Today I wanted to answer some frequently asked questions for Foundation Phonics: Easy Lessons for Early Learners. If you haven't already, I recommend you click on over here and read the Foundations Phonics intro post. That post will give you a good overview of the program, the ideas behind it, and how it works. So without further ado, let's dive into the FAQs!
What age/grade level is Foundations Phonics for?
Foundations Phonics was designed for students who are ready to begin reading in either kindergarten or first grade. So, around the ages of 5-7.
My child is a little younger/older, can we still use it?
Absolutely! If your child is ready to read, you can use this program and adjust it to meet the needs of your child.
How do I know my child is ready to read?
We as mothers may be ready to teach our children to read, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are ready. If we try to push before they are ready, neither of us are going to enjoy the process. So, a few things to watch for are:
- Awareness - Your child is aware of print on a page and recognizes that the letter symbols have sounds and meanings.
- Abstract thinking - Your child has moved from specific, concrete thinking to more generalities and abstract thinking.
- Sequencing - Your child can remember a sequence of numbers, letters, or images (e.g. 2, 4, 6; A, B, C; circle, square, triangle) and repeat or replicate the pattern. This is so important because if your child cannot remember a sequence or pattern, they won't be able to remember the sounds they just read and blend them together to form the word.
- Recognition - Your child recognizes different letters and sounds.
- Story-telling - Your child can listen to a story, tell it back using their own words, and relate it to their own lives.
You'll find more indications your child is ready to start reading on page 7 of Foundations Phonics. You'll find this page included in the sample here.
My child isn't ready to read yet, what do we do in the meantime?
First, don't worry. Every child is different and there is no reason to rush--so keep on enjoying this phase with your child! In the meantime, you can:
- Enjoy reading together
- Play memory games and develop sequencing ability (see above question & answer)
- Tell your child a short story and ask them to tell it back or ask them about their favorite part of the day
- Utilize learning tools such as games, worksheets, and videos - my boys love the Letter Factory from Leapfrog!
- Start where your child is at - the preschool and kindergarten sets from Master Books are a great way to begin the learning process and prepare your child for reading!
Will Foundations Phonics teach my child to read?
Yes, the first week of lessons will introduce letters N, D, & A while allowing the student to get comfortable with the lessons and format. At the beginning of the second week students will begin blending the letters they've learned together to form words, and the difficulty will gradually increase as new letters & sounds or concepts are introduced. By the end of the program the student will read the lines to Jesus Loves Me and will be able to read anything else they want! You can find sample lessons here.
What will my child know by the end of Foundations Phonics?
Your child will learn each letter and corresponding sound (including short, long, and schwa vowels), letter blends (e.g. "th", "ck", "wh"), and silent letters through engaging narrative. Each lesson covers one letter or blend and ties the sound with a story or concept. For example, D is for Design and while learning the letter D's sound, your child is also learning that throughout all of creation, God placed grand design. By the end of the program, your child will be able to read (he/she will begin reading in week 2) and be able to sound out unfamiliar words they come across.
But, Foundations Phonics is more than just a phonics program! In writing this program, my goal was to also give children a firm foundational understanding of the Gospel--from Creation to Christ. By the end of the program, your child will be able to trace God's plan of salvation from creation through history to the resurrection of Christ. They will learn how the Bible is the very best book and that it can be trusted. They'll learn about the fall and how it effected the world. They'll take lessons from people who followed God and learn from those who didn't. They'll learn about Jesus Christ and how our salvation was accomplished--and what it all means for them individually. For more information about the heart behind the program and what makes it different, click here.
Does my child need to remember the takeaway phrase from each lesson?
No. The takeaway phrases (e.g. N is for nothing, none, not even a bit!) are designed to teach the sounds and concepts in a way that can be remembered, but do not need to be memorized. Within the lesson, you will find the key phrase repeated with emphasis placed on the letter the child is learning. This allows the student to hear the sound within word/s and make connections between hearing, speaking, and reading.
These phrases also allow the parent to remind the student of the topic outside the textbook. For instance, if my son is outside and he finds a pine-cone, we can talk about how cool the pine-cone is and I may remind him "Remember in our lesson the D was for design? Can you tell me what sound the D makes? Right! Throughout all of creation God placed grand design. God designed the pine-cone and that is pretty neat, huh?"
What if my child is ready for reading but not yet ready for writing?
This scenario is common, especially with children who are ready to begin reading on the younger side and don't quite have the hand-eye coordination or fine-motor skills required for writing. When our children are eager and ready to learn, we want to capitalize on that excitement so Foundations Phonics was designed for use in this scenario as well. All you'll need to do is skip the writing portion of the lessons for now. Seriously! Focus on reading and enjoy the activities that don't require writing. Once your student is ready for writing you can come back to the writing sections for practice. You can find more info on page 6 of Foundations Phonics which is included in the free sample here.
How can I help my child prepare for writing?
Again, every child is different so first off don't worry. As your child is learning to read, here are some things you can do to help them get ready for writing:
- Develop fine motor skills - Pinterest is a great place to search for fun activity ideas!
- Practice with worksheets - these are sheets where the student traces lines and shapes. Again, Pinterest is a great place to look!
- Practice writing in ways that don't require a pencil, such as using their fingers to draw a letter in sand or constructing a letter out of toys or objects.
- Let them practice writing big - give your child a sheet of paper and have them copy you as you draw a large letter on another sheet of paper or whiteboard. Your child's letter may not look quite perfect but that is alright! They will still be making connections between speech, reading, and writing and learning how to write.
- As your student draws or colors, show them the correct way to hold their crayon or pencil and work towards establishing a proper grasp.
