Reading Eggs is Fun!

Reading Eggs DashboardReading Eggs is a very engaging program that helps children learn to read and grow in proficiency. There are two different reading levels available for parents to choose from – Reading Eggs (3-7), Reading Eggspress (7-13). They have also developed Reading Eggs apps that span the entire age category (3-13).

Your child is guided through this world by his own personal egg friend.  Once inside, children meet a full cast of characters including singing ants, cats, bees, snails, frogs and more along the way. It’s very colorful with lots of things to do. Let’s start at the beginning.

A Map to Reading Eggs

The children’s dashboard is divided into multiple parts, as you can see from the picture on the right. The top half, where my son’s pumpkin-headed friend is sitting, contains the level the child is and the number of golden eggs he has acquired.

The next sections (green vertical sidebar), called “Go Places” is your child’s launching pad for various learning activities.  The yellow vertical sidebar is where kids find fun activities and games to play. It is also where they get to spend their golden eggs. At the store, kids can buy new avatars, clothing and accessories.  The blue vertical sidebar is where the kids can get help and listen to music. On the right side of the screen is the map to your child’s lessons.

Reading Eggs: Learning Experience

Reading Eggs’ first lessons focus on sight words (words that don’t lend themselves to easy sounding out).  The lessons build upon each other and there are lots of opportunities to review what was learned in the previous lesson. Parents also have the ability to jump from one lesson to another without a problem. For example, my Furryflash (videogame moniker) and I had a long break between lessons. So instead of starting where we left off I went back to earlier lessons to make sure that he hadn’t forgotten too much.  I’ve worked with some programs that force you to move forward regardless of what I wanted to work on with the kids. There are lots of games and songs to keep a child’s interest in between spelling, phonics work and reading short books at the end.

My son’s favorite spot in the My Stuff section is Reggie’s Shop where he gets to spend his golden eggs. His little avatar has had many incarnations over the past few months.  My favorite section is the Story Factory. Kids get to write books that other Eggsplorers read and rate the stories for prizes.

My Experience with Reading Eggs

Mr. Furryflash enjoyed the early Reading Eggs exercises a lot. As a matter of fact I had to ban him from the site because he was obsessed with collecting Golden Eggs and advancing to see who he would meet next on his reading journey. That is until we hit the 46th lesson.

For a little background —  Furryflash has some auditory issues and is currently enrolled in speech to help him with pronunciation and issues. In my experience, gleaned from two children with auditory issues, they have highly developed visual skills to compensate. Too many images, graphics, etc. can be very distracting for them.  And that’s what happened to Furryflash.

Reading Eggs was enjoyable for him until the 46th level where he went into overload. Reading Eggs has a game that’s similar to Space Invaders. Words are travelling on spaceships and the child is expected to find the target world before it hits the barrier.  The combination of the decoy ships, the real ship, the sound effects and voices proved to be too much for him. After a few minutes of trying to find the target world he was yelling at the game and crying because it wouldn’t be quiet. He hasn’t been back to the site since because he “doesn’t like it.”

So for now we’re concentrating on reading simple books and working on blending, which he has difficulty with, the old-fashioned way. He’s retained much of what he learned in first 45 lessons, so Reading Eggs was good while it lasted. And maybe a few weeks down the road we will go back and visit his Reading Eggs friends and see how they’re doing.

Overall, I do like what Reading Eggs has created, but for a child with any type of learning difference it can be overwhelming and frustrating.

Reading Eggspress

My older daughters did a three-month trial with the older setting and enjoyed it while it lasted. My older child is a voracious reader, so she whizzed through the exercises and spent most of her time on the mini-games and shopping. My middle daughter, Skittymom, liked it, but not enough for her to request that I get a personal subscription for her. I think the spelling (which was a challenge at the time) frustrated her.  Skittymom is a solid reader, but is not a quick one. The timed reading annoyed her a bit, although she got through it without too much difficulty. It made reading a pressurized activity instead of a pleasure.

