People often ask how we juggle the kids' school work when we travel so much. Living in California, we're able to do a blended approach with independent study AND local elementary school enrollment. I've explained a bit about how we meet our children where they are in the learning process and supplement with different approaches at home. An online tool is actually what helped our son breakthrough and figure out phoneme blending when traditional schooling failed!
Today I'm going to tell you all about our sponsor Reading Eggs, whose service I bought and paid for (and raved about loudly all over social media) for years before they reached out and asked to work with us. But first, a word about online learning. At the early reading stage in kindergarten, any tool is going to require a little parental supervision. If not to actually walk the child through every activity, it's important to reinforce what they learn on-screen and apply it to real-life situations.
When I taught 3rd grade in a gifted magnet school, a lot of my students had success with tutors who could help them conceptualize what they learned each day. It doesn't necessarily need to be a parent. Sometimes, a friend or a total outsider actually gets through more easily since they're new and cool and everything they do is awesome. In our family's case, we actually found that our 5-year-old responded best to one-on-one time spent reading with his grandpa. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Oma plies her grandchildren with cookies.
Peer pressure and bribery, you guys, these tactics work.
In any case, the combination of the Reading Eggs online system and positive reinforcement is what turned the tide and helped our child FINALLY learn to read after months of trying. Here's our “learning to read” success story.
Overcoming Phoneme Blending with Online Learning
My son met most early reading benchmarks without issue. He knew his alphabet, recognized sounds, and even meshed multiple letters together like “s” and “h” to make “sh.” All good signs. And then came the phoneme blending. This is the skill in which a person can merge sounds like “B,” “A” and “T” into the word “BAT.” Common Core's Reading Foundational Standards require that all kindergartners learn how to read three-letter short vowel words. This was the point in the year when everything went off the rails for us. Learning to read at this age is still generally done with a phonics-based approach, so I repeated word lists and sounds to my son as instructed by the teacher. I enunciated until I was blue in the face. Try as I might, my efforts were returned with blank stares. My son did not understand phoneme blending. There was no way he was magically converting C-A-P into CAP or D-A-D into DAD.
I turned to my trusted mom friends for help, and a couple of them recommended Reading Eggs.
Somehow, I've managed to accumulate a lot of pals along the way whose kids are older than my own. I thank the sweet lord that I have them to turn to in situations like this! If I were ever to write a book about parenting, this would be “Pro Mom Tip #1.” Always seek the wisdom of someone more experienced than you. They are Godsends and a quick text to them will save HOURS of frustrated Googling.
We signed up for an account and handed the computer over to Some Boy to see what sort of phoneme blending wizardry would occur. At first, I'll admit I was underwhelmed. There were cutesy graphics and this weird egg character who walked my kid from task to task on what I can only describe as an imaginative map of Reading Land. He moved his character through the process, following instruction after instruction as he advanced levels and was rewarded with shiny eggs each time he completed a task. The eggs are used to “buy” things in the game's virtual shop, but my son STILL hasn't figured that out and is happily accumulating a trove that would make the Easter Bunny drool with glee.
The gamification approach worked. It worked really, really well! The initial activities were simple, starting with basic activities that catered to my son's abilities as determined by a quick placement test. The computer directed my son to do things such as arranging letters in various sequences, identifying sounds, and eventually combining them from left-to-right. The fact that this program merges hands-on maneuvers with visual and auditory cues helped it all click. It was like someone flipped a switch in his brain. Before we knew it, he was decoding and blending like a champ!
JUST LIKE THAT.
For me, the progress was most apparent in the weekly reports from school and Oma. “He passed three leveled tests today!” his teacher would tell me. “He sounded out the names Bob and Tom in our books,” Oma would report back. Bob and Tom soon became more complicated words like dog, look, and happy. In the Reading Eggs parent dashboard, I could see detailed information about his progress so that we could help support his newfound skills. We went from hushed discussions about holding him back all the way to celebrations about his fluency!
My son stuck with the program through summer, begging me to let him “play his reading game.” He learned how to decode words into sounds, and encode sounds into words. He actually became confident in those abilities, and the skillsets in Reading Eggs leveled up with him to help make the leap from decoding to fast recognition and comprehension. Without developing his understanding of how letters and sounds relate to each other and interconnect, we never could have gotten to where we are today.
The big kid has seen SO much success with the Reading Eggs program that we actually paid to add his brother on as a sibling account. The two take turns sharing the computer and switching between their accounts, with Sidekick starting at basic word sounds and letter recognition. At just 19 months apart in age, these two neck-in-neck and the competition is fierce.
Reading Eggs now serves as a fundamental component of our independent study program when we travel. Since it's an online program, we can pull it up on any one of our computers and pick up where we left off no matter where we are in the world.
At home, it's still such a big hit that it's challenging to do a photoshoot of them playing. They don't want to stop moving their hands for two seconds so I can snap a photo. Sometimes it's hard to get them to put the computer down and actually go interact with the world outdoors (and we have LOTS of bikes, climbing toys, farm animals and even a tiny rollercoaster, you guys, there are a ton of cool things to see outside!).
We do coax them out, eventually, with promises to let them pick up a book at the library. They usually choose something that has a character exploring geography or going on an adventure of some sort, so they can unlock more of the world for themselves.This online learning program helped my son read when every other approach failed.Click To Tweet
That's the power of learning to read. That's the power of powering through phoneme blending, even when it feels like your kid may never string those letters together. It feels SO frustrating when you're in the middle of that phase, but what's on the other side is pretty dang awesome. Stick with it. Trust me.
Do you have a child who wants to fall in love with reading? Use our special Reading Eggs link to sign up for a FREE 4-week trial of Reading Eggs!