Man, I've been sitting on this post forever. At first I thought we weren't really far enough along to warrant a full post, then I had a bunch of other things I wanted to post about, but it had been so long since my last post, and I wanted my next post to be all about the Llama, and then it just became a matter of overcoming inertia and getting the darned thing written so the blog will stop staring at me so accusingly.
The Llama is reading.
Here is how our reading journey has progressed:
We started watching the They Might be Giants DVD Here Come the ABCs when The Llama was a little over 1 1/2. he didn't really get it, but we loved the music. Then a short while later we got Signing Time Volume 5: ABC Signs. I had already put a couple of posters behind the couch with the alphabet and ASL signs.
Time went on and The Llama began to memorize the alphabet. By 2 1/2 he had it pretty well down. He seemed to know that there was more to it than that, but I wasn't really sure if he was ready. To see, we started introducing letter sounds. I think the analogy we used for him was "you know how different animals make different sounds? Well different letters make different sounds too!"
Then we started poking around Starfall. The alphabet section really helped him solidify the letter sounds, and he loved the little videos and interactions. (He isn't allowed to touch or use the computers, but he could very easily tell me what needed to be clicked and where to put things.)
Eventually, right around the beginning of winter, he started getting bored with just the alphabet but still wanted more, so I began poking around the learn to read section. He did really well at the little preparatory games and could easily identify a letter by its sound in the beginning of a word, so we stated reading “Zac the Rat.” He could sound out the letters perfectly but at just barely 3 years old he just wasn't really getting how to string the sounds together to make words.
We continued to poke around the beginning books, but didn't really get very far because while Starfall would read the words for him, he wasn't making the leap to sounding them out for himself. He just did not grok the whole "smoosh the sounds together to make a word" thing no matter how much we modeled it for him. He would just keep saying the sounds with long pauses in between (or worse, “and” – like "c and a and t") and staring at us blankly if we asked him what word that makes, or to say them closer together, or faster, or to smoosh the sounds. (If we modeled sounding it out/smooshing the sounds, he'd say the word, but couldn't seem to do it himself.) He was starting to memorize the stories, and in some cases could recognize words outside of the Starfall books. But he had also started trying to guess what a word was if it looked similar to one he knew, almost always getting it wrong, and I didn't want him to get into that bad habit. So I decided to take a break from Starfall for a bit. I went to the homeschooling community for advice. They all agreed with me that he was just too young to get it yet, but gave me a lot of suggestions of where to go and what to do in the meantime.
A little while ago, I began poking around Progressive Phonics and downloaded their beginner phonics PDFs. I figured I would give them a try and see how The Llama did with them, they seemed simple enough, and I liked the co-reading aspect as well as the way they grouped words with the same ending to help with recognition.
So now we've been working on the "a" book on and off for a few months, and just started the "e" book this week, and I think it really is helping, The Llama is starting to string the sounds together without prompting, and isn't guessing as much. Awesome! I think we are well and truly on our way to reading! At Christmas time we bought him the first set of BOB books and we may pull those out soon. Up until now it's all been words and pictures on the computer and I think it will really cement reading in his mind when we transition to actual paper books, and it will be awesome that he will be able to read a whole book all by himself! It's a little scary to think of my little baby growing up so quickly, but I’m just so incredibly proud of him and all the hard work he is putting into this. Even when I’m a bit reluctant or don't feel like 'doing reading' he will still pester me until we do it. I love my little reader!