We’ll be entering our 5th year of homeschooling this September and I’ve been through a lot of products over the years. Blogging has afforded me many opportunities for exploring various curricula. I love to try out new products and methods. But there have been a few products that have blown me away and I can’t imagine growing out of them any time soon, if ever. I’ve talked about our very favorite math before. Today is all about learning to read and write with Institute for Excellence in Writing.
I don’t know about you guys, but teaching the kids to read was my biggest fear when we embarked on our homeschooling adventure. I imagined it would be my Everest. I don’t really remember being formally taught to read so I couldn’t imagine teaching someone else. A friend introduced us to the Primary Arts of Language: Reading curriculum from IEW when we were entering our first grade year. She warned me that there would be a lot of prep work on the front end if I decided to have everything ready to go for the entire year. She knew that was probably how I would approach it. And it was. It took me two full days to print out the material and cut out and put together all of the folder games. But once everything was set up I just had to turn a page everyday in my teacher’s manual and get to work.
I’m getting ahead of myself a bit though. Lets discuss how PAL works first.
PAL uses a play-based approach to learning.
From “letter stories” to folder games to stickers, this curriculum engages the child in a fun way that holds their interest through what can sometimes be a frustrating time for them. Learning to read is a big deal. PAL encourages and rewards the child through fun, engaging lessons that are easy for the parent to implement. I often laugh with my friend over those folder games. When I was putting them together we both remarked that we weren’t sure about them. We just didn’t see what the big deal was over these games.
Oh man, those folder games made us eat crow for years. There’s something magical in those plain Jane manila folders that works. They’ve been through two kids and I still can’t believe the success we’ve had with the games. Right now we’re not even technically doing school. But it’s 6,000 degrees in Georgia and nobody wants to be outside in the humidity and everybody is bored. Enter folder games. If the kids have exhausted every bit of creativity they can summon and they’ve maxed out on screen time and mom doesn’t have one more craft left in her, I can turn to those folder games. The big kids help the little kids play all the folder games and we get a nice reset from the summer crazies.
The Phonetic Farm portion of this curriculum is so cute. I’m a sucker for visually appealing homeschool products. There are so many poorly designed homeschool products out there. I know that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I’ve used “pretty” curriculum before that petered out far too prematurely in the school year because it just wasn’t built on a strong scope and sequence so I know looks aren’t everything. But the Phonetic Farm and its corresponding stickers are super cute AND built on sound methods. At the end of most lessons, the child receives a sticker with “helper sounds” on it to place on their Phonetic Farm folder. And then, you get to “visit the farm” each day, which is essentially reviewing the helper sounds…which is sneaky school….which is my favorite way to do school. Mwahahaha.
Does it teach sight words or phonics first?
Students are introduced to reading through a blended sound-sight approach of phonics and whole words. I know there’s a lot of debate over using phonics or sight words to teach reading. I am of the school that says the English language is bonkers with all it’s rule-breaking and is extremely confusing and frustrating to teach to the very literal child who is ALL ABOUT THE RULES (ahem, my child). So, it makes sense to me (and my kids) to teach as much as I can using phonics and supplement the rest with sight words. For me, PAL is the best of both worlds.
It’s great for different learning styles.
Our boys were born on the same day, 3 years apart. They might share a birthday but they are worlds apart in their learning styles. One is a very visual learner and does not do well with auditory instructions alone. He needs to see it because sometimes he just can’t hear it. (Which is misleading, really. His hearing is fine. His processing is the problem.) The phonetic farm has been our saving grace for him.
Our other boy is very much a kinesthetic/tactile learner. While my visual learnergets to “see” the sounds on the phonetic farm, my tactile learner gets to “do” the learning through the folder games. One of the games is even called “Action Charades” and introduces verbs like run, swim, jump, skip, etc. He’s learning to read by doing.
100% money back guarantee
I love, love, love IEW. But you might not. And investing in homeschool products can get costly if you have to change it up in the middle of the year. What if it doesn’t work for your student? What if you just don’t like teaching it? I’ve been there. There have been times when a product should’ve worked for us. But no matter how much I wanted to love it, it just wasn’t right for us in real life. No problem. IEW offers a 100% unconditional, money back guarantee, with no time limit. The IEW representative at the homeschool convention told me, “You could run it through the dishwasher and Mr. Pudewa would probably take it back.” I can get behind that kind of confidence and accountability from a company.
We’ve used other products from IEW in the past that we also loved:
And, new to us for our 2016-2017 school year, we’ll be using:
I’ll come back after we’ve been using them for a bit and let you know how it’s going. Based on our track record with IEW, I’m not worried.
And, because I’ve raved over IEW in excess at this point, let me just point you to a few places where you can listen to Andrew Pudewa and really get a feel for what he’s all about:
The Art of Language Podcast