Overall, I think this is a solid program, as long as you  keep in mind that no reading program is 100% perfect. My one complaint with the program is that it seems to reward speed. Everyone is not a fast reader, even as a proficient adult. So to have timed reading sections seems like a good way to frustrate kids. This program has a lot to offer, but children will benefit even more with a traditional teaching of reading. Nothing beats sitting down with your little one with a beginning book and helping them work through the sounding out process.

All About Spelling (Levels 1 & 2)

All About Spelling is a system that teaches spelling and phonics rules to children. It is a multi-sensory program — the lessons involve sight, sound, and touch. So it has something for all types of learners.  For the visual learners they have the laminated letters and an extensive array of flash cards designed to test your child’s knowledge not only of their required spelling word, but the phonics rules that surround the word. For the kinesthetic learners, they can use the laminated letters and colored disks to do their sounding out exercises as well as forming complete words.

The techniques used in this program have long been used by Orton-Gillingham practitioners, and now they are available to homeschoolers through the All About Spelling program. All About Spelling combines the very best of the Orton-Gillingham approach with the latest research and proven spelling rules. And the staff of All About Spelling were also very willing to help with any questions or problems. Having that type of support when you are working with a new program is always appreciated.

As a parent there are many things that I enjoyed about this program. Being a work at home mom as well as a homeschooler, having the entire course scripted really saved me a lot of time when it came to prep work for the girls.  Even if you haven’t had time to read through the lesson ahead of time, it’s easy to pick up where you left off and keep going.  I also loved the laminated letters.

I received several sheets of laminated letters, letter combinations and even subheadings to help classify the different phonogram types.  There are separate letters with extra vowels and other letters that can appear more than once in a word (such as the letter “s”). And then there are letter tiles that contain the phonogram combinations (i.e., “nk” or “th”). That was just so cool because so many ties I find an interesting curriculum, but I’m the one mstuck with creating the materials (or improving the components that I received). Having everything laminated and labeled saves lots of time and aggravation for me.

My eldest daughter enjoyed the ability to do the spelling work using the magnets since it eliminated her need to write out her words longhand. The flash cards were also instrumental in helping her to remember some of the spelling rules that have eluded her over the years. My younger daughter didn’t mind working with the tiles, but she didn’t like the little disks that she had to use to sound out the letters.  Let me rephrase that — she loved the little circles that are used when the child is sounding out the words. Unfortunately she liked them for table hockey and finger frisbee. So I had to take those away from her for my sanity. My three year old son loves the magnetic tiles because he can move teh letters around when we sing the alphabet song together. So there’s something for everyone.

One thing that made this spelling course different (for me at least) was that they deal with the phonograms and not just the phonics. Phonics tries to teach spelling by sounding words out, but there are more sounds in English than phonics can work around. And that’s where the concepts of sight words come into play. Anything that doesn’t fit easily into the “phonics box” is memorized. This program does explain the other phonograms and talks about the rules that apply to them. Other programs that I have been exposed to didn’t do this as extensively if at all.

This is a good program for families who want their children to be good spellers and get a handle on the many rules that surround the English language.  It’s both parent and child friendly and easy to work with. And with the daily review of the previous lessons you can be confident that the children are gaining a mastery over their subject matter.

The All About Spelling program has six levels so it there is something for every age within the family. The program is also very economical since once you get the starter kit, all you’ll have to buy in the future are the additional workbooks for the next set of children. So, this program would also work well for larger families too.  You can learn more about the program by visiting www.all-about-spelling.com.

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Bonnie Terry Learning: Spelling Techniques that Work

Bonnie Terry Learning spelling program “Making Spelling Sense” has been a real gift to my family.  My daughter has always struggled with her spelling and I attributed it to her speech issues early in life. After reviewing the information found on Bonnie Terry’s website and her 10 free tips I think I am finally understanding how my daughter’s brain works when it comes to spelling.