How long will the program take to complete?
On page 13 in the book, you'll find my suggested daily schedule. Using this schedule, you'll complete the program in 18 weeks (1 semester). Lessons will take place 3x per week and take about 20-30 minutes to complete. On the "off" days in between formal lessons, you can focus on an activity, review, or just read a story with your student.
However, you know your student best and I totally encourage you to make this program your own. Your child may be ready to fly through lessons at a faster pace, or maybe they want to spend a little more time on each letter. The objective here isn't to get the course done in a certain amount of time, but for your child to learn to read and enjoy the process!
Can I really teach my child to read?
Yes, yes, and yes! There is this myth that we are qualified to teach our kids to talk, walk, eat, teach them colors, numbers, and even letters--but when it comes to reading you just aren't qualified. It's not true. You know your child the absolute best, and you've already taught them just about everything they know thus far. You are their best teacher. When it comes to teaching reading, we just continue teaching them the way we've taught everything else--by having fun and making memories. Foundations Phonics was designed to be a tool in your hands for the process. I've done all the work so you can simply pick it up and go!
What do I do on "off" days?
"Off" days in Foundations Phonics are days there is not a formal lesson, but your child is still learning and absorbing. These are days designed to give you a break from the "textbook" because so much learning also happens outside the book! Here are some ideas for activities on these days:
- Spend a little time talking about lessons you've already covered. Ask your student what they've learned, what letters/sounds they remember, words they remember reading, etc.
- Look for opportunities to relate reading to the real-world. Maybe you've covered the letter M and your child notices an M on a grocery store sign. That is a great opportunity to try reading the word together, quizzing on letter sounds, or reminding them of the concepts they learned in that lesson.
- Practice reading words or writing on a whiteboard.
- Read a story together and look for words your child can read. When you get to those words, have your child read them.
- Do a bonus activity from a lesson you've completed, or if your child has a favorite activity do that one.
My child is very active and won't sit still--how do we get through the lessons?
My son was my inspiration for the program and he is the exact same way. Rather than fight against their energy, we want to capture it and put it to use in learning. Here are my tips:
- Read the lessons with animation and excitement. The lessons are designed to be fun, read them as you would a story book. You are on an adventure with your student.
- Interact with your child. Take a break here and there to ask them a question (you'll also find question prompts throughout the lessons). Just because they are moving around doesn't mean they aren't paying attention.
- Try doing lessons in the afternoon or evening after they've expelled some energy.
- Take breaks during the lesson. You absolutely do not have to complete a lesson in one sitting. Your student may thrive doing an entire lesson in one sitting, or by doing it in sections with frequent breaks in between.
- Add an incentive - currently, our incentive is tv time. If my boys can give me their very best attention for their lesson, they earn an episode of their favorite program after school time. This gives them the motivation they need to focus and gives me a little time to clean up or get chores done after school time.
The program is moving too fast for my child, what can I do?
Foundations Phonics is fast-paced. There may be times you'll need to spend a little more time on a concept or letter, or you may even need to slow the pace down and only cover 1-2 letters a week. And that is perfectly ok. You know your child best and this program is a tool in your hands--you are in control of it, not the other way around. Make it your own and tailor it to fit your child!
If you find it moves a little too fast for your child, just slow down. Maybe do just 1 lesson a week and practice all through the week. An example schedule would be you do a lesson on Monday, on Tuesday you do an activity, Wednesday practice writing, Thursday look for that letter/sound in daily life, Friday read a story. If this schedule fits your child, then don't worry about the time frame. Chances are they'll be ready to pick up the pace in no time at all.
Another important thing to mention here is that if you find your child is still struggling even on a modified schedule or lessons are becoming a battle, you may need to take a step back and re-evaluate whether they are ready to read. Readiness often makes all the difference. A seasoned homeschool mom may tell you, the best learning to read program is the third one you try--because by the time to get around to the third program your child is actually ready to begin reading.
If your child is reacting to school with frustration, anger, or attitude it may be that they are frustrated they aren't understanding and can't meet the expectations even though they are trying. Rather than create a battle of the wills and make you both miserable, just take a step back and do something else. Maybe they are excelling at counting or really interested in animals. Focus on their interests and make learning fun again. You'll find your child ready to read at the perfect time for them, and if you wait a bit you'll find the process much easier and enjoyable for you both!
What supplies do I need and where can I find them?
I'm busy, you're busy, we're all busy! Foundations Phonics has many hands-on activities, but they are designed to be easy on you. On page 11, you'll find the materials list. These are the things you'll use for the bonus activities at the end of the lesson. But don't worry, chances are you already have most of these things on hand--a flashlight, books, toys, crayons, paper, markers, flour, rice, etc. You should be able to find everything at Walmart or Target. I also highly recommend purchasing a set of loose letters such as these and writing paper designed for young students such as this.
How much time will I need to spend planning lessons?
None. Seriously. Here's the deal, while writing this program I was thinking of the momma with a 5 year old, 3 year old, and baby on her hip. It's designed to be simple and easy to complete--but it packs a whole lot of material! You can literally pick up the book and do a lesson without prior planning. You can then just grab some paper and crayons, rice and a baking sheet, or a pile of toys and do a bonus activity or two. If a bonus activity requires something a little more specific or something you don't have, just skip it or improvise.
On the other hand, if you really love planning and Pinterest, you can add all the activities you want to the lessons! You are free to add content where you want it or plan additional activities for your child. Foundations Phonics really is meant to be a tool in your hands--make it your own!
I have a question that isn't answered here, can you help?
Absolutely! Comment below or click here to head to my 'contact' page and send me your question!