute OPG reading lessons, she will read 10 minutes of reading that I’ll select to be a bit of a challenge.
  4. At night she will read material that is easy for her, to build confidence and speed.

We’re on a big ETC kick! Explode the Code is an inexpensive phonics workbook series, that is great to supplement our reading program. Since we’re almost finished with our formal phonics (OPG), we’re back to these workbooks and just started ETC 3. This level will be all review in terms of phonics/reading, and we’ll be hitting ETC 4 later this summer, which will be closer to her current level.

ETC 3 introduces handy little rules which enforce what we already know. For example, “If a little word ends in y, the y says long-i.”

If Satori didn’t like these workbooks, I wouldn’t make her do them, but she totally loves them. She asks to do them everyday lately. She averages 6-8 pages a day right now, that would be 2-3 page spreads like this. Oops, I forgot to take a photo of an example of one of their sentence pages. Last spring, the sentences were just too much for a new reader, now they’re a breeze. We always laugh at the sentences/pictures. 🙂

She always makes sure to put a smile on my face or a laugh in my day when I correct the pages. She can find a way to insert a joke or something cute in almost everything she touches.

So we’re enjoying our ETC program right now and seeing I just ordered ETC 4-8, I hope we continue to do them, especially when our phonics program ends. As you can see above, they’re also great to supplement handwriting, spelling and even a bit of vocabulary.

I haven’t been the best teacher this spring. We skipped several subjects for entire months, unfortunately, all the creative and fun ones. Science, history, art, music, and math… yes we consider math creative and fun when we use RightStart. I am excited to  start in again on the fun activities and projects, and of course photograph and blog accordingly!

My excuse for slacking this time – I am on a mega huge health kick this spring, and it seems that all my energy went towards that. On the plus side, I weigh less than I’ve weighed in at least the past 7 years! Satori has been such a great sport and is eating very healthy too. We hike a lot and are just having a blast this year.

Here’s some updates on how our lessons are going.

RightStart Math A

Last month we finally learned the “proper” names of numbers. One of the most appealing aspects of RightStart is that they emulate the Asian way of naming numbers: “ten 1” (11), “ten 2” (12), “5 ten 8” (58). This makes so much more sense, and comes in handy in understanding place value and visualizing math concepts. Now that Satori understands numbers in this way, she now can also say them in the normal way – eleven, twelve, thirteen… twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, and so on. I loved the lessons that taught her the new names. Now I know how we came up with “eleven” (left one) and “twelve” (two left) and so on. We still use the special AL Abacus every day we do our math lessons.

We’re also in the middle of learning clocks. Here’s our little gear clock that came with our RightStart A kit. I love how they taught these lessons as well, such a great job! As we move the longer blue minutes hand, the short orange hour hand will move as well. Behind the blue hand, is a display that shows night or day, making it easy to show if 12:00 is midnight or noon.

Of course we finish up math lessons with a fun math card game, they have clock cards, time cards, hour cards, and Satori is totally thrilled to play these games.

Every now and then they have her do a short worksheet, which is no problem…


Reading is one subject we finished all our lessons in this spring, as some days we’d do multiple lessons. My goal was to have her reading chapter books this summer, we shall see on that, but she can read any children’s picture book. It surprised her that she could pick up any of her books and read them to us!

This summer we will have finished all of Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and then she will have the tools to tackle reading her favorite chapter books like Roald Dahl, Avi, and so on (right now we are reading Ragweed).

The past month she learned to tackle two-syllable words, and so much more. Here’s what we did today – Lesson 190: The Soft Sound of the SC Blend. A short and sweet lesson, which is great on a day like Saturday when we don’t even plan to do any lessons!

Reading is becoming more and more effortless that she can read her own workbooks and answer them. How fun! Here’s her Geography workbook:

We are almost finished with Lollipop Logic. Most of this workbook was so easy, we probably could have done it all in a few weeks easily. But I’ll be progressing her logic work to be more challenging for her now. Here’s a page she did yesterday, this is one of the easiest pages. But I show it because I think her coloring is getting so neat.

Chugging away at our reading program, Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (OPG), I have gotten a few emails asking how we’re using it. Do we read all the sentences? Does Satori still sound out the words? I also find myself writing the same things over and over in the homeschooling forums I frequent. So here’s just a little update on our reading!

We just finished all the sections on the most Common Spellings for Long vowel sounds, like AI, EA, EI, EY, EE, EA, IE, OA, OW, UE, OO as some examples. Silent-E words are easy to figure out (Section 7), but all these vowel pairs (Sections 8-12) could get confusing! Here’s an OPG game we played this week as a review for all the different long vowel pair words we’ve learned so far. Coincidentally, it was about “Cross the River”, so we made that river the Nile (tying in with our Egypt lessons), and used a crocodile to hop across the stones. Here, her crocodile is hopping on all the long-U words to get to the other side of the river.

Our lessons are only taking 8-10 minutes.  This includes the 2 review, where I’ll write down sample words from the previous 2 lessons. I have said in the past we didn’t do all the sentences in each lesson, but since the lessons are going faster, we’re starting to read more of the sentences, and will probably start reading them all.

Lately we’ve also taking 10 minutes to do thorough reviews of lessons we’ve done long ago. So, in addition to our main lesson, we are doing 2-3 lessons way back in lessons 58-60. We’ll continue to do this to make sure that she doesn’t forget how to read any words. This intense review and thoroughly doing each lesson will take up the 20 minutes a day we’re allocating for Reading lessons.

Satori looks at a word, sounds it out quickly in her mind, and then says it. The above photo of words she does not have fluently memorized, she’ll take a moment to say each word. Some like “break”, she might pronounce “breek”, as normally “ea” has a long-e sound. It’s challenging to keep them all straight! By including all the sentences in each lesson (which is a review in itself), and intense review of past lessons, and having her read books every night, hopefully this is a good start to reading fluency.