Jade is an excellent reader who is way above grade level, but her spelling skills have always been poor. I understood that part of her problem was the struggle that she had to make to hear all of the sounds in a word. She had an immature auditory system coupled with some mechanical speech issues when she was younger and has overcome them.  Except when it comes spelling.

One thing that became apparent when we started using this system is that Jade had no concept of spelling have an orderly sequence.  The very first lesson proved that as we did an exercise where the V(owel)-C(onstanant) combination is used.  The student is supposed to look at the spelling word and pick the first V-C combination and write those letters next to the word. To my surprise this was a struggle for her. And not because she doesn’t know vowels from consonants, but because she (and other children who have auditory issues) has encoding difficulties. And actually, as I learned from Mrs. Terry’s website, this is auditory processing is one of the underlying reasons for all poor spellers. It’s a weakness that traditional school systems don’t feel a need to address.

Since we began using this program, however, she has become more aware of spelling patterns as well as being able to do more self-correction, which is truly awesome after years of trying to memorize spelling lists.  This program (as well as her others) has the potential of being a great asset to homeschooling communities because we do have the time to analyze where our children’s difficulties are and now we have the tools to address it.

I am also using the program with my six year old who is beginning reader.  Although we have to work a little slower with the program for her, she’s really catching on to the spelling patterns and enjoys the puzzles and activities that are included with each spelling list.  I don’t formally test her on the spelling words yet, since we’re still working on her reading skills. However, she’s really gained an understanding of vowels and consonants that began with the a DVD series I got her to assist with her reading.

My only complaint with her system is that it wasn’t one of those systems that you could jump right in and connect the dots. It took me a while (and maybe I just wasn’t thinking) to figure out how to stretch each lesson to last a week. At first I thought that each of the lessons were daily so I confused myself for a bit.  It would have been nice to have the lessons broken up into daily assignments.

I am very impressed, overall with the Bonnie Terry Learning products. Perhaps it’s because my daughter does/did have auditory problems and her way of teaching spelling has been a big boost to Jade’s confidence and ability.  My son seems to be mirroring his big sister with the speech issues, so I will definitely be investing in her systems in the future. But even if your child doesn’t have learning differences or difficulties, this is a very solid spelling course.

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AVKO Educational Research Foundation

AVKO is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping parents, teachers and researcher to find the best ways to educate children in literacy. There is a plethora of free and low cost resources for families to use to help the children in a variety of ways learn how to read and spell better. One thing that I liked about the program was that it addresses educational challenges in a variety of ways. This is not a one-size fits all grouping of tools.

Recognizing that children have dominant learning styles, they’ve provided auditory, visual and kinesthetic ideas and materials to help parents use whatever works best for their children. There is also a ton of research that is stored on the website, so if you have a question about why something is working (or how to get it to work better) you don’t have far to look.

I think that this is one of the first places parents who are new to homeschooling should visit and sign up for a membership.  Although there are lots of free places to get information for developing a homeschooling curriculum, AVKO has the most comprehensive material that I’ve seen since I began this homeschooling journey with my kids. And I was surprised to learn that many of the resources that are sold in curriculum packs from company’s such as Sonlight and other major companies originated from AVKO.

One of the benefits of membership is that you get additional freebies and access to information that are not available to the general public. The basic membership package is only $25 and you more than get your money’s worth from the free e-books that are available to members.  If you have a variety of ages to work with, I think that the $100 membership is well worth the cost because not only do you get the basic member perks, you also get to view all of the AVKO curriculum materials (with the exception of Sequential Spelling and Engaging Language Kits).  I mean, economically speaking, it’s kind of tough to get purchase all of the materials that you might want. This way you can still read through the information and use it in your homeschool.

I wish that I had known about this resource earlier in the game, but I’m definitely going to avail myself of all the things that it has to offer from this point forward.

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