Phonics Works...but Why?
November 18, 2020
In This Issue:
Motherhood = Chocolate Cake

Hey Mama,

Tough afternoon? Homeschooling is hard at times. Motherhood is like chewing up and spitting nails some days. No one ever said what we do would be a cakewalk.

But this journey—overall it’s as sweet as cake, isn’t it? Bittersweet at times, but that, too, can be good. Think chocolate. A rich, delicious chocolate cake. Or, maybe coconut cream. Wonderful, delightful. That's motherhood!

And on the days your kids just aren't getting it, or they actually are getting it, but you don't know what to do next—now what? After all, there is SO much to do . . . on those days, Mama, remember. He's got you covered and He's placed you exactly where He wants you. For those who are His, you can know that His hand is always on your head. Cling to Christ through it all, Mama. Good or bad times.

And when you need a little extra love, just flip through the pages of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. We are here for you.

Spelling, Grammar, and Phonics by Janice Campbell
Baking with Chocolate by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Just one more thing, Mama (I know you're busy) . . .

During all the craziness of life, eat a piece of your favorite chocolate (or some coconut cream!), hug your kids, and remember this:

Motherhood = sweet, hard, and sometimes bitter. But very good. Just like chocolate and coconut.

And who knows? Someday your testimony of this wild and crazy motherhood/homeschooling journey may be book-worthy. Consider it. Can the Lord use you to write a story that will lift up His name and bless other Mamas? Read Titus. Know God’s Word inside and out. You are in training, Mama, to be a mentor to an upcoming generation of Moms. Maybe an author, too. Take it seriously and pray without ceasing.

God's got you, daughter of the King, and He'll never let you go.

- gena
Phonics Works . . . but Then What?
by Nancy D. Nelson

Phonics is an absolutely essential building block of literacy, but it is only the first step. Even the purist prescriptive, systematic phonics approaches available require that children either guess or memorize which of several possible puzzle pieces should be used in any word. Students may recognize a phonics pattern for reading, but that does not help them pick the correct one for pronunciation, nor does it help with spelling, since most words could be spelled with various phonograms.

Case in point: Phour squaur and ceveign yierz ugough… How do you know these words are misspelled? Children spell well and read fluently only after they have learned to spell all the words by actual tedious study or frequent exposure over years.

In some ways, the more you know about phonics, the more confused you are. Some graded Language Arts phonics-based lessons either present multiple ways to spell the same sounds (ie, ea, ee, ei, etc.), or present a phonetic pattern with all its various sounds (all sounds of ou or ough), or mix both!

Homeschoolers are the most creative educators, and are, by necessity, highly motivated to be efficient and economical. As a homeschool mom, I quickly realized that we needed an effective bridge between phonics and the word memorization needed to apply phonics principles with automaticity. I thought, “There has to be a better way! How can I teach the phonograms, the sounds, the spellings, and where to put them all in one step?”

Like many of you, I had developed a love of songs, stories, art, animation, games, field trips, manipulatives, puzzles, and every manor of multilevel approach. Phonics stories seem the perfect answer. But again, beginning pattern stories are just a first step. I was compelled to finish the job.

English Phonics Stories: Beginning to Mastery Level dramatically accelerates mastery of reading, spelling, and vocabulary by isolating over 100 phonetic and tricky patterns and providing engaging but extensive exposure to all pattern words in short, character-building stories.

  • I took the monkey on the trolley down the alley
  • I ought to have thought before I bought it …
  • Earl had learned early to research
  • Our voices softened as we listened to the Christmas…

Reproducible, inexpensive, and easy to use, this illustrated 2-volume resource requires no training, is compatible with all other approaches, and is perfect for independent remedial and multilevel teaching.

 ABC Fun Phonics makes learning practically effortless!
Give a child the gift of reading!
On sale at and Amazon today!
Confident, Independent Readers

There has been a long history of debate whether learning phonics makes better readers.

My point of view stems from the way I learned when I was growing up, and as a mom, how I taught my children to read, using a variety of learning styles. It has been my experience that systematic phonics enables children to become confident and independent readers. I am not including the exceptions of learning disabilities, but even with those struggles, the benefit from phonics has far outweighed sight reading.

Today there are still mistaken concepts that learning to read is the same as learning to talk. That may be the case if our twenty-six letters had twenty-six sounds. But the English language has forty-four sounds. There are one hundred and fifty ways to spell those sounds with twenty-six letters.

This is why guessing the word from context or pictures isn’t helpful. Even in the 1930s, Dick and Jane books relied on constant word repetition which still did not give children phonemic awareness.

For years, I felt dictation and/or copy work would also enhance the ability to read and spell. Even though those are both excellent disciplines, I found out that wasn’t a one-size-fits-all for reading proficiency. In my twenty-two years of schooling, it has finally occurred to me that the forty-four graphemes need to be introduced at the beginning of literacy if not before.

Graphemes are simply a letter or letters that represent a single sound in a word. For instance, night is a three-grapheme word N – IGH – T. If the child has learned all the graphemes associated with the long I sounds (i, i-e, Igh, y) the child can easily read the word. These are also called phonograms.

It is highly recommended to have the children learn and memorize the 44 sounds after they have learned the initial sounds of the alphabet. There are apps that can be downloaded that teach these with proper pronunciation and make it fun to learn. Also, be very aware of cheap flash cards and “early learning books” that have a picture of a chair with the letter “c” and such. These are frustrating and confusing for children. The initial sound of C is a hard sound as in cat, and CH is a digraph (two letters representing one sound) and is one of those 44 sounds. 

At the time of writing this, I am writing the 44 graphemes on the side of Lego bricks to build words that we consider troublesome in spelling (don’t worry they weren’t favorite Legos. I found them in and under the couch).

Phonics is one of those things in life that may be time consuming for a short time but will have lifelong benefits for your children.


Kerry Tittle is a mother of nine children and a 20-year homeschool veteran. She was the owner of ReformationKidz with her husband Rob until a tornado destroyed their home and business in 2014, taking the lives of Rob and two of their daughters, Tori and Rebekah. Kerry is the founder of Refined Family, which is created to encourage others to find hope in the gospel in the midst of trials.
Resources Students LOVE! My Teaching Library offers quality resources for homeschooling families in all subjects, PreK-12th. Check them out, you’ll be happy you did!
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What about the Colonel?

When my youngest son was in the middle grade years, he would often introduce new and strange words into conversation—words I'd never heard before. In fact, I'd need to have him spell them for me so I could understand what he was saying. That's because the English language is strange and sometimes doesn't follow its own rules. Consider the word colonel. Pronounced ker-nell, it doesn't sound at all like it is spelled.

That means that teaching phonics isn't a big deal, right? Well, no.

Eventually, we want our kids to know and recognize words on sight. That usually begins with words like and, the or well—words they will read often. When teaching reading, though, it helps if our kids have a basic understanding of letters, the way they sound, and how to pronounce them when they link together into digraphs and diphthongs. That way, our kids can begin sounding out words and moving toward reading independence.

Phonics sounds complicated, but it's not.

I taught our kids to read using some fun tools and videos from LeapFrog. Just look for the Letter Factory and Word Factory, and you'll find a bunch of great resources. We loved the BOB Books series as well.

Why does phonics work? Well, think of learning to read like walking up a set of stairs. You wouldn't have your kids start on the third or fourth step, right? According to Science magazine, the average 20-year-old American knows somewhere between 27,000 and 52,000 words. Our children will learn many of these words while sounding them out and reasoning through the context they read them in.

By teaching our kids the sounds that letters make, how they sound when they fit together, and how to reason through reading each one, we are instructing our kids in an effective, time-honored way to read. Our children will then be able to work toward independence in reading as they grow and practice.

Danika Cooley is an award-winning children's author. Her upcoming books include a guide to help your kids learn and love Scripture (Bethany House, 2021), and a new line of Christian history for 3rd to 5th graders (Christian Focus Publications, 2021). Grab your complimentary three-week sample of her popular Bible Road Trip™ curriculum.

Add some interest to your history this year with the “History Through the Ages” Resource Guide in the Fall 2020 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. From historically-based games to strong Christian history supplements and books, this resource guide is sure to ignite a love of history in your child.
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Did you know that offers a full phonics-based reading program designed by an expert? Check out our Literacy Center where you can access beginning readers, developmentally based reading milestones, and our lesson material. All materials can be downloaded and used immediately, whether your child is an early reader or showing signs of dyslexia. Let us help your student succeed!
in the fall issue of
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Contest Corner
for the month of November

DOTZIES – Green Variety Kit

Needleart World

You may ask how you paint with “diamonds.” Diamond facet art is created by taking gems and dipping them in a wax-like substance and then placing them on another surface that has a glue layer that allows them to stick to the surface. This process allows the artists to easily pick up the gems and place them. These very tiny gems are much too small to be picked up and placed in an artistic pattern with your fingers. The DOTZIE – Green Variety kit has 2 DIAMOND DOTZ® styli pens that make this process easy.

The kit contains all that a beginner would need to get started creating diamond facet art. There are 2 animal pictures, 2 wearable bracelets, and 2 fun stickers. Also included are 2 wax pieces, 2 DIAMOND DOTZ®styli, 2 mini trays (for DOTZ storage while working on art), and of course the DIAMOND DOTZ® needed to complete the project (pre-sorted by color).

This kit is perfect for a beginner diamond painting individual. The projects included in this are more kid-friendly, up to the ages of about 13-15, but also great for an adult who may be struggling with disabilities and needs a smaller sized project that is not overwhelming.

This is a shortened review of the DOTZIES Green Variety kit. You can read more details in the full review to learn more about this fun artistic activity!  

Go to the contest page of our site where you can ENTER TO WIN this DOTZIES kit. 